Francis Gary Powers, a man from a small Virginia mountain town who went from being an obscure "normal guy who did a job" to international notoriety when he was shot down in a spy plane over the Soviet Union 17 years ago, was buried yesterday in Arlington National Cemetery.
Powers was killed a week ago in Los Angeles when the helicopter he was piloting as a television newsman crashed, probably because it ran out of gas, according to police reports. Powers, 47, was an Air Force pilot before transferring to the Central Intelligence Agency to fly U2 reconnaissance missions. The military burial was performed at his family's request.
About 150 relatives and friends attended the funeral, some took snapshots during the brief simple ceremony. There were no famous faces present, and the biggest limousine was one being used, according to its chauffer, by an "NBC executive."
Powers worked for sation KNBC as a pilot and reporters. Several C.I.A. officials also attended the funeral.
The son of a former coal miner and shoe repairman in Southerwest Virginia. Powers enlisted in the Air Force after an undistinguished academic career at Grundy High School and Milligan College in Tennessee. After his capture, reporters labored to bring forth details of Powers' life, interviewing his high school teachers, sisters, parents, college classmates and neigbors. The stories, which occasionally included a colorful quote reflecting what was presumed to be a southwestern Virginia dialect, portrayed an unassuming, rather ordinary fellow whose ambition was to fly.
Although Powers left Virginia in 1946 top attend college and never really returned to the state to live, he was claimed as a "Virginia boy." About 800 people turned out for a welcome home ceremony at the National Guard Armory in Big Stone Gap in 1962. At a press conference held by Powers' first wife, Barbara, before she left to attend his trial in Moscow accompanied by two Virginia lawyers, a former president of the Virginia Bar Association announced that money to aid the family was being offered by people all over the country, but was being refused because adequate money was being contributed "by Virginians."
When Powers was released by the Soviets in exchanged for convicted spy Rudolf Abel, he returned to face an uncetain future and some criticism that he should have committed suicide rather than submit to Soviet interrogation.
A Senate Armed Services Committee report, issued after Powers had been questioned extensiely by the C.I.A. and legislators, concluded that he had acted properly and fulfilled his contract and "his obligations as an American."
He continued to work for the C.I.A. briefly, living into the Hunting Towers Apartments in Alexandria. He separated from his wife in May 1962, about five months after his release. They both later remarried; Powers' second wife Claudia, their 11-year-old son and the 20-year-old daughter of Mrs. Powers' first marriage attended the funeral.
Powers left the C.I.A. to work at the Lockheed plant in Burbank, Claif. (He had been listed on the Lockheed payroll while he was actually working for the C.I.A.) Then, in 1971, he started working as a newsman, beginning as a traffic watch pilot for radio station. On the day of his fatal crash, Powers had flown to film videotape scenes of a brushfire near Santa Barbara with cameraman George Spears, who also was killed.