42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2000
A number of important lessons call out from the pages of this engrossing and rather sad story - not the least of which is that Francis Gary Powers got shafted, folks. Plain and simple.
During his captivity, the press severely tarnished his reputation by publishing sometimes gross misinformation about him and his mission. Some of these misconceptions thrive to this day.
How many people still believe he was under CIA orders to use his infamous suicide pin? (he wasn't even required to carry it) How many people still think he told the Soviets too much? (his handling of the interrogations was very shrewd; he cleverly protected the most important secrets - even after our reckless press published information that threatened to undermine his strategy) How many people really think he was considering defecting to the USSR after release from Soviet prison? (never crossed his mind) Or that he didn't activate the U-2's destruct mechanism because it was allegedly set to destroy both plane and pilot? (completely false rumor started by the Soviets)
Perhaps the saddest part is that after his release, the CIA could have done more to clear his name. But they apparently back-peddled from this effort because clearing his name meant tarnishing theirs (For starters, Powers states that the CIA did not train their U-2 pilots on what to do if captured. These days, practically all military pilots receive such training).
Several years ago I paid for a pristine first edition of this 1970 book, signed by Powers and co-author Curt Gentry (Powers died in 1977). At first I thought I'd paid too much. After reading it, I think I got a bargain.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2002
Format: Unknown BindingVerified Purchase
With respect to the "Cold War" we usually know the official versions from both the government of the USA and of the USSR. Powers book is extremely interesting because it gives you a private account of somebody that was deeply involved in the U-2 Cold War incident: a third point of view. A point of view that has no "agenda" to push through.
Powers description of his life in prison had for me an almost spiritual meaning. After reading what he went through, I felt grateful for what I have. He mentions, for example, that in prison work is cherished: he and his cell mate fought to have the privilege of cleaning their cell.
On the other hand, his actual experience in jail was very different from what you see in the movies. There was no violence, no torture, no conspiracy to escape. In almost two years he had a chance to speak with only one other prisoner: his cell mate. It was the most boring experience imaginable, so much so that some prisoners lost their minds.
It is difficult not to feel contempt for Dwight Eisenhower who after ordering the flight completely abandoned Powers to his fate. Eisenhower cared much more for his "prestige" than for any person but in the end his prestige went down the drain anyway when his involvement in the U-2 affair was finally known.
Another player that has dramatically dropped in stature for me is Robert Kennedy. His callousness is hard to believe. After all the suffering Powers went through in the USSR for doing his duty for the CIA, R. Kennedy was willing to try him for treason with the only purpose of advancing his political career! The politics surrounding this event are sickening: JFK had invited Powers to meet him at the White House but at the last moment the offer was withdrawn.
In the end, no president or high level politician did anything to obtain Powers'release from the USSR. It was his father whom he had to thank for his release.
Obviously, the CIA did not want this book to be published and 8 years had to pass before it finally saw the light.
I fully recommend the book as it gives you an insight as to how history is really made by real people, in real places, performing real duties.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2004
I was only 12 years old when FGP was shot down over the USSR and have been following the story ever since. In 1970, I purchased the Operation Overflight book and still have my copy. However, in recent years, the government has released more information on this period of American history. We now know such things as how many flights there were, the objectives of those flights, and other pertinent information about the U-2 program. But the personal information is only found in the book by Powers and in detailing his role in the CIA. He describes how he behaved and how he was treated while in captivity and upon his return to the US. All of this gives us a picture of a private American citizen (and former military man) who was thrust into the Cold War and the controversy about the U-2. I visited the grave site in Arlington Cemetary and just stood there remembering how this brave young man did what he did and suffered what he did for our nation. When the new reprint comes out, be sure to read it as it will, no doubt, reveal much more abour the man, the plane, and the mission.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2003
On 1-May, 1960, CIA U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the USSR and spent two years in a Soviet prison. Eighteen years later, he was permitted to publish his own story. The two excellent preceeding reviews cover the crucial historical and political aspect of the U-2 story -- particularly how Mr. Powers was made a scapegoat for the embarassment of the US. I highly recommend this memoir of a courageous and loyal American. I also recommend it for Mr. Powers' personal story, told engagingly in his own unassuming but elegant words. How he survived being downed by a SAM, how he strove to manipulate his interrogation to protect American secrets. How he carried himself at his showcase espionage trial, and how he endured his incarceration. Not too surprisingly, he narrates with less rancor for his Soviet captors than for his own US government. And the American press, which reviled him as a coward and accused him of treaon. And, as if he didn't have enough hardship, his faithless, alcoholic wife, who all but abandoned him! It was only through the efforts of his father that he obtained his early release. Ironically, his treatment on return home was much crueler than anything he experienced in Russia. But throughout his ordeal, Gary Powers' steadfast devotion to his country never wavered. I found his memoir inspirational and riveting. I've seen the wreckage of his U-2 spy plane, still on exhibit in the "Cold War" area of the Moscow Central Armed Forces Museum. And I've made the drive to Vladimir, location of the prison in which he kept his diary. I believe "Operation Overflight" is going to be released in paperback soon, after years out of print. If so, I hope it will include more of the technical and personal information which was too sensitive for publication in 1970.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2004
Enjoyed it immensely. A hard to put down, revealing look at this historical, military, political event of the 1960's. Covering some of Power's CIA training, U2 overflights, downing & capture, Russian trial(farse), imprisonment, possible Oswald & other defectors connection to the U2 shoot down, repatriation through a trade of a pro Russian, US held spy and some of Power's life afterwards.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2012
Mr. Powers was my neighbor. What a neat guy. Quiet, soft spoken. I mowed his lawn when he was away flying for Lockheed. Had a signed copy of his book, but lost it long ago. Can't recall a book that captivated me like this one did. The Cold War was frightening to kids, like me, growing up in the 1960s, and knowing guys like Mr. Powers were out there everyday protecting us had a calming effect upon me. I felt safe. Thank you Mr. Powers. You are missed.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2006
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is certainly a must have for the Cold War, Military Aviation and Spy afficionados out there! While the authors did their best to make the most of what little details Powers did/could provide them - especially about the actual missions he flew for the CIA - they failed to do justice to the historical significance of the event. Powers' actual flights and missions in the U-2 are not discussed in great detail (they never even mention the plane's actual altitude, there are no details about the U-2 except for some hearsay info on its imagined structural integrity (or lack thereof), and they assigned less than a page to discuss the other "special missions"), and there are very few details about the mission the book was actually written about. What you will nevertheless be able to read in detail about are his time spent in Russian prisons, the KGB interrogations, or his kind Latvian roomate Zigurd in Vladimir prison. The final section of the book is spent on the well-justified trashing of the CIA (afterall they gave him the shaft the same way NASA did to the Apollo 13 crew), and Powers provides some great insights into the personal dealings of the Agency. Reading it today, Powers' observations were way ahead of their time! You'll appreciate Powers Jr's epilogue that puts the entire book in perspective. Overall it is a great book, the only first-hand account of the U-2 incident you'll ever have, and as a matter of fact, I'll go and read it again!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2009
The book is a great reading however it was no accident that little is said about his boyhood home town. Gary was from Pound, Virginia a town so small you can hold your breath from one end to the other. Very quaint and wonderfull people. Its located on the boarder of Virginia and Kentucky state lines. My family and I were from this area and are well familuar with it. The CIA most likely saw him as a dedicated man that they could mold as they needed and yet still keep him and others on a "need to know basis" only. Thank God they did! Russia new it all the time. Most likely the shock wave resonating on the minamalist wing of the U2 was all it took. A milisecond later he was transformed from his cacoon like cockpits safety to being injected into a near zero atmosphear, subzero climate. He would have been killed instantly "which most likely Gary and others knew however the stars lined up and he was spared by a hairs breath. The book is definately a need to have if you enjoy reading about American war strugles and hero's as Gary Powers was.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2006
The Flt of the U-2 is a most inspiring book. I sat on the edge of my seat while reading it and finished it in one sitting wishing there was more to read, but happy that the Russians got their "just day in court" and finally Francis Gary Powers was exchanged for Rudolph Abel. Such a high flying plane, to be shot out of the skies, is unreal to me - what went wrong? No matter what Powers' wrote, we will never know the complete truth, will we? Thank God he came home safe, as he *almost* gave his life for his country. A well done book and may he rest in peace as his son recounts his father's service to his country. God Bless. Trish Schiesser, whose brother SSGT Phil Noland served in the USAFSecurity Service during the time Powers took off and went missing in Russia.
A fine, well written book. I am glad it is out again.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2010
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
The U2 flew at top secret height and speed. If only the Russians knew, they could shoot it down. A young marine observing U2 flights over China defected to Russia in 1959 and six months later Gary Power's U2 was shot down. That marine was Lee Harvey Oswald. The Russians flew a fighter jet within thirty thousand feet and shot a missile at the jet which exploded under the U2, creating a shock wave that tore the wings off the U2. Later, after undergoing tremendous torture and withholding classified information, Powers discovered that most of the questions he was being tortured to answer were already known by the Russians, such as where the VGI was manufactured. When he found out that the information was engraved on each part, serial number and all, he answered some of those questions. His experience improved POW training and prevented untold numbers of Viet Nam prisoners of war from getting killed.