Son of U-2 spy-plane pilot gives talk in Fairford

Gary Powers Jnr at the Palmer Hall, Fairford

Francis Gary Powers Jnr came to the Palmer Hall, Fairford last week to give a talk about his father, Francis Gary Powers Snr, who was a pilot working for the CIA. It was Gary Powers Snr that flew the U-2 spy-plane that was famously shot down in 1960 in the Ural Mountains by a Russian surface-to-air missile.

Gary Powers Jnr has never had a military career, but is a leading authority on the Cold War and the U-2 incident involving his father. He has lectured internationally for over 30 years and has written several books, the latest of which is entitled ‘Spy Pilot’. This book contains information that was once classified, but is now de-classified. Another of Gary Jnr’s books is ‘Letters from a Soviet Prison’, which contains the letters to and from his father whilst he was in a Russian prison.

Powers Snr was initially held in Lubyanka Prison in Moscow and interrogated extensively for several months by the KGB. He was subsequently convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years confinement in Vladimir Central Prison – about 150 miles east of Moscow. He actually spent just 21 months there, keeping a diary, a journal and sending and receiving letters to and from his family.

He was released from the Russian prison on 10th February 1962 in an exchange that was approved by President John F Kennedy. The famous prisoner exchange has since been depicted in Steven Spielberg’s 2015 Cold War thriller, ‘Bridge of Spies’ and documents the complex negotiations to exchange Powers Snr and student Frederick Pryor for the Soviet intelligence officer, Rudolf Abel.

Gary Powers Snr in special pressurised suit

The U-2 pilot’s son, Gary Jnr, is currently on an extensive book signing tour that began in mid April and ends on May 4 and covers several dates in Denmark, Prague, Germany and the UK.

At the book signing talk in Fairford, Gary Jnr discussed how his most recent book, ‘Spy Pilot’ helps to set the record straight in regard to fake news that surrounded the U-2 incident and tarnished his father’s reputation. He also explained what it was like to grow up in the shadow of a famous Cold War figure and his search for the truth about the incident after his father’s death in 1977 when Gary Jnr was just 12 years old. Gary Jnr’s subsequent research led to the USAF and CIA posthumously awarding his father the POW Medal / Director’s Medal and Silver Star in 2000 and 2012 respectively.

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