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Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety | [Eric Schlosser]

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of America's nuclear arsenal. A groundbreaking account of accidents, near misses, extraordinary heroism, and technological breakthroughs, Command and Control explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: How do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? That question has never been resolved - and Schlosser reveals how the combination of human fallibility and technological complexity still poses a grave risk to mankind.
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Publisher's Summary

A myth-shattering exposé of America's nuclear weapons.

Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of America's nuclear arsenal. A groundbreaking account of accidents, near misses, extraordinary heroism, and technological breakthroughs, Command and Control explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: How do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? That question has never been resolved - and Schlosser reveals how the combination of human fallibility and technological complexity still poses a grave risk to mankind. While the harms of global warming increasingly dominate the news, the equally dangerous yet more immediate threat of nuclear weapons has been largely forgotten.

Written with the vibrancy of a first-rate thriller, Command and Control interweaves the minute-by-minute story of an accident at a nuclear missile silo in rural Arkansas with a historical narrative that spans more than 50 years. It depicts the urgent effort by American scientists, policy makers, and military officers to ensure that nuclear weapons can't be stolen, sabotaged, used without permission, or detonated inadvertently. Schlosser also looks at the Cold War from a new perspective, offering history from the ground up, telling the stories of bomber pilots, missile commanders, maintenance crews, and other ordinary servicemen who risked their lives to avert a nuclear holocaust. At the heart of the book lies the struggle, amid the rolling hills and small farms of Damascus, Arkansas, to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the United States.

Drawing on recently declassified documents and interviews with people who designed and routinely handled nuclear weapons, Command and Control takes readers into a terrifying but fascinating world that, until now, has been largely hidden from view. Through the details of a single accident, Schlosser illustrates how an unlikely event can become unavoidable, how small risks can have terrible consequences, and how the most brilliant minds in the nation can only provide us with an illusion of control. Audacious, gripping, and unforgettable, Command and Control is a tour de force of investigative journalism, an eye-opening look at the dangers of America's nuclear age.

©2013 Eric Schlosser (P)2013 Penguin Audio

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (386 )
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  •  
    Jared Prosper, TX, United States 02-02-14
    Jared Prosper, TX, United States 02-02-14 Member Since 2010

    Software engineer and avid, lifetime student. I like deep, thoughtful non-fiction, and fiction that compliments and enriches it.

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    "Incredible and true"

    Schlosser tells the story of how the US narrowly avoided a Chernobyl-level catastrophe by sheer luck, but also conveys the history of US nuclear weapons, both the public-side - as well as the messy details officials have struggled to keep quiet. In the midst of these two narratives, this book wrestles with the philosophical viability of command and control heirarchies - where they succeed and where they fail. An engaging and entertaining read that is broadly relevant.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Foster Sacrametno, CA 12-15-13
    K. Foster Sacrametno, CA 12-15-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Excellent Reading, Good background, but Disjointed"
    What did you like best about Command and Control? What did you like least?

    The story about the incident was excellent and well detailed. The historical background was well researched. The problem was the segway's within the story were too long and in some cases failed to add real value.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    I found the stories about the near disastrous accidents very interesting.


    Have you listened to any of Scott Brick’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, but I found his reading to be most enjoyable.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Not in its current form.


    Any additional comments?

    The writer appears to have gotten lost in some of the Segway's and after a 30-45min departure from the story you often think:

    1. What was this storyline again?
    2. I am not sure that long a foray added value to the core story.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Minderbinder 07-31-14 Member Since 2012

    Milo

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    Story
    "Connected the Dots!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Command and Control to be better than the print version?

    Yes. I listended to it straight through between work and sleep!


    What did you like best about this story?

    I worked munitions operations in the Strategic Air Command at a B-52 base. I have toured the Nevada Test Site, Chanute Aerpsoace Museum (with the missile maintenance training silos) and Titan II Missile Museum . I had experienced the day-to-day activitiy but I did not know much about the accidents, politics or contractor. I have a much better understanding of the big picture.


    Which character – as performed by Scott Brick – was your favorite?

    The enlisted airmen!


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes


    Any additional comments?

    The bookcover is even the right color. Well done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew San Diego, CA, United States 07-09-14
    Matthew San Diego, CA, United States 07-09-14 Member Since 2013
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    "We missed it by; ( ) that much!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I already have. It is a very well written book that was very informative; aka very scary.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Command and Control?

    The climax of the main story that ran through the entire book. I don't want to ruin it for anyone so I'll leave it at that.


    What about Scott Brick’s performance did you like?

    This book was written for his narration. Well, at least it seemed that way. Narration is such a huge part of non-fiction works for me and he hit it out of the park.


    If you could give Command and Control a new subtitle, what would it be?

    I can't write what I'm thinking because you can't show it.


    Any additional comments?

    If you like historical non-fiction and fairly technical books this book is for you. I will be listening to this one again for sure.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bill Sheffield Village, OH, United States 06-24-14
    bill Sheffield Village, OH, United States 06-24-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Mind Blowing Book"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    It should bevrequired reading to obtain your drivers license, as its that important to every American, as I am convinced after listening to it twice, these scientists and military officers, are beyond incompetent, and may be responsible for over half of the cancer deaths world wide. Hey Folks, We have lost nuclear weapons out there!!!!!!!!!


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The USAF men that gave up their lives in a silo, out in the Plains.


    What about Scott Brick’s performance did you like?

    I believe Scott understands the extreme danger we are in right now, and his material was read and researched to convey the seriousness of the material in this book.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I have never read a book in which I said to myself, "What!" So many times, as it was mind jarring material.


    Any additional comments?

    Why does an American have to read a book to find this out? The Press are not doing their jobs.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer SAN CARLOS, CA, United States 06-14-14
    Amazon Customer SAN CARLOS, CA, United States 06-14-14 Member Since 2009

    Avid marathoner and hi tech market analyst. Lover of Ken Follett, Christopher Moore, Timothy Zahn and any book that pulls me in.

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    "Scared me to the core"

    Wow, fantastic account of our nuclear weapons program to date. But scary as can be in conveying how close we have come to total disaster so many times. The author does a fantastic job of telling the history of the program, the politics behind it and how congress, the culture of the times and budget battles have led us to where we are today. Really fantastic read that I recommend to anyone and everyone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcus Vorwaller Seattle, WA USA 04-15-14
    Marcus Vorwaller Seattle, WA USA 04-15-14 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wow. I had no idea."

    This was the first thing I’ve read that goes into any detail on the situation of the nuclear situation in the US and the world. Wow. I wasn’t convinced I wanted to know so much about missiles and warheads and what it takes to keep them secret and secure, but after I started realizing the scope of what could have gone wrong during the heights of the Cold War the information quickly went from being academic to something much more real.

    The number of accidents involving nuclear warheads is surprisingly high. The internal politics revolving around how these weapons should be used are maddening. The scope of the destruction that would have ensued had the Cold War master plan ever been carried out is literally insane. The fact that so many nations to this day have the power to cause that type of destruction makes the relatively stable state of the world seem tenuous to say the least.

    Command and Conquer starts off slow, but quickly becomes an engrossing freakshow of the insanity of the Cold War and the truly awful power of the superpowers

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 03-11-14
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 03-11-14 Member Since 2007

    50yrs old / audible member for 5 yrs library. 75% nonfiction, 15% classics and 10% fiction. History/Science/biography/Eng.18th cent fiction

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    "SUPERB ON SO MANY LEVELS"

    This is a great read but it will scare the shyt out of you. Nuclear weapons + human error = utter catastrophe. I dont know about you but I always assumed things as dangerous as nuclear weapons were handled with enormous over cautious care. To learn that the people in charge of policy and those that actually handle them are no better than those in your life that you dread lending your car to is a crap your pants revelation.

    This is a very well written book that you will prefer to remember as fiction but is of course non fiction. Scott Brick is an utterly perfect match as narrator making this medicine taste great. The revelatory nature of these facts should put this book front and center of our news media and zeitgeist, but thats not going to happen because were all kept amused with bread and circus and no news media will touch it. If your nerves are already at their limit with the state of things and your plate is overflowing, you may want to pass on the revelations contained here. If you can take it- its a drop jaw fascinating listen

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Clayton Bosler Redondo Beach CA USA 02-15-14
    Clayton Bosler Redondo Beach CA USA 02-15-14 Listener Since 2009

    Clay

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    "Outstanding! Must read book!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Command and Control to be better than the print version?

    No. It is just the version that I had time to "read".


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    This is a really well written and compelling story about one of the most important, but under-appreciated issues of our time. By setting the whole story against the back drop of the Damascus Accident, Schlosser turns the story of command and control of nuclear weapons into a real page turner! I've spent most of my life involved in one way or another with these issues, and I believe that Schlosser nails it, and points to the flaws that persist to this day, and threaten our very existence. Highly recommended.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teresa PALM SPRINGS, CA, United States 01-20-14
    Teresa PALM SPRINGS, CA, United States 01-20-14 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Keystone Cops manage our nuclear arsenal"

    How can anyone trust our government to tell the truth or to manage affairs competently after listening this? It's just a matter of time before we also have "the illusion of health care" and "the illusion of education."
    My only problem was the jumping around. I'm sure it works in the print book, but it got a little confusing in an audiobook. However, Scott Brick did his usual fabulous job.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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