Published Jan 2011
The road out of Berlin was practically deserted. It was a Saturday morning, and cold. The forecast was for snow and the rumours were keeping people in town. All the news bureaus had sent reporters to Checkpoint Charlie because it seemed the obvious place. But the forecast was wrong, and so were the rumours.
Who were the three men the Soviet and American superpowers exchanged on Berlin’s Glienicke Bridge on February 10th, 1962, in the first and most legendary prisoner exchange between East and West? Bridge of Spies vividly traces the journeys of these men, whose fate defines the complex conflicts that characterized the most dangerous years of the Cold War.
Bridge of Spies is a true story of three men – ‘Rudolf’ Abel, a Soviet spy who was a master of disguise; Gary Powers, an American who was captured when his spy plane was shot down by the Russians; and Frederic Pryor, a young American doctor mistakenly identified as a spy and captured by the Soviets. The men in this three-way political swap had been drawn into the nadir of the Cold War by duty and curiosity, and the same tragicomedy of errors that induced Khrushchev to send missiles to Castro. Two of them – the spy and the pilot – were the original seekers of weapons of mass destructions. The third was an intellectual, in over his head. They were rescued against daunting odds by fate and by their families, and then all but forgotten. Even the U2 spy plane pilot Powers is remembered now chiefly for the way he was vilified in the US on his return. Yet the fates of those men exemplified the pathological mistrust that fuelled the arms race for the next thirty years. This is their story.