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Command and Control Audiobook

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

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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

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  •  
    S. Smail Summerville, SC United States 12-10-13
    S. Smail Summerville, SC United States 12-10-13

    34. Married. Cats. Lizards. Disney. Ghostbusters. TMNT. Rifftrax. 20,000 Leagues. Nail polish. Fibro sufferer. Likes bees. A lot.

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    "A different kind of scary"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelly M. Imgrund 08-02-15 Member Since 2015
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    "An Exquisite, Nonfiction Thriller"

    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.

    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
  •  
    Anandasubramanian 11-22-13 Member Since 2009

    Love excellent narrators like Ray Porter. Love the Joe Ledger series.

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    "Chilling !"

    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.

    3 of 4 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
  •  
    Kingsley Henely Brook, Australia 01-17-17
    Kingsley Henely Brook, Australia 01-17-17 Member Since 2015
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    "Command and Lack of Control"

    In the 1996 movie "Broken Arrow" Frank Whaley's character says "I don't know what's scarier, losing nuclear weapons, or that it happens so often there's actually a term for it." Now that movie uses the term 'broken arrow' incorrectly, as it is any accidental event that involves nuclear weapons including detonation (nuclear or not), radiation leaks, lose of a weapon etc. but that fact is there are a huge amount of 'broken arrow' or near broken arrow incidents. During the peak of the cold war there were dozens, or even hundreds, each year. Eric Scholosser provides an extremely well researched book covering US military nuclear incidents and 'broken arrow' events. And it is scary.

    The book tells two stories - one storyline focusing on a major non-nuclear explosion of a nuclear missile silo in Damascus AK in 1980, the events causing it, the actions taken during and then after the explosion, the then the other story follows the overall history of USA's use of nuclear weapons and incidents, starting with the Manhattan Project, going through the history of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and through the Cold War. The book outlines many of the research, testing, command structures around the development, command and control of the US nuclear arsenal, and looks into the events and causes of many of the broken arrow events. From old computers, to faulty reporting, to poor wiring, to lack of safety equipment, to human error the causes are often minor or silly, but with near extreme consequences.

    It is worth noting it has always been "near extreme" consequences, with no nuclear weapons going thermonuclear by accident.

    This book, along with James Mahaffey's "Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters; From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima", which focuses on nuclear incidents at power plants and other non-military installations, presents both a scary but interesting view of nuclear power and weapons.

    Well researched and always engaging this book is a great read and certainly with the time.

    This is another book narrated by Scott Brick. At this point I'm just copying and pasting old review of Brick's work. I've never heard of a more divisive narrator. People love him or hate him. I'm on the love him side, but your mileage may vary. He is clear and crisp, well paced and highly engaging while basically disappearing into the book. He is easy to listen to without ever "taking over" the book and drawing you out of it, or allowing you to be distracted.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Thornton Liberty, MO 01-08-17
    Jeff Thornton Liberty, MO 01-08-17 Member Since 2012

    Neurologist

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    "Amazing listen"

    This book provides an unparalleled view of the nuclear era from its inception to its hopeful decline in the future. It details technological and managerial facets of the nuclear age that I never knew or suspected. It is a page turner from cover to cover. I strongly recommend it to anyone, especially those of us with an engineering or science background.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    glass1748 12-16-16
    glass1748 12-16-16 Member Since 2013
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    "Command and Control"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would definitely recommend this book to Baby Boomers. It's a shocking expose of what was going on while we were growing up. It's a miracle that we actually lived this long considering the accidents and false alarms involving nuclear arms.
    Parts of the book may come across as dry due to the fact that Schlosser pays attention to details. I appreciated that as I was able to see what he was describing in my mind's eye.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The players were names I recognized and I could identify where I was in my life at the time all this was happening. President Eisenhower's terms in office were given a whole new aspect that was never taught in school. The same can be said for the succeeding presidents up through George W. Bush. One also finds out about the conflicts and decisions that were kept secret from the public.


    What about Scott Brick’s performance did you like?

    Scott Brick has the smoothest voice! He is a pleasure to listen to.


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

    No


    Any additional comments?

    This is not a book for the faint of heart.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rick 12-16-16
    Rick 12-16-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Boom!"

    I really enjoyed the audio book. If you have an interest in the Cold War, the Air Force, or nuclear weapons I think this is a book worth your time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Levings Silver Spring, MD, USA 12-13-16
    Jim Levings Silver Spring, MD, USA 12-13-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Scariest book I've listened to in a long time"

    After reading this book, I am surprised that we've never had any nuclear accident. The narration of this book is phenomenal.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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