U2 – Before It Was A Band It Was An Incident – May 18, 1960 – Past Daily Reference Room
During a period of time where it was beginning to look like a thaw in the relations between the Soviet Union and the U.S., with a visit only a few months earlier by Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev to the United States, a summit meeting was slated to begin in Paris on May 18, 1960. President Eisenhower arrived and hopes were high that a move towards peaceful coexistence would finally become a reality.
Well – as it turned out, an incident took place a few days earlier. An American U-2 Spy plane was shot down over Russia and its pilot, Gary Francis Powers was captured and awaiting trial on spy charges in Moscow. No one from the U.S. was aware of what happened – and certainly, President Eisenhower who was in Paris for what he thought were going to be useful talks, was confronted by Khruschev over allegations of spying on Soviet territory. At first the charges were denied, with the State Department saying the U-2 plane had veered off-course during a routine training mission and had strayed into Soviet territory. But the Kremlin had proof and the confrontation took place in the form of a Press Conference, where Nikita Khruschev publicly confronted the U.S. over the incident and issued a stinging 3-hour harangue over U.S. Foreign Policy, it’s policy towards Moscow and its charges of blatant spying, which had gone on for years via the CIA.
It forced President Eisenhower to admit it had been spying on Soviet territory and the entire incident proved to be a complete embarrassment to the U.S. and did irreparable damage to the peace attempt, thus setting back any progress that was made between East and West by several years.
So, for the first time, you get to hear the entire press Conference, as delivered by Nikita Khruschev in Paris on May 18, 1960 – with French and English translations and some occasionally bad Shortwave transmission noise. But it’s the entire thing as it was heard live over American Radio networks at the time, and only heard in excerpts until now. You can hear it in three parts, since the whole thing runs almost 4 hours.
An important document of the Cold War era and certainly one of the more embarrassing.