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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Searchers Close In on Body Of U-2 Pilot Downed in '60

WASHINGTON — Pentagon investigators are close to pinpointing the Russian burial site of a U.S. Air Force officer whose spy plane was shot down over the Barents Sea in July 1960, two months after the better-known downing of Francis Gary Powers in a U-2 spy plane.

Investigators who have worked the case of Major Eugene Posa for several years have found the hospital where Posa's body was autopsied, said Denis Clift, co-chairman of the U.S. side of a joint U.S.-Russian commission that has been attempting to clarify the fate of U.S. servicemen missing from the Cold War period.

"We believe we're on the verge of identifying the cemetery where [the body] was buried," Clift said Wednesday in an interview. Clift said it appears Posa was buried near Severomorsk, just north of Murmansk.

Recovery and repatriation of Posa's body would be an important step, not only for Posa's relatives but also for the U.S.-Russian commission, which has had few clear-cut successes in the more than eight years since it was created. The commission is preparing to publish a report on its overall progress — the first such accounting since 1996.

In 1992 the U.S. government acknowledged that Posa's aircraft was spying when it was shot down July 1, 1960. Previously, it had claimed the plane was on a "research flight."

After CIA pilot Powers was shot down on a high-altitude spy flight May 1, 1960, U-2 missions over the Soviet Union were stopped.

Soviet officials acknowledged shooting down Posa's RB-47, contending it had violated their air space. A Soviet trawler picked up alive two of the six officers on board — Captains John McKone and Freeman Olmstead — as well as the body of Major Willard G. Palm. McKone and Olmstead were imprisoned in Moscow and convicted of espionage, then released in 1961. The fate of Posa and two other crew members never has been confirmed.