A Brotherhood of Spies
A thrilling dramatic narrative of the top-secret Cold War-era spy plane operation that transformed the CIA and brought the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of disasterOn May 1, 1960, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union just weeks before a peace summit between the two nations. The CIA concocted a cover story for President Eisenhower to deliver, assuring him that no one could have survived a fall from that altitude. And even if pilot Francis Gary Powers had survived, he had been supplied with a poison pin with which to commit suicide.But against all odds, Powers emerged from the wreckage and was seized by the KGB. He confessed to espionage charges, revealing to the world that Eisenhower had just lied to the American people--and to the Soviet Premier. Infuriated, Nikita Khrushchev slammed the door on a rare opening in Cold War relations. In A Brotherhood of Spies, award-winning journalist Monte Reel reveals how the U-2 spy program, principally devised by four men working in secret, upended the Cold War and carved a new mission for the CIA. This secret fraternity, made up of Edwin Land, best known as the inventor of instant photography and the head of Polaroid Corporation; Kelly Johnson, a hard-charging taskmaster from Lockheed; Richard Bissell, the secretive and ambitious spymaster; and ace Air Force flyer Powers, set out to replace yesterday's fallible human spies with tomorrow's undetectable eye in the sky. Their clandestine successes and all-too-public failures make this brilliantly reported account a true-life thriller with the highest stakes and tragic repercussions.

A Brotherhood of Spies Details

TitleA Brotherhood of Spies
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 8th, 2018
PublisherDoubleday Books
ISBN-139780385540209
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, War, Spy Thriller, Espionage, Politics, Military Fiction

A Brotherhood of Spies Review

  • J.S.
    January 1, 1970
    This is a fascinating and very readable account of the events surrounding the U-2 spy plane. Focusing mainly on four important characters, Monte Reel shows how the U.S. entered the world of spy-craft during an intense period of the Cold War.In the mid 1950s, there was great concern over the perceived "missile-gap." It was believed that the USSR had developed far more nuclear missiles than the US and that America was at imminent risk. (It must be remembered that many at the time expected nuclear This is a fascinating and very readable account of the events surrounding the U-2 spy plane. Focusing mainly on four important characters, Monte Reel shows how the U.S. entered the world of spy-craft during an intense period of the Cold War.In the mid 1950s, there was great concern over the perceived "missile-gap." It was believed that the USSR had developed far more nuclear missiles than the US and that America was at imminent risk. (It must be remembered that many at the time expected nuclear weapons would certainly be used.) The problem was that there was little evidence or knowledge of the actual state of things in the Soviet Union, and America didn't have a knowledgeable spy network. Instead of developing a human system of informants (which would have taken a lot of time), a technological solution was devised.Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid camera, was enlisted to develop a camera that could produce detailed photos from a great altitude, and Kelly Johnson of Lockheed came up with a very unconventional plane that would fly above 70,000 feet. Richard Bissell of the CIA was charged with overseeing the operation, which was kept out of the military to avoid the appearance of an overt act of war. It was believed that the U-2 would fly so high that it wouldn't be detected by Soviet radar. Unfortunately, the U-2 was detected on its very first flight. And while Soviet fighter jets couldn't fly high enough to shoot them down, Nikita Khrushchev saw the invasion of Soviet airspace as an act of war. But the information gathered by the U-2 flights turned out to be a goldmine of information for the U.S. until May 1, 1960, when U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the USSR. It was believed that neither the pilot nor the plane would survive from such a height, but Powers survived relatively unhurt and many incriminating parts of the plane were recovered. As I said before, this is a very fascinating account. I came away with an appreciation for not only the men who built and flew the U-2 (even though some of them weren't always very noble), but a better understanding of some of the pressures the leaders of both countries faced. And I especially gained a greater appreciation for the plane itself. Several years ago I saw one at an airshow at Edwards AFB (next to an SR-71 Blackbird in fact) and was stunned at what a weird-looking plane it was (both of them, actually). This is a book I highly recommend for those who enjoy reading about the Cold War. (I rec'd an advance copy of the book through Amazon Vine.)
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  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve seen Bridge of Spies. I’ve even seen Spies Like Us. What else do I need to know about the Cold War? But seriously, books like The Brotherhood of Spies are exactly why I read nonfiction. This work cuts through the history books, connects the dots, and fleshes out the story with entertaining profiles, facts, and dialogue.A Brotherhood of Spies by Monte Reel is an expertly-paced look at the origins of the CIA and the development of the U2 spy plane. Told through the lives of the men integral t I’ve seen Bridge of Spies. I’ve even seen Spies Like Us. What else do I need to know about the Cold War? But seriously, books like The Brotherhood of Spies are exactly why I read nonfiction. This work cuts through the history books, connects the dots, and fleshes out the story with entertaining profiles, facts, and dialogue.A Brotherhood of Spies by Monte Reel is an expertly-paced look at the origins of the CIA and the development of the U2 spy plane. Told through the lives of the men integral to the project, Reel injects great tension and verve in his writing. He sets up and follows many vital conflicts of the time through his narrative: McCarthyism, the ethics of spying, traditional cloak and dagger tactics vs technological advancements, and old school military egos vs the young upstart scientists.In light of the perceived missile gap and the panic of the space race, America’s spy craft was just not getting enough information through individual agents and sought to move the game into the air. Reel profiles four innovators of the era who were able to advance aircraft technology and get the pictures that would garner the best intelligence. Polaroid cofounder and optics expert Edwin Land was called upon to create and lead the group. Kelly Johnson was brought in as a expert in aircraft design from Lockheed. After his success in administering the Marshall Plan, Richard Bissell acted as an intermediary between the CIA, the White House and the project. And Frank Powers was the man who flew the plane that was knocked out the air and captured by the Soviets.A Brotherhood of Spies tells the captivating story of the “marrying of espionage with high-tech innovation.” This is an essential read when trying to understand the original mission of the CIA, and the ethical and technological foundations of modern spy craft. Reel’s narrative poses several questions about the modern tactics of war. An enlightening read.Thank you to NetGalley, Doubleday Books, and Monte Reel for a copy for review.
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  • Eric
    January 1, 1970
    TL;DR A Brotherhood of Spies is an information packed, readable history of the early days of the Cold War. 9.5/10 Highly Recommended!Cross posted at my personal blog Primmlife.com. A Brotherhood of Spies The Lockheed U-2 occupies a unique spot in both aerospace and military history. Operated by the US Air Force but property of the Central Intelligence Agency, the U-2 wrested technology from the military to put it into the hands of the fledgling intelligence community. The CIA wouldn’t be the TL;DR A Brotherhood of Spies is an information packed, readable history of the early days of the Cold War. 9.5/10 Highly Recommended!Cross posted at my personal blog Primmlife.com. A Brotherhood of Spies The Lockheed U-2 occupies a unique spot in both aerospace and military history. Operated by the US Air Force but property of the Central Intelligence Agency, the U-2 wrested technology from the military to put it into the hands of the fledgling intelligence community. The CIA wouldn’t be the lovable spy palace it is today if not for the Lockheed U-2. It’s development challenged the aerospace engineering world to produce a high flying, surveillance craft so that the US could spy on the Soviet Union. In order to achieve its mission requirements, it deviated from common military design practices. Quickly the U-2 made a name for itself gathering intelligence and in its high profile crash into the Soviet Union. While the development and operation provide noteworthy stories, it’s the people that drove this project who make the story great. In Monte Reel’s A Brotherhood of Spies from Doubleday Publishing, we learn how “four men working in secret, upended the Cold War and carved a new mission for the CIA.” Mr. Reel builds this well-researched, exquisitely written story around Edwin Land, Kelly Johnson, Richard Bissell, and Francis Gary Powers. I have never been as glued to a history book as I was to A Brotherhood of Spies. It read like a novel while being packed full of information and fascinating character sketches. I cannot recommend Mr. Reel’s book enough. A Brotherhood of Spies satisfied on all fronts: engineering, historical, political, and personal.A Brotherhood of Spies by Monte Reel uses the lives of four men to chart the course of the Lockheed U-2 project and also the early days of the Cold War. Each man is fascinating in his own right, but Mr. Reel delves further into the story. We get information about their families, their colleagues, their processes, their ambitions, and their preferred alcoholic drinks. The meticulous research that Mr. Reel did is evident in the sheer amount of information he provides us about each man, which made the history come alive for me. Of the four, I enjoyed reading about Edwin Land the most, but each was fascinating in his own right. Although the book focuses on these four men, the cast of characters is large but not overdone. Careful attention is paid to everyone that appears in this book. No one, even Nikita Khruschev – who in lesser hands would have been a mustache twirling villian – got the one dimensional treatment. Francis Gary Power Francis Gary Powers, the downed U-2 pilot who was also jailed by the Soviet Union, receives a compassionate portrait in A Brotherhood of Spies. The public and the government treated Powers like a traitor after the incident, and his life never recovered. Since he didn’t suicide and destroy the plane, he failed his mission according to public perception. In reality, he reacted as most people would, and the derision he received was too harsh. Mr. Reel portrayed him fairly and justly by telling Powers story with the high level of scrutiny it needed. The US traded a Soviet spy for Powers, and the movie Bridge of Spies starring Tom Hanks, portrayed half of the other side of Powers trade. Mr. Reel tells Powers side of the story here in A Brotherhood of Spies with much needed perspective. Research I loved this book from page one to the end. The notes are extensive and thorough, but the bibliography shines. Mr. Reel provided a bibliography that is long and filled with enticing works. In a world where I’m rich with nothing to do, I’d read through that list. It gave me a number of potential reads to scratch my Cold War itch. Because the research is so thorough, the book exudes information on each page. Before A Brotherhood of Spies, I didn’t know how the Groom Lake test facility started. Throughout the book, Mr. Reel covers the U-2s usage throughout Cold War history and under different presidents, and due to the extensive research, it feels as if Mr. Reel lived through the time itself. Writing At the beginning of my copy, the publisher asked that reviewers use no direct quotes until the final copy is published. This frustrated me because the book is very quotable. The writing deserves to be excerpted and shared, but I will respect the publisher’s wishes. Even though this is a history book, it read like a memoir written in third person perspective. The narrative hooked me and delivered information without losing tension. I raced home from work to finish the last bits of this book, and I already placed this near the top of my re-read list. Mr. Reel didn’t just convey information in A Brotherhood of Spies; he told the story of the aircraft and the men who brought into being. I tell anyone who enjoys fiction that this is the nonfiction book for them. Conclusion A Brotherhood of Spies leads the non-fiction stack for book of the year for me. It and The Gone World are competing for best book, and the calendar says there’s nine months left in the year. Mr. Reel created a compassionate, holistic look at the America during the Cold War by focusing on the U-2 and the four men who drove its creation and notoriety. A Brotherhood of Spies hooked me from opening and held on till the last sentence. It scratched the itch for a spy thriller while providing historical perspective on tense times in the US’s history. This highly readable account of the development of one of America’s longest operating intelligence gathering aircraft should be widely read. I loved A Brotherhood of Spies and think you will too. Highly recommended!9.5 out of 10
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  • Erik Graff
    January 1, 1970
    This is a recent, page-turning account of the Francis Gary Powers U-2 affair of the early sixties set within the context of a history of the cold war until the seventies. It also includes a review of the early history of the CIA and the biographies of Powers and his wife as well as of the creators of the spy plane, Edwin Land of Polaroid and Kelly Johnson of Lockheed.Way back in grade school, while up at grandmother's Michigan cottage, I read another, early account of the downing of Powers' U-2 This is a recent, page-turning account of the Francis Gary Powers U-2 affair of the early sixties set within the context of a history of the cold war until the seventies. It also includes a review of the early history of the CIA and the biographies of Powers and his wife as well as of the creators of the spy plane, Edwin Land of Polaroid and Kelly Johnson of Lockheed.Way back in grade school, while up at grandmother's Michigan cottage, I read another, early account of the downing of Powers' U-2 over the Soviet Union, a copy of that book having been left behind there by some grown-up guest. This book, however, while being a refresher, is much more thorough than its predecessor, much information withheld then having been revealed since.I strongly recommend this for anyone interested in the history and cultural climate in the United States during the cold war years.
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  • Donna Davis
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars rounded up. Thanks go to Net Galley and Doubleday for the DRC, which I received free and early in exchange for this honest review.The story begins with a US spy plane being shot down over Soviet (Russian) airspace in 1960. This is embarrassing. Eisenhower’s people decide to make something up; after all, nobody survives an airplane crash over dry land. Moreover, the pilot was provided with a cyanide capsule—James Bond style—so even if he survived, he must be dead; likewise, the plane wa 3.5 stars rounded up. Thanks go to Net Galley and Doubleday for the DRC, which I received free and early in exchange for this honest review.The story begins with a US spy plane being shot down over Soviet (Russian) airspace in 1960. This is embarrassing. Eisenhower’s people decide to make something up; after all, nobody survives an airplane crash over dry land. Moreover, the pilot was provided with a cyanide capsule—James Bond style—so even if he survived, he must be dead; likewise, the plane was likely blown to bits, with not much left for the Soviet investigators to learn. Let’s say it was a weather plane. It wandered off course, and those mean Soviets shot it down. But oh dear, this is even more embarrassing: the pilot lived, and he didn’t feel like taking the poison pill. Would you? So the Russians know what he was flying, and they know who he is. They’re telling the world.Just reading the teaser for this book, I was hooked. But just as a brilliant writer can take dross and make a good tale of it, so can an indifferent one take compelling information and make it into a snooze. For me, this was not an entertaining read. I had agreed to write about it, so I had to read it, and it felt like work. I want to be fair here: there are people that will read this book and like it. There’s a lot of technical information about the spy plane, and about many other spy planes, some of which were never built. Apart from the truly bizarre one that was supposed to be landed on its belly (no landing gear), or the ridiculous idea of a nuclear powered plane, I found my attention drifting during these descriptions. But I am not interested in aviation, and if you are, you may like this. The other aspect that causes my attention to wander is the history 101 aspect of it. I’m a retired history teacher. I don’t need an author to walk me through the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Bay of Pigs. However, I note that other reviewers came to this work with no knowledge of either, and they are delighted to be clued in. For newbies, count this as a win.Finally, I have to credit the source work. Reel didn’t take the easy way out. His end notes are first rate.For those that are relatively new to this chapter of American history, this may be a compelling read. For those interested in the history of American aviation, it is recommended. For those that are well read in the field, maybe not. This book is now for sale.
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  • Phrodrick
    January 1, 1970
    Full disclosure first. Mine is an advanced copy of the paperback A Brotherhood of Spies: The U-2 and the CIA's Secret War. It was a prize given to me through a GoodReads give-away. Under the rules and as was explained I was not obligated to read or review the book. It was suggested that an honest review of the book would be considered the polite thing to do.Because this is a pre-release copy: Every page number in the Table of Contents is page 123, it has no index, every foot note is numbered 000 Full disclosure first. Mine is an advanced copy of the paperback A Brotherhood of Spies: The U-2 and the CIA's Secret War. It was a prize given to me through a GoodReads give-away. Under the rules and as was explained I was not obligated to read or review the book. It was suggested that an honest review of the book would be considered the polite thing to do.Because this is a pre-release copy: Every page number in the Table of Contents is page 123, it has no index, every foot note is numbered 000 and there are no pictures. Given the centrality of pictures in this history and the singular role of Polaroid’s founder Edward Land, at least to honor him, the absence of pictures is something the final copy had better correct.Bottom line first. While well written and thought provoking I doubt that there is much new in Monte Reel’s A Brotherhood of Spies: The U-2 and the CIA's Secret War. It is likely best for the reader who needs a single book that provides this level of detail. For any number of specialists, historians, aircraft enthusiasts, even psychology students it is at best an intro.Many of us have read somethings about the U2 shoot down and US/Soviet politics. Many remember the key role of the U2 in the Cuban missile crisis. Back in the 70’s I read Francis Gary Power’s: Operation Overflight: A Memoir of the U-2 Incident and the mirror book on his “trading partner” Abel: Biography of Colonel Rudolf Abel. Besides these books and any of several period histories and biographies; I repeat that there is little new here, except that so much of ‘it’ is collected here.My biggest quibble with the book is the title. We do meet a few men who as individuals and as the inner leadership of the U 2 team achieved some very great things together. There is little of anything that reads like a Brotherhood. Further it is only by playing with words that these people can be described as spies. The afore mentioned Col. Rudolf Abel was a full time spy and enters the book (briefly) because he had been caught at spying against the US for his homeland, the Soviet Union. No sense of comradery or brotherliness is developed other than among the top three people who dominate the book Very little of what the re-patriated U2 pilot would experience speaks of a brotherhood.Of the top three, CIA man Richard Bissell is the most problematic. As the make it happen man of the U2 ‘s design and production days he is a prodigiously effective logistician and master of all tasks. Had this program and the future CIA directorate of Science and Technology been his entire legacy, Mr. Bissell would be another example of an American Heroes none of us know about. Unfortunately he became deeply involved in many covert operations including the almost comic efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro, the Bay of Pigs and a number of other operations that today give the CIA such a mixed reputation. Bissell can be said to symbolize Mr. Reels central question. What are the moral aspects of peace time espionage? Focusing on the U2 itself as the center of this narrative the conundrum become stark.Absent the intel from these overflights, America would not have the hard data needed to relate Soviet intentions to Soviet capabilities. The proof of this is the fact that U2 pictures over Cuba gave America the time to change to Cold War in favor of peace. However the overflights were understood to be illegal and could have been sufficient to start the war they actually helped to prevent. Before leaving the U2, a word about the Lockheed Shunk Works. This place is legendary. Not just because it was, in Area 51, where the U2s were built and proved, in record time, the Skunk Works and its driving chief engineer Kelly Johnson did things for this country that demand respect. In Monte Reel’s book we get a few glimpses into the legitimately ‘Golly Gee!’ achievements of this team, but not near enough. The fact that the U2 began its service life in the 1950s and is still performing duties no drone or satellite can be trusted to achieve is an achievement with few if any parallel in aircraft history. Almost all of us remember, if vaguely a man named Edward Land and his then ground-breaking instant cameras. Few, myself included had heard of him as an American industrial leader with more than just profits as his guide. In Brotherhood. Land stands out as a man conflicted by the duplicity his work in espionage technology entailed, but fundamentally insistent that corporations have a duty to stand for values even at the expense of profit. The second and almost incidental hypothesis in the Brotherhood is America’s emergence as a master in the technology of espionage. Classically the spy’s job was to see, hear and or steal things by going in close or operating through others who would have first person access on the ‘goods’. Along with the U2 and often based on the work /leadership of the same people, satellite intel and drones would get their start.
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  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    I was initially puzzled by the polarized early ratings on this book: five "5s" and five "1s". After looking at some web sites devoted to history of aerial reconnaissance, I found that the U-2 story is one of controversy and strong opinions. My take on the book is that it is an even-handed history of the U-2 program, including the controversies associated with it and the CIA. I found it very interesting, although I am not entirely unbiased. My father's cousin Jack Gibbs was an Air Force jet pilot I was initially puzzled by the polarized early ratings on this book: five "5s" and five "1s". After looking at some web sites devoted to history of aerial reconnaissance, I found that the U-2 story is one of controversy and strong opinions. My take on the book is that it is an even-handed history of the U-2 program, including the controversies associated with it and the CIA. I found it very interesting, although I am not entirely unbiased. My father's cousin Jack Gibbs was an Air Force jet pilot and aeronautical engineer whom I idolized as a kid. Not long ago I learned that from 1956 to 1958 he "served as senior Military Advisor overseeing the U-2 operations, pilot training, research , and development upgrades while reporting to former DNRO Richard Bissel." (quoted from a 2011 National Reconnaissance Office press release titled "NRO Selects 2010 Class of Pioneers." The photo below shows me with cousin Jack in 1956.
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  • LuAnne Feik
    January 1, 1970
    Readers can approach A BROTHERHOOD OF SPIES from one of two perspectives. Monte Reel's book covers development of the first U-2 plane capable of providing detailed photographs while flying, without being shot down, over enemy territory; the interception of the U-2 by the USSR and the capture, trial, captivity, and swap of U-2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers; the use of U-2 planes during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba; and the discovery of the USSR's offensive missiles in Cuba.Those familiar Readers can approach A BROTHERHOOD OF SPIES from one of two perspectives. Monte Reel's book covers development of the first U-2 plane capable of providing detailed photographs while flying, without being shot down, over enemy territory; the interception of the U-2 by the USSR and the capture, trial, captivity, and swap of U-2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers; the use of U-2 planes during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba; and the discovery of the USSR's offensive missiles in Cuba.Those familiar with the basic facts of this history, either because they were alive while they happened or because they picked up a few details from the movie, BRIDGE OF SPIES, will find themselves more interested in the Washington machinations involved then and now. Inter-agency competition to lead the U-2 project pitted the air force and CIA against each other the same way THE LOOMING TOWER recounts competition between the FBI and CIA prior to 9/11 and the same way President Trump vies with the Department of Justice.Khrushchev, often portrayed to the US public in the 1960s as a "blustery clown," in reality was resourceful and a man with a "good sense of political timing...and a touch of the gambler'sinstinct." Might those observations also apply to both President Trump and Kim Jung-un? While technology, as Richard Bissell, head of CIA's covert operations, said, advanced "the art of political warfare", human intelligence gathering continues to be as vital a part of espionage as it was when US Ambassador in Moscow, Llewellyn "Tommy" Thompson, overheard a conversation that disclosed Francis Gary Powers "hit the silk." In other words, he deployed his parachute and might be alive after his plane was shot down.Finally, the media continues to play as much of a role now as it did in Eisenhower's and Kennedy's administrations. The press uncovered false cover stories floated by both presidents, the way it has uncovered President Trump's lies. A less favorable aspect of the media is the way columnists are in a position to express opinions that slant stories. Powers found himself compared unfavorably to the captured Revolutionary War spy, Nathan Hale, and all he went through as a captured U-2 pilot discounted. Also, although President Kennedy authorized the inadequate air cover that doomed the Bay of Pigs invasion, Bissell became the media's fall guy. At times, James Comey must feel like Bissell.
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  • Jim Black
    January 1, 1970
    First I won this book in a Goodreads’s contest. I entered the contest for this book because of my 36 years of military service 6 were spent in active use of the U-2 real time electronic intelligence intercept overseas. I found the book enlightening from a Silent Warrior perspective as it filled in the gaps of what was going on and driving the missions from a higher level than we on the ground were operating at. It gave that “big picture” perspective. I found the book readable, chronologically de First I won this book in a Goodreads’s contest. I entered the contest for this book because of my 36 years of military service 6 were spent in active use of the U-2 real time electronic intelligence intercept overseas. I found the book enlightening from a Silent Warrior perspective as it filled in the gaps of what was going on and driving the missions from a higher level than we on the ground were operating at. It gave that “big picture” perspective. I found the book readable, chronologically detailed and accurate for the most part. A good Cold War primer.
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  • Bob Harris
    January 1, 1970
    Having lived through the shoot-down of Francis Powers over the USSR while flying a U-2, watching the news accounts of his trial and of his later return to the US in exchange for a Soviet spy, it was interesting, informative and enlightening to read the back story. Reel goes to great lengths to elucidate the characters involved in this tale, along with the details of the development of this plane and its successor, the SR-71. This is an engrossing tale of espionage that results in ruined lives an Having lived through the shoot-down of Francis Powers over the USSR while flying a U-2, watching the news accounts of his trial and of his later return to the US in exchange for a Soviet spy, it was interesting, informative and enlightening to read the back story. Reel goes to great lengths to elucidate the characters involved in this tale, along with the details of the development of this plane and its successor, the SR-71. This is an engrossing tale of espionage that results in ruined lives and reputations.
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  • Ietrio
    January 1, 1970
    Well, a sincere title that reflects very well the contents. CIA has naturally all its activities secret. And they have participated in all wars since day one, when OSS was over.Anyway, this is the book of one of those jaded journalists that have to take the few facts they have and twist them into a fairy tale in order to sell. So you get small talk that never existed, aberrant weather details and so on.
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  • Donald
    January 1, 1970
    Fantastic, engaging read. Knowing nothing other than the name Powers and that it was a public mis-step in the Cold War this book really brought to life this episode in our country's history. Highly recommended.
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