Known for his #1 New York Times bestseller, the subject of the acclaimed major motion picture Bridge of Spies directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks, Mr. Powers, is the son of Air Force veteran Francis Gary Powers Sr. – an American CIA U-2 spy plane pilot shot down over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960, imprisoned and the subject of a spy exchange. The event triggered a major international political and diplomatic incident, a subject Powers will discuss in the context of his father’s experience and the impetus for shining a light on Cold War veterans and their place in U.S. history.
Credits: (L) Francis Gary Power Collection I National Air & Space Museum, (R) Francis Gary Powers, Jr., Vladimir Zhabrikov © URA.RU
Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation (PCVF) is proud to present special guest speaker Francis Gary Powers, Jr. on Saturday, November 6th at the 24th Annual Military Ball to be held at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. He is the best selling author of Spy Pilot and a leading authority on Cold War history. Known for his #1 New York Times bestseller, the subject of the acclaimed major motion picture Bridge of Spies, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks.
Powers is the son of Air Force veteran Francis Gary Powers Sr., an American CIA U-2 spy plane pilot shot down over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. Captured by the KGB and imprisoned, he was subjected to a televised show trial. A spy exchange was brokered by Charles Donovan between KGB spy Rudolph Abel and Powers. On his return to the United States, Powers Sr. was exonerated of any wrongdoing while imprisoned in Russia, yet a cloud of controversy lingered until his untimely death in 1977. The event was one of the most talked-about events in the early 1960s and was considered a major political and diplomatic Cold War incident. This will be the subject of Powers’ presentation which will be delivered in the context of his father’s experience and that of veterans today.
His father’s career experiences, government secrecy and the controversy that surrounded it were instrumental in launching Powers’ career as an author, historian and lecturer. It was also the impetus for his on-going effort to shine a permanent light on Cold War veterans and their rightful place in U.S. history. In Spy Pilot, Powers sets the record straight by researching old audio tapes, the transcript of his father’s debriefing by the CIA, other recently declassified documents about the U-2 program, and interviews with his military colleagues.
Powers keeps Cold War history alive through his work as the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of The Cold War Museum, a 501(c) (3) charity. He founded the museum in 1996 to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate future generations about this time period. As Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Cold War Theme Study, he works with the National Park Service and leading Cold War experts to identify historic Cold War sites for commemorating, interpreting, and preservation.
Powers’ work is aligned with the PCVF mission, which is, based on the words of Pierre Claeyssens: “To be killed in a war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst. To be forgotten is the worst.” Powers says, “The whole purpose of the Cold War Museum, and what I’ve been doing to honor veterans and preserve history, is that I don’t want the Cold War veteran to be forgotten or overlooked. We must embrace all of our veterans, from the Revolutionary War to the present. We need to honor them, respect them and thank them for their service. We must make sure that our children understand the important job that they do so that we’re free at home.”
Powers is adamant about “doing everything I can to make sure that people, especially students, are aware of what the Cold War was. Why it took place. Everything that is happening in the world today is a direct result of the end of the Cold War. There are tie-ins to the Cold War and the war on terror and a lot of people just don’t understand that. So to me, it’s very important to recognize it, and specifically, the veterans who served during the time period. If it wasn’t for our veterans who served in the Cold War – their sacrifices, including death – we would be in a much different state of affairs right now.”
Tickets to the Military Ball are $175 per guest. Enhanced COVID-19 health and safety measures will be in place and space is limited to 300 guests.
COVID-19 protocols: To create the safest possible environment for our guests, patrons of all ages (including children 12 years old and younger) must show proof of being fully vaccinated OR supply a negative Covid-19 medical test result (taken within 72 hours of the Military Ball), along with an official photo ID, before entering. Masks are currently required indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
The Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort has taken extra precautions for the health and safety of staff and guests. Engineering has replaced the standard MERV 8 filters with all new, higher value MERV 13 filters specifically designed to eliminate circulation of airborne microbes; installed sterilizing UV light systems on evaporator coils to irradiate and kill airborne microbes in the duct work before reaching the general air supply, and the system has been re-programed to inject 100% fresh air while eliminating recirculation of inside air.
To purchase tickets, visit: https://www.pcvf.org/military-ball
About Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation
Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation is committed to honoring the men and women who have served in uniform at any time. PCVF does this by supporting veterans and active duty members, and related partner organizations, in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, as well as preserving military history and legacy. The Foundation works to uphold Pierre Claeyssens’s vision that those who have served are “Never Forgotten.” PCVF is funded entirely by private donations. For more information, visit pcvf.org or call (805) 259-4394.