Into Unfriendly Skies

The U-2 incident was one of the most galvanizing moments of the Cold war. On May 1st, 1960, Francis Gary Powers took of from a small military base in Pakistan and flew into history. His flight into the soviet union that day became one o the most trival points of the Cold war including placing it among the Cuban missile crisis.


The overflights of the Soviet Union had been going on for over 4 years before the time Powers was shot down in 1960. At first President Eisenhower was so hesitant that he had contact the British to see if they could fly the U-@- across the Soviet Union Just so it would have not been as bad of a fall out as if they were exclusively flown by Americans.  Once so overflights were completed the President felt even better about the spy flights since he was finally able to see over the iron curtain.

One of the primary reasons the U-2 was used for this mission was because they were able to fly 13 miles above the surface of the earth and there fore prevented the planes from being attack by both Surface to Air missiles (SAMs) or manned aircraft. The frustrating part for the Russians was the fact that the Russians could pick up these planes on radar but were not able to do anything about them. In early 1960, Russia began using a new surface to air missile, the S-75 Dvina, which was specifically made as a high altitude missile poised to be used against the U-2.

S-75 Dvina surface to air missile  Source: wikipedia

President Eisenhower had set a stop date for Powers’ CIA overflight for set for May 1st since later that month the UK, France, United States, and the Soviet Union were set to meet to discuss peace at the Four Powers summit. President Eisenhower was worried that a overflight to close to the Summit could destroy trust between the nations. As, the deadline drew closer there was bad weather over Russia and Powers’ overflight was delayed till May 1st.

The United States then lost contact with powers as he flew over central Russia. The United States then started to play cover story that the U-2 was a weather plane that got lost and wandered into Soviet airspace after the announcement that was broadcast by the Russians. What the Americans didn’t know was the fact that the Soviets had  recovered both Gary Powers as well as his plane with most of the sensitive materials intact. This fatal misstep on the part of the american caused a media firestorm and a field day for the Soviets since they claimed that america was being deceitful since they had the proof with Gary powers as well as the film that was recovered from the crash site.

The Cover up plot greatly influenced the Four power summit with Krushchev only being at the summit for one day with just enough time to smear the Americans for their blatant act of spying on the Soviet Union. A month later they put Gary Powers on trial in Moscow for spying against the Soviets and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. This is a pretty cool article from a soviet newspaper about the trial.


The Gary Powers’ trial was the last major smearing from the U-2 incident. Khrushchev never again trusted the west in any attempts to make peace and set the stage for the rest of the Cold war. Gary Powers was released a year and a half later in a prisoner transfer on the Glienicke Bridge which is also known as the Bridge of Spies for its use as prisoner exchange point during the cold war.




A Battle for Stalin Himself

Probably one of the most influential points of the war for the Soviets was the Battle of Stalingrad. It is important to note that not only was it was a military victory but it also made a statement to the country about the successes of the Soviet system. I choose the Battle of Stalingrad not just because it was by far one of the most published events on the eastern front but also the cities namesake of Stalin himself. For this reason the battle was immensely personally to Stalin since the city was a beckon of little to show off the accomplishments of the Soviet economy. For this reason Stalin enacted the Order No. 227 which was termed the “Not One Step Back” policy in which officers were to shoot there retreating forces as a hope to prevent mass retreats. Later on “not one Step back became a rallying cry for the Soviets as a way to show pride in the Great Patriotic war.

Soviet stamp quoting"Not One Step Back" Source:

Soviet stamp quoting”Not One Step Back” Source:

Over the course of the battle the city of Stalingrad was completely turn to rubble by both sides bombing  and using artillery on each other’s positions throughout the city. Over the course of the battle the entire city was demolished with full blocks being leveled. A great video to show this can be found on this page:

That video then goes on to show the other stages of the Battle of Stalingrad. Once the Germans did engage in fighting in Stalingrad the German offensive became bogged down by the fact that the rubble from the city did not allow them to utilize their heavy tanks and blitzkrieg tactics. From here the Soviet war machine took over and through their use of superior numbers as well as and manufacturing prowess thanks to the Soviet system the Russians bled the German Army. The Russian Army was also able to encircle the Germans in the city cutting off there supply lines causing terrible low amounts of supplies which combined with the onset of winter caused miserable conditions for the Germans within Stalingrad. An unknown German said:

“My hands are done for, and have been ever since the beginning of December. The little finger of my left hand is missing and – what’s even  worse – the three middle fingers of my right one are frozen. I can only hold my mug with my thumb and little finger. I’m pretty helpless; only when a man has lost any fingers does he see how much he needs then for the smallest jobs. The best thing I can do with the little finger is to shoot with it. My hands are finished.” –Anonymous German soldier

As one can see the Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle in World War II it does not show it in the scale of the importance it was as a part of morale for the Soviet,After all it was the City of the Soviet leader’s namesake. For one up to this point in the war the Soviets were getting beaten back by the German’s Blitzkrieg tactics as they flashed across the steppes of Russia. The halt of German forces by soviet troops proved to the Soviet people that they could fight and win against the well equipped Germans. The loss of over 850,000 German troops caused a lack of troops that the Germans could not recover from for the rest of the war and therefore is one of the major turning points of the Second World War.


Order No. 227: Stalinist Methods and Victory on the Eastern Front