Some years ago, at John Foster Dulles National Airport outside Washington, DC, there was an exhibit on display about satellite and spy plane imagery. It was inaccurate about the clarify possible from outer space, where cameras turned away from Earth are capturing images of the beginnings of the universe. A mock-up miniature of the U-2 plane was part of the exhibit and a glass covered panel featured one of the pictures taken by a U-2 overflight of Cuba that showed evidence of the transport of ICBM nuclear missiles to storage buildings and led to the Cuban missile crisis that came within 30 seconds of nuclear war with the USSR. The Kennedy brothers stood up to General Curtis LeMay and the Joint Chiefs who wanted to begin WW III, and prevented a global catastrophe. The glossy original photo had a note at the bottom in old typewriter script that read “Courtesy of Jagger-Chiles-Stovall.”
Ironically, Lee Harvey Oswald was blamed for the U-2 incident since he had defected to the USSR after a stint in the Marines where he was stationed near and tracking U-2 flights. He had allegedly told Richard Snyder at the US Embassy he was going to reveal the secrets of the U-2 to the Russians. Both Snyder and Oswald were at the time with the Office of Naval Intelligence, and part of an elaborate ruse to plant fake defectors into Russia to gauge their responses.
Oswald may have played a role in the Cuban missile crisis nonetheless. Jagger Chiles Stovall was a company in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas that sub-contracted to the National Reconnaissance Organization, NRO to analyze U-2 spy photographs. In the year of the Cuban crisis their main photographic expert and analyst was none other than Lee Harvey Oswald.
Gary Powers, Jr., mentioned in this article, recently revealed to me that his father saw a report on television about the return of Oswald to the United States and became very agitated. “I have to let them know he is back,” he said.
Powers, U-2 Pilot Captured by Soviets, Awarded Silver Star
By REBECCA BERG
New York Times
June 15, 2012
WASHINGTON — More than 50 years after his plane was downed in the Soviet Union, Francis Gary Powers was posthumously awarded the military’s third-highest decoration on Friday.
Mr. Powers, the U-2 spy plane pilot whose story captured national attention during the cold war, was awarded a Silver Star from the Air Force in a ceremony at the Pentagon.
After his plane was downed in 1960, Mr. Powers was subjected to 107 days of interrogation, followed by a public trial in Moscow. He was imprisoned for more than two years thereafter.
When Mr. Powers returned to the United States in 1962, he was derided by some for being alive at all. His capture had heightened tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, and there was widespread speculation that he had caved under pressure from his captors. In The New York Times shortly after his release, Mr. Powers was described as “commonplace”; he was, in the words of one journalist, “not a superhero but a normal unsophisticated young man” who was an “extremely cooperative witness for the Russians.”
On Thursday, Mr. Powers’s daughter, Dee Powers, recalled that a teacher of hers once “told the entire class that my father should have killed himself.”
“That was very traumatic for me,” Ms. Powers said. “And I went home that afternoon and I told my mom that someone had said that Daddy should have killed himself. And of course, my mother was up in arms over that. But that’s what they knew then. And things — it took a long time for that to change.”
The second draft of history, as reflected in the Air Force citation accompanying Mr. Powers’s Silver Star, reads a bit differently. Mr. Powers “was interrogated, harassed, and endured unmentionable hardships on a continuous basis by numerous top Soviet Secret Police interrogating teams,” the citation reads, while “resisting all Soviet efforts through cajolery, trickery and threats of death.” He exhibited “indomitable spirit, exceptional loyalty, and continuous heroic actions.”
The fuzzy bits of Mr. Powers’s story were clarified only in 1998, when the Central Intelligence Agency declassified many of the details of its cold war-era U-2 spy plane program. In 2000, Mr. Powers was posthumously awarded a P.O.W. Medal, a Distinguished Flying Cross and a C.I.A. Director’s Medal.
Within Mr. Powers’s lifetime, though, he received far more criticism than appreciation. Affected by the public ire directed at him, Mr. Powers moved to California and took a job flying a traffic helicopter for a Los Angeles radio station.
On Aug. 1, 1977, the helicopter he was piloting ran out of fuel and crashed near a Little League field in Encino, Calif. Mr. Powers, who was 47, did not survive.
Now, with the Silver Star, members of Mr. Powers’s family say they have at last found a sense of resolution.
“It’s never too late to set the record straight,” his son, Francis Gary Powers Jr., told reporters on Thursday. “Even if it takes 50 years, it’s something that the family members and the loved ones of these military personnel who go through these type of situations — it goes to help put closure to it, to find closure.”