After World War II, the Americans assumed that they needed to find out the true military capabilities of the Soviet Union on their own.

Beginning in the summer of 1956, Lockkeheed U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft began flying over the Soviet Union. They were constantly flying through major industrial and administrative centers, space, and air defense complexes.

The U-2 had been in operation for almost four years β€” the Soviet leadership was too angry but had not found any way to punish it. Soviet tolerance peaked in 1960. On May 1, 1960, another U-2 spy plane took off from an air base in the state of Peshawa, Pakistan to conduct a reconnaissance flight. Soviet Air Defense Forces radars detected the target as soon as it entered the airspace. Soviet fighters took off to intercept, but as always – could not reach the target.

At that time, the Soviet Union had only a single fighter that could reach its target at an altitude of 20,000 m – the Su-9. However, it was not equipped with weapons and the pilot did not have a dedicated flight suit for such altitudes.

Gary Powers
Gary Powers

But perhaps due to being too angry at being offended many times, the Soviet Air Defense Command still decided to order the Su-9 pilot to sortie and the plan was to rush directly to the U-2 – a suicide mission! Luckily for the suicide pilot, the Su-9 could not reach the target because of running out of fuel, so he was forced to return to the base.

But this time U-2 did not escape the punishment. At 8:50 a.m., the U-2 entered the operational area of ​​an air defense missile unit under the command of Major Nikolay Voronov, armed with the latest anti-aircraft missile complex – the S-75 Dvina.

The flight altitude of the S-75 Dvina was about 25,000m, enough to shoot down the U-2. At 8:53, this plane was shot down. Since the crew had no experience in using Dvina, they mistook a Soviet fighter jet for the target as U-2. As a result, another missile was launched and the Soviet fighter jet was shot down – the Soviet pilot died.

The spy pilot on U-2 was Fransis Gary Powers, from Kentucky. Powers quickly got caught. The U-2 was not completely destroyed and the Soviet Union was able to locate most of the equipment.

Fragments of U-2 aircraft
Fragments of U-2 aircraft

When arrested, Gary Powers handed over a needle containing toxic substances used to kill himself in case of being arrested. However, G.Powers did not want to die and it was certainly a wise decision.

On May 16, a major summit between the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France began in Paris. Issues to be discussed include the state of Berlin and the control of nuclear weapons.

The event of the U-2 had led the Soviet leader to see that he could no longer cooperate with the US and only hours after the Paris conference began, Khrushchev left the meeting.

The evidence of the U-2 and the confession of Gary Powers led D.Eisenhower, a hero of World War II, not only be accused of conducting espionage, but worse than being accused of lying, – which was too much for D.Eisenhower – a man who was too famous for his honesty.

D. Eisenhower was enraged – refused to apologize to the Soviet Union, and bluntly admitted that the United States had been spying on and would continue spying because it concerns America’s national security.

Eisenhower viewed the U-2 mess as one of the worst failures of his presidency. The pilot, Francis Gary Powers, was released in 1962 in exchange for a captured Soviet spy.


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