Could We Have Stopped It?
An Alternate History of Cold War Espionage
From T.H.E. Hill, the author of
The plot is based on a "legend" that was still being told by U.S. Army soldiers in Berlin in the mid-1970s. According to the legend, we had advance knowledge of the wall, and we knew that the East-German troops who were going to build it had been told to halt construction if the Americans were to take aggressive action to stop them.
In Hill's version of the tale, a young American sergeant is the one who gets this piece of intelligence, but he is in East Berlin and has to get back to his unit to report it. The Stasi (the East German secret police) are prepared to kill to keep him from reporting it. They have killed his postmistress, and framed him for her murder. Now it is not only the Stasi, and the Vopos (the East-German "People's" Police), but also the West-Berlin municipal Polizei and the U.S. Army MPs who are after him. It's the day before construction is scheduled to start, and time is running out, so the sergeant is running as fast as he can. The key question of the novel is "even if he is lucky enough to make it back across the border, will anybody in the West believe what he has to say and take action on it before it is too late?" History says that he either didn’t make it, or they didn't believe him, or …. You will have to read the book to find out what the third "or" is.
There is an encrypted mesage on page 112. Try your hand at breaking it in our Cryptologic Contest.
The Day Before the Berlin Wall was written for the same reasons that Frederick Kempe wrote his well-received Berlin 1961 (May 2011). In an interview posted on Amazon.com, Kempe says: "The Cold War is still the least understood and worst reported of our three world wars. Berlin was its epicenter. The year 1961 was the most decisive. I wanted to tell the story of that year. And I wanted to tell it through its protagonists, as rich a cast of characters as history could provide. I also wanted to satisfy my own questions about whether the Berlin Wall could have been avoided—and whether the Cold War could have been ended much earlier. Might we have been able to help liberate a whole generation of Eastern Europeans—tens of millions of people—three decades earlier?"
You can read his whole insightful interview here.