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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

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  •  
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 03-11-14
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 03-11-14 Member Since 2014

    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

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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
  •  
    Scott Scarborough, ON, Canada 11-15-13
    Scott Scarborough, ON, Canada 11-15-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Engrossing"
    Any additional comments?

    Reads like a thriller. Quite amazing how close we came to nuclear disaster on multiple occasions and those are only the tales from our side. A well told story that interweaves in detail a mishap at an ICBM silo with a history of nuclear weapons safety and close calls. Chilling!

    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
  •  
    MAC 01-17-15
    MAC 01-17-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Great And Scary Book"

    I grew up a hundred miles east of Damascus, AR and I can't say how scary it is to read this book and find out that this happen only a few miles away while I slept one autumn night in 1980. I am thankfully I didn't have tons of radioactive fallout rain down on my family's home while we slept. The author is correct in that if it is possible for an accident to happen it will given enough time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff S. Cupps 01-12-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Very well done"

    I am 53 years old and my generation did not have to go to war. Too young for Vietnam and too old for the first Iraq Iran war. Although the Cold War was not bloodless, at least we did not destroy each other. This book brought some interesting revelation as to the work my father did as an aeronautical engineer at SAC in the 70s. He died when I was 16, so I couldn't hear the stories from him. it's killing you know how close we came to blowing each other up and how close we still are to thermo nuclear devastation in our world.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Hall 11-06-14
    J. Hall 11-06-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Utterly engaging"
    Where does Command and Control rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Ranks in the top 5 books I have ever read.


    What other book might you compare Command and Control to and why?

    The Dead Hand, for it's ability to scare you from the page!


    What does Scott Brick bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The narration is top rate, from deadpan to drama.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    I ended each car ride with a new piece of information, usually one that made me thankful I did not know until that day!


    Any additional comments?

    It takes you until the very end to find out what happens to the main players in the Damascus incident, but you will be glad for the ride. The alternation between local story and world perspective kept me interested until the very end, great job by the author!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    NumenorKnight Erie, PA 09-16-14
    NumenorKnight Erie, PA 09-16-14 Member Since 2015

    Avid reader/listener. Scuba Diver, Civil Engineer, Real Estate Agent and Enthusiast. Univ. of Pittsburgh grad, Pittsburgh Penguins fan!

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    "A Must Read!"

    This book is a MUST read for people that were born after/towards the end of the Cold War as well as people looking to become more informed about the dawning of the age of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons.

    Eric Schlosser takes you through a journey that was very well researched and investigated and keeps you glued to your ear phones! The book starts off with discussing the Damascus Incident in Arkansas and keeps flashing back to the start of the nuclear age starting before the Atomic Bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and taking you up until the "end" of the cold war.

    The book was well put together and there is a reason that it was one of the New York Times Best Sellers list. I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to learn more about the dawn of the nuclear age as well as the Cold War.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emad Khader Qatar 09-13-14
    Emad Khader Qatar 09-13-14 Member Since 2008
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    "History Scarier Than Fiction"
    If you could sum up Command and Control in three words, what would they be?

    Should be compulsory reading for politicians and anyone interested in public affairs (or the survival of the species).Strategic Air Command plans for nuclear war and weapon safety were beyond stupid. These people were certifiable. The author makes complex issue understandable. I just wish there was less detail on the "Damascus accident" and more on how SAC was eventually brought to heel (if indeed the plans have changed).I guess we all dodged a bullet.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Armageddon postponed!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew 08-29-14
    Andrew 08-29-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Fascinating"
    Where does Command and Control rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I assume you are here because you like non-fiction, science, and history.

    I really enjoyed this book and could not stop listening.

    I must make it clear that some my find the granularity of Schlosser's descriptions of the mechanisms of war may too drab or of putting. I found them to be integral to describing how we ended up with the Damascus accident.

    I though Scott Brick's voice was perfect for this Cold War narrative and actually enhances the mood. It almost feels like you are being transported back to the days where you might here a similar voice making an government sponsored announcement regarding a nuclear attack. Again, this teeters on the edge of being too dry, but it worked for me.

    The story and the history is truly fascinating and still very much a part of our lives today.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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