Most Americans of a certain age know well the famous flight of U2 pilot Gary Powers whose plane was downed over the USSR on May 1, 1960. Unfortunately, most of them do not know that he was not shot down by the Soviets.
Fletcher Prouty gave extensive interviews to Len Osanic about his experiences in the Pentagon as an Air Force Colonel working as the CIA operations liaison. One of his particular responsibilities at the time of the U2 mission was to supply the special fuel required for the U2 plane. His office was across from the U2 mission control team, giving him access to rare and valuable information about this episode.
President Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev were scheduled to meet during May at a Summit to discuss peaceful coexistence in the first incarnation of détente. Certain hawks in the administration and CIA were adamantly opposed to conciliation of any kind, and so ordered the flight over the USSR in disobedience to Eisenhower’s direct and explicit orders forbidding any flights over the Soviet Union.
The popular mythology reported by the deceitful press was that Gary Powers was shot down by the USSR, relying largely on the word of Khrushchev and his spokesmen claiming such a victory. The Soviet Premier also used the opportunity at the aborted summit to lecture the Americans on their hostile and provocative actions. The Cold War would proceed for a dozen more years until President Nixon’s overtures to the USSR paved the way for more civil relations.
The truth of the flight is much more cloak and dagger than reported. The U2 flew at nearly 90,000 feet, putting it too far out of the reach of Soviet missiles and radars. It was thus impossible for them to shoot down the plane at this altitude. However, unbeknownst to Powers, his flight was sabotaged by the flight crew which only loaded a half tank of hydrogen fuel.
When Powers’ plane started to sputter, he descended to around 30,000 feet to attempt to reignite his engines since he needed much more oxygen to do so. By the time he reached that altitude the U2 was encircled by MIGs whose pilots compelled Powers to land. In fact one of them got so close to the plane that it damaged one of the U2 wings forcing Powers to skillfully spiral to a relatively soft landing.
Contrary to press reports, the plane was not a wreck pile nor did it crash, nor did Powers parachute to safety. Soviet officials apprehended him, eventually putting him through an elaborate show trial meant to embarrass him and the United States.
Many folks will recall the personal effects found on Powers. Prouty firmly states that those items were planted on his plane by his American saboteurs as U2 pilot uniforms had no pockets to hold them, and the pilots never knew which plane they would fly until they were on the runway.
Prouty also notes that the camera found in the U2 was a low tech model rather than the highly classified Lundahl camera. The saboteurs took care to swap cameras, knowing full well that they would sabotage the flight.
Even Allen Dulles admitted before the Senate that the plane was not shot down, but failed to provide any additional information about the operation. Prouty was notified by a colleague that 4 men conducted the sabotage, but the Colonel did not reveal the names. However, he was clear that it was an attempt to undermine détente in order to keep the wheels of the military industrial complex greased.
Fletcher Prouty, Black Op Radio, Show 352, January 19, 2012
Copyright 2013 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.