Book Reviews

So many books (you know the rest)

Bridge of Spies
by Giles Whittell
Published in 2010 (I finished it on July 06, 2016)

I actually only bought the book because I had watched the movie and wanted to learn more about the Russian spy and his relaxed “Would it help?” attitude towards the entire situation. The actor in the movie played it quite well; however, the real-life man didn’t have such quotes.

You do get to learn a lot about the event though.

American History is often like a child you’re overall quite proud of. One day, you beam when you learn how he’s stopped another child from bullying a weaker kid, or maybe he’s invented a new cure for an awful disease. Perhaps he did quite well in the Olympics and won the gold in Hockey despite all odds.

But then there are a few things he does that you’re not proud of and wish to soon forget. You find out he hired a kid to spy on the neighbor’s wife. And when the kid got caught, your child disavowed all knowledge of the event and continually lied, allowing the other child to risk death. It’s quite shameful. (Yes, this analogy is a bit odd.)

And therein lies the U2 Spy program and the Gary Powers shoot down and capture. It’s just a sad, shameful event and a blight in US History.

The book covers more about the U2 program and Powers, with a good deal of time spent on Pryor as well. It also suggests that no evidence exists to support that Abel (the Russian spy) actually did any real helpful spying for the Soviets.

So it’s interesting that Hollywood would make that the main focus of the movie. I guess it was an interesting approach, and don’t get me wrong. I love the movie and found it riveting. I just figured it took some liberties with the event—and it does, but it claims only to be based on true events. Fair enough.

According to the book, it was possible that the Soviets were tipped off about what might have been the last U2 mission over Russia; however, it also points out that it’s fairly unlikely. He almost made it, too, but the airspace violations were still wreaking havoc on American/Soviet relations. Both sides were paranoid about the thought of being wiped out by the other. It was a new fear for America, which never really faced a real homeland threat from another nation since the early 19th century. And now missiles could wipe out entire cities? Paranoia trumped trust and integrity. Definitely a blemish on Eisenhower’s time in office too.

Still, fear makes people do bold things. And Khrushchev did claim to have dozens of missiles, if not more. Turns out they are estimated to have had about four of them.

Four.

But what happened happened and the Paris peace talks failed. And the Cold War put a chill on the world for the next 30 years.

And now we have great movies and books filled with clandestine adventures and cloak and dagger operations.

At least some good came out of all that chaos.

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