July 15, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PROPOSED FRANCIS GARY POWERS MEMORIAL
TO BE LOCATED AT HELICOPTER CRASH SITE
RICHMOND (VA) – 12-year-old Gary Powers, Jr. lost his dad, a reporter for KNBC-TV, in a helicopter crash on August 1, 1977. Now, thanks to the efforts of JP Myers who lived near the crash site, there is an effort under way to build a memorial (http://memorial4powers.com) to honor Powers at the crash site in the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area in Encino, CA.
Francis Gary Powers was the CIA pilot whose U-2 plane was shot down over Russia on May 1, 1960. He spent 18 months in a Russian prison before being released in exchange for Russian spy Rudolf Abel on a bridge between East and West Germany. Many articles, books, and two films have made about the U-2 Incident, including a Steven Spielberg Cold War thriller, Bridge of Spies, which focused on attorney James Donovan who brokered the 1962 spy exchange between CIA U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and KGB spy Rudolph Abel.
On May 1, 1960 the Soviets shot down his CIA U-2 spy plane. After three months of solitary confinement and interrogations, he was tried and sentenced to 10 years in a Soviet prison. Then he was traded for a Russian spy and went home to his family. Between 1963 and 1970 he worked as a Lockheed test pilot flying out of Burbank Airport. In 1970 he wrote his autobiography “Operation Overflight” before getting a job in 1972 with KGIL radio station in the San Fernando Valley. He went on to fly helicopters for K-NBC News Channel 4 in Los Angeles, CA. Then on August 1, 1977 after covering a fire in Santa Barbara, on his return trip to the Burbank Airport his aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed.
Gary spent years researching files previously unavailable, including Powers’ debriefing by the CIA. He traveled to the Soviet Union and then Russia; listened to old audio tapes, talked with people who knew his dad, and who were part of the U-2 program. The result is a fascinating book set in this unique period in American history — a definitive account proving that Francis Gary Powers acted honorably in his service to his country. More information online at www.spypilotbook.com.
According to Gary Powers, Jr., Upon my father’s return home, despite the CIA and Senate committee’s clearance, despite the fact that he was awarded the CIA’s highest honor—its Intelligence Star for valor—and the Air Force’s Distinguished Flying Cross, my father, to borrow from John Le Carré, was still a spy left out in the cold, until May 1, 2000 and June 12, 2012. On those dates he was posthumously awarded the POW Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the CIA’s Director’s Medal for “extraordinary fidelity and essential service.” Then the USAF Silver Star. This goes to show that it is never too late to set the record straight and the Powers family is very humbled and very honored that there is this initiative to erect a monument in his honor. We wholeheartedly support this effort.”
According to JP Myers, “I started this campaign to build Powers a Memorial as a tribute to this Cold War hero. In 1977, I was 14 and lived by the helicopter crash site. After the wreckage was removed, I went to the site and picked up some small pieces of the helicopter as a souvenir. I saved those pieces for over 20 years and when Gary Powers Jr founded The Cold War Museum (www.coldwar.org), I contacted him and then sent him those pieces. That is when I got the idea for this project. Francis Gary Powers was an important historical figure in the Cold War. He was our neighbor, co-worker, a member of this community. Let’s build him a fitting memorial.”
For media information only:
Francis Gary Powers, Jr.
PO Box 1356
Midlothian, VA 23113
www.garypowers.com / www.spypilotbook.com