1960 U-2 Shot Down over the Soviet Union

Powell at a Senate Hearing after retunrning to the US

The United States flew high level spy missions over the Soviet Union. They were convinced that the Soviet could not shoot down a plane that high. They did on May 1, 1960. The capture of the pilot Francis Gary Powers embarrassed President Eisenhower and resulted in a failed summit.

The United States had, for some time, been conducting high-level flights over the Soviet Union. The US was confident that the Soviets had no means to shoot down the U-2, which flew at 100,000 feet. When one of the U-2's did not return from a mission on May 1, 1960 , and the Soviets claimed to have shot it down, the military believed that it could deny responsibility for the U-2, assuming that no one could have survived.

American officials were embarrassed, therefore, when Gary Powers, the pilot of the U-2 in question, was paraded in front of Soviet television cameras. The event took place a short time before a summit was to occur between President Eisenhower and Chairman Khrushchev. Khrushchev seemed to provide Eisenhower with a way out of the sticky affair by saying that he understood that Eisenhower might not have had knowledge of the U-2 missions.

Eisenhower, however, took complete responsibility for the affair. At the opening of the summit meeting, Khrushchev demanded an apology, and when Eisenhower refused to comply, the meeting broke up in disarray.

Powers was sentenced to 10 year in a Soviet prison, but was exchanged in a prisoner swap for Rudolf Abel on February 10, 1962.