Francis Gary Powers Jr. to discuss his father’s Cold War legacy in Wilton

  • “Spy Pilot: Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 Incident, and a Controversial Cold War Legacy.” COURTESY PHOTO

  • A photo of U.S. Air Force Capt. Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 spy plane pilot who was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. COURTESY PHOTO

Published: 5/25/2022 8:02:21 AM
Modified: 5/25/2022 8:00:21 AM

On May 1, 1960, U.S Air Force Capt. Francis Gary Powers plummeted out of the sky and into a diplomatic crisis when he was shot down during an espionage mission over the Soviet Union. The incident forced President Dwight D. Eisenhower to acknowledge that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been flying secret spy missions over the territory of its Cold War rivals for several years.

As relations between the United States and Soviet Union further deteriorated over the incident, Powers, then 30 years old, was arrested and held in a Russian prison until 1962, when he was exchanged for Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel. He died in a 1977 helicopter crash while working for a television news station in California.

Today, his son Francis Gary Powers Jr. has become an advocate for his father's legacy. Powers will speak at Town Hall Theatre at 40 Main St. in Wilton Thursday, June 16, at 7 p.m. about his years of research into the incident that propelled his father into the international spotlight. His 2019 book, “Spy Pilot: Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 Incident, and a Controversial Cold War Legacy” gives an overview of what it was like to grow up in the shadow of a famous Cold War figure. The book also explores Powers’ search for truth following his father’s death in 1977, and how his research clarified his father's place in a pivotal Cold War episode.

Powers will also discuss Steven Spielberg’s 2015 Cold War thriller, “Bridge of Spies,” which depicts the spy swap between his father and Abel.

The evening will kick off and conclude with the screening of vintage Cold War-era Civil Defense films, including the "Duck and Cover" children's cartoon about what to do in case of nuclear attack. A book-signing will follow the hour-long author presentation, with copies available for purchase at the event.

Powers is the founder and chairman emeritus of the Cold War Museum, a 501(c)(3) charity in Vint Hill, Va. As chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Cold War Theme Study, he works with the National Park Service and Cold War experts to identify historic Cold War sites for commemoration, interpretation and preservation. He also served as a consultant to “Bridge of Spies,” lectures internationally and appears regularly on the History, Discovery and A&E channels.

The program is open to the public. Tickets are $10 per person, general admission. Entry for Aviation Museum of New Hampshire members is free. Advance tickets are available at tinyurl.com/mv8atjth. In addition, tickets may be purchased in advance by calling Leah Dearborn at 603-669-4877 or at the door.

All proceeds support the non-profit Aviation Museum's education programming. For information, visit aviationmuseumofnh.org or call 603-669-4820. Follow the Aviation Museum on social media at facebook.com/nhahs.


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