Admin moved page How did the United States and USSR react to the Francis Gary Powers U2 incident? to How did the United States and USSR react to the Francis Gary Powers U2 incident
[[ File:151005-F-DW547-001.JPG|thumbnail|left300px|left| The U2A built by
Lockeed]] __NOTOC__On May 1, 1960, the pilot of an American U-2 spy plane was shot down while flying though Soviet airspace. The fallout over the incident resulted in the cancellation of the Paris Summit scheduled to discuss the ongoing situation in divided Germany, the possibility of an arms control or test ban treaty, and the relaxation of tensions between the USSR and the United States.
====USSR rejects Eisenhower's "Open Skies" plan====
As early as 1955, officials in both Moscow and Washington had grown concerned about the relative nuclear capabilities of the Soviet Union and the United States. Given the threat that the nuclear arms race posed to national security, leadership in both countries placed a priority on information about the other side’s progress. At a conference in Geneva in 1955, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower proposed an “open skies” plan, in which each country would be permitted to make overflights of the other to conduct mutual aerial inspections of nuclear facilities and launchpads. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev refused the proposal, continuing the established Soviet policy of rejecting international inspections in any form. Meanwhile, Khrushchev also claimed that the Soviet Union had developed numerous intercontinental ballistic missiles, which only motivated the United States Government to look for new ways to verify developments in the Soviet nuclear program.
====U-2 spy planes fly over USSR to monitor Nuclear Activity====
====Francis Gary Powers' U2 shot down near the Ural Mountains in May 1960====
On May 1, 1960, the situation changed. On the eve of the Paris Summit and during the May Day holiday, CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers took off from a base in Pakistan bound for another base in Norway, with his planned flight path transgressing 2,900 miles of Soviet airspace. Near the city of Sverdlovsk Oblast in the Ural Mountains, Powers' plane was shot down by a Soviet surface-to-air missile. Powers ejected and parachuted safely to the ground, where he was captured by the KGB, and held for interrogation. The plane crashed, but parts of it were recovered and placed on public display in Moscow as evidence of American deceit.
distupts the Paris Summit====
Although the capture of Powers provided the Soviets the concrete proof that the United States had been conducting the flights, it was not immediately clear what the impact would be for the Paris Summit. At first, and before they had confirmation that Powers had survived, U.S. officials claimed that the U-2 had been conducting a routine weather flight but experienced a malfunction of its oxygen delivery system that had caused the pilot to black out and drift over Soviet air space. On May 7, however, Khrushchev revealed that Powers was alive and uninjured, and clearly had not blacked out from oxygen deprivation.
Moreover, the Soviets recovered the plane mostly intact, including the aerial camera system. It became instantly apparent that the weather survey story was a cover-up for a spy program. Khrushchev had publicly committed himself to the idea of “peaceful coexistence” with the United States and the pursuit of détente, so from his perspective, if U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower denied any knowledge of the spy program and the United States apologized, he would have continued the summit.
====Eisenhower admits to Spying on USSR====
Spying was common, and of course, the Soviet Union had its own agents reporting on developments in the United States. Eisenhower, however, refused to issue a formal apology to the Soviet Union; he had taken a great personal interest in the spyplane program, and considered the violation of Soviet airspace and the reconnaissance of Soviet nuclear facilities serious enough to personally approve each flight. On May 11, Eisenhower finally acknowledged his full awareness of the entire program and of the Powers flight in particular. Moreover, he explained that in the absence of an “open skies” agreement, such spy flights were a necessary element in maintaining national defense, and that he planned to continue them.
After extensive questioning by the KGB, Powers was convicted of spying and sentenced to three years in prison and seven more of hard labor. In February, 1962, however, he and a detained American student were traded for a captured Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel. Although Eisenhower refused to end the U-2 program, it was quickly overtaken by new technology, as satellite images replaced aerial photographs. For his part, Khrushchev abandoned his attempts to cooperate with Eisenhower, opting instead to wait for the inauguration of the new U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, elected to office in November 1960.
* Republished from [https://history.state.gov/| Office of the Historian, United States Department of State]
* Article: [https://history.state.gov/milestones/1953-1960/u2-incident| U-2 Overflights and the Capture of Francis Gary Powers, 1960]
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