One of the most talked-about events of the Cold War was the downing of the American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. The event was recently depicted in the Steven Spielberg movie Bridge of Spies. Powers was captured by the KGB, subjected to a televised show trial, and imprisoned, all of which created an international incident. Soviet authorities eventually released him in exchange for captured Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. On his return to the United States, Powers was exonerated of any wrongdoing while imprisoned in Russia, yet, due to bad press and the government’s unwillingness to heartily defend Powers, a cloud of controversy lingered until his untimely death in 1977.
Now his son, Francis Gary Powers Jr. and acclaimed historian Keith Dunnavant have written this new account of Powers’s life based on personal files that had never been previously available. Delving into old audio tapes, letters his father wrote and received while imprisoned in the Soviet Union, the transcript of his father’s debriefing by the CIA, other recently declassified documents about the U-2 program, and interviews with the spy pilot’s contemporaries, Powers and Dunnavant set the record straight. The result is a fascinating piece of Cold War history. This is also a book about a son’s journey to understand his father, pursuing justice and a measure of peace.
Almost sixty years after the fact, this will be the definitive account of one of the most important events of the Cold War.
Praise for SPY PILOT
“Biography, autobiography, the unraveling of a Cold War mystery, and a son’s mission to see his father honored. This book has it all.”
—Vin Arthey, author of Abel: The True Story of the Spy They Traded for Gary Powers
“The son of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers has written an in-depth, detailed account of his father’s life, the infamous U-2 shoot-down, and the aftermath. Much is revealed in this book, which is a must-read for those interested in the Cold War, intelligence, and aviation.”
—Norman Polmar, author of Spyplane: The U-2 History Declassified and coauthor of Spyplanes
“All too often, history has only a public face. When we think of Francis Gary Powers, we recall how on May 1, 1960, his U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, why he did not use the poisoned pin, and how his case became a Soviet show trial. This part of Powers’s life is a touchstone in the Cold War. All true, but history is also deeply personal. Powers’s fame cast a long shadow, shaping to various degrees the lives he touched. In SPY PILOT, a wonderfully researched and powerfully written account of Powers’s life, Keith Dunnavant and Francis Gary Powers Jr. tell the full story. Read it. It will move you in ways that few histories ever do.”
—Randy Roberts, 150th Anniversary Professor and Distinguished Professor of History, Purdue University, and coauthor of A Season in the Sun: The Rise of Mickey Mantle
“SPY PILOT is a deeply moving book of a son’s lifelong search to uncover the hidden history of his father. Gary Powers Jr. has done himself, his family, and his father proud with this fascinating, detailed, and loving account that is at once a detailed and informative history of the Lockheed U-2 and the men who designed, maintained, and flew it; a compelling biographical inquiry about his famous father, CIA spy pilot Francis Gary Powers, who was shot down over the Soviet Union by a surface-to-air missile on May 1, 1960; and a searching personal memoir of one man’s efforts to restore the reputation of his father, who was killed in a tragic news helicopter accident in August 1977. Knowing what pilot Powers actually did, readers will come away feeling dismayed at how badly he was treated upon his return from Soviet captivity, and impressed by the depth of his son’s love and devotion. Highly recommended!”
—Richard P. Hallion, PhD, aerospace analyst and former historian of the US Air Force
“Francis Gary Powers was a patriot who got a raw deal, and his son has devoted his life to revealing the truth.”
—Robert Conrad, actor, The Wild Wild West and Baa Baa Black Sheep
Co-author and Newnan resident, Keith Dunnavant, will present a program on “Spy Pilot” at the Carnegie on Sunday, March 10th at 2pm. Doors open at 1:30. Book signing to follow.