Donovan and Powers Speaking as Heroes Among Us in Minneapolis – December 3, 2015

As is the backdrop for the current feature film Bridge of Spies, as well as the recently re-released book Strangers on a Bridge, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union captured U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers after shooting down his U-2 spy plane. Sentenced to 10 years in prison, Powers’ only hope was New York lawyer James Donovan, recruited by a CIA operative to negotiate his release. Donovan boarded a plane to Berlin, hoping to win the young man’s freedom through a prisoner exchange. If all went well, the Russians would get convicted spy Rudolf Abel, who Donovan defended in court years earlier.
On December 3, 2015, as part of Beth El Synagogue’s Heroes Among Us Series, John Donovan and Gary Powers, Jr., will offer their take on the spirit of service, as well as the challenges facing the United States and international diplomacy. These sons – crucial to this story of service and heroism – inspire our own journeys to serve.
John Donovan served as an infantryman and then combat correspondent with the First Marine Division during the Vietnam War, was arrested in East Berlin while smuggling a letter from a dissident through the Berlin Wall just after Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, served as Latin American information director in Washington with the U.S. Foreign Aid Program, and perhaps most important for current foreign relations: joined his father on one of his many trips to Cuba as a peace hostage.
During one journey, they traveled across Cuba in the same car with Fidel Castro during negotiations for the release of U.S. prisoners just after the Cuban Missile Crisis and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Donovan salvaged U.S. relations with Cuba, securing the release of 1100+ prisoners in exchange for humanitarian aid. It has been reported that Donovan’s negotiations secured the freedom of close to 10,000 people. John Donovan is the co-author of the book, After the Bay of Pigs, and has retained close ties to the Cuban Families Committee and Cuban-American community in Miami.
Gary Powers, Jr., is the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of The Cold War Museum, which he founded 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.
A portion of the proceeds of this once-in-a-lifetime event will help underwrite Beth El Synagogue’s Minnesota National Guard unit support initiative, directly benefiting the 682nd Engineer Battalion, currently deployed overseas.
More information and tickets are available online at
Date/Time: Thursday, December 3, 2015, 7:00 pm Location: Beth El Synagogue 5225 Barry Street West St. Louis Park, MN 55416