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I have read this auto-biography many times as the factual details are not only fascinating but also because it serves to remind me of how one cannot always rely on others to do the 'right thing', despite them expecting it of yourself; it is well-written and an utterly engrossing, but often sad, read.

This review is posted on the Amazon page for the newer paperback edition (which offers the Amazon 'Click to Look Inside' feature based on the picture of the book cover at the top of the item page - so you see the index, opening pages and an idea of the content/writing style) which I can only assume has the same content as the 'original' 1st Edition hardback I have, the Amazon link for which is :

OPERATION OVERFLIGHT: THE U-2 SPY PILOT TELLS HIS STORY FOR THE FIRST TIME.

To the surprise (and dismay) of his CIA employers, Francis Gary Powers (contrary to what you might have already heard/read, 'Gary' is his middle name, not his first name) was shot down whilst flying his single-seat U-2 reconnaissance/'spy' plane over Russia in 1960. The incident caused disappointment to the CIA not only because they thought the aircraft was immune to enemy fire, but also because Powers survived the crash and was captured by the Russian authorities.

There might be some conjecture over whether U-2 pilots were actually expected to 'go down with their ship', but the reaction of the US military and political establishments in the immediate aftermath of the shootdown certainly do nothing to persuade you to the contrary. Little effort was made to show any interest in the fate of Powers, whilst in contrast as much effort as possible was expended on refuting the incident and covering-up the details of the aircraft and such 'overflights',...

Powers was effectively left out to 'hang and dry' in Russian captivity and this book contains his detailed memoirs covering his recruitment to the U-2 programme, the shootdown, resulting incarceration/prosecution and finally his 'liberation' back to his 'home' (with what happened soon after).

Just about all the specifics are the stuff of fiction and action movies, yet even with some 'dilution' and necessary censorship issues affecting the content of his book it is still almost unbelievable to learn what really happened is all true and, of course, utterly fascinating - it can often make the hairs on the back of your neck stand proud. Not too long ago I retired from the RAF after 18 years flying fast-jets; over my career I had a lot of hairy moments, but what this book covers puts things into perspective !

As hinted at earlier, the book is also rather sad. Not just because of how Powers was treated by his captors but also by his 'home' country - despite him being 'spy-swapped', the tale still does not end happily due to, for example, his initial 'notoriety' effectively labelling him as a traitor (only later was he transformed into a revered 'All-American hero' once the slow drip-drip of the truth gradually seeped out.....).

Considering the kind of tosh that has often formed the basis for films over the years, it is astounding that this matter has never really been given any proper cinematic 'treatment'; it was made into a TV movie some years ago, but it could easily inspire a successful modern production as there is so much of interest. But it hasn't, and that is largely because the whole matter is something of an embarrassment for the US establishment - but with films of 'Watergate' and the like you think it could nowadays justify being publicised in a more popular form than just this 'historical' book written by Powers written way back in 1970....

You may be totally ignorant about the 'Gary Powers incident' or have already heard something of it but not know the specifics, either way if military/espionage/political skulduggery are matters that interest you then reading this book is highly recommended. It is fact, not fiction, which when combined with the personal musings of the only person who can speak definitively about this unique incident elevates it to being an essential read.

---

As an aside, if you enjoy these kind of 'Cold War' insights I would thoroughly recommend you get hold of 'The Liberators' by Viktor Suvorov (which I've reviewed) and 'The Man from Odessa' by Greville Wynne. They were published about the same time as each other and give an insight into the Russian army and espionage 'war' of the time from both sides and contain many startling revelations ! Here are the Amazon links :

The Liberators: Inside the Soviet Army

Man from Odessa

And for a purely operational military aviator's story (albeit helicopters !), none is better than 'Chickenhawk' :

Chickenhawk
0Comment5 of 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I have read this auto-biography many times as the factual details are not only fascinating but also because it serves to remind me of how one cannot always rely on others to do the 'right thing', despite them expecting it of yourself; it is well-written and an utterly engrossing, but often sad, read.

To the surprise (and dismay) of his CIA employers, Francis Gary Powers (contrary to what you might have already heard/read, 'Gary' is his middle name, not his first name) was shot down whilst flying his single-seat U-2 reconnaissance/'spy' plane over Russia in 1960. The incident caused disappointment to the CIA not only because they thought the aircraft was immune to enemy fire, but also because Powers survived the crash and was captured by the Russian authorities.

There might be some conjecture over whether U-2 pilots were actually expected to 'go down with their ship', but the reaction of the US military and political establishments in the immediate aftermath of the shootdown certainly do nothing to persuade you to the contrary. Little effort was made to show any interest in the fate of Powers, whilst in contrast as much effort as possible was expended on refuting the incident and covering-up the details of the aircraft and such 'overflights',...

Powers was effectively left out to 'hang and dry' in Russian captivity and this book contains his detailed memoirs covering his recruitment to the U-2 programme, the shootdown, resulting incarceration/prosecution and finally his 'liberation' back to his 'home' (with what happened soon after).

Just about all the specifics are the stuff of fiction and action movies, yet even with some 'dilution' and necessary censorship issues affecting the content of his book it is still almost unbelievable to learn what really happened is all true and, of course, utterly fascinating - it can often make the hairs on the back of your neck stand proud. Not too long ago I retired from the RAF after 18 years flying fast-jets; over my career I had a lot of hairy moments, but what this book covers puts things into perspective !

As hinted at earlier, the book is also rather sad. Not just because of how Powers was treated by his captors but also by his 'home' country - despite him being 'spy-swapped', the tale still does not end happily due to, for example, his initial 'notoriety' effectively labelling him as a traitor (only later was he transformed into a revered 'All-American hero' once the slow drip-drip of the truth gradually seeped out.....).

Considering the kind of tosh that has often formed the basis for films over the years, it is astounding that this matter has never really been given any proper cinematic 'treatment'; it was made into a TV movie some years ago, but it could easily inspire a successful modern production as there is so much of interest. But it hasn't, and that is largely because the whole matter is something of an embarrassment for the US establishment - but with films of 'Watergate' and the like you think it could nowadays justify being publicised in a more popular form than just this 'historical' book written by Powers written way back in 1970....

You may be totally ignorant about the 'Gary Powers incident' or have already heard something of it but not know the specifics, either way if military/espionage/political skulduggery are matters that interest you then reading this book is highly recommended. It is fact, not fiction, which when combined with the personal musings of the only person who can speak definitively about this unique incident elevates it to being an essential read.

The book offered on this Amazon page is the 1st Edition Hardback and the one I've read - I see it's been more recently been issued as a paperback (at a bizarrely high price !), nevertheless here's the Amazon link to it - if for no other reason that if offers the Amazon 'Click to Look Inside' feature based on the picture of the book cover at the top of the item page (so you see the index, opening pages and an idea of the content/writing style) :

Operation Overflight: A Memoir of the U-2 Incident

---

As an aside, if you enjoy these kind of 'Cold War' insights I would thoroughly recommend you get hold of 'The Liberators' by Viktor Suvorov (which I've reviewed) and 'The Man from Odessa' by Greville Wynne. They were published about the same time as each other and give an insight into the Russian army and espionage 'war' of the time from both sides and contain many startling revelations ! Here are the Amazon links :

The Liberators: Inside the Soviet Army

Man from Odessa
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on 7 December 2013
A very good read, most of the way through. The language is fairly simple and the proof reading not brilliant, plenty of misspellings and the occasional omitted word, and never have I seen so many sentences that begin with 'Too', but perhaps that just adds authenticity to the writing. The book starts with a brief history of Power's early life, then goes into much more detail about the U2 aeroplane and it's missions. Continues about his capture, interrogation, trial and imprisonment, then finally his release and return to the USA. The last bit of the book drones on for quite a long while about his suspicions and manipulation by the CIA on his return, and he does get quite paranoid about it. One thing this book highlights is the severe paranoia on both sides of the cold war, and neither the USA or Russia come out particularly well on the behaviour front. If you like real life adventures, this is well worth a try, there was only a brief section towards the end that I didn't find reasonably gripping.
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on 12 September 2013
This was a book which once started ,I couldn't put down, I found myself with a mixture of emotions on reading
the unfolding events in Gary Powers life which on reflection seems at times successful as it was tragic.
The U2 story was very controversial in it's day. For me the book broke the old national stereotypes created
by the Cold War days and in the end revealed some positive aspects of the humanity shown from Power's
captors, during his incarceration.
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