INT: So... there was no part of Russia that you couldn't go to, or would you concentrate on the west side?
MK: (Pause) I don't believe there was any part of Russia that were desired to have observation over certain targets that couldn't be accomplished. I believe that also was the reason that the flight in which Frank Powers was shot down, the flight was take-off from Pakistan and land in Norway, and that would enable the air plane to cover targets everywhere from Sverdlovsk all the way to Murmansk on one flight. However, we could get those targets by operating out of other bases.
INT: Can I ask you specifically, then, on May the 1st in 1960, can you tell me what happened from your perspective?
MK: May the 1st 1960 was certainly a day in the history books - that's when Frank Powers flew his mission out of Peshawar, Pakistan, with the intention to land in Bodo, Norway - and I believe I should say that's pronounced "Buda", Norway...
INT: Let me ask you again without that, because it's such a good answer. So... either way is fine. But what happened on May the 1st 1960?
MK: May the 1st certainly will stick in my memory, and most of the world's, as the day that Frank Powers took off from Peshawar, Pakistan, in an agency U-2, with the intention to land at Bodo, Norway. I personally was at Bodo, awaiting the air plane, and pre-breathing oxygen, getting ready for my pressure flight suit. I was going to take the air plane out of there and immediately fly back to Turkey with it. Frank Powers obviously didn't get to Bodo. I spent most of the light of a day breathing oxygen, and finally disconnected myself, knowing he couldn't possibly get there anymore with the fuel he had on board.
INT: When did you find out what had happened to him?
MK: At Bodo, Norway, awaiting Frank's flight, we had no knowledge of anything actually having happened to the air plane. We knew first that he'd gotten airborne, and that's when we started making preparations to turn the aircraft around once it arrived. And then, later that day, we got the word: "Get out of Norway." No knowledge of the reasons why, but of course it didn't take much intelligence to figure something had gone drastically wrong.
INT: Can you tell me, what did happen to Frank's flight?
MK: Frank, of course, returned to the United States after that incident and the Russians let him loose. I knew Frank very well and talto him many times about it. What happened to Frank... I wasn't there, I can only relate what he told me, and I believe every word he said - and that's that a missile, surface-to-air missile, one of the that were believed fired, went off; it was a near-miss, and the shock wave of the missile exploding fractured the structural integrity of the aircraft, and he ended up bailing out.
INT: I was just about to stop you there.
INT: Martin, can I ask you again: what happened to Frank Powers?
MK: There are many stories told about how Frank Powers got shot down. The one I believe is the one Frank told me himself many times after he returned from Russia. That is, a surface-to-air missile, one of several, got a near-miss on him, and the shock wave of the exploding missile blew the tail off the aircraft and he ended up bailing out. Interestingly enough, as Frank was coming down, again according to him, he observed another parachute, and I understand that what had really happened was, there were also several Sukoy fighters that were trying to attack him, and one of the Russian missiles also shot down one of their own air planes.
INT: Were you surprised that Frank was captured alive, given the circumstances of the incident?
MK: When I finally found out that we had lost an air plane over Russia, I wasn't really too surprised that Frank had gotten shot down. I think all the pilots at that time were very well aware of the advances the Russians had made in missiles, intercontinental, surface-to-air, and we certainly knew that the risks attendant with flights over Russia had increased considerably. I don't think any one of us individually ever worried about it being himself, because, you know, once again dumb fighter pilots always think it's the other guy that's going to get hit.
INT: Do you remember hearing when Khrushchev said at the Paris peace conference in 1960... do you remember that situation suddenly becoming public? What was the attitude amongst yourself and your colleagues?
MK: When the press started really giving good coverage to Mr Khrushchev's statements, and the various media of all the countries were putting out conflicting stories, I think most of the pilots were disenchanted with the coverage the press was giving. In my mind, Frank Powers was being persecuted and prosecuted simultaneously, and we had no belief... I certainly knew Frank personally, and he was a very fine gentleman, and as tough as they come, and he wasn't about to do some of the things that the press was accusing [him] of: being a traitor to the United States.
INT: Good answer. Could you tell me just a bit about what his flight was intended to do? As we said earlier, it was supposed to be the longest flight... one of the longest flights, wasn't it? Because it was going to go straight across. Could you just explain to us where he was supposed to take off, the rough area he was supposed to cover, and where he was supposed to land?
MK: Frank's flight on May 1st was airborne out of Peshawar, Pakistan, and from my memory, proceeded essentially due north to the Sverdlovsk area, which had been a hot site of interest for the agency; I myself had flown to that region three, four, five weeks prior. Contrary to my flight, where I came back out of the southern side of Russia, Frank was to proceed on generally north-west, to the Murmansk area, and come out the north-west corner of Russia, skirt the Scandinavian countries, and come in and land in Bodo, Norway.
INT: Was that a longest flight a U-2 ever would have done?
MK: If that flight had been completed as planned, it probably would have been a toss-up for the longest flight that had been done in that air plane. It turned out it wasn't a very long flight, and I think the flight I had made several weeks before stands as (Laughs) the longest flight.
INT: So what happened? You were told to get out of Norway in a hurry, but what happened to the U-2 mission as a whole at that point?
MK: On May 1st, when our world kind of came apart on us as agency pilots, we kind of regrouped down at Turkey. There were many weeks of inactivity, and eventually orders were given to pull the whole unit back out of Turkey, back to the United States. That probably was accomplished about four months after May 1st.