• Nuking the Moon

  • And Other Intelligence Schemes and Military Plots Left on the Drawing Board
  • By: Vince Houghton
  • Narrated by: Vince Houghton
  • Length: 8 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Military
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (117 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

The International Spy Museum's Historian takes us on a wild tour of missions and schemes that almost happened, but were ultimately deemed too dangerous, expensive, ahead of their time, or even certifiably insane.

"Compulsively readable laugh out loud history." (Mary Roach, New York Times best-selling author of Grunt and Stiff)

In 1958, the US Air Force nuked the moon as a show of military force. In 1967, the CIA sent live cats to spy on the Soviet government. In 1942, the British built a torpedo-proof aircraft carrier out of an iceberg. Of course, none of these things ever actually happened. But in Nuking the Moon, intelligence historian Vince Houghton proves that abandoned plans can be just as illuminating - and every bit as entertaining - as the ones that made it. 

Vividly capturing the fascinating stories of how 21 plans from WWII and the Cold War went from conception, planning, and testing to cancellation, Houghton explores what happens when innovation meets desperation: For every plan as good as D-Day, there's a scheme to strap bombs to bats or dig a spy tunnel underneath the Soviet embassy. Along the way, he reveals what each one tells us about 20th-century history, the art of spycraft, military strategy, and famous figures like JFK, Castro, and Churchill. By turns terrifying and hilarious - but always riveting - this is the unique story of history left on the drawing board. 

©2019 Vince Houghton (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Vince Houghton’s amazing book is about great imaginations - grand, bizarre and terrifying. These schemes deserved to be left behind, but not forgotten. Buckle your seatbelt.” (David E. Hoffman, best-selling author of The Billion Dollar Spy)

"Nuking the Moon is the most fun I've ever had reading about the human capacity for self-destruction. This book begins with that one time the CIA turned cats into covert listening devices, then somehow gets more amazing. With the eye of a storyteller and the knowledge of a historian, Vince Houghton explores the surprising logic behind some of the military's worst ideas." (Jason Fagone, best-selling author of The Woman Who Smashed Codes)

"No one is better qualified to uncover America’s most hapless spy programs than Vince Houghton, and I had an atomic-sized blast reading this book about exploding Mexican free-tail bats, nuclear mines heated by live chickens, and the many extremely dumb ways we tried to kill Castro. Never has the word 'intelligence' seemed like more of a misnomer." (Josh Dean, author of The Taking of K-129)

What listeners say about Nuking the Moon

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Great mix of Fun and History

I normally don't buy these types of books but I'm glad I did...heard about it on a podcast and have to admit it was fun and informative.

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too much snarkily delivered bias for my tastes.

these are good stories available elsewhere, sans the snark and bias. I'm off to listen to them now.

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Manchild writes book filled with his opinion

I love the topic of this book, but the treatment is juvenile and I can’t listen to it without hearing the voice of the “comic book guy” from the Simpsons overlay the actual narrator. This has way too much of the author’s I’m-a-middle-aged-man-child-living-in-my-mother’s-basement-and-here’s-my-opinion-on-what-the-military-did-wrong and not enough actual information. I gave up on it less than half way though and returned it to audible.

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love this book great research

Really enjoyed all the fun and exciting stories around all these great successes and failures. Worked on our ICBM fleet for a number of years so I really loved the chapters on different weapons.

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Rare instance of the author reading the audiobook being the best idea.

Not only do I love the content, narration, writing style, and rare glimpse into our nation’s history, but this audiobook makes me want to hang out with the author.

Favorite quote, “...because hovercrafts are AWESOME.” Better when he says it by far.

His service to our country - both in Special Forces and CIA - give him the credentials and authority to discuss these matters. His Ph.D. gives him a measured, responsible approach to researching and presenting information. His personality is the icing on the cake.

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A personal delivery of plan B,C,D,-Z

I enjoyed the author's passionate and personal delivery of dry boring facts and dates. He brings content to the reader uniquely. like a guest from the neighborhood over for family dinner being asked " So Vince, tell us about the new book on the government making cats into atom bombs "? And he lets loose with excitement and energy. The author delivers his personal account of his research. I push this issue to potential readers to contrast the reviews that are harshly critical of the author's personal bias, agenda, and telling his story his way. I see the author's delivery as genuine and true to his printed word. I'm a well read cold war history buff and enjoyed listening to him expand on and introduce me to many operations of interest. It helps the $ 20,000 toilet plunger the Pentagon has a line item for make sense. I highly recommend this author's work and will follow him for his next edition. I was very close to skiping this read based on reviews critical of the author's passion for declassified techno-spook stuff that almost was attempted. I offer an A+ job well done.

Jim Boyle KF4COP Raleigh, NC

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Thought provoking and humorous

Definitely recommend it the download if you are suspicious of how the government spends our tax dollars.

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Decent concept ruined by incessant snark

The idea behind this book is terrific. However, there is almost no appreciation (it does come out in a very minute way toward the end) of the purpose behind these projects: scientists trying in every way they can to serve their country and save lives. Not just every story, but seemingly every paragraph is told with sneering condescension. The snark gets old very fast, and it is magnified by the author himself dripping contempt into the narration. Houghton would have benefited from a good editor, and someone else reading the book.

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Good If You Love Military

The narrator is a little casual for the subject matter. Mind you, I'm not looking for a textbook here, I want something readable however his current pop culture references and self-deprecating humor will obsolete this book too soon. Also didn't realize it would be 100% intense military details. This is a military book to be sure. If you like that kind of thing, with all the Pentagon intrigue, troop terminology and inside descriptions of weapons, this is for you.

I handled about half of it, then returned.

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What a great read

One of the best books I have listened to in a while. The authors is clearly very passionate about the subject and it shows. My only gripes are I think it skimped on how ridiculous the nuclear powered aircraft was and that I wish I didn’t get through it so fast. I highly recommend it!