Display Status This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Francis Gary Powers (1929 -1977) learned to fly during high school. He enlisted in the United States Air Force after graduating from Milligan College in 1950. In 1956, he resigned from the Air Force to become a "civilian employee" of Lockheed on loan to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, authorized to fly Air Force aircraft. In reality, he was a covert employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), training for Operation Overflight—U-2 reconnaissance missions. Powers was captured and imprisoned after his U-2 was shot down over the Soviet Union during an aerial reconnaissance mission on May 1, 1960. Powers was placed on trial and exchanged nearly two years later for Rudolf Abel, a Soviet agent. After his return to the United States, Powers continued to work for the CIA, but then left to work at Lockheed. Powers was working for NBC's Los Angeles affiliate KGIL in 1977, when his helicopter ran out of fuel and crashed, causing his death.

Identifier

NASM.1994.0010

Processing Information

Arranged, described, and encoded by Elizabeth C. Borja, 2018.

Creator

Powers, Francis Gary, 1929-1977

Date

1929-1986

bulk 1952-1977

Provenance

Claudia Sue Powers, Gift, 1994, NASM.1994.0010.

Extent

1.53 Cubic feet (2 legal document boxes, 1 flat box)

Summary

This collection consists of material relating to Francis Gary Powers's flying career in the Air Force, Central Intelligence Agency, and later pursuits. The majority of the documents deal with the May 1960 U-2 incident, in which Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union during a reconnaisance mission and imprisoned. Materials include: logbooks; flight records from his military and civilian careers; a pocket diary and journal he kept during his Soviet imprisonment; letters to his parents; materials collected by his parents as his father attempted to visit him including a telegram from Nikita Khrushchev and a New Testament given to Powers by his mother during his Soviet trial; Congressional hearing material; newspaper articles; Life magazine; and several photographs of Powers.

Restrictions

No restrictions on access.

Type

Collection descriptions

Archival materials

Clippings

Diaries

Correspondence

Telegrams

Photographs

Logs (records)

Arrangement note

This collection is arranged into three series: Early Career, the U-2 Incident, and Post U-2 Incident Life and Career. Series 1 contains materials relating to Francis Gary Power's early career with the United States Air Force before resigning to join the CIA, including his birth certificate, military orders and forms, and his individual flight records. Series 2 contains materials relating to the U-2 incident, in which Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union and imprisoned. The first set of materials relates to Powers' imprisonment, including his prison journal, pocket diary, New Testament, correspondence, and the subsequent congressional hearing. The second set of materials relates to the Powers family during the incident, including correspondence and telegrams with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and the United States government and Oliver Powers' passport. The third set of materials relates to the media reactions to the incident, including complete newspapers, article clippings, a television script, and artwork. The Soviet Prison Journal and Soviet Prison Pocket Diary were on display in the Looking at Earth Gallery when the collection was digitized. The photocopies were scanned for digital access. Series 3 contains materials from Powers' life and career after his return to the United States, including logbooks, public relations documents, flight training and insurance records, an employment application, and memorial items. Documents with personally identifiable information (PII) have been redacted or not digitized.

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of documents relating to Francis Gary Powers and his aviation career, particularly the 1960 U-2 incident with the Soviet Union. Materials include: logbooks; flight records from his military and civilian careers; a pocket diary and journal he kept during his Soviet imprisonment; letters to his parents; materials collected by his parents as his father attempted to visit him including a telegram from Nikita Khrushchev and a New Testament given to Powers by his mother during his Soviet trial; Congressional hearing material; newspaper articles; Life magazine; and several photographs of Powers.

Genre/Form

Clippings

Diaries

Correspondence

Telegrams

Photographs

Logs (records)

Rights

Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.

Names

Lockheed Aircraft Corp

Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971

Powers, Francis Gary, 1929-1977

Topics United States -- Foreign relations -- Soviet Union
Periodicals
Lockheed U-2 Family
Cold War
Aeronautics
Air pilots
Aerial reconnaissance
Photographic reconnaissance systems
Aeronautics, Military
Aeronautics, Commercial
Aeronautics and state

Citation

Francis Gary Powers Collection, Acc. 1994.0010, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Archival Repository

National Air and Space Museum Archives

Finding Aid Online Finding Aid