• A Brotherhood of Spies

  • The U-2 and the CIA's Secret War
  • By: Monte Reel
  • Narrated by: Paul Michael
  • Length: 14 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.9 out of 5 stars (63 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A thrilling dramatic narrative of the top-secret Cold War-era spy plane operation that transformed the CIA and brought the US and the Soviet Union to the brink of disaster 

On 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.

©2018 Monte Reel (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

A Brotherhood of Spies is an old-fashioned tale of the American ingenuity, resourcefulness and grit that remade intelligence gathering.... Casts intriguing light on this familiar history. The rock-steady, nuanced leadership of Ike and JFK in these crises, supported by deeply experienced advisers desperately seeking to avert nuclear war, is a sobering contrast to today's White House melodramas.” (Edward Kosner, Wall Street Journal

“[A] fresh and fascinating life to an oft-told story by concentrating on the four men who were instrumental in the U-2 story.” (The Washington Times

"A brilliant investigation into one of the most important - and least examined - milestones of the Cold War. With a novelist’s eye for the telling detail, Monte Reel gets into the minds of the remarkably small group of men who masterminded the top-secret U-2 spy plane program, and their coldblooded calculation that, in the event of a mishap, no pilot should survive to tell of it. At the book’s core is the deeply poignant story of Francis Gary Powers, the man who against all odds did survive, and how he and his wife, Barbara, became pawns in an international political chess game. A wonderful read.” (Scott Anderson, New York Times best-selling author of Lawrence in Arabia

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Lessons Learned

Very well written and narrated. The book is long in the telling but very much worth it if you are interested in that era of history. A lot happened during those years from Eisenhower to Kennedy and the book provides details of their thoughts about the program and their interactions with those involved developing the U2 including the film, cameras, and planes themselves. The politics are as interesting as the actual engineering and Area 51. In other words, it is much more than a story about Powers and the U2 although that piece is enlightening in and of itself. The Cuban missile crisis with a downed U2 and a lost U2 show the depth the author has taken for our learning enjoyment. He brings us up-to-date on events that went beyond the U2 and lesson learned. If you want a look inside technology, government, and spying this book is for you!

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Excellent history book.

As a former U-2 pilot I throughly enjoyed this well researched book. The degree of detail in the people and their actions was noteworthy. The history lesson is precise and well told. My only criticism is due to a non-aviator writing about aviation that he doesn’t understand. My argument is with only a few sentences in the whole of the book but stood out to me because of my background in the U-2. If only he had asked a U-2 pilot to advise him. There are 2 types of stall, one is common to people who drive cars, the engine stalls and this can happen to aircraft engines as well but the other stall is when the wing stalls and the wing is no longer provides enough lift to keep the aircraft flying. The author confused these two. This was when he described how the engine needed to be stalled while doing touch and goes. This stall during touch and goes of a U-2 has absolutely nothing to do with the engine. Rather to properly land a U-2, the pilot descends to 1 or 2 feet above the runway and holds the aircraft at that altitude until the airflow slows over wings and the wing stalls and runs out of lift and the aircraft falls the 1-2 feet to the runway. However, if The engine had stalled during the landing there is insufficient airflow through the engine to restart it and there is no starter in the jet. The U-2 would never been restarted during the touch and go process if the engine had quit. Secondly when he mentioned about Tony LeVier’s first flight that yielded blown tires, both front and rear tires, is laughable. The front tires are pneumatic and most certainly were blown out during that landing. However, the tail wheels in a U-2 are solid, an aluminum wheel with a solid plastic tire cemented to the wheel. There is no way the rear tires in a U-2 can blow out! They are solid not pneumatic. Both front tires were blown and they did catch fire but not the rear tail wheel tires.
Please don’t get me wrong the other details that are 99.9% of this excellent book are very correct and provide an excellent historical perspective of the U-2 Dragon Lady and her designer Kelly Johnson. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for its ability to navigate you accurately through the CIA and Air Forces relationship with the U-2. Especially for the behind the scenes explanations and insight into why things were done and when they were done. It is a really excellent book, well researched for the people and circumstances surrounding the U-2. With only 3 or 4 sentences edited about stalling the aircraft and not the engine and blowing out solid tires this would be a world class book on the U-2.

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great historical stories

Fascinating account of the infancy and development of US' high tech espionage programs and the men who directed and executed it.

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