Do you have a cite for this? According to his own account, he was told that it was to spare him from torture, not to protect any secrets, and that if he was captured he shouldn’t even worry about secrets, because the Russians would get the information one way or another anyway.
Now, granted, he would have incentive to say that even if it weren’t true, but he at least knows better than anyone else what exactly he was told about it.
From his son years later but it was definitely something he was criticized for:
I didn’t realize they were only given the pin to avoid torture, and were not ordered to use it. That seems a shirking moral responsibility by the higher ups to me. As obviously by the time they were being tortured, the wouldn’t have access to the pin. So they clearly expected them to use it before they were captured.
Most people up to then considered that whilst suicide may be morally preferable to pain or dishonour, or to honourably deny one’s enemies a triumph, vide Göring, it was generally a mortal sin — therefore those journalistic imbeciles criticizing the brave and unfortunate Captain Powers were symptomatic of that age’s slide into moral decadence.
Anyway apart from the fact the high ground could not be claimed in this case, since the Americans were spying with the U2s ( plus they lied disgustingly after ); the soviets using physical torture for interrogation on non-citizens or non-Warsaw Pact citizens was vanishingly rare. And that includes those allied soldiers sent to the Gulag.
Call it professional courtesy.
Ah, OK, I don’t doubt that there were some in the press, or in the general public, who believed that he ought to have committed suicide. But that’s not the same as the actual military and intelligence organizations expecting him to have done so, which (if you believe his account) didn’t happen.
But I never claimed they had criticized him for not doing so. But that’s a complete side track to the OP.
They clearly did issue the device, and expect it to be used to avoid capture and torture (though as you point out they didn’t order them to take their own lives and didn’t issue it to avoid information falling in enemy hands).
The question was were the U2 pilots the only agents issued this device during the cold war? Did anyone actually use it? And when did they stop issuing them.