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
34. Married. Cats. Lizards. Disney. Ghostbusters. TMNT. Rifftrax. 20,000 Leagues. Nail polish. Fibro sufferer. Likes bees. A lot.
Normally when I think of scary books I think of monsters or serial killers or something along those lines. This book is scary on a whole new level. What it lacks in monsters it makes up for in glitches and close calls that could have literally been hours away from starting a nuclear war. Think about that. A computer glitch could have caused a war. More than once. And I wouldn't be surprised it there were even more that weren't made public. I used to think that government cover ups were just things that over eccentric people ranted about, but clearly I was a lot more naive than I thought I was.
My only criticism is that the timeline skips around a bit, and while I didn't find it too confusing, I did find it annoying. Even with the weird skippy timeline I would recommend it though.
Command and Control provides a frightening white-knuckle ride through the history of the Cold War. Interspersed between an account of the 1980 Broken Arrow incident in Damascus, Arkansas, where a Titan II missile was destroyed during a maintenance accident is a chilling account of the intense and often nonsensical fight between the military and civilian scientists over how best to keep the American public safe from our own nuclear weapons.
The Damascus Incident is told as would be a novel, and when the book jumps back into history it takes on the air of a particularly good nonfiction read. The book is a pulse-pounder and can stand alongside the best Techno-thrillers of Tom Clancy or Michael Crichton.
I can listen to this book again and again and never tire of it. Highly recommended for anyone interested in military or cold-war history.
Software engineer and avid, lifetime student. I like deep, thoughtful non-fiction, and fiction that compliments and enriches it.
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.
Harry Turtledove fan
It's a miracle that we haven't had an accidental full-scale detonation of a H-bomb.
The author tears apart the myth that the military has the utmost safety standards for building, maintaining, storing and transporting nuclear weapons.
Heck, if I run my business the way the military runs its nuclear program, I would be in jail, for a long time.
The author clearly documents the stumbling way the military went through arming the nation to the teeth with dodgy nuclear weapons with a safety record that was criminally insane. The fact that none of those responsible have been prosecuted clearly shows the military-industrial complex power and reach.
Bureaucracy that refused to adopt higher safety standards, refused proper communication protocols during Korean and Vietnam wars, the battle between military and civilians over who should control nuclear weapons, and the stupidity of Lemay who got branded as a Nazi even though he fought against them... all are laid out bare.
I shudder to think what would have happened if an accidental detonation had happened. Heck, if such a thing had happened after 9/11, the US would be at war with nations that had nothing to do with it.
Nuclear safety is a myth.
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.
I found the stories about the near disastrous accidents very interesting.
No, but I found his reading to be most enjoyable.
Not in its current form.
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.
Great story! Command and Control will open your eyes to an element of our world that is rarely recognized. If you enjoy true history and a captivating story, this is a must read! Well written and narrated!
Found this book riveting. As a former SAC trained killer, I found the history within this book very illuminating. The US history of Nuclear weapons is smoothly wound the Damascus incident. So we'll told that I gave up lots of sleep to finished. must read for anyone who served in SAC or the cold war.
Thorough account of nuclear accident with excellent historical context. Maybe this is why we don't hear from extra-terrestrials. We have come very close to wiping out life on Earth several times during the Cold War. This book will further enlighten you as to how close we could have come to various accidents or other disastrous outcomes but for the smallest of chances. Are nuclear weapons too dangerous to possess or use? Any large scale use would devastate the environment to the extent that it largely wouldn't matter who didn't get incinerated. Radiation poisoning, loss of medical services, loss of infrastructure, crop failure, starvation, long term genetic effects - who would risk this fate? Are limited uses of nukes even possible without a retaliatory strike? If used against a non-nuclear armed opponent, what is the justification vs conventional weapons? And while I'm certainly not advocating military control of nukes (too dangerous from a democratic governance perspective, imo) this book certainly underscores the poor choices we have for this country's leadership, considering the immense power our "leaders" possess.
While history of this type can turn out incredibly dry and difficult to finish at times, I found this book incredibly engaging. A friend recommended that I check it out after a brief discussion about nuclear weapons and I'm so glad that I did. I've come out better informed and found the telling of events incredibly interesting.
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