Glienicke Bridge—also called the Bridge of Spies—lay on the western edge of the city of Berlin. Before the wall, it provided Berliners and Potsdamers alike a passage across the Havel River that flows from the Mecklenburg Lake District in northern Germany through Berlin to Havelberg in western East Germany, where it connects with the River Elbe. After the wall was erected, it cut off Potsdam from West Berlin and the bridge became obsolete. Well, almost obsolete as it was still used to exchange spies between the United States and the Soviet Union. But commoners from Potsdam and Berlin, who were used to crossing the bridge to either go to work or visit friends and relatives, could no longer pass.
The Soviet occupation powers closed the bridge, built in 1907, to West Berliners in May 1952. Interestingly, the citizens of East Germany were still allowed to use it, but that didn’t last long. When the construction of the Berlin Wall started on August 13, 1961, they were no longer welcome at the bridge, either.
When James Hart quietly climbed down the riverbank at that moonlit night, he stopped for a second to admire the beautiful architecture of the bridge. He remembered how his dad had taken him to the bridge in the fall of 1945, a few months after the war had ended in Europe, and how they were turned back because the bridge was badly damaged and no one was allowed to use it. In the coming months and years, however, the bridge was rebuilt—although not even God in heaven would know what for, if just less than a decade later it was to be closed again. And now, James Hart, a major of the United States Army, Berlin Brigade Intelligence Division, was getting ready for a dangerous mission under the green, fully functional, but nevertheless a useless bridge, held in the iron fist of the Soviet military.
The time on his wristwatch showed oh-four thirty-four, or four thirty-four in the morning. There’s plenty of time, he thought, when he slowly, without making a sound, slid himself from the soft, grassy riverbank under the bridge. He jumped up to get a hold of the bridge, and pulled himself to the lower bearing of the construction on the southern side of the bridge. He was wearing his camouflage uniform and had taken off all markings of his rank, battalion and country, thus hoping that the green clothing would smoothly merge with the green of the bridge and make him almost invisible. He checked his sidearm, took the safety off, and waited.
He was about to do what the U.S. Army hadn’t tried before. At exactly oh-five hundred hours that morning, a prisoner exchange was to take place on the Bridge of Spies, a top secret one at that—nobody but a few select officers in the Intelligence Division and the C.I.A. knew about it.
The three burnt corpses lay on the cold metal tables at the coroner’s office in the basement of the southern wing of the Clay Headquarters. The coroner, Doctor Vernier, was performing an autopsy on one of them when Hart and Colonel Priest walked in.
“Good day, gentlemen,” the doctor said and put the scalpel down. “How are you doing on this dreadful day?”
“As well as it can be expected,” Hart replied, a considerable note of tiredness and resignation in his voice. “Have you identified the bodies?”
“Yes, Major, I have,” the doctor said, reached to the table behind him and took a dark blue folder. “You were correct, one of the victims is indeed Gabe Morales, God rest his soul. The other one is Alexander Ibarra, and the third one Max Geiger.”
Hart sighed deeply. These were exactly the operatives that were unaccounted for. He had feared the worst, but he didn’t want to think about it before it was confirmed.
It was confirmed now.
Gabriel Morales, 31, of Richmond, Virginia.
Alexander Ibarra, 28, of Pasadena, California.
Max Geiger, 29, of Naperville, Illinois.
Men he had liked, trusted and with whom he’d go to battle any time. Men who had his back and he had theirs.
In every major city in the world, especially the ones with strategic importance, there were, are, and always will be spies. It’s an industry with more employees than the Chinese Army, and it’s not only limited to governments. Private organizations alike steal secrets from each other, and sometimes this kind of espionage is actually good, because it benefits the entire industry and helps companies develop more advanced products and technology ahead of time. Private espionage, especially industrial espionage, is somewhat like free and open market competition that makes companies and enterprises work harder to guard their secrets, and, in the fear of their secrets getting into the hands of their competition, work faster to get their innovation ready for the market. The beneficiary is always the consumer.
It’s a different world for governments, though. National governments protect their secrets to help keep their people safe and secure. And if an enemy knows the secrets of another nation, the nation will automatically be in danger. That’s why it’s every government’s job at utmost importance to keep their secrets to themselves and never let their adversaries get a hold of them.
That doesn’t, of course, mean the nations aren’t trying to steal each other’s secrets. The bigger the enemies, the more spies work against them. And not just more—the more advanced spies, the more advanced techniques are employed, just to weaken their enemy’s ability to defend itself if need be. And never in the history of the human kind have there been adversaries as the West and the East.
The main difference between these enemies, however, was their fundamental difference of understanding human rights and abiding by the common perception of civil liberties. While the western world protected common things like democracy, free will, free speech, people’s freedom to be individuals and their right to live their lives as they see fit, as long as they don’t hurt their fellow compatriots, the eastern world had imprisoned its people under a cruel regime of the Communist Party, the Politburo and their repressive organs, like the KGB, the GRU, the police and the military. That was the ideological essence of the Cold War—freedom versus imprisonment; democracy versus dictatorship.