Term Paper: Gary Powers Spy Plane Issue

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SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] For years, the planes were beyond the capability of Soviet planes and antiaircraft weapons.

At the time the general policy of the United States was to publicly state that most "shoot-downs, were nothing more than weather reconnaissance flights, or errant weather balloons."

President Eisenhower halted the U-2 flights in September 1959, but they were resumed April 9, 1960 to prepare for the May 1960 Paris Summit Conference. However, as the U-2's were being fitted with more sophisticated intelligence systems, it became more difficult to deny the United States was involved in airborne intelligence. And this U.S. policy of denial literally came crashing down when one of its U-2s not only crashed, but its pilot was captured.

American pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down on May 1, 1960 by a SAM-2 missile, forcing him to bail out at 15,000 feet.

Powers, a CIA-employed pilot survived the parachute jump, however, he was captured with all of his gear by the Soviet authorities, who immediately arrested him. Although President Eisenhower had known about previous flights, he denied that the plane was flying in Soviet airspace. On May 7, 1960 Khrushchev announced that not only had they captured the U-2 spy plane, but had arrested the surviving pilot. He belittled the United States for spying, saying, "the militarists in the Pentagon...seem unable to call a halt to their war effort."

Although the United States tried to explain that the U-2 flights were "intended to patrol the borders of the free world as a precaution against surprise attacks, these events disrupted the peace process already in progress between Eisenhower and Khrushchev."

The Soviet leader publicly questioned the United States' intent in the peace process, leading the United States' second response that the "Soviet Union had access to the open societies of the free world and could establish espionage networks...therefore, the United States should be allowed to monitor the Soviet Union."

The United States had a responsibility to protect itself and free people everywhere from the possible surprise attacks.

Even though Eisenhower met Khrushchev's demand for an apology and suspended the U-2 flights, the Soviet leader was not satisfied and the proposed Paris summit conference between the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France was canceled.

Soviet Note to the United States, May 10, 1960:

The Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics cannot avoid pointing out that the State Department's statement, which is unprecedented in its cynicism, not only justifies provocative flights of aircraft of the armed forces of the United States of America but also acknowledges that such actions are "a normal phenomenon" and thus in fact states that in the future the United States intends to continue provocative invasions into the confines of the airspace of the Soviet Union for the purpose of intelligence. Thus the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics concludes that the announcement of the State Department that the flight was carried out without the knowledge and permission of the Government of the United States of America does not correspond to reality, since in the very same announcement the necessity for carrying on intelligence activities against the Soviet Union is justified. This means that espionage activities of American aircraft are carried on with the sanction of the Government of the United States of America.

The Government of the Soviet Union makes an emphatic protest to the Government of the United States of America in connection with aggressive acts of American aviation and warns that, if similar provocations are repeated, it will be obliged to take retaliatory measures, responsibility for the consequences of which will rest on the governments of states committing aggression against other countries."

On May 15, Khrushchev made threats against U-2 bases and the United States went on DefCon 3 alert. On May 25 President Eisenhower took "full responsibility for approving all the various programs undertaken by our government to secure and evaluate military intelligence" however, he refused to apologize for the over-flights, arguing that the Soviets had known of the flights for years but had not protested until the Powers incident.

On August 19, Gary Powers confessed during his trial that he was "deeply repentant and profoundly sorry" for his actions.

Powers was sentenced to ten years in a Soviet prison. He was held for almost two years, when he was exchanged for Soviet spy Col. Rudolf Abel in the most dramatic spy swap by the East and West to ever occur in Cold War Berlin.

On February 10, 1962, Powers stepped on to the eastern end of the Berlin's Glienicke Bridge spanning the River Havel.

At the other end of the bridge, stood Colonel Rudolf Abel, heavily muffled Soviet master-spy, seized earlier by U.S. security agents after setting up a red spy network in New York in the late 1950s. At a precisely arranged signal, the two men strode on to the bridge, marching purposefully towards one another, Powers heading westward, Abel eastwards.

In the middle of the bridge they passed each other silently, with barely a nod of their heads. That spy-swap operation was to be the forerunner of many such East-West prisoner exchanges to take place on the Glienicke Bridge over the next 27 years in Berlin."

Although, the U-2 production at Skunk Works was shut down in 1969, it was revived in 1978 to produce the updated TR-1 model.

To prevent the East Germans from fleeing to West Germany, the Soviet government built the Berlin Wall in 1961. In the 1962, the United States discovered that the Soviets were in the process of deploying nuclear missiles in Communist Cuba. In October, the United States moved to block the Soviet ships carrying the missile to Cuba, resulting in a standoff, during which the world stood on the brink of disaster. Khrushchev gave in to President Kennedy's demands and backed off.

Both sides learned from this crisis that risking nuclear war for political objectives was far too dangerous.

It would be the last time during the Cold War that either superpower would take such a risk.

During the next two decades both powers sparred globally. In the mid-1980's Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the U.S.S.R., determined to stop the decay of the Soviet system and shed some of its foreign policy burdens. "Between 1986 and 1989 he brought a revolution to Soviet foreign policy, abandoning long-held Soviet assumptions and seeking new and far-reaching agreements with the West."

His efforts altered the dynamic of East-West relations.

A series of summit talks beginning in 1985 led to the agreement to eliminate a whole class of nuclear missiles, those capable of striking Europe and Asia from the U.S.S.R. And vice versa from the United States. The Soviets began to reduce its forces in Eastern Europe and in 1989 the wall that had divided East and West Germany was torn down.

In 1990 Germany became a unified country once again and in 1991, the U.S.S.R. dissolved, resulting in Russia and the other Soviet republics emerging as independent states. Even before these final events, "much of the ideological basis for the Cold War competition had disappeared...the collapse of the Soviet power in Eastern Europe and then of the U.S.S.R. itself, lent a crushing finality to the end of the Cold War period."

Although the U-2 incident may have been an embarrassing affair for the United States at the time, it had little negative long-term effect either politically or economically.

According to United States government records, at least 252 American airmen were shot down while flying espionage or support missions between 1950 and 1970. Twenty-four died, ninety survived, and one hundred and thirty-eight are still unaccounted for.

Many feel that the actual number of losses may even be higher than the official tallies. New evidence suggests that two allied spy flights were shot down over the Caspian Sea by Soviet jets in 1958, yet no official documentation has been found.

Because of his confession, Francis Gary Powers was seen as a traitor in America's eyes. Many felt he should have killed himself with the poison provided by the CIA for that purpose if captured, fearing he might have given up American secrets.

He was greatly criticized when he returned to the United States. Powers was cold-shouldered by his former employers at the Central Intelligence Agency and subsequently found employment as a helicopter pilot for television station KNBC in Los Angeles.

He died on August 1, 1977 at the age of 47 when a television news helicopter he was piloting crashed in Los Angeles. He is buried in Section 11 of Arlington National Cemetery.

Although, Francis Gary Powers was a former Air Force captain, he was considered a CIA employee, not military. Therefore, he was not recognized as a prisoner of war until twenty-one years after his death "when declassified Cold War documents in 1998 revealed his mission was a joint operation of the CIA and the Air Force."

Gary Francis Powers, Jr. said, "It's important to make sure he's honored for his contribution.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Gary Powers Spy Plane Issue.  (2003, April 10).  Retrieved April 26, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/gary-powers-spy-plane-issue/2595755

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"Gary Powers Spy Plane Issue."  Essaytown.com.  April 10, 2003.  Accessed April 26, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/gary-powers-spy-plane-issue/2595755.