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Intelligence philatelic vignettes: a stamp for the Bridge of Spies--Glienicke Bridge.

On January 22, 1998, Germany issued a set of stamps featuring bridges under the motto, "Bridges Bring People Together." One of the bridges, the Glienicke, was also known the "Bridge of Spies." At the northern end (West Berlin) of the bridge a sign warned, "You are leaving the American sector." Under the four-power agreements dividing up Berlin, it was reserved for Soviet and Allied military traffic.

In 1962, downed U-2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers, walked past Soviet spy Rudolf Ahel while he walked north across the bridge. In 1985, twenty-five Western agents were traded on the bridge for four East Bloc spies imprisoned in the U.S.

Bridge crossings such as these were dramatized in the cinema. The drama was always intensified by having the spies exchanged at night with shadowy Soviet personnel lurking in the background. It seemed to take forever for the Western individual to come "in from the cold" as the Eastern individual went back south to the Iron Curtain. In fact the "walks" always took several suspenseful minutes even though these exchanges were almost always arranged ahead of time and were usually done in the daytime.

The original wooden bridge was part of the link between Potsdam and Berlin that Frederick William II developed into a weather resistant road in Prussia in 1795. Growing traffic made it necessary in 1834 to build a broader and more solid stone bridge.

The bridge became something of a bottleneck at the beginning of the 20th century and it was replaced by a broader and higher structure made of steel. Officially, the Bridge of Spies was supposed to be called the Kaiser Frederick Bridge, but most still call it the Glienicke Bridge.

The bridge was destroyed at the end of World War II and was rebuilt in 1949 by Brandenburg, the East German land that extends halfway into the river as a gesture toward German unity. Brandenburg even called it the Bridge of Unity.

Before the Berlin Wall was constructed, the East Germans closed the bridge on May 26, 1952 allowing only vehicles of the four occupying powers to pass. The day after the Berlin Wall fell, the checkpoints at both ends were taken away and thus the bridge became a "Bridge of Unity."

Professor Mark Sommer holds a BA in Political Science from Yeshive University and an MA in International Relations from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He teaches at Stevens' Institute of Technology, Humanities Department. His published works in the Intelligence field include "Getting the Message Through: Clandestine Marl and Postage Stamps" for the October-December 1992 issue of MIPB and "Undercover Addresses of World War II" for the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (Fall 1993). He was also a Bibliographic Contributor to The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives on the life of James Jesus Angleton. His memberships include: Association of Former Intelligence Officers (Academic Member), National Military Intelligence Association, Security Affairs Support Association, National Cryptologic Museum Foundation, the Bletchely Park Trust and the Military Postal History Society, http.//
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Author:Sommer, Mark
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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