Jwenting From Netherlands, joined Apr 2001, 10213 posts, RR: 21 Reply 1, posted (9 years 3 months 17 hours ago) and read 3273 times:
Why should he be called a traitor?
He was shot down over enemy territory during a time of war (albeit an undeclared war fought mainly through proxies and intelligence agencies).
I wouldn't call him a hero either. He might have been had he evaded capture and made it home safely, or better yet if he'd nursed his damaged aircraft back to friendly territory.
As it is he's a prisoner of war exchanged for other prisoners of war. Nothing particularly heroic, just a guy doing his job.
SlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 71 Reply 2, posted (9 years 3 months 17 hours ago) and read 3227 times:
I have to think that volunteering to fly the U-2, knowing that the non-combat risks are higher than just about any other aircraft in the inventory, placing himself in the way of the deployment to Turkey, accepting the overflights of Russia, knowing that he was not going to get any help or support, and then coming back all those years later and not suing or going on the lecture circuit to whine about his mistreatment, all of those things represent a fair definition of "heroic."
None of it was "showboating" or "grandstanding." If he hadn't been shot down no one would have known what he did until long after he retired. He didn't come back and try to ride a couple of medals into the Senate or the Whitehouse. He did not plop himself sideways in the public trough for the rest of his life. These things are a little bit heroic.
He didn't sell his face or his name to any causes. Most Americans could not have picked him out of a lineup. He came back from it and went on with his life. That is quietly heroic in my book.
He did something for his country that I don't know if I'd have been smart enough, brave enough, or a good enough pilot to have done. To this day, the majority of the pilots who start down the road toward U-2 qualification either do not get accepted or fail the training.
The man certainly had my respect.
Slam (I flew the U-1) Click
Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
BMAbound From Sweden, joined Nov 2003, 660 posts, RR: 5 Reply 4, posted (9 years 3 months 17 hours ago) and read 3191 times:
All people fighting for a good cause are heroes, Gary Powers included. The fact that he also managed to become a U-2 pilot, which I can imagine being quite an undertaking doesn't decrease my respect for him.
2912n From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 2013 posts, RR: 9 Reply 6, posted (9 years 3 months 15 hours ago) and read 3132 times:
I don't remember the cause of the crash, but he was flying a news helicopter in the LA area and went down. As I recall he was heralded for taking the a/c down and avoiding a school and other built up areas.
I can't understand why people labeled him as a villian. While he did have a poison needle in a "coin" there was no order to kill himself to avoid capture. (as if having him dead would have made the whole incident go away...The Soviets just would have had no show trial. They still had the airplane.)
In a strange way his shoot down brought to light the abilities of Soviet SAM systems and probably saved some lives later on...
5T6 From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 283 posts, RR: 0 Reply 7, posted (9 years 3 months 15 hours ago) and read 3105 times:
A difficult question, Jeremy.
He wore the uniform and flew many successful, very dangerous missions...and he would have to be considered a hero in that respect.
However, he also had an obligation (which he was very well aware of when he accepted the mission to be a U-2 pilot) not to let himself or his aircraft be captured by the enemy.
Tough call. While I wouldn't say he was a traitor, I would have to say that he did not completely fulfill his duties. The Russians learned a great deal about the U-2 and it's capabilities because Major Powers did not (or could not) destroy the aircraft and use the infamous needle.
The SR-71 made a lot of that a moot point, but the usefulness of the U-2 against the Soviet target was forever compromised after Major Powers' failed mission.
I see my Cats as Companions. My Cats see Me as Furniture!
2912n From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 2013 posts, RR: 9 Reply 8, posted (9 years 3 months 14 hours ago) and read 3092 times:
It is a popular misconception that he failed to kill himself. He was given the needle to use in the event he was tortured and felt that was the only way out. The explosive charge that was in the U-2 was only big enough to hopefully destroy the cameras that were super secret at the time.
The Soviets knew a great deal about the U-2 prior to the shootdown. They knew they were being overflown and were very frustrated. And since the U-2 is still out there flying and the SR-71 is long gone I would doubt that it was forever comprimised.
There are several books out about Powers and the U-2 missions, but Power's autobiography, "Operation Overflight" gives a good view into the man and his mindset. He was pretty hard on himself.
Afay1 From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 1293 posts, RR: 3 Reply 10, posted (9 years 3 months 7 hours ago) and read 2979 times:
One can view the remnants of the plane at the Central Armed Forces in Moscow, although the exhibit mentions a lot about the plane and its mission, Francis Gary Powers is not named. I believe he was held prisoner in the Vladimir Monastery until he was traded...
Broke From United States of America, joined Apr 2002, 1322 posts, RR: 4 Reply 11, posted (9 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 2906 times:
Power's U-2 was shot down by a barrage of SA-2 SAM's and his airplane came apart. There nothing he could have done to fly the airplane after he was hit.
He was captured immediately upon hitting the ground in the central Soviet Union. Try sneaking out under those circumstances.
He was a civilian pilot flying an airplane for hours on the edge of its performance envelope; try that for a even little bit and see if you survive.
He, in a way, was set up. The mission was flown on May Day, one of the biggest holidays in the Soviet Union and the profile followed an earlier mission exactly. So you rub salt in your opponent's eye and then you become predictable.
Not a good way to collect important intelligence in a hostile environment.
HaveBlue From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 2069 posts, RR: 1 Reply 12, posted (9 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 2882 times:
Broke said "He was a civilian pilot flying an airplane for hours on the edge of its performance envelope; try that for a even little bit and see if you survive."
Good point. If I remember correctly, at altitude the difference between the U-2's cruise speed and stall speed was only a few knots. Trying to maintain that for hours while doing reconnaissance and evasion cannot be easy. Sounds tedious as hell actually.
Agreed that he could do nothing about the plane falling into the Soviets hands. I think he is a hero. But a question for Mike... how are you going to use the needle after you've been tortured? Would they not have already searched and possibly redressed or undressed him? Just curious. It seems like he would either have to do it while descending, or before capture.
Broke From United States of America, joined Apr 2002, 1322 posts, RR: 4 Reply 13, posted (9 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 2869 times:
At the altitudes the U-2 was flown, there was a gap of 5 knots between stall and Mach buffet. This area of the performance envelope is called the "coffin corner". It is possible to make even a shallow banked turn and stall the inside wing and reach Mach buffet with the outside wing.
Kelly Johnson's guys built the airplane as light as possible; it was structurally rated at +- 2.5 G's and it didn't have an ejection seat.
The current airplanes have significant inprovements in structures due to the use of composites and with the microcircuitry of todays avionics there are weight savings.
Still the U-2 is not an easy plane to fly.
2912n From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 2013 posts, RR: 9 Reply 14, posted (9 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 2857 times:
Just a point of clarification. Powers had a fairly extensive USAF career before being recruited by the CIA, so he was not just a "civilian" pilot. If I remember correctly part of the deal in moving over to CIA was that they could go back to their military careers after the U-2 program.
JohnM From United States of America, joined Feb 2001, 310 posts, RR: 0 Reply 18, posted (9 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 2840 times:
Anybody who flies a single engine airplane across the USSR during the height of the cold war has brass balls. The man has my respect. As far as the coffin corner, it was my impression that the autopilot did the work to keep things together as far the airspeed was concerned. Of course when it goes tits up, it's all the pilot. I was told no autopilot, the airplane did not go on a mission. Of course an inflt failure....what can you do?
2912n From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 2013 posts, RR: 9 Reply 22, posted (9 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 2802 times:
In doing a little bit of research I found that Powers was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, POW medal and National Defense medal on 1 May 2000 (40th anniversery of the flight...). Sad that it took 40 years to do it but such is, as Keesje points out, world politics.
It was only embarrasing when the politicians could not come up with an explanation. The knowledge gained was well worth the risk, something I would bet that Powers would agree with.
RIX From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 1785 posts, RR: 1 Reply 24, posted (9 years 2 months 4 weeks 17 hours ago) and read 2744 times:
"that the Soviets also managed to shoot down two of their own migs that where sent up to attempt interceptions - no, two MiG19 interceptors were sent but only one of them was shot down. The pilot, Sergei Safronov, was killed. Total 14 SAMs were launched.
As for "traitor", "not to let himself or his aircraft be captured by the enemy" - wow... am I reading a Soviet newspaper? How about our aircraft that was hit by Chinese fighter in 2001 and landed in China (yes, I know, China was/is nowhere near the kind of enemy the Soviets were... so what? "The idea" is the same...)? The crew could simply plunge into sea, "not to let the secret information and equipment to be captured, ..., ..., ..." - but, AFAIK, nobody here in the US ever blamed them not doing so. While Russian papers were crying, "our guys would die but not let the enemy ... ... ..." - looks like they learned nothing. Is it worthy to be like them?
25 B747skipper: I met F. Gary Powers a few times for a beer in the 1970s in Van Nuys. He ran out of fuel with a Bell 206, flying for KNBC-TV channel 4. He was coming
26 SlamClick: I think that whole "was supposed to kill himself . . . is a bunch of crap that crept into the public perception as a result of watching too many chees