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U-2 with fictitious NASA markings to support CIA cover story for pilot Gary Powers, shot down over Soviet Union U-2 with fictitious NASA markings to support CIA cover story for pilot Gary Powers, shot down over Soviet Union

Photo Number: E-5442
Photo Date: 6 May 1960

Formats: 558x480 JPEG Image (53 KBytes)
1190x1024 JPEG Image (372 KBytes)
3030x2606 JPEG Image (4,026 KBytes)

Description: After Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union during a CIA spy flight on 1 May 1960, NASA issued a press release with a cover story about a U-2 conducting weather research that may have strayed off course after the pilot "reported difficulties with his oxygen equipment."

To bolster the cover-up, a U-2 was quickly painted in NASA markings, with a fictitious NASA serial number, and put on display for the news media at the NASA Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base on 6 May 1960. The next day, Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev exposed the cover-up by revealing that the pilot had been captured, and espionage equipment had been recovered from the wreckage.

  • 7 May 1956
    - NACA Director Dr. Hugh L. Dryden issues a press release stating that U-2 aircraft are conducting weather research for NACA with Air Force support from Watertown, Nevada.

  • 22 May 1956
    - A second press release is issued with cover story for U-2 aircraft operating overseas.

  • 1 May 1960
    - Francis Gary Powers is shot down near Sverdlovsk.

  • 6 May 1960
    - U-2 with fictitious NASA serial number and NASA markings is shown to news media to bolster cover story of NASA weather research flights with U-2.

  • 7 May 1960
    - Soviet Premier Kruschev announces capture and confession of Powers.

  • 1960
    - Dr. Hugh L. Dryden tells senate committee that some 200 U-2 flights carrying NASA weather instrumentation have taken place since 1956.

  • 2 April 1971
    - NASA receives two U-2C aircraft for high-altitude research. These were the first U-2s to actually be operated by the NACA or NASA, as opposed to the CIA or U.S. Air Force.

Keywords: U-2; spy plane; Gary Powers; Soviet Union; CIA; Edwards Air Force Base; Nikita Kruschev; Sverdlovsk; fictitious serial number; U-2C

Last Modified: March 3, 2004
Responsible NASA Official: Marty Curry
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