Cold War on the Brink: The U-2 Incident
On May 1, 1960, an American U-2 reconnaissance plane was shot down over the Soviet Union by a surface-to-air missile. Francis Gary Powers â€” a civilian pilot flying for the Central Intelligence Agency â€” was unable to activate the self-destruct mechanism and the plane crashed largely intact. News of the event caused Premier Khrushchev to storm out of a summit conference in Paris with President Eisenhower.
Because the U-2 was specifically designed for covert surveillance, Powers was tried and convicted as a spy and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. On Feb. 10, 1962, he was exchanged in Berlin for Soviet agent Rudolph Abel.