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Francis Gary Powers was an American pilot who flew a U-2 espionage mission over the Soviet Union. The flight was commissioned by the CIA for whom he was employed. The U-2 airplane was shot down by the Soviets and recovered virtually intact, and Powers was taken prisoner. American authorities thought the plane had been destroyed, and President Dwight Eisenhower criticized the Soviets for shooting down an American "weather plane." The Soviets then produced Powers, and Eisenhower was caught in a lie. The incident seriously damaged talks between Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschchev, who insisted Eisenhower apologize. Eisenhower refused.
Powers was tried in a widely publicized trial for espionage and was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. He was freed several years later in exchange for a Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel. The exchange was made across a bridge in Berlin, Germany where each prisoner at a pre-determined signal walked past the other.
Powers received a cool reception when he returned. He was criticized for not using a self-destruct mechanism on the plane and also not making use of a suicide device. Subsequent hearings in Congress determined that Powers had not conducted himself in a desultory manner, and was in fact complemented. He worked for Lockheed Aircraft for several years before he was fired for a book about his U-2 exploits which Lockheed believed revealed Company secrets. He subsequently worked as a helicopter pilot for a news station, but died in a helicopter crash when he steered the craft away from a site which would have hurt people on the ground. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery and was decorated postumously for meritorious service.
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