Command and Control

Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety
Narrated by: Scott Brick
Length: 20 hrs and 34 mins
Categories: History, Military
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,465 ratings)

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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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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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

15 people found this helpful

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Stunning

What did you love best about Command and Control?

The story brings together the history, science and military facets of nuclear weapons, by building on an actual Titan ICBM accident.

What did you like best about this story?

Having served in the Strategic Air Command and kept B-52s aloft with live nukes, the stories were a revelation - so many accidents and near catastrophes - that one can only conclude we were saved from ourselves.

Any additional comments?

It is hard to appreciate the overwhelming threat that nuclear weapons posed in the 60s and 70s, and the relief at the end of the cold war.

But then, the weapons haven't gone away...

13 people found this helpful

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Holy Crap!!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Great story, great narration. The subject of atomic energy/weaponry does require some pretty indepth explanation so at times it can be boresome while leading up to the meat of the matter.

How we haven't managed to blow ourselves to Kingdom Come is a nuclear accident in itself. Drops, planecrashes, fires, it's not like we haven't tried or actually dared a multiple megaton warhead to detonate in our own backyard.

Scary stuff, I couldn't put it down.
Read this book if you're even remotely intrigued by atomic weaponry, their handling and management throughout the course of the cold war.

10 people found this helpful

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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.

8 people found this helpful

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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

7 people found this helpful

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HOLY F*CK! HOW HAVE WE SURVIVED THIS LONG?

What made the experience of listening to Command and Control the most enjoyable?

It was jaw dropping and terrifying. Stephen King should quit and start writing for Sesame Street because this truth is so much more frightening than any fiction. I often listen to books when I go to bed, and dear god, the dreams I had when I fell asleep when this book was running! But it is also encouraging, in that somebody must have our backs, because it is a flipping miracle when haven't been blow to kingdom come a dozen times over.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Characters? This was nonfiction. I wish it was fiction.

Rescue workers who head back to save people even when doing so is likely to kill them. All those guys! How can you not be moved? In the big karmic book, it offsets those douchebag politicians who are too cheap/stupid to budget safety measures and the military narcissists who think atomic weapons are a good idea. But karma doesn't necessarily save our ridiculous ape species from extincting ourselves.

What about Scott Brick’s performance did you like?

He was clear, had good pacing, and almost matter of fact.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The rescue workers. See above "favorite characters.

Any additional comments?

Read this or listen to it. While we are all sweating it, what with the economic collapse and all the gun violence and the poisoned water and compromised food supply and fracking and what all, you owe it to yourself to learn about the ways we seem to be determined to hasten our own extermination.

11 people found this helpful

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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Rookie Mistakes on Nukes

I like to ask my friends on what they are reading to be current with the times. There are so many good and bad titles out there that it's always a hit or a miss. A few of my friends suggested that I should pickup "Command and Control." I haven't read anything from Eric Schlosser since Fast Food Nation and I haven't read any documentary or informational books in a while.

So, this book was easy to purchase because I enjoy this kind of genre. I always learn something new and don't feel that I'm wasting time on some made up story.

All I have to say is, if the United States couldn't handle their nuclear weapons, I wonder how other countries are failing to handle their's and how many accidents that they are having. It just seems like the United States just decided to build bombs and without any safety procedures.

Even to this day, there are ongoing studies on how safe we are from manufacturing bombs. There are too many rookie mistakes. There is no backup plan like in the movies to disarm a nuke once fire. Damascus was just one accident that we know of and there are many more that we have yet to reveal.

Maybe building life threatening bombs are just too complicated for all man kind.

7 people found this helpful

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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Bombs Away!

This book is not a bomb! It is a book that I could not put down. I was a Nuclear weapons specialist in SAC at Ellsworth and believe everything written to be true. I was actually involved and knew of some "incidents" that went unreported as well. In fact, my 28MMS Commander was called to come out at 3am after we had an electrical fire on the tug pulling 4 nukes after an alert. We put the fire out and no harm done....fire department only blocks away were too afraid to come to the site and help....for 45 minutes. But the Colonel never said good job or thanks for saving the base.....he said "You two need a haircut....and keep this under your hat"! That kind of arrogance and non appreciation for what we had just done caused me to throw up my hands, turn myself in for drugs.....and get out of the USAF. Had drug testing been done, I'm sure 90% of my squadron would still be in jail.....the cops, too! In training another team dropped a bomb a few inches to its stand. We also had a tritium leak and an armed bomb on the flight line. The American people don't know the half. This book tells the best.

10 people found this helpful