What in the World (21)

SPY SWAP ACROSS A BERLIN BRIDGE 10th FEBRUARY 1962

May 1960 an American U-2 spy plane piloted by Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union while on a reconnaissance mission.  Powers ejected and parachuted safely to the ground where he was captured by the KGB.  After extensive questioning he was convicted of spying and sentenced to 3 years in prison and 7 years of hard labour.

Col Rudolph Abel – real name William August Fisher – was a Soviet intelligence officer.  He was born in the UK of Russian émigré parents.  The family returned to Russia in 1921 and Fisher joined the Communist Party and later the OGPU security agency.  1948 saw him in New York serving as a case officer for the ‘Volunteer’ spy network before being betrayed by another Soviet agent in 1957 when he was arrested and sentenced to 45 years in prison.

10th February 1962 the 2 men were brought to separate sides of the Glienicker Bridge which connected East and West Berlin across Lake Wannsee.  As the spies waited negotiators talked in the centre of the bridge where a white line divided East from West.  Finally, Powers and Fisher were waved forward and crossed the border at the same moment.

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