Friday, July 28, 2023

7 Questions With Gary Powers, Jr, Author and Founder of The Cold War Museum


Born June 5, 1965, in Burbank, California, he is the son of Francis Gary and Claudia “Sue” Powers. Gary holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy from California State University, Los Angeles, and Master’s Degrees in Public Administration / Certification in Non-profit Management from George Mason University (GMU), Fairfax, VA and in U.S. History from Adams State University, Alamosa, CO.

Gary is the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of The Cold War Museum, a 501(c) (3) charity located at Vint Hill, VA 45 minutes west of Washington, DC. He founded the museum 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 worked with the National Park Service and leading Cold War experts to identify historic Cold War sites for commemorating, interpreting, and preservation. Recently, he consulted for a Steven Spielberg Cold War thriller, Bridge of Spies, about James Donovan who brokered the 1962 spy exchange between KGB spy Rudolph Abel and CIA U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, Sr.

In the mid 1990s, as President of the Downtown Fairfax Coalition, Gary founded the City of Fairfax Saturday Morning Community Farmers Market, established the Chocolate Challenge for the Chocolate Lover’s Festival, and produced Old Town Fairfax merchant guides. As CEO of the Vienna Regional Chamber of Commerce between 2000-2005, he led the successful transition from the Vienna Chamber to the Vienna Tysons Regional Chamber which is now the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Gary is the author of Letters from a Soviet Prison (2017)Spy Pilot (2019), and Enemy Territory (2022) which help to dispel the misinformation surrounding the U-2 Incident. He is a past Board Member of the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum near Omaha, NE and an Honorary Board Member of the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. Because of his efforts to honor Cold War veterans the Junior Chamber of Commerce selected him as one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Americans” for 2002. Gary lectures internationally and appears regularly on C-SPAN, the History, Discovery, and A&E Channels. He is married and has one son. (webpage )

                Garp Powers Sr. and Jr.                                                                        Gary Powers Jr

1.      How and when did you get hooked on history? 

When I founded The Cold War Museum in 1996 to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate future generations about this time period, I realized I needed to know as much as I could about this time period. Having grown up within a historic Cold War family, I already had a good grasp on what the Cold War was but I started to research as much as I could on all aspects of Cold War by reading various books, visiting military, espionage, and military museums, and seeking out and talking with veterans from the Berlin Airlift, Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, Corona Spy Satellite program, USS Liberty, USS Pueblo, SR-71 and U-2 programs, Nike, Titan, and Minuteman Missile programs, etc.

2.      What role does history play or has it played in your personal life? 

As a result of growing up with a famous Cold War figure, history has always played a part in my life both personally and professionally. Because of my efforts to form The Cold War Museum, I was able to help collect a multimillion-dollar collection of international Cold War related objects, photographs, oral and written histories, artifacts, and related material. In addition, my research, specifically into the U-2 Incident, led to the US government posthumously awarding my father the POW Medal in 2000 and the Silver Star in 2012.

3.      How does history play a part of your professional life/career? 

For the past 12 years I have been an author, historian, and speaker ( I lecture internationally on the Cold War, U-2 Incident, and the need to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate future generations about this time period. I am the Founded and Chairman Emeritus of The Cold War Museum, an honorary Board Member of the International Spy Museum, and a past Board Member of the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. I have published three books, Letters from a Soviet Prison, Spy Pilot, and Enemy Territory, which is a graphic novel. I am currently working on a fourth book, Cold War Virginia, that will showcase Cold War and espionage sites, personalities, and areas throughout the Commonwealth.

4.      Why is studying/knowing history important?

 History is not rigid, it is fluid. In order to understand the world we live in today and the War on Terror, we need to understand the Cold War and how the end of it shaped international politics and policies over the last 30+ years. This goes for every time period. WWI flows into WWII, WWII flows into the Cold War, the Cold War flows into the War on Terror and so on and so on for thousands of years. As philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” which is often quoted as, "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

5.      What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why? 

My focus is the Cold War time period from Sept 2, 1945, the end of WWII, to Dec 26, 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union. As a result of my interest in this time period I decided to pursue a second Master's Degree in US History focusing on the Cold War time period. My thesis for this degree ended up being my second book, Spy Pilot: Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 Incident, and a Controversial Cold War Legacy. I wanted to earn a Master's Degree in US History so that I would be a full-fledged historian and not just the son of a Cold War figure or a Cold War enthusiast. I wanted the credentials that came with this advanced degree.

6.       What was it like growing up as the son of not only a major historical figure, but also one of the most polarizing figures of 20th Century American history? 

When I was growing up, I had a normal childhood hiking, biking, fishing, with my dad, taking family vacations, and going to school. As an added bonus, since my dad was a pilot, I was able to fly with him when he was working for radio and television stations in Los Angeles. I was aware that my father was shot down over the Soviet Union, tried for espionage, and later exchanged for a Soviet spy. As a kid, however, I thought all dads went through something like this. I was 12 years old when that perception changed on August 1, 1977 when my father died in a helicopter crash while working for KNBC News out of Los Angeles. That is when I realized that not everybody's father gets shot down, imprisoned, exchanged, or buried at Arlington National Cemetery by a Presidential decree from Jimmy Carter. Once my father died, I could no longer ask him any questions which is why in college I started to do research on the U-2 Incident, the conspiracy theories, and all the rumors and speculation that surround my father. I wanted to find out the truth of what took place so that I could answer questions being asked of me. As a result of my research, I founded The Cold War Museum (, earned my MPA and MA in US History, and helped to set the record straight.

Gary Powers Sr and U2

7.       What can readers learn from your recent books about your father, the U2 incident, and the Cold War? 

They can learn the truth. Spy Pilot is based on newly available information, the son of famed U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers presents the facts and dispels misinformation about the Cold War espionage program that turned his father into a Cold War icon. One of the most talked-about events of the Cold War was the downing of the American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. The event was recently depicted in the Steven Spielberg movie Bridge of Spies. Powers was captured by the KGB, subjected to a televised show trial, and imprisoned, all of which created an international incident. Soviet authorities eventually released him in exchange for captured Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. On his return to the United States, Powers was exonerated of any wrongdoing while imprisoned in Russia, yet, due to bad press and the government's unwillingness to heartily defend Powers, a cloud of controversy lingered until his untimely death in 1977. Now his son, Francis Gary Powers Jr. and acclaimed historian Keith Dunnavant have written this new account of Powers' life based on personal files that had never been previously available. Delving into old audio tapes, letters his father wrote and received while imprisoned in the Soviet Union, the transcript of his father's debriefing by the CIA, other recently declassified documents about the U-2 program, and interviews with the spy pilot's contemporaries, Powers and Dunnavant set the record straight. The result is a fascinating piece of Cold War history. This is also a book about a son's journey to understand his father, pursuing justice and a measure of peace. Almost sixty years after the fact, this will be the definitive account of one of the most important events of the Cold War.

In Letters from a Soviet Prisons are the never-before published journal of my father’s thoughts as a Prisoner of War, along with more than 150 personal letters written and received by my father during his captivity. This book shows my father' thoughts and feelings, hopes and despairs of being a Soviet prisoner during the height of the Cold War.

Enemy Territory is a graphic novel and is geared towards a younger audience. It is the story of the U-2 Incident and my father's role in Cold War history.

Friday, July 21, 2023

7 Questions with Robert Jacob, Author, Historian, and Reenactor


With a lifelong passion for history, Robert Jacob has been heavily involved in living history interpretation and reenacting for over 40 years. He has participated in activities covering a wide range of time periods including French and Indian War and Revolutionary War reenactment groups, Western Gun Fighter groups, Mountain Man Rendezvous and Renaissance Fairs. During the past 12 years he has focused on the golden age of piracy.

Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Robert graduated from Duquesne University with a Bachelor’s Degree in education in 1978. He taught in the West Point public school district, West Point, VA for five years while completing his Master’s Degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1983.  In 1982, Robert entered the United States Marine Corps reserve and augmented to active duty in 1983. During his service, he became a military occupational specialty instructor and earned the designation of Master Training Specialist. Later in his career, he became the Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment at the same school where he had earlier instructed. He achieved the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 5 and retired after 31 years of service in 2013.

While researching information on the golden age of piracy, Robert realized that most of the publications on the subject were contradictory and even incorrect. This motivated him to write his award-winning first publication, “A Pirate’s Life in the Golden Age of Piracy.” After its release, his readers expressed a strong interest in the pirates that visited the coast of Florida. This inspired Robert to write his second book that focused on them, “Pirates of the Florida Coast: Truths, Legends, and Myths.” Robert is still a living historian. He is also a lecturer on a wide variety of historical topics and a public speaker who has appeared on the History Channel’s series “Beyond Oak Island” as an expert on pirates.

While researching information on the golden age of piracy, Robert realized that most of the publications on the subject were contradictory and even incorrect. This motivated him to write his award-winning first publication, “A Pirate’s Life in the Golden Age of Piracy.” After its release, his readers expressed a strong interest in the pirates that visited the coast of Florida. This inspired Robert to write his second book that focused on them, “Pirates of the Florida Coast: Truths, Legends, and Myths.” Robert is still a living historian. He is also a lecturer on a wide variety of historical topics and a public speaker who has appeared on the History Channel’s series “Beyond Oak Island” as an expert on pirates.  (Website )

1. How and when did you get hooked on history?


I have a lifelong passion for history. Even when I was 8 years old, I was fascinated with historical events and very annoyed when the media got history wrong. For example, I would be infuriated when soldiers were using model 1873 Colt Single Action Army pistols in a Civil War story. As such, I began reenacting at age 15. First the French & Indian War and then the Revolutionary War. I’ve been doing living history ever since. That’s a little over 50 years now.


2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?


One really can’t separate history from one’s life. Historical knowledge comes into play with every decision. On the lighter side, I have been a living historian (reenactor) since 1971. As my main hobby, all my free time was consumed with either reenacting history or studying it. My mother was a hostess at Colonial Williamsburg and lived next to the Yorktown Battlefield.


3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?


I served in the United States Marine Corps for 31 years. The Corps recognizes the value in a thorough knowledge of history when it comes to battlefield study. My historical knowledge was greatly expanded through professional battle case studies in the Corps. We even went to Gettysburg and walked the battlefield as part of officer training. Now, my profession is giving history lectures on a variety of topics and selling my two books, which are basically history texts.


4. Why is studying/knowing history important?


Thorough knowledge of history comes into play with each life decision. It certainly has a significant impact on deciding who to vote for in elections.  


5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?


I have always been fascinated with the 16th century. Not sure why! All history fascinates me actually, but there is a little something extra with that century. Perhaps it’s the rapid change the world went through with the age of exploration.


6. You’ve written two books about pirates and the Florida coast. How is their story an important part of Florida and American history?


My first book, A Pirate’s Life in the Golden Age of Piracy, is a comprehensive look at all the most famous pirates and privateers from 1625-1722. It also brings in all the politics of the European nations and how they affected piracy. The reader will learn far more about history than just pirates. My second book, Pirates of the Florida Coast, deals specifically with all those pirates and privateers associated with Florida, the real ones and the not so real ones. A great part of history is getting it right. Setting the record straight. This book does that for Florida. It dispels some of the legends and puts them in their proper place as a fascinating fictional story. But it also brings light to some of the real history of Florida pirates that most scholars have overlooked.


7. What projects do you have coming up in the future?


My third book is in the works, The Truth About Blackbeard’s Treasure.

Friday, July 14, 2023

7 Questions With Lisa Cooper, History Blogger, Author, and Curriculum Specialist


Lisa Land Cooper has focused on history in one way or another for at least 42 years. At the age of nineteen as a college student, she spent some time working in the Clerk of the Superior Court’s office in Cherokee County, Georgia recording deeds. This was followed by working as a paralegal for several years researching case law and real estate chains of title. In the mid-1990s she began teaching American History to fourth and fifth graders and soon earned her Masters in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment.. She shifted again in 2010, researching and writing a local history column for  her local newspaper, the Douglas County Sentinel which has led to two published books focusing on the history of Douglas County and a third with a selection of  #TrueTales from around the state of Georgia. During this time, she also researched and designed several online courses of study for students enrolled in the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore Maryland. Currently, she is focusing all of her time on future book projects, her social media platforms, and her website where she tries to bring history to a 21st century audience.  (Facebook  , Website  )

1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

I was hooked on history as a young girl listening to family stories told by my grandfathers and my mother. They would tell me about how things were when they were growing up and what they experienced as national, state, and local events happened all around them. My mother told my sister and I about growing up in a small town during the Great Depression. I was able to take these family stories and make connections with the history I was exposed to as a student.

2. What role does history play, or has it played in your personal life? 

My love of history has consumed me since I was a young girl.  My children like to joke that I can find the history of a button, and I probably could cobble a few sentences together after a little research.  I research history, I write about history, and I post about history on social media. 

3, How does history play a part of your professional life/career? 

History has played an important role in everything I have done professionally from working as a paralegal researching case law and chains of title, introducing a full course of American history in the classroom to fourth and fifth grade students, as a researcher helping individual clients as well as municipalities with various projects, and as an author with my books, social media posts, and my former newspaper column with the Douglas County Sentinel.

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

I could write at great length on the importance of history, but I’ll stick to the top four reasons. The first being that history has value to our society. Thousands of people throughout history have gone to great lengths to record history through newspapers, diaries, journals, saved letters, family Bibles, and oral traditions. It is believed that Aborigines of Australia managed to hang onto their history for 40,000 years by word of mouth.

Second, history is the narrative of mankind. It provides answers as to how people lived as well as provides for us the roots to certain ideas concerning laws, customs, and political ideas.

The third reason why history is important is it teaches a wide range of material. History is not a litany of dead people, places, and dates. History content has links to science and the arts. These links provide relevance for students or the adults who read my meager little offerings. History assists them to take small chunks of history squares and weave them into a knowledge quilt.

Finally, history is important because when presented properly it lends itself to critical analysis. Even young students can review a series of primary and secondary resources and independently determine what happened during an event and why. In 1988 the Bradley Commission Report on History in the Schools stated, “…history is the only avenue we have to reach an understanding of ourselves and our society. Without such understanding the two foremost aims of American education will not be achieved---the preparation of all our people for private lives of personal integrity and fulfillment, and their preparation for public life as democratic citizens.”

I strongly identify with a character in the Kingsley Amis novel, Lucky Jim, who works in the history department of a fictitious English university when he answers the department telephone by stating, “History speaking!” We are all history every minute of every day. We participate in the history of our families, we add to the history of the corporations and businesses we serve each day at work, and we participate in history as we vote, compose a letter to our congressman or a newspaper editor or attend a demonstration or memorial.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

My favorite period of history is whatever I’m currently researching or writing, but I’m always drawn to the American Revolution, Founding Fathers, and Constitutional history. I consider The Federalist Papers as light reading, but sadly have found myself too busy to enjoy reading history for just enjoyment over the last few years.

6. How did you become a history blogger and how did “The Story Behind the History” come about?

I began writing online at a blog I titled History Is Elementary under the screen name ElementaryHistoryTeacher in 2006 where I shared the day-to-day challenges of meeting social studies standards, classroom discipline, teaching techniques, and history content.

I kept the project from my family and from my school’s administration though I steadily gained a following. When the newspaper, USA Today, featured me and others in an article regarding teachers who blogged the secret was out to much acclaim. My readers tripled overnight, and plans were to produce a line of curriculum, etc.

I never got around to that (but still plan to) due to health concerns that caused me to leave the classroom. While recovering in 2010 I began researching and writing a local history column for the Douglas County Sentinel that lasted until 2021 along with my website where I still publish articles today. 


The tagline I use at my website, The stories behind the history, harkens back to the stories my family members told me that hooked me in and sparked the desire to learn more. I strongly believe that if history were  taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten. I love telling the story behind the story—we don’t simply arrive at a point in history by magic. There is always a backstory – a web of various other stories that dovetail and fit in many ways depending on a given point of view. There are many reasons why I love to tell the story, and the main one being I’m just compelled to do it.

7. What do you hope your followers and readers take away from your stories?

My hope for the take-away is that my readers have a better appreciation of their place in our world, our country, and their local surroundings. I hope they take away a feeling of being entertained for a few minutes and don’t realize they might have learned something or that their point of view might have shifted a bit. The main take away I wish for is that my writing encourages readers to search out more about the story.  

Friday, July 7, 2023

7 Questions with Pia Jordan, Author of Memories of a Tuskegee Airmen Nurse


Pia Marie Winters Jordan is producing a multi-media documentary on the Army Nurse Corps members who served with the Tuskegee Airmen at Tuskegee Army Air Field during World War II. Her mother, Louise Virginia Lomax Winters, was a First Lieutenant and one of those nurses.

She is a retired associate professor in the Department of Multimedia Journalism, School of Global Journalism and Communication at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. She was also one of the advisers to the Morgan State University Association of Black Journalists. She came to Morgan in August of 2008. She taught students in broadcast news writing, reporting and producing as well as internship preparation, senior capstone and media studies. For more information about her Tuskegee Army Nurses Project:

1. How and when did you get hooked on history?  

I was more hooked on journalism, but my uncle, Dr. Edgar A. Toppin, Sr.,  was a historian, author and a professor at the former Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia.  He wrote several books dealing with the Black Experience and had a television show dealing with Black history in the 1960's.  One of his books was A Biographical History of Blacks in America Since 1528. I have learned he wrote ten books in his lifetime.  He was also a past president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).  I was proud of his work.  I also loved to visit Harper's Ferry, West Virginia where I saw where my father attended courses at Storer College which provided an education for blacks and the story of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry.


   2.  What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

I have come to value the roles different people have played in determining the direction of history in our world.  I like knowing the backstories of incidents that are happening today.  It goes back to the saying by Edmund Burke-"Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it."

3. How does history play  a part of your professional life/career?   

Since learning about my mother's participation during World War II as a Tuskegee Airmen Nurse, I have come to appreciate how the participation of people in history, no matter how large or small, can play a great part with regard to the world's stage.  Now that I am retired from broadcast journalism and teaching the subject, I have spent more than a decade researching and learning about the period of World War II.

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?  

Studying and knowing history is important because it can provide answers to future concerns of a nation good or bad.  We can learn what has worked or what hasn't in policy decisions and conflicts between countries.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?  

I personally like learning about and looking at the history of the Elizabethan Era.  I find it fascinating understanding the hierarchy of the lords and ladies, etc.,  dress, health concerns, political environment, transportation, etc.


6.       How did Memories of a Tuskegee Airmen Nurse come about and how did you research the book?  

When I started teaching multimedia journalism at a university in Maryland, a colleague saw I was distraught after not having done anything about my mom being a Tuskegee Airmen Nurse--especially after she had some minor strokes and ended up in a nursing home.  My colleague encouraged me to get started now by first interviewing the nurses.  Well that was in 2008 and in 2009 I began interviewing the nurses and any Tuskegee Airmen who knew them while on the base.  I literally have been visiting archival sites around the country to research the period when the Tuskegee Army Flying School was in operation. I have visited nurses and airmen in California, Maryland and New Jersey.  I have visited archives and museums in Washington, D.C., College Park, Maryland, Riverside, California, Detroit, Michigan, Montgomery, Alabama, Tuskegee, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana.


7.       One of your ultimate goals is to make a documentary. Where does that project stand and how can people help?   

Raising the money to produce the documentaries will be the next goal.  It will take funds to hire, videographers, graphic artists and a producer to help complete a first rate project.  I have been asked about curriculum for students in studying my book, Memories of a Tuskegee Airmen Nurse and Her Military Sisters.  Maybe, that could also be a goal.  I have set up a GoFund Me site for future projects. ( )