Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

Francis Gary Powers U2


In 1956 Gary Powers, a former lieutenant in the American Air force was hired by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation as a test pilot. He was then stationed in Incirlik, Turkey, where it was claimed he was involved in weather research projects, flying between Pakistan and Norway.

On 1st May 1960 his high-altitude reconnaissance plane, a Lockheed U2 aircraft, was shot down by long-range Soviet missiles near an army base in Sverdlovak. Powers managed to bail out and was captured and arrested.
This led to a Cold War political power game known as ‘The U2 Incident’.

In 1958 Russian Premier Nikita Krushchev had stated that the Potsdam Treaty which declared four-power control over Berlin was no longer effective and should be scrapped. A summit conference to discuss the future of Berlin, and also arms control, had been set up to take place in Paris in May 1960. Kruschev revealed that the Russians had known about the surveillance missions for some time and had at last managed to down one of the planes. He denounced the American aggression and called off the summit conference.

The State Department in Washington claimed that Powers was a civilian pilot carrying out weather research, who must have strayed off course. They said that the cameras on board his craft were used for taking pictures of clouds. President Eisenhower initially denied that Powers was on a spying mission, but later had to admit the fact and promised there would be no further missions. The U.S. Government also announced that the flights had been necessary for security reasons.
The following month Powers was put on public trial in a Moscow courtroom. During the three-day trial Powers pleaded guilty to spy charges and said that he had been flying from a U.S. base in Pakistan, acting on orders from the Central Intelligence Agency.

On 19th August he was found guilty by the court and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. The first three years were to be spent in a prison and the rest of the sentence in a labour camp. Meanwhile, Rudolph Abel, a Soviet intelligence officer, who had entered the U.S. illegally under the name Emil R. Goldfus in 1948, had been convicted in 1957 for conspiring to transmit military secrets to the U.S.S.R. and was serving 30 years imprisonment in an American jail. His defence attorney, James Britt Donovan, began to work out an exchange deal and on 10th February 1962 Abel was exchanged for Powers and Frederic L. Pryor, an American student who had been held in East Germany without charge since August 1961.


SC: Powers received the CIA's Intelligence Star in 1965 after his return from the Soviet Union. Powers was originally scheduled to receive it in 1963 along with other pilots involved in the CIA's U-2 program, but the award was postponed for political reasons.

On August 1st, 1977, Powers had been covering brush fires in Santa Barbara County in the KNBC telecopter and was heading back from flying over them. As he returned, his Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter, registration N4TV, ran out of fuel and crashed at the Sepulveda Dam recreational area in nearby Encino, several miles short of its intended landing site at Burbank Airport, killing Powers instantly. According to Powers' son, an aviation mechanic had repaired a faulty fuel gauge without telling Powers, who misread it. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery as an Air Force veteran


Francis Gary Powers     Francis Gary Powers     U2 Spy Plane - larger image               

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Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.


Article Bill Harry 2017               Original Graphics SixtiesCity 2017

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