An American Spy on Soviet Soil: The True Story of Francis Gary Powers

Born August 17, 1929, Francis Gary Powers was an American spy plane pilot who crash-landed while flying in Soviet Union airspace. At the moment in history when tensions between the US and the Soviet Union were at an all-time high due to the Cold War, Powers’ capture and subsequent interrogation were highly damaging to the already frayed relationship between the two nations. From the moment of his capture to his eventual arrival back on American soil and his untimely death at the age of 47, Powers’ story is a genuinely fascinating one.

Early Life and Aspirations


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Born to a coal miner and a housewife, Francis was the only son of six children. His father, Oliver Winfield Powers, had seen and experienced the difficulties of life in the mines and wanted something better for his son. He urged Francis to become a doctor and enjoy a good life. Francis wouldn’t end up becoming a doctor, but he did study hard and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1950. From there, he joined up with the Air Force and rose through the ranks, eventually being recruited into the CIA, where he began training to fly Lockheed U-2 spy planes.

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