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The U-2 Incident

Francis Gary Powers crash landed into history.

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The Virginia Historical Society is host of a mobile museum that highlights one of the most heated moments of the Cold War.

Fifty years ago, on May 1, 1960, the Soviet Union shot down a CIA spy plane, a U-2, piloted by Francis Gary Powers, a Virginian. Powers was tried and convicted as a spy by the Soviet government and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. After 22 months  he was exchanged for a KGB agent and returned to the United States.

One of the immediate results of Powers' capture was canceling a peace summit between the Soviet Union and the United States. Paul Levengood, the society's president and chief executive, wants visitors to know of this event's impact on international relations:  “Francis Gary Powers' story is one that made world news and had a huge impact on international relations for decades. Some Virginians may remember the U-2 incident, but for the most part, the story has been lost to time.”

“The Cold War Crisis: The U-2 Incident” seeks to recreate this tense moment by exhibiting more than 50 items, including a propaganda poster, photos, letters and Soviet artifacts. All of these were collected by Powers' son, who founded the Cold War museum that organized the exhibit. “I have spent decades preserving Cold War history,” Francis Gary Powers Jr. says. “I've been honoring Cold War veterans and making sure that stories like his are not forgotten.”

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