Gauntlet: Five Friends, 20,000 Enemy Troops, and the Secret That Could Have Changed the Course of the Cold War

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9781591145158: Gauntlet: Five Friends, 20,000 Enemy Troops, and the Secret That Could Have Changed the Course of the Cold War

On 3 October 1953, five young men, armed with four pistols, crossed the border from Czechoslovakia into East Germany. Their mission was to deliver an explosive secret message from a Czechoslovak general to U.S. authorities at all costs. The journey was to take three days. Their ultimate objective was to join the U.S. Army Special Forces, then return to liberate their country. What ensued was the largest manhunt of the Cold War.

This fast-paced book tells the exciting story of their plight as thousands of East German and Soviet troops chased them across swampland, forests, and fields for thirty-one days. After surviving several pitched gun battles, gunshot wounds, starvation, and the bitter cold, three finally reached West Berlin. Prior to their escape, they had formed the nucleus of an anti-Communist resistance group, inspired by the testament of celebrated World War II resistance leader, Czech general Josef Masin, father to two of the young men and grandfather to the author of this book.

As she was growing up, Barbara Masin heard parts of this story. Eager to learn more, she began to investigate. The result of her efforts is this thriller, which makes use of eyewitness interviews and extensive archival research in four countries. Her book places events in their historical context and analyzes the bitter present-day controversy surrounding the group’s actions, examining the larger question of individuals making moral choices. It is a dramatic tale of courage and daring against overwhelming odds and a testament to American ideals of freedom.

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From the Back Cover:

"A heart-rending story of a father’s heroic legacy to his sons, Gauntlet delivers human drama on an epic scale. Barbara Masin’s gripping account of five boys who dare to challenge a murderous totalitarian dictatorship shows that committed individuals can prevail, even against mind-boggling odds. This is non-fiction that reads like fiction."--Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

"Gauntlet by Barbara Masin is a story of exceptional courage and heroism in the quest for freedom. The author rigorously researched her subject matter, unearthing secret files and forgotten sources in Czech, American and German archives and interviewing numerous eyewitnesses. The result is this thrilling cliffhanger, which confirms on its every page that true life can trump the greatest fiction. Barbara Masin's Gauntlet is one of the best books I have ever read."--Lt. Col. Eduard Stehlik, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Military Historical Institute, Czech Republic

"How real was "Rollback"? For five young men from Czechoslovakia, who set off in the fall of 1953 to play their part and reach the West via Communist East Germany, it was real yet tragic. The story of their adventurous escape—which set off a massive manhunt by the Communist German regime in the tense weeks after the failed popular uprising that summer—is told with historical detail, engrossing suspense and with lessons that hold true for today."--Dr. Christian F. Ostermann, author of Uprising in East Germany, 1953 and Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Cold War International History Project

About the Author:

Barbara Masin, a resident of Santa Barbara, California, is the daughter of Joseph Masin, one of the five young men featured in this book. She is fluent in English, German, French, and Spanish, and conversant in Czech.

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Barbara Masin
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