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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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  •  
    Victor Williamsville, NY, United States 02-03-14
    Victor Williamsville, NY, United States 02-03-14 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent book on Cold War history"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Command and Control to be better than the print version?

    This book is an excellent telling of the story of the Damascus accident intermixed with a very accurate telling of almost all of the key moments in Cold War history. There are also shocking revelation about how lax nuclear security, safety and command and control were in the US in the early days of the Cold War.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The telling of the Greensboro incident.


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

    Yes. Extremely well written in a manner that really holds your attention.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Smail Summerville, SC United States 12-10-13
    S. Smail Summerville, SC United States 12-10-13 Member Since 2013

    A 33 year old with a painfully short attention span. Audible brought me back to reading."

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    Matt 08-28-15
    Matt 08-28-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Best book I've ever heard/read."

    The narrator has a perfect voice for this book genre. The author has really done his homework and between them have produced an fantastic (1 of a kind) product.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jordan K. Wages 08-20-15 Member Since 2013
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    "It is amazing that we are all still here."

    This was an amazing look not only at the history and statistics involving nuclear weapon accidents, but an incredible look into the human stories surrounding some of our closest calls. I highly reccomend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yon 08-05-15
    Yon 08-05-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Was expecting a boring segment that never came"

    Pretty impressive for such a long book. It would be a good book to actually sit down and read in order to get more out of it but of course, I don't have time for that.

    0 of 0 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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christina HORN LAKE, MS, United States 07-29-15
    Christina HORN LAKE, MS, United States 07-29-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Amazing and Horrifying all in one."

    I loved the storylines that helped deliver the information. Great read and great listen. Beautifully executed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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