Francis Gary Powers

Francis Gary Powers Inflatable Raft Believed to Pertain to his U-2

An authentic Cold War relic, this life raft has quite the history and is believed to be the original raft equipped within Gary Powers' U-2 jet on the day he was shot down over the Soviet Union on May 1st, 1960. This yellow life raft is made of thick inflatable plastic and contains a black flexible tube, with original teeth marks, used to inflate it. The raft has been patched up at the bottom. It measures 7 x 15" folded and is worn but acceptable condition. This raft was provided directly by Mr. Powers' son to Guernsey's Auction House. Francis Gary Powers Jr is an expert public speaker on the U-2 Incident and Cold War History. The raft will be accompanied by a detailed Letter of Provenance from Francis Gary Powers, Jr, an image of which is shown with this lot, and was not included with the original auction but provided later. Further corroborating Junior Powers story are significant production markings on the raft which include the date of January 21, 1959, which again was not noted by the previous auction house and which we feel are of the utmost significance. 

Evidence strongly suggests that this raft, along with other surviving items from the U-2, was collected and displayed in a museum in the Russian Ural area. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the museum was looted, and the raft then collected and used by locals as a fishing tool. Later, the KGB and other officials started inquiring about the items that were taken, and the raft was kept hidden. 

Powers'plane was in multiple chunks with the wings and tail section separate from the fuselage. Three years ago a man in the Ukraine finally came forward with the raft. It was then sent to Gary Powers Jr, Powers son.   

Francis Gary Powers was a distinguished pilot for the CIA's U-2 program during the height of the Cold War. Powers was arrested after his spy plane was shot down while flying a high-risk reconnaissance mission over Soviet airspace. His story is shown in more detail below:

His story is shown in more detail below:


Graduating college in June 1950, Gary enlisted in the Air Force in October. He was commissioned  in the US Air Force in December 1952 after completing his advanced training with USAF Pilot Training Class 52-H. By January 1956 he was recruited by the CIA.


Upon joining the CIA's U-2 program at the civilian grade of  GS-12, Powers flew espionage missions at altitudes above 70,000 feet (21 km), well above the reach of Soviet air defenses. The U-2 was equipped with a state-of-the-art camera designed to take high-resolution photos from the edge of the stratosphere over hostile countries, including the Soviet Union. U-2 missions systematically photographed military installations and other important sites.

Spy mission

"The primary mission of the U-2s was overflying Russia. The border surveillance and atomic sampling, though vital, were secondary." Additionally, the U-2 flew "special missions". Beginning on September 27, 1956 and continuing until 1960, "the United States was spying not only on most of the countries in the Middle East but also on her own allies." Soviet intelligence had been aware of encroaching U-2 flights at least since 1958 if not sooner but lacked effective countermeasures until 1960. On May 1, 1960, Powers' U-2A, was to be the first attempt "to fly all the way across the Soviet Union...but it was considered worth the gamble. The planned route would take us deeper into Russia than we had ever gone, while traversing important targets never before photographed."

Shot down

Powers was shot down by a surface-to-air missile during a mission, the Soviets sent a Mig-19 jet fighter which was sent to intercept the Power's aircraft but could not reach a high enough altitude. Its pilot, ejected but died of his injuries. Another Soviet aircraft, also attempted to intercept Powers' U-2. The unarmed Su-9 was directed to ram the U-2 but missed because of the large differences in speed (the Su-9 flew above Mach 1.1, while the U-2 flew at approximately Mach 0.6).

The first of three SA-2 Guideline (S-75 Dvina) surface-to-air missiles launched at the U-2 near Kosulino in the Ural Region impacted the aircraft. "What was left of the plane began spinning, only upside down, the nose pointing upward toward the sky, the tail down toward the ground." Powers was unable to activate the plane's self-destruct mechanism before he was thrown out of the plane after releasing the canopy and his seat belt. While descending under his parachute, Powers had time to scatter his escape map, and rid himself of part of his suicide device, a silver dollar coin suspended around his neck containing a poison-laced injection pin, though he kept the poison pin "Yet I was still hopeful of escape." He hit the ground hard, was immediately captured, and taken to prison in Moscow. (he was originally criticized for not committing suicide by taking the poison … a CIA concern which was later retracted)


The incident set back talks between Khrushchev and Eisenhower. Powers' interrogations ended on June 30, and his solitary confinement on July 9. On August 17, 1960, his trial for espionage began before the military division of the Supreme Court of the USSR.  On August 19, 1960, Powers was convicted of espionage, "a grave crime covered by Article 2 of the Soviet Union's law 'On Criminality Responsibility for State Crimes'". His sentence consisted of ten years confinement, three of which were to be in a prison, with the remainder in a labor camp. The US Embassy "News Bulletin" stated, according to Powers, "as far as the government was concerned, I had acted in accordance with the instructions given me and would receive my full salary while imprisoned".


He was held in Vladimir Prison (where this post card was written), from September 9, 1960 until February 8, 1962.. Gary kept a diary and a journal while confined. Additionally he took up carpet weaving from his cell mate to pass the time. He could send and receive a limited number of letters from his family. The prison now contains a small museum with an exhibit on Powers, who allegedly developed a good rapport with Russian prisoners there.


In 1998, newly declassified information revealed that Powers's mission had been a joint USAF/CIA operation. In 2000, on the 40th anniversary of the U-2 Incident, his family was presented with his posthumously awarded Prisoner of War Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross and National Defense Service Medal.  In addition, CIA Director authorized Powers to posthumously receive the CIA's coveted Director's Medal for extreme fidelity and extraordinary courage in the line of duty 

Item: 63076

Price: $12,000.00
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Francis Gary Powers
Francis Gary Powers
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