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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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  •  
    larnole 04-29-17
    larnole 04-29-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Multiple narratives woven into fascinating story"
    What was one of the most memorable moments of Command and Control?

    The accident at Damascus as seen and experienced from many different locations, both in the immediate vicinity as well as hundreds of miles away. From the outset of the book, this is an explosion waiting to happen. The anticipation is built effectively as futile efforts to deal with a potential disaster are attempted and fail.


    Any additional comments?

    The reader will come away with a comprehensive understanding of the history of nuclear/atomic weapons, from the Manhattan Project through WWII and into the 80's. If we the public had known just how haphazardly nuclear weapons were handled and stored, the resulting panic and anger would have had a remarkable affect on politics and society. Command and Control is a fascinating history lesson.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    MareG Kilmarnock, UK 04-27-17
    MareG Kilmarnock, UK 04-27-17 Member Since 2014
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    "Terrifying and informative in equal parts!"

    Make sure you have plenty of listening time in your diary (if you are going to listen on Audible) for this book, it is terrifyingly compelling, particularly as the events detailed in it actually happened. The author achieves an excellent blend of detail and story telling to bring the events to life, as well as building up the level of detail when describing technical concepts at such a pace it's easy to follow. The book takes you on a journey from the concept of atom splitting, testing of the concept, development of the weapons, testing of the weapons, and then the strategy of development, deployment, maintenance, and use - all interwoven with historical events but based centrally around the explosion at Damascus silo. This book will really make you think and if, like me, you are pro-nuclear weapons, your position might not change, but you'll understand the precarious situation the world is in whilst they are in existence. Can't recommend this book enough!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott K. 03-22-17
    Scott K. 03-22-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Highly recommended!"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Micheal E. Weinfurtner 03-21-17 Member Since 2011
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    "Hidden history of Nuclear Weapons of the USA."

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    HibbityJibbit 03-10-17 Member Since 2013
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    "Educational, terrifying, heart-breaking."

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Taylor 02-23-17
    Taylor 02-23-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Incredible History"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Logical Paradox 02-21-17 Member Since 2017

    Irrational, but True

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    "The Best Book on Nukes!"

    If you find the subject of nuclear weapons science, strategy, policy, and/or history even the least bit compelling, then this is the book for you to get!

    I've long been very interested in these areas and I've listened to just about every book that Audible has on the topic. Among those titles have been many good reads and quite a few truly great ones. But among that crowd, Eric Schlosser's book "Command and Control" stands head and shoulders above the rest. This is simply the most comprehensive, wide-scoped, and ambitiously detailed book of its type that I've yet come across.

    The book's central theme is the examination of the nuclear command and control system and the various aspects of risk management and safety that surround the development, deployment, and management of nuclear weapons. The book, however, goes well beyond that focus, to give a real tour de force treatment of nuclear weapons. From the very beginnings of the first nuclear weapons research, to the esoteric theoretical and scientific principles that make these devices possible, to the technical and engineering details of individual weapon system designs and the history of their development, deployment, and intended uses, all the way to the constantly evolving space of nuclear strategy and doctrine throughout every U. S. administration from FDR to George W. Bush... this book seemingly leaves no stone unturned.

    The book is told as a narrative history, or more accurately histories (plural), of many nuclear accidents and mishaps. The well known Damascus Incident of 1980 serves as the unifying narrative, broken up into chunks that are told to the reader in bits and pieces, broken up by the recounting of numerous other incidents and countless historical, scientific, and political tangents that truly flesh out an impressive compendium for those interested in this kind of stuff. That Schlosser is able to tie all of this together in one book, while keeping it cohesive and maintaining a logical flow between its various parts is the mark of a true labor of love.

    Equally impressive is the balance Schlosser is able to strike between a rich intellectual analysis and idiosyncratically personal human moments. The book treat its more complex technical and scientific information with integrity, while gracefully managing to stay deeply in tune with the humanity of the people and personalities in the story. Far from being cold and dry, this book is thoughtful, deeply inquisitive, and continually refocuses itself on quintessentially human problems and factors, all while never flinching or shying away from looking at the facts with a sober and steady view.

    Highly recommended to anyone who's interested in the subject matter or who loves a good narrative full of techno drama and political machinations. also highly recommended for anyone interested in systems analysis and risk management, as the problems and issues that come to light as some of the key conclusions of this book are applicable to so many everyday people in today's world of complex integrated systems.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Brian Ross 02-19-17
    Brian Ross 02-19-17 Member Since 2015
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    "Well written, narrated, and truly frightening"

    This book will SCARE you as only real things in life can. I knew that we had come close to nuclear wars and weapons disasters, but never knew it was THAT CLOSE.

    I would like to think my Dad played a part in our Cold War survival as a Quality Assurance Inspector of munitions.

    COMMAND AND CONTROL is very well narrated, too. Scott Brick is excellent. I will seek out his other narrations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    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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