One of the most talked-about events of the Cold War was the downing of the American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. The event was recently depicted in the Steven Spielberg movie Bridge of Spies. Powers was captured by the KGB, subjected to a televised show trial, and imprisoned, all of which created an international incident. Soviet authorities eventually released him in exchange for captured Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. On his return to the United States, Powers was exonerated of any wrongdoing while imprisoned in Russia, yet, due to bad press and the government’s unwillingness to heartily defend Powers, a cloud of controversy lingered until his untimely death in 1977.
Powers’ son, Francis Gary Powers Jr., will join us to discuss the Cold War, U-2 Incident, the controversy that surrounded his father, what the family has done to set the record straight, and the Steven Spielberg’s 2015 movie Bridge of Spies that portrays his father’s exchange for Soviet spy Rudolph Abel in 1962. A book signing will follow in Hospitality.
Born June 5, 1965, in Burbank, California, he is the son of Francis Gary and Claudia “Sue” Powers. Gary holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy from California State University, Los Angeles, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration / Certification in Non-profit Management from George Mason University (GMU), Fairfax, Virginia. In 2019 Gary graduated with his Master’s Degree in U.S. History from Adams State University, Alamosa, CO.
Gary is the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of The Cold War Museum, a 501(c) (3) charity located at Vint Hill, VA 45 minutes west of Washington, DC. He founded the museum in 1996 to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate future generations about this time period. As Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Cold War Theme Study he works with the National Park Service and leading Cold War experts to identify historic Cold War sites for commemorating, interpreting, and preservation. Recently, he consulted for a Steven Spielberg Cold War thriller, Bridge of Spies, about James Donovan who brokered the 1962 spy exchange between KGB spy Rudolph Abel and CIA U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, Sr.
Gary is the author of Letters from a Soviet Prison (2017) and Spy Pilot (2019) which both help to dispel the misinformation surrounding the U-2 Incident. He is a Board Member of the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum near Omaha, NE and an Honorary Board Member of the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. Because of his efforts to honor Cold War veterans the Junior Chamber of Commerce selected him as one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Americans” for 2002. Gary lectures internationally and appears regularly on C-SPAN, the History, Discovery, and A&E Channels. He is married and has one son.