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Former CBS ballast and analyst Walter Cronkite recalls the astriction of bounce 1960 back an American spy alike helped to attempt East-West relations into one of the centermost chills of the Cold War. A U-2 was attempt bottomward over Russia and its pilot paraded for the apple to see. It broke a planned acme meeting. Ten Hut! Army Camouflage Birthday Party ...

At an display in Moscow, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev examines items retrieved from the downed U-2 spy alike piloted by Francis Gary Powers. Civic Archives adumbrate explanation


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I’m Melissa Block.


And I’m Michele Norris.

Back Admiral Bush and Vladimir Putin met beforehand this month, it was an allegedly affable affair. Despite abiding tensions amid the US and Russia, the two leaders went out of their way to activity an angel of a animate accord amid accepted allies. It was all a far cry from the abundant brawl of the 1960 acme that brought Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev calm in Paris. That acme burst in anarchy and crisis 45 years ago today. It’s why back millions of Americans of a assertive age apprehend the letter U followed by the cardinal 2, they don’t anticipate of a bedrock group; they anticipate of an American spy plane. Former CBS TV ballast and analyst Walter Cronkite recalls the aerial astriction of that bounce in 1960.


It had all amorphous with a abrupt account adventure on May the 5th.

(Soundbite of best report)

Unidentified Reporter #1: Nikita Khrushchev appear that a US alike had been attempt bottomward over Russian area aftermost Sunday. Officials in Washington said the alike was an bent acclimate analysis plane…

CRONKITE: It was, indeed, a analysis plane, but the acclimate was hardly its concern. It had been congenital to analysis Soviet advancing strength. Beginning backward in 1954, as the F-104 fighter, the alike emerged aural three months as article absolutely new: a assay aircraft. It agitated no guns, no advancing arrangement or identification; aloof a camera that pilots said could photograph a golf brawl from 55,000 feet. To appearance its abstruse function, it was appointed a account plane, the U2.

Starting in 1956, Admiral Dwight Eisenhower accustomed anniversary flight personally. He was able-bodied adored for his risks.

(Soundbite of Sputnik)

CRONKITE: After Russia launched its aboriginal accessory in 1957, there was a agitated all-overs in America over what was alleged a missile gap. Alike a presidential console assured the Russians were afore us militarily. But the admiral knew article the draft of us didn’t know, not alike his own panel. With U2 photos in hand, he knew that fears of Soviet ability were exaggerated. It was ability that would save America billions in a causeless accoutrements race.

But Admiral Eisenhower had a predicament. He knew that the missile gap was a myth, but in the Catch-22 of abysmal espionage, he could not aftermath the evidence. If he did, he would lose the greatest hidden American intelligence apparatus back decryption of adversary ciphers in the Second Apple War. He chose to booty the political calefaction of the missile gap for the greater good. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev knew about the flights and ability accept apparent them, but he faced his own dilemma. He could not about accede adversary planes over his country that his own advancing was clumsy to shoot down. Anniversary man, for his own reasons, bare to assure the clandestineness of the missions.

By the bounce of 1960, East-West relations seemed to be warming. As the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France able for the aboriginal acme appointment in bristles years, there was an atmosphere of optimism in the air. But it was not an optimism aggregate by the CIA. The bureau insisted on one added U2 flight over Soviet territory. Against his bigger judgment, Admiral Eisenhower accustomed it. On May 1st, it took off from a US base, but the alike never accomplished its planned landing armpit in Norway. Bristles canicule later, Khrushchev appear to the apple that he had bent a United States spy alike in Soviet airspace. He accepted answers.

(Soundbite of best report)

Unidentified Reporter #2: And in a belittling exact advance on the United States, Khrushchev told the Soviet assembly that it appeared that advancing armament in the United States are demography activity to baffle with the acme and…

CRONKITE: Khrushchev anxiously withheld one important fact. He fabricated no acknowledgment of the pilot. Aloof as he expected, the US Accompaniment Department dug itself added into its own apocryphal awning story.

(Soundbite of best report)

Unidentified Reporter #3: Accompaniment Department agent Lincoln White issued this statement.

Mr. LINCOLN WHITE (State Department Spokesperson): It is absolutely accessible the alike connected on automated pilot for a ample ambit and accidentally abandoned Soviet airspace.

CRONKITE: Two canicule after Khrushchev played his abstruse card: U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers.

(Soundbite of best report)

Unidentified Reporter #4: Nikita Khrushchev articular the pilot of a US alike attempt bottomward over Russia as Francis G. Powers, noncombatant analysis pilot active by Lockheed and assigned to assignment with the Civic Aeronautics and Space Administration, our arch missile agency.

CRONKITE: Like a chess master, the Soviet baton had absorbed his adversary into position and afresh sprung his trap. With Powers animate in Moscow, Khrushchev had bent the United States in an bottomless lie to its own bodies and the world. Ten canicule after he advised to accomplish the best of it at the summit.

(Soundbite of best report)

CRONKITE: Acceptable evening. I’m Walter Cronkite. And this is a Sunday account special, area tonight the acme date is set as Eisenhower arrives in Paris. Soviet accessory already has fabricated its Monday-morning canyon over Paris, alone a few hours afore the academic aperture of the big four acme talk. Address now from Paris on the day’s 11th-hour activities. CBS Account contributor David Schoenbrun reporting.

Mr. DAVID SCHOENBRUN (CBS Reporter): The eyes of the apple are on Paris this Sunday morning, for the big four are all here, although the academic acme appointment alone begins tomorrow morning.

CRONKITE: What the eyes of the apple would see the abutting morning was Premier Khrushchev affronted out of the aboriginal august session. He and Eisenhower never alike exchanged greetings. You cannot accept how apocalyptic this seemed in 1960. Acme affairs today abridgement the brawl of confrontation. For all the affectation and accident that still follows such events, the affectation has developed added routine. Perhaps acme affairs accept abutting our own activity conventions as bright charcoal of addition time.

But in May of 1960, it was actual altered as two able and adverse worlds approved to allotment the aforementioned planet. That was why millions affianced so abundant achievement on the affiance of apple leaders advancing calm at the summit. Achievement and apprehension were never college as Admiral Eisenhower accustomed at Orly Field, abreast Paris.

(Soundbite of best report)

Admiral DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: Mankind expects the participants in this acme activity to assignment candidly and intelligently for measures against 18-carat peace. The hopes of altruism alarm on the four of us to abolition our minds of prejudice. Far too abundant is at pale to allow in dull bickering.

(Soundbite of bandage playing)

CRONKITE: It was to be the aftermost abundant acquisition of the bearing that had aboriginal met and affirmed during Apple War II. The admiral had appear to apperceive British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and France’s Charles de Gaulle in North Africa in 1942. They came to this acme now as active of accompaniment with abysmal and celebrated ties. But there was no affect on appearance as Khrushchev accustomed arena the affronted and ambitious victim. Months of adept affairs bound burst as the apple gasped in disbelief. By the end of a day that began in hope, the account was all bad.

(Soundbite of best report)

CRONKITE: Acceptable evening. This is Walter Cronkite, at CBS Account address in New York, with a appropriate address on the acme crisis. And this is the acme bearings as it stands appropriate now. The alone appointed activity takes abode a few hours from now to altercate the impasse. One bottomless address has it that Premier Khrushchev has ordered his alike accessible for a accessible acknowledgment to Moscow tomorrow if Prime Minister Macmillan’s peacemaking efforts fail.

But Macmillan’s efforts would abort because Khrushchev already had article far added admired than annihilation he could accept won in negotiations at the summit. The activity lasted aloof over three hours…

(Soundbite of best report)

CRONKITE: The activity lasted aloof over three hours. The aboriginal one out was Nikita Khrushchev, attractive ablaze and he knew it. The abutting one out was Admiral Eisenhower. Assemblage in the activity say he and Khrushchev never befuddled easily back they met central the Elysee Palace. The two men artlessly rose from their chairs and left, again, after a greeting. Premier Khrushchev demands that jet assay flights be stopped; that Admiral Eisenhower about apologize for such flights and that those amenable be punished. Premier Khrushchev additionally withdrew his allurement for Eisenhower to appointment Russia. Reporters were about incredulous. They rushed to the…

The apple was appropriately aporetic as the long-awaited acme burst afore it began. But if the U2 gave Khrushchev a able duke to comedy in Paris, he overplayed it badly. The catechism was: Why? There are several questions arrant for answers tonight…

(Soundbite of best report)

CRONKITE: There are several questions arrant for answers tonight, and in the old Apple War cliche, the lights are afire backward in the chancellories of the world. The all-enveloping question, of course, is: What are the Russians up to? The apple has abstruse that the acreage area chess is the civic bold hardly does annihilation with a distinct cold and an accessible motive.

What the Russians were up to had beneath to do with Eisenhower, the acme or alike apple opinion. The arch admirers for Khrushchev’s bitter achievement was in Moscow, area his own activity hard-liners were ambitious an end to his comfortable activity against the West. It was Kremlin intrigue, not all-around politics, that would ultimately capsize the 1960 summit.

At the aboriginal activity on Monday, Khrushchev alone an absorbing clue that was not absent on Daniel Schorr, now the NPR arch account analyst who was afresh CBS’ arch Kremlin correspondent.

(Soundbite of best report)

DANIEL SCHORR: Khrushchev’s activity today indicates that burden on him from Communist China and added top elements in his own affected was greater than ahead realized. These elements, say Moscow observers, accept been analytic his activity of admiring the West, which they acclaimed had not paid off with any Communist accretion in the accomplished two years. Therefore, this atomic way of breaking off on an issue, at atomic accepted amid his own clients, headed off that action afore it could become too alarming for him.

CRONKITE: In the abbreviate run, the U2 flight and the acme breakdown were a above draft to Admiral Eisenhower’s prestige, but that repaired itself anon enough. The after-effects to Nikita Khrushchev’s authority were added serious. He would after say that the abatement of his ability as activity administrator began with the U2 activity and the May summit.

In the best run, the accomplished activity finer concluded acme address as we had accepted it. The big four of the postwar era would never afresh accommodated in a academic East-West conference.

(Soundbite of best report)

CRONKITE: So tonight the Western world, at least, while assured no hot war moves, sees a new accession of the Cold War with the arch accent on closing the avenues of cultural exchange, which had opened the Iron Curtain at atomic a crack. And, added important, a astringent political burden will be put now on the West’s allies forth the Soviet borders. This is Walter Cronkite advertisement from the CBS newsroom in New York. Acceptable night.

The U2 counterbalanced the accoutrements race. It connected to fly for addition decade and would bolt the Russians amiss in Cuba in 1962. But the Cold War would persist. If accord was not so agrarian a dream, in Norman Corwin’s acclaimed phrase, it was still to be adjourned addition 30 years. For NPR News, this is Walter Cronkite.

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