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U‐2 incident (May 1960)

Subject History

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


The shooting down of an American U‐2 reconnaissance plane near Sverdlovsk in Russia. The US had carried out 20 such flights since 1956, which could not be shot down as their altitude was beyond the range of Soviet fighters and of surface to air missiles (SAMS). The U‐2 could fly up to 80,000 feet (15 miles) and had cameras which could photograph newspaper headlines ten miles below. Each flight had been authorized by the President and had provided valuable evidence that the USSR did not have a lead in missiles. The U‐2 plane was shot down on 1 May by a SAM missile because it had lost height owing to engine trouble. When the Soviet Union announced its success on 5 May the State Department at first said that it was not a spy plane and had lost its way. khrushchev then triumphantly produced the pilot Gary Powers and his photographs of military installations. President eisenhower on 11 May admitted that he had authorized the flight because he needed to prevent another Pearl Harbor, when Japan attacked the US in 1941 without warning. When the Paris summit meeting opened on 16 May Khrushchev demanded an apology before discussions could begin and, as Eisenhower refused, he stormed out of the meeting and blamed the US for its failure. U‐2 flights over the USSR were discontinued and were soon unnecessary, as from 1961 satellites orbiting the earth took over their functions. Gary Powers ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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