In today’s world there’s considerable confusion concerning what May Day is all about, but when I was a youngster May Day was a lighthearted holiday where children crowned a pretty girl their May Queen and danced around a maypole to celebrate the arrival of spring.

However, the Socialist leaders of the Second International chose the same day as a political holiday, and that messed up a lot of things.

On Sunday, May 1, 1960, knowing that the Embassy Run aircraft was due in, I jumped in my Jeep, made a leisurely 14-mile drive out to Mauripur Pakistan Air Force Base, met the aircraft, took care of the inbound and outbound passengers, jumped back in my Jeep, and drove back to the embassy to close the office and go pick up Lolly at the airport.

Imagine my surprise when I strolled into the embassy, which was always totally deserted on Sunday except for one Marine security guard. The entire place was abuzz with activity. Wondering what the devil was up, I happened to run into Sam McNutt, a good friend who six months earlier had done me the greatest favor of my entire life by introducing me to the wonderful woman I married. Sam worked in the code room, and we both had Top Secret clearances, so I am only going to repeat three of the words that passed between us:

Me: “U-2?”

Sam: “Right! Flameout.”

I wonder? Could those two words be the reason the U.S. History site starts its report of the U-2 incident with this sentence?

“On May 1, 1960, U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers was allegedly shot down while flying an Air Force Lockheed U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance airplane ...”

Notice that word “allegedly”?

Here’s more of what the report says: “A mystery persists about whether or not the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, or if it was forced down by mechanical problems.”

Enough said. Please refer to your most trusted resources and make up your own mind what really happened because what I’d really like to tell you about regarding that May Day is the tale of a young fighter pilot who deserves much more publicity than he has ever received.

Sergei Safronov was born in 1930. He finished high school in 1948, married his boyhood girlfriend, Anna Panfilova, joined the Soviet Air Force, graduated from aviation school as a jet fighter pilot, fathered a son named Alexander, and served with the 764th Fighter Aviation Regiment at Bolshoye Savino Airport beginning in 1952.

On that historic May Day in 1960 when an American U-2 aircraft appeared far above the range of the best missiles and aircraft of the USSR, Sergei Safronov, along with many others of his fellow pilots took to the air in their MIG-19s with orders to do anything they could to down the enemy aircraft, even including ramming it.

However, Sergei never got to demonstrate his courage and loyalty. On his way to attempt an intercept of the U-2 his aircraft was hit by one of his nation’s own missiles.


Because it was May Day, a Communist holiday, and no one had changed the codes in his aircraft’s transponder, codes which would have told the missiles that it was not an enemy aircraft.

Sergei was able to eject, but sadly, he died of his injuries.

God bless you, Sergei! You deserved better!

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