Spy’s daughter visits FMU

Leah Power, Staff Writer

Mary Ellen Fuller, the daughter of James B. Donovan, visited FMU to speak about her father’s involvement with hostage negotiation during the Cold War. She also discussed Steven Spielberg’s new adaptation of her father’s true story in the movie “Bridge of Spies.”

Fuller told everyone about her father’s life building up to “The Bridge of Spies.”

Donovan was a member of the U.S. Navy and was promoted to commander to participate in the Nuremburg Trials. Although Fuller’s father never talked about the trials with her, he did mention the extensive amount of time that the Of ce of Strategic Services (OSS) spent on preparing spies to go into the eld. Donovan’s work with spies taught him how to study human behavior, which proved to be of vital importance during the Cold War.

Years after the trials were over, Donovan began working for the insurance firm Watters and Donovan. The government approached Donovan about accepting the defensive case for Rudolf Abel, the highest ranked Soviet spy of the time. While her father defended him, Fuller remembers her family’s house being picketed, her family being threatened and rumors spreading that her family supported communists. The court pushed for the death penalty, but Fuller said Donovan’s firm belief in justice and the law helped protect Abel and eventually saved the life of Gary Power. In fact, Donovan believed in the law so much that he took the case to the Supreme Court to fight against corrupt practices that led to Abel’s arrest.

Fuller discussed what her father and family endured during the Cold War, and she said the movie left out and altered a few things. Fuller mentioned that while in the movie Abel gave Donovan a painting as a gift, Donovan was actually given an extremely rare book as a token of Abel’s appreciation.

Also, during the movie it was not obvious how the government found out about Abel being a spy, but Fuller revealed the truth. According to her, Abel hid a microphone inside a hollow nickel, and it was mixed up with other change when a boy dropped his money.

Another real-life point that the movie did not show was how Donovan’s family found out about what was really going on while he was “gol ng in Scotland.” One morning at about 2 a.m., the “New York Times” called Fuller’s mother. Up until then, the only people who knew the full extent of what was going on were Donovan, the CIA and President John F. Kennedy. After he finished his work with Russia and Germany, Kennedy asked Donavan to go to Cuba to build confidence with Fidel Castro and negotiate the release of 9,700 hostages from the Bay of Pigs.

According to Fuller, Donovan was able to listen to a person and know what they needed. He then could negotiate, based on their needs, what would work for everyone involved.

All of this information was buried in history until a British screenplay came across Donovan’s name in a footnote. Fuller explained that from there the screenplay made it to Spielberg’s desk. She said Spielberg was a fan of Donovan and jumped at the opportunity to take on the project.

Through the movie- making experience, Fuller said she felt that her father was taking her on one more adventure. Since being released, the movie has brought her closer to many people. Fuller has met Spencer Stone, who took down a terrorist on a French train and one of the survivors of the Emmanuel Church shooting in Charleston, S.C. in July.