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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for spy buffs
Utterly fascinating. This book is important for anyone with an interest in why the arms race dragged on so long, but it's a must if you have a secret thing for spy planes. Considering its impact on world events, the story of Gary Powers' final flight over Russia in 1960 is surely one of the most neglected of the Cold War. It has been told before, but to my knowledge this...
Published on November 11, 2010 by matt

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13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nothing new here
The story of Rudolf Abel,one of the most famous Communist spies to have ever worked on American soil,is not new.The KGB spy who was arrested by the FBI and was jailed after being charged with spying in order to get America's nuclear secrets in well documented,and so is his exchange on the famous Glienecke Bridge in Berlin with Francis Gary Powers,the pilot who was shot...
Published on November 10, 2010 by Paul Gelman


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for spy buffs, November 11, 2010
This review is from: Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War (Hardcover)
Utterly fascinating. This book is important for anyone with an interest in why the arms race dragged on so long, but it's a must if you have a secret thing for spy planes. Considering its impact on world events, the story of Gary Powers' final flight over Russia in 1960 is surely one of the most neglected of the Cold War. It has been told before, but to my knowledge this is the first time a western writer has tracked down the Russians who actually brought Powers down. Whittell has put together the final hours leading up to the shoot-down in a way that finally lays to rest the theory that Powers somehow brought it on himself by flying too low. He also claims that but for the shoot-down there would have been no Cuban missile crisis and Nixon might have beaten Kennedy in 1960. What is not in doubt is that the collapse of the superpower summit two weeks after Powers was taken prisoner set the scene for the Berlin spy swap on the bridge in the book's title. There were supposed to be no civilian witnesses to the exchange, but one of those involved was an American post-grad falsely accused of working for the CIA, and one of those who saw the tail-end of the swap on the bridge was a young Reuters correspondent who never got a byline for her story. The author interviews them both, and many more. Brilliantly written, this is an essential addition to any Cold War buff's collection.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spooks and U2s, November 14, 2010
This review is from: Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War (Hardcover)
Giles Whittell is a natural-born reporter, a writer with an eye for detail and for the dramatic. Bridge of Spies is not just his version of the famous story of the U2 pilot who was shot down over the Soviet Union and his swap with a legendary Russian spy. It's a thriller in its own right, with all the ingredients of an exceptionally well told and observed story. Whittell is a reporter in his element, writing on a subject he clearly finds fascinating and portraying Francis Gary Powers in a sympathetic light, unlike his CIA masters who appear to have resented the fact that he survived his traumatic shoot-down at 70,000ft and was imprisoned by the KGB, poviding the Russians with a propaganda trophy with which to berate the Americans.

What makes this book such a good read are the characters. They bring this story to life and provide the reader with an insight into an historical event which was not just about the politics of the Cold War but a personal account of people who were embroiled in some of the most daring and exciting exploits of that past era; and as we know from the more recent exposure of the Russian spy ring in the United States which included a beautiful and shapely female spy, Anna Chapman, espionage is not a dying profession. The Cold War, in a different disguise, goes on.

The secrecy of the U2 programme - the elegant silver (then black) aircraft which were supposedly part of the Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Number Two - the sheer endurance of the pilots like Powers, strapped for hours in space suits as they flew over the forbidden territory of the Soviet Union; the machinations of William Fisher, alias Rudolf Abel, who achieved very little despite a reputation for being a masterspy; and Frederic Pryor, the spy who never was a spy. All the components required for a thriller. I also loved the bravado of the American lawyer, James Donovan, Fisher's lawyer, and the woman who briefly stars in the story whose scoop was read around the world - Annette von Broecker, the Reuters "editorial assistant" (not even a reporter) who predicted that the spy swap between Powers and Fisher would take place at Berlin's Glienicke Bridge and while every other reporter was waiting at the more famous Checkpoint Charlie, she rushed off to the lesser known bridge and was in time to witness the handover. But she didn't even get her byline on the story - just a cup of hot chocolate from her colleagues by way of thanks! Another personal ingredient in a wonderful book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most famous Cold War prisoner exchange, explained, March 30, 2011
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This review is from: Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War (Hardcover)
Author Giles Whittell puts it together in a tidy package. He narrates in detail the events behind the most famous prisoner exchange of the Cold War era.

Whittell provides the back-story of each of the three principals: the Soviet master spy, KGB Colonel Rudolf Abel as he was best known (however, he was actually William Fisher); F. Gary Powers, the famous U-2 spyplane pilot shot down over the Urals at 70,000+ feet (who survivied); and graduate student Frederic Pryor, a Yale graduate who studied in East Germany at the precise time the Berlin Wall was erected.

Whittell does a masterful job of integrating the three lives and putting them into historical context of the events and issues of the late 1950's and early 1960's. Time has shown this to be the height of the Cold War era, a time when the Cold War nearly went hot.

Because of the unexpected shoot-down of Powers' U-2 spyplane by Soviet missileers, the key opportunity for down-scaling the Cold War arms race was lost. As Soviet radar had improved and Soviet missiles rocketed to new heights, President Eisenhower's fallback position of "plausible deniability" for overflights was no longer credible. Eisenhower was caught in a "big lie" when both plane and pilot were recovered.

Khruschev responded by disinviting Eisenhower to a much-anticipated May, 1960 summit at Lake Baikal, the primary purpose of which was to try to reign in the arms race on both sides. Eisenower's much ballyhooed "honesty" proved to be a sham.

In the context of the era, the alleged "missile gap" trumpeted by Cold War hawks was embraced "with vigor" by Presidental candidate John Kennedy. In the 1960 Presidential election, this issue alone may have made the difference in Kennedy's slim win over Richard Nixon. Late in the campaign, Nixon tried to distance himself from Eisenhower's policies, seen by some as too dovish. However, Nixon served as Eisenhower's Vice-President for eight years and was unable to put daylight between himself and Eisenhower's policy for reducing the arms build-up, a hoped-for last act as President.

The major consequence of the events of 1960 would be that the arms race would continue to spiral up for decades. With historical hindsight, it can now be seen that Khruschev was ultimately weakened by the events of the successful U-2 shootown. A Soviet triumph initially, the U-2 incident soon became a liability that weakened Khruschev's leadership because Eisenhower had been disingenuous and conniving.

After Kennedy became President, Khruschev would challenge the new President, an attempt to appease his own hawks by secretly shipping land-based missiles into Cuba. These actions would result in the "Cuban Missile Crisis," a critical show-down between the two superpowers, a moment in time when many thought the nuclear clock was closest to striking midnight.

What makes this book such a powerful, good read is Whittell's ability to integrate the lives of the three principals (as events build to the 1962 prisoner exchange) into the larger issues and events of the era. Five stars.
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13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nothing new here, November 10, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War (Hardcover)
The story of Rudolf Abel,one of the most famous Communist spies to have ever worked on American soil,is not new.The KGB spy who was arrested by the FBI and was jailed after being charged with spying in order to get America's nuclear secrets in well documented,and so is his exchange on the famous Glienecke Bridge in Berlin with Francis Gary Powers,the pilot who was shot down while flying over Central Russia. The third person described in detail in this book,Frederic Pryor,was an intellectual who was falsely charged with spying for the Americans. Indeed,some new interviews conducted by the author elaborate a bit on this espionage episode of the Cold War,however one feels that nothing new can be added that was not said before. Vin Arthey's book,"Like Father,Like Son" should be read instead because it offers a much better view on this whole affair. The book discussed here does not have any endnotes or footnotes,which is a shame because one cannot check or verify the various sources cited at the end of the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great, November 5, 2012
This review is from: Bridge of Spies (Kindle Edition)
Disclaimer right up front: I knew basically nothing about all of this, I was not even close to alive near any of these events and had not done any independent research on it before reading this book. I knew a U2 got shot down over the USSR at some point in the Cold War and that is about it...

That being said, I thought this book was great. It reads quickly, keeps you moving while still being informative/somewhat scholarly, and it is, most importantly, entertaining. I found the overall premise really fascinating on its own, but the author does a good job of spicing up duller parts (perhaps a bit liberally, but nonetheless it works). There really is not much more to say, if you find the description interesting then this book will entertain you, it is not a deceptive description of the story. If you think you would find this book interesting, you will...
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book, January 5, 2011
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This review is from: Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War (Hardcover)
I gave this book to my husband for Christmas.
He found this book an enjoyable read . It is abook that keeps your interest to the end.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good read, January 5, 2011
This review is from: Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War (Hardcover)
For most Americans, Gary Powers is simply a name in history. This work charts his life well and talks about the challenges these pilots faced before and during flights, not to mention the problems of bailing out at 70,000 feet. The other two characters are very interesting as well. Paints a nice and accurate portrait of the fear and hysteria in 1950s America.
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Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War
Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War by Giles Whittell (Hardcover - November 9, 2010)
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