Francis Gary Powers Jr. and John Welch formally established the museum in 1996. Powers's father unwittingly became a major figure in the Cold War when the Soviets shot down the U-2 reconnaissance plane he was piloting on 1 May 1960. His capture and imprisonment in the Soviet Union led to a full-blown diplomatic crisis that deepened Cold War hostilities and embarrassed President Dwight Eisenhower's administration on the eve of a U.S.-Soviet summit, which was promptly canceled by an angry Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Resolved to honor Cold War figures such as his father, who died in 1977, the younger Powers dedicated the museum to preserving and relating the many stories and incidents indelibly marked by the Cold War.
Plans are under way to locate a permanent home for the museum. One potential location is a twenty-acre former Nike Missile site outside Washington, D.C.
"The National Cold War Museum and Memorial." http://www.coldwar.org.; Powers, Francis Gary, with Curt Gentry. Operation Overflight: The U-2 Spy Pilot Tells His Story for the First Time. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.