Tuesday, August 7, 2012

U-2 Would Want to Avoid Soviet Prisons

Francis Gary Powers was piloting a Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance plane over the central Soviet Union when his aircraft was brought down by a near-miss from a Russian surface-to-air guided missile. 
Russia’s dirty little secret during the Cold War was that their long-range manned bomber fleet was no where near as numerous or sophisticated as the U.S. believed. But rather they were quietly putting their efforts into advancing their missile technology. Powers was shot down on May 1, 1960 (May Day in the Communist world!).

After capture, Powers was taken to Moscow and the famous Lubyanka Building which served as KGB headquarters and where he was held for several months and interrogated constantly prior to his public trial. In August of 1960 he was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Upon his release from prison (early release in a spy exchange with the Soviets), Powers wanted his account of the events of that period of his life told, including the interrogations by his captors and his prison experiences. In 1970 he published Operation Overflight to try to set the records straight (as opposed to the CIA’s and Eisenhower Administration’s versions of events).

One part of his account especially struck me – the basic need for human interaction, even under less-than-ideal circumstances. Powers describes the conclusion of the active interrogations by KGB agents and his wait for his trial to begin, or actually, his wait for the pre-trail preparations to begin.

“When the interrogations were in progress, I had dreamed of the day they would be over.  Now, left alone in my cell, I missed them. Deceiving my captors had been a challenge; even that stimulation was gone, and with it any semblance of human companionship. This was the way they intended it, I was sure. No beatings, no torture except that inflicted by the mind. Only an all-pervading emptiness that made you desire even the company of your enemies.”

Brings a bit of different implication to our recently-created term, “frienemies.”

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