lga1011
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Francis Gary Powers

Mon Feb 23, 2004 6:26 am

I just read the book operation overflight written by Francis Gary Powers. I would like to know what you think about the U-2 incident. Was he a Hero or a traitor.
 
jwenting
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Mon Feb 23, 2004 6:40 am

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.
I wish I were flying
 
SlamClick
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Mon Feb 23, 2004 7:03 am

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.
 
Markus
Posts: 386
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Mon Feb 23, 2004 7:08 am

He'll always be a hometown hero here in Greenville, SC.
Cheers
Markus
 
BMAbound
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Mon Feb 23, 2004 7:16 am

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.

johan
Altitude is Insurance - Get Insured
 
Slcpilot
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Mon Feb 23, 2004 8:29 am

My father led me to believe he died after running a helicopter out of fuel.

Is this true?

SLCPilot
I don't like to be fueled by anger, I don't like to be fooled by lust...
 
2912n
Posts: 1978
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2001 2:12 pm

RE: Francis Gary Powers

Mon Feb 23, 2004 8:44 am

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
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Mon Feb 23, 2004 9:17 am

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.

JMHO,

Mike
I see my Cats as Companions. My Cats see Me as Furniture!
 
2912n
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Mon Feb 23, 2004 10:04 am

Mike,

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.  Smile

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.
 
L-188
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Mon Feb 23, 2004 12:58 pm

It should be noted that the Soviets also managed to shoot down two of their own migs that where sent up to attempt interceptions of the aircraft that day.

OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
 
afay1
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Mon Feb 23, 2004 5:10 pm

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
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 4:01 am

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
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 5:29 am

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.
Here Here for Severe Clear!
 
broke
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 6:23 am

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
Posts: 1978
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2001 2:12 pm

RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 7:06 am

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.
 
USAFHummer
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 7:58 am

Where did he depart from on his fateful mission?

Greg
Chief A.net college football stadium self-pic guru
 
LMP737
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 8:26 am

If I remember my history classes correctly he departed from Turkey.

Never take financial advice from co-workers.
 
2912n
Posts: 1978
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2001 2:12 pm

RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 8:56 am

He departed from Peshawar, Pakistan and was to land at Bodo (don't have the appropriat / marks to mae that correct  Smile ) in Norway.
 
JohnM
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 9:09 am

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?
 
L-188
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 5:20 pm

LMP737.

180 degrees off.

The flight was supposed to be Pakistan to Turkey.
OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
 
2912n
Posts: 1978
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2001 2:12 pm

RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 9:38 pm

L-188....If you mean the flight he was shot down on...no, it was crossing the entire USSR, south to north, Pakistan to Norway. Earlier border flights with small incursions would go Pak/Turkey.
 
keesje
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 9:42 pm

It was an embarrassing and hard to explain incident for the US. Public frustration had to be aimed somewhere ..

He probably was a young patriotic fellow doing his duty, just wanting to get home but got mixed up in world politics ..
"Never mistake motion for action." Ernest Hemingway
 
2912n
Posts: 1978
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 10:04 pm

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.

 
LMP737
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Tue Feb 24, 2004 11:59 pm

Guess my history was a bit off.
Never take financial advice from co-workers.
 
RIX
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Wed Feb 25, 2004 6:26 am

"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?
 
Guest

RE: Francis Gary Powers

Fri Mar 05, 2004 10:32 am

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 back from filming fires around Santa Barbara area.
Attempted to land in a school yard... in Tarzana or Encino.
Had only minimal helicopter experience, less than 100 hours total.
xxx
Happy contrails  Smile
(s) Skipper
 
SlamClick
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RE: Francis Gary Powers

Sun Mar 07, 2004 2:36 am

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 cheesy spy movies.

I contrast his life with that of John Kerry1 who might have put himself in for the Silver Star in order to use it as a political springboard much as Lyndon Johnson did. Powers did his job and came home when he could.

(1) Not exactly picking on Kerry here. I might even vote for him, but he IS a phony. Not necessarily more phony than other politicians but certainly all about making the appearance of - whatever you are seeking in your leaders.

Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.

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