U-2 Spy Plane Incident

At the height of the cold war, as critics of the Eisenhower administration complained about the growing "missile gap," the United States secretly gathered data on Soviet missile capabilities through photographs obtained from U-2 reconnaissance plane overflights of the Soviet Union. In May 1960, plans were finalized for a crucial Paris summit conference between western nations and leaders of the Soviet Union with disarmament to be the main focus. Hopes for a successful summit were dashed when on May 1, May Day, an American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Soviet air space. On the first day of the Paris summit, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev stormed out after delivering a condemnation of U.S. spy activities.
  1. Documents
  2. Photographs
  3. Secondary Sources
  4. Additional Information
Memorandum of Conference With the President on November 24, 1954; Authorization by the President to Produce Thirty U-2 Aircraft (PDF) [DDE's Papers as President, Ann Whitman Diary Series, Box 3, ACW Diary November 1954 (1); NAID Number 186476]

Memorandum of Conference With the President Regarding Continuation of Overflight Program, December 22, 1958 (PDF) [ Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 7; NAID Number 12008567]

Memorandum for Record Regarding Cancellation of Baltic Area Overflights, January 19, 1959 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 8; NAID Number 12009229]

Memorandum of Conference With the President Regarding Recent Progress in Reconnaissance Devices, February 13, 1959 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 8; NAID Number 12008571]

Memorandum for Record Regarding Discontinuation of Overflights, March 4, 1959 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 9; NAID Number 12009234]

Report on Project Corona, March 17, 1959 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 10; NAID Number 12009238]

CIA Report on U-2 Vulnerability Tests, April 1959 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 9; NAID Number 12009242]

Memorandum of Conference With the President Regarding Enemy Icbm Development, April 3, 1959 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 10; NAID Number 12009263]

Memorandum of Conference With the President Regarding Approval of Overflights, April 11, 1959 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 10; NAID Number 12009264]

Memorandum for the Record Regarding Possibility of Additional Overflights, July 7, 1959 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 12; NAID Number 12009266]

Memorandum of Conference With the President Regarding Overflight Concerns, July 8, 1959 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 12; NAID Number 12008907]

Memorandum of Conference With the President Regarding Successor Aircraft to U-2, July 20, 1959 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 12; NAID Number 12008916]

Memorandum for Director of Central Intelligence Agency Concerning Use of U-2 Reconnaissance to Determine Status of Soviet ICBM Program, August 25, 1959 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Box 15, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Intelligence 13; NAID Number 12009386]

Memorandum of Conference With the President on October 26, 1959 Concerning U-2 Reconnaissance Flights Over Russia, Dated October 30, 1959 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Box 15, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Intelligence 13; NAID Number 12009389]

Memorandum for the Record Discussing Overflights, February 8, 1960 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Box 15, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Intelligence 13; NAID Number 12008917]

Memorandum for Record of April 25, 1960, Authorizing One Additional U-2 Flight Prior to May 1, 1960. If This Flight Had Been Cancelled, the U-2 Incident May Have Been Avoided (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 14; NAID Number 186630]

Cover Plan to Be Used for Downed U-2 Flight (the U.S. Did Not Know That the Soviets Had the Captured U.S. Pilot), May 2, 1960 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 14; NAID Number 594364]

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Press Release Concerning Missing U-2 Airplane, May 5, 1960 (PDF) [Christian Herter Papers, Box 20, U-2 (1); NAID Number 12009392]

State Department Press Release Number 249 Concerning U-2 Incident, May 6, 1960 (PDF) [Christian Herter Papers, Box 20, U-2 (1); NAID Number 12009394]

State Department Press Release Number 254 Concerning U-2 Incident, May 9, 1960 (PDF) [Christian Herter Papers, Box 20, U-2 (1); NAID Number 12009396)]

State Department Telegram From American Embassy in Moscow to Secretary of State Transmitting Translation of Soviet Note Concerning U-2 Plane, May 10, 1960 (PDF) [Christian Herter Papers, Box 20, U-2 (1); NAID Number 594523]

State Department Telegram to American Embassy in Moscow Regarding U.S. Position With Respect to U-2 Incident, May 11, 1960 (PDF) [Christian Herter Papers, Box 20, U-2 (1); NAID Number 12009399]

Statement by the President Regarding U-2 Incident, May 11, 1960 (PDF) [Christian Herter Papers, Box 20, U-2 (1); NAID Number 12009412]

Memorandum for Ann Whitman, Discusses Khrushchev and Summit Conference, May 11, 1960 (PDF) [DDE's Papers as President, DDE Diary Series, Box 50, Staff Notes May 1960 (2); NAID Number 12010067]

Washington Post Article, "U.S. Heard Russians Chasing U-2," May 12, 1960 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 15; NAID Number 12009414]

Memorandum of Conference With the President on May 15, 1960, Dated May 16, 1960 Regarding U-2 and Summit Conference (PDF) [DDE's Papers as President, DDE Diary Series, Box 50, Staff Notes May 1960 (1); NAID Number 12010073]

Memorandum of Conversation, Bipartisan Leaders Breakfast With the President, Held in the State Dining Room, the White House Concerning U-2 Incident, Intelligence and Espionage, May 26, 1960 (PDF)
[DDE's Papers as President, DDE Diary Series, Box 50, Staff Notes May 1960 (1); NAID Number 12010079]

Background Paper on Soviet Overflights, May 1960 (PDF) [Christian Herter Papers, Box 20, U-2 (2); NAID Number 12010099]

Memorandum for Record Regarding Plans for U-2 Successor Plan, June 2, 1960 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 15; NAID Number 12009439]

State Department Telegram Regarding Coordination With British on U.S. Reconnaissance Flights, July 28, 1960 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 15; NAID Number 12010103]

CIA Memo Listing Overflights of the Soviet Bloc, August 18, 1960 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 17; NAID Number 12008946]

Radio Interview With Drew Pearson of Washington Post, August 23, 1960 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 17; NAID Number 12009418]

Memorandum Regarding Handling of Satellite Reconnaissance Products, August 26, 1960 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 17; NAID Number 12008951]

Memorandum of Conference With the President Regarding Soviet Fighter Capability, September 6, 1960 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 18; NAID Number 17368600]

CIA Comments on "True" Magazine Article, May 1960 (PDF) [Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject Series, Alphabetical Subseries, Box 15, Intelligence 19; NAID Number 12010102]