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Reviewed by Tom Gauthier for Readers' Favorite
To Climb Cold War Mountains is a work of historical fiction penned by author Gary R. Hall. After World War II, the United States and western allies and the Soviet Union and its satellite states began a struggle for supremacy: the Cold War. Soldiers did not do battle directly, but the two superpowers continually confronted each other through political maneuvering, military coalitions, espionage, and more. On August 13, 1961, the Communist government of East Germany began to build a barbed wire and concrete between East and West Berlin: the Antifascistischer Schutzwall or antifascist bulwark known as the Berlin Wall. Its official purpose was to keep so-called Western “fascists” from entering East Germany, but its fundamental objective was to stop the mass defections from East to West. Military history, the history of conflicts, is often delivered sans the most crucial element: the individual human perspective of emotion, sacrifice, and interaction. Gary R. Hall corrects that omission in To Climb Cold War Mountains. Here he presents a tale of bravery, suffering, loss, and ultimate victory of a group of disparate people, each with a different motivation and skill set, who confront the Communists and prevail. Peter Ackerman and his wife, Trudi, had escaped ten years earlier and had asylum in the U.S. where Peter became a soldier and specialist in behind-the-lines warfare. Now on a Cold War mission to East Germany to rescue an embedded agent working for the West, the story involves discovery by the East German STASI, escape and evasion by the team sent into the East, including Peter and Trudi and the defecting German-born Soviet helicopter pilot. Their escape is nearly foiled by the surprise construction of the infamous Wall.
In To Climb Cold War Mountains, Gary R. Hall has written a straightforward, fast-paced, detail-filled account of a small group of rescuers and rescuees--American, West German, Czechoslovakian, Sudetenland German, and Russian--all with the goal of escaping the horrors of Eastern Europe under the Soviet Communists. They confront their motivations, their strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately their intermingled desires to survive at all costs. A quote from the book lays it bare: “A decision in life … that could not be understood by a world not walking in their shoes…” Some might compare Hall’s work to the stories by WEB Griffin as he finds that fighting both ex-Nazis and the Soviet NKGB can lead to strange bedfellows, as well as the birth of the CIA and the Cold War. But I choose to reach back further to the master of spies and espionage, for Gary R. Hall is worthy of comparison to Ian Fleming and the pace, depth, twists, and turns of 007: James Bond. To Climb Cold War Mountains of course is deeper in human interest and the probing of feelings and emotion and never lacking in action, suspense, and page-turning scenes of danger. Having served in American military intelligence during the Cold War period myself, I can enthusiastically recommend this well-researched and authentic tale.