BRIDGE OF SPIES A True Story of the ColdWar
By Giles Whittell Broadway. 274 pp. $24.99
On Feb. 10, 1962, the Soviet Union and the United States exchanged three prisoners on a bridge in Germany and at Checkpoint Charlie in the divided city of Berlin. They were William Fisher, sent by Russia to the United States to revive its World War II-era spy network, which had largely dissolved after the war; Gary Powers, a U-2 pilot working for the CIA who had been shot down over Sverdlovsk; and Frederic Pryor, an American student in Berlin. Their stories are recounted in “Bridge of Spies,” by English journalist Giles Whittell.
Fisher skulked around New York City posing as a painter. He never did any spying, and Whittell admits as much. Pryor, an economics student, was never a spy. That leaves only Powers to justify the book’s exaggerated title.
Yet the sections on the kind of highaltitude flying done by Powers are fascinating. Whittell argues that gear developed for the U-2 flights helped the United States realize that the Soviet Union was not as powerful as it seemed. “The template was Richard III’s horseshoe at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485; without a shoe his kingdom was lost,” Whittell writes. “Without a decent pressure suit . . . the cold war was liable to heat up.”
— Timothy R. Smith email@example.com