Francis Gary PowersAviator
Born: 17 August 1929
Died: 1 August 1977 (helicopter crash)
Birthplace: Jenkins, Kentucky
Best known as: The U-2 pilot shot down by the Soviet Union in 1960
Francis Gary Powers was the pilot of an American spy plane shot down by the Soviet Union during a famous Cold War espionage incident. The event happened on 1 May 1960, while Powers was flying a U-2 high-altitude photographic surveillance plane over Russian airspace. Powers bailed out and was captured by the Soviets. At first the U.S. government claimed Powers had been conducting weather research, but later admitted that the U-2 was a spy plane. Powers was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was pardoned by the USSR in February of 1962 and sent back to America, in exchange for captured Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. Powers was later a test pilot for Lockheed and then flew a helicopter for television station KNBC in Los Angeles, where he died on the job in a 1977 a helicopter crash. He was awarded the Intelligence Medal in 1963 and a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross in 2000. He told his own story in his 1970 autobiography Operation Overflight (written with Curt Gentry).
Extra credit: Powers attended Milligan College in Tennessee... He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery... He was married to the former Barbara Moore from 1955 until their divorce in 1963. He married Claudia "Sue" Edwards in 1963 and they remined married until his death in 1977... U2 is also the name of a popular rock band of the late 20th century... Powers was played by Lee Majors (TV's Six Million Dollar Man) in the 1976 TV movie Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident.
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