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Whatever Happened to U-2 Spy Gary Powers?

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If you weren't alive when Francis Gary Powers got shot down over the Soviet Union, you probably heard about it in high school history. But just in case you slept through that class, here's a quick recap: Capt. Powers had been working for the CIA, carrying out aerial espionage missions from the cockpit of the U-2 spy plane. The Lockheed U-2, which could fly to 70,000 feet (out of the range of most Soviet weaponry), was equipped to fly over military targets and take hi-res photos for U.S. intelligence.

The public knew nothing of these spy missions until the Powers incident, but the Russians had known for years when they finally were able to take down the "Dragon Lady" on May 1, 1960. On August 17, Powers was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years of jail & hard labor. After 21 months in prison, however, he and another American were traded for KGB Colonel Vilyam Fisher, a.k.a. Rudolf Abel, captured in New York in 1957.

That's as far as the story typically goes "“ Powers' role in the escalating Cold War effectively ended there. So whatever happened to him?

Plenty of Critics Were Waiting Back Home

powers suitBetween Powers' capture and sentencing, the contents of his plane were salvaged from the crash site. To wit, they included a pack of Kent cigarettes, a .22 caliber pistol, money, and a poison suicide pill to be taken in case of disaster. Many at the time said Powers should have destroyed the plane's camera and then taken the pill before the Soviets could get to him.


It should be noted that the pilot tried and failed to activate the U-2's self-destruct mechanism before he parachuted out of the crashing plane. Following an investigation into the incident, the Senate Armed Services Committee vindicated Powers' actions, concluding that he had neither betrayed his country nor acted unprofessionally in the course of his capture.


(It's also widely believed that Powers had a Swiss Army Knife in his gear, which the Russians confiscated and put on public display as "CIA spy gear." However, I can't find any reputable sources to back up that claim, so take that story with a grain of salt).

Spy Exchange

The spy exchange that ultimately brought the pilot home happened just like something out of the movies. As Powers walked across a guarded bridge connecting East & West Berlin, Abel passed by, heading the opposite direction. Unlike most movie spies, though, the captain didn't emerge from the incident with oodles of hot Russian babes in tow. Nevertheless, Powers did soon find love, American-style, in that most romantic of places "“ back at the CIA.

An Office Romance & Life After the CIA

sue and garyClaudia "Sue" Edwards was administering tests for the CIA to Americans returning from overseas, "to make sure the agents hadn't been turned," according to Gary Powers, Jr. After Sue administered Gary's test, a hallway collision led to spilled coffee, which led to more coffee, which led to lunch, which led to dinner, which led to marriage in November 1962, nine months after Powers' return.


From 1963 on, he test-piloted planes for Lockheed, wrote a memoir of the incident, and became a traffic-copter pilot for a Los Angeles radio station. Powers died in 1977 when his helicopter crashed while on a routine trip. His son was 12 at the time. Gary Jr. would go on to found the Cold War Museum. Sue Powers died in 2004 at the age of 68.


It wasn't until 23 years after his death that Powers was awarded any military honors. On May 1, 2000, the 40th anniversary of the U-2 crash, his family was presented with a Department of Defense Prisoner-of-War Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the National Defense Service Medal.

And in case you're curious, we haven't found any hard evidence that U2 was named after the Lockheed plane, despite omnipresent rumors alleging as much. The rumors persist in part because Bono was born just a few days after Powers' capture. As best as I can tell, the Air Force also claims no responsibility for the lead singer's aviator goggles.

(Middle photo: Powers' flight suit, on display at the Atomic Test Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada, taken by Craig Moran; bottom photo courtesy Gary Powers, Jr., and the Cold War Museum).

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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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