Fourteen very positive reviews now up at Amazon, but perhaps my favorite--because written by someone in Berlin the day the Wall went up--just posted at Library Thing.
I was pleased when I received a pre-publication review copy of Greg Mitchell's book "The Tunnels: Escapes under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill" for very personal reasons: I arrived in Berlin from the eastern Idaho family farm as a nineteen year old missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) on July 6, 1961, a month and a week before the Wall went up.
On Sunday morning, August 13, 1961, I and my companion spent the day riding our bikes along the perimeter of East Berlin, watching with amazement and consternation as the Wall of Shame was being built. We ended the day at the Brandenburger Tor and witnessed the anger, the frustration, the bewilderment of the citizens of West Berlin as they demonstrated in front of the Tor, screaming at the VoPos, the water cannons, the gun implacements on top of the Tor beneath the Quadrigga -- and yes, at the lack of action by the Allies.
I left Berlin on December 21, 1963, having witnessed the impact of the Cuban Missle Crisis on West Berlin, the famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech given by President Kennedy in front of the Shoeneberger Rathaus, and the sorrow of West Berlin when Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963.
In reading Mitchell's book, it all came back to me in a rush. Mitchell's focus was on the tunnels under the Wall during the first two or three years after the Wall was built, with specific details about what he refers to as the CBS Tunnel and the NBC Tunnel. But he adds to the narrative a richness of detail, much historical background and insightful character sketches of the main players in such a way that the reader can't help but feel he is reliving a human tragedy. Wall of Shame it was indeed!
The shame is also on the side of the Allies of the time - the British, the French and, most especially, the Americans. After Kennedy made significant changes in the plan to invade Cuba, developed under the Eisenhower administration, and thus guaranteeing its total failure, and then being spanked by Russia in the Vienna conference, he allowed Khruschchev to rightly guess that Kennedy, the liberal idealist, would not know how to, nor have the desire to, play hard ball in the Cold War. Sabre rattling, threats, then the Wall, then the Cuban Missile Crisis -- all were invited by Kennedy's weak foreign policy. Granted, he has received much praise for bringing the Cuban Missile Crisis to an end without war and without sacrificing West Berlin, but long after the American People learned of the secret side deal Kennedy had made to accomplish this - the removal of nuclear arms from Turkey. Mitchell brings all of this into play and demonstrates how it all had an effect on West Berlin.
And all the while, a few brave and determined Fluchthelfer were devoting their lives to bringing freedom seekers from East Berlin and East Germany to the West through tunnels, in automobiles, across the Wall in broad daylight - any way that seemed possilbe. And MItchell captures it all well in his new book.