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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making sense of the Cold War chaos.
Keeney's book was a bit perplexing at first but the point he makes well is that there was more chaos during the Cold War than anyone could imagine. So he jumps from wave heights to thermonuclear discoveries to SAC penetration tatics in a way that makes you feel the confusion and chaos, as if you were there. Well, I was there. Like Keeney says we all had Emergency War...
Published on February 19, 2011 by Donald Farmer

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Anecdotes but no punch lines.
This is more a collection of various anecdotes about the days of SAC, many very uninformative.

As an example, the author gives us a few paragraphs about an American named Harry that turns up in a Soviet Gulag prison camp.
Other than a brief description of a dark blue eyed man who "was said to be good with his fists, and was brought from Berlin", nothing...
Published on March 28, 2011 by Dave in Missouri


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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making sense of the Cold War chaos., February 19, 2011
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This review is from: 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation (Hardcover)
Keeney's book was a bit perplexing at first but the point he makes well is that there was more chaos during the Cold War than anyone could imagine. So he jumps from wave heights to thermonuclear discoveries to SAC penetration tatics in a way that makes you feel the confusion and chaos, as if you were there. Well, I was there. Like Keeney says we all had Emergency War Plans -- and as a Cold War fighter pilot and tanker pilot I saw many sides of the situation, I can say that we were ready to go. Reading this well and exhaustively researched, well written book I can say that Keeney introduces declassified documents in a way that brings the reality of our Cold War to life in a way I could never before share with my family. I'm buying copies for my in-laws! Hooray!
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rise and Fall of the Strategic Air Command, February 13, 2011
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This review is from: 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation (Hardcover)
At first, I found the organization of "15 minutes" to be a little off putting--especially in the early going, the author describes a series of seemingly unrelated events in short, jarring paragraphs, many of which end in a somewhat melodramatic one-word teaser. Keeney does this to set up several different stories at once, which is why you'll wonder why the second paragraph in the chapter on "1945" is about the development of offshore oil and gas drilling in Louisiana in 1907 (it makes sense eventually).

I suspect the book's style owes a lot to Keeney's experience with television documentary (he's a co-founder of The Military Channel), and it actually works fairly well as the book builds momentum. If the book's thesis is that things had to happen at a faster and faster pace to preserve a credible strategic deterrent, the book's short, punchy paragraphs do an efective job of conveying the sense of urgency that must have pervaded SAC for nearly forty years.

"15 Minutes" tells several intertwined stories in parallel, each of which is interesting in its own right: the founding, growth and eventual demise of the US Strategic Air Command (SAC) (which dissolved on June 1, 1992); the development of the hydrogen bomb, the sometimes disastrous outcomes of nuclear "shots" and the surprisingly frequent near-detonation or loss of armed nuclear weapons (including one still missing near Savannah, Georgia); the deployment of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line and associated deep water radar facilities, one of which was destroyed by a rogue wave that killed its crew in January 1961; the ruthless but effective vision of General Curtis LeMay, who created a force so demanding and disciplined that "[n]ot for the thinnest fraction of a second did Washington or Moscow ever doubt that his SAC would do what it said it could do" (p.320); and the descent of SAC into irrelevance as a strategic deterrent, as more and more nuclear weapons were deployed on missiles and SAC assets were "degraded" to drop "iron bombs" on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

All in all, "15 Minues" is a pretty gripping narrative of the Cold War, deterrence, near misses, disasters and unsung heroes. Although there are a few jarring errors in the text, this is only a minor distraction from an otherwise well-told story that does a great service to the men and women who succeeded, against the odds, in keeping the Cold War cold.
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A SAC Officer finds this a great book, February 12, 2011
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This review is from: 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation (Hardcover)
I served in the Strategic Air Command from 1970-1972 being stationed in Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Our base had a wing of B-52s bombers and KC-135 tankers plus Minuteman III missles. The dedication of SAC men/women, officers, and their families was outstanding, the work grueling but indispensible to national defense and detering an expansion minded Soviet Union. General Curtis LeMay of the USAF, and the subject of this 372 page book, is one of this country's most important and influential military figures dating from his ending WWII with bombing of Japan, through breaking the blockaid of Berlin and keeping the peace with the Soviet Union by 'mutual assured destructrion". General LeMay's 2613 bombers and tankers and 27,387 nuclear warheads (vs Soviet Union's 3,300) are the principle reason that the Russians withdrew their missles from Cuba in the 1962 crisis.

This is a good book and deserves a wide audience. This book was reviewed by the Wall Street Journal February 12, 2011 by Arthur Herman and was highly recommended. Americans, past, present and future, owe much to this short, blunt talking, cigar smoking General. This is a fitting book that chronicles the service of Curtis LeMay, an American military giant.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Is The Real Deal, April 1, 2011
By 
Lamblion (Marietta, Georgia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation (Hardcover)
I can't say enough good things about this book.

My dad was in SAC, so I spent the first seventeen years of my life living on SAC bases. Accordingly, I was already familiar with most of the terms in the book, such as Chrome Dome, ORI's, cocked planes, and so forth, as well as having lived on a number of the bases listed in the book's action, such as Offut, Eglin, Ramey, Beale, and several others in between.

Thus, this book to me was like Old Homecoming Week. I literally relived much of my childhood through this book.

And General Curtis LeMay was an eminently beloved commander. I used to hear his name often. In fact, one anecdote which did not appear in the book, but which was told to me by my father and also repeated by other SAC personnel, is quite in character with LeMay. Here it is -

One day after giving a speech on SAC to a group of military personnel, a Colonel approached LeMay and said, "General LeMay, SAC really sounds most impressive. How can I go about getting a transfer into SAC?"

To which General LeMay replied, "Colonel, if you were worth a damn you'd already be in SAC."

I mentioned that one of the bases we lived on was Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico. We were there smack in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Our school gymnasium was converted into a medevac, marines were coming ashore to practice amphibious assaults, the entire wing was either within running distance to their planes or in the air with enough payload to make the island of Cuba totally disappear, and my mother and my sister and myself stocked canned goods and clothes in the trunk of the car, ready to high-tail it at a moment's notice.

I can remember being given permission to observe a few alerts, and standing there watching those B-52's take off one right after the other only seconds apart was simply awesome. Some 120 engines all making the maximum noise at the same time. Ear muffs barely masked the sound. The word "awesome" doesn't even begin to describe it.

Our last base was Beale, home of the SR-71. Generally when the wing was rotated, some of the crews all got transferred to the same base, so a friend I had at Eglin would also be my friend in Puerto Rico.

Fortunately, however, my dad was transferred from his B-52 to SAC Intelligence, hence our transfer to Beale. Had he not been transferred into SAC Intelligence, he might have been shot down over Vietnam, as that happed to his best friend in SAC, the family of which all of us knew. He spent several years in a POW camp before being released.

This book hits the nail on the head about SAC's swagger. Even as a kid you could sense it and feel it and see it.

At any rate, I have said all this simply to say that this book is the real deal, from its content to its staccato writing style. I highly recommend it. Absolutely the real deal for sure.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Anecdotes but no punch lines., March 28, 2011
This review is from: 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation (Hardcover)
This is more a collection of various anecdotes about the days of SAC, many very uninformative.

As an example, the author gives us a few paragraphs about an American named Harry that turns up in a Soviet Gulag prison camp.
Other than a brief description of a dark blue eyed man who "was said to be good with his fists, and was brought from Berlin", nothing more is said about him.
The reader is left wondering who the hell Harry was, and why the author even bothered mentioning him at all.
We spend the rest of the book waiting for the author to give us the rest of the story about Harry, all in vain.
This is a pattern that repeats through the book.

Another very annoying technique used is repeating a word or description at the end of one of these anecdotal passages in a sarcastic manner.
In one anecdote the author describes how the pit area of a bomb had to be cleaned by sticking an arm into the bomb.
The passage ends with "An entire arm".
In another a general describes military action as "damn blunt" and the passage ends with "Blunt".
This quickly gets on the readers nerves.

The book cover title is "15 Minutes. General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation".
Unfortunately, General LeMay makes only brief appearances in the book in the form a short quotes. There's nothing much of the man or exactly how he turned SAC from an ineffective few airplanes into the world spanning force it became under him.

While the book is a fair description of SAC and it's mission, it has a chopped up, disjointed form that leaves the reader wishing it was done in a better format with more meat to the short anecdotes.
The reader is left feeling like he's just read a series of teasers with no punch line.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning History of the Cold War Nuclear Stand-off, March 1, 2011
This review is from: 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation (Hardcover)
Many people now laugh at the paranoia of the 1950s and Cold War era. These people have no idea how close the world came to ending. The ledge it stood on. Nor the potential danger of thousands of nukes around the country and in the skies above. Dozens were accidently destroyed, some lost and never found. A couple detonated. Some, like the one off Alaska & Canada, are still shrouded in the mystery of classic government cover-ups and contradictions. Hundreds of soldiers and civilians exposed to dangerous radiation. It was a dangerous time that still affects us today. We stood up to the Soviets and won. But the costs and dangers were greater than many were led to believe. 15 minutes is a blow-by-blow account of nearly 50 years where the world debated whether or not to destroy civilization. This is history we cannot afford to forget. See also The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy, Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed and Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Germ Laboratory for your Cold War studies.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good history book with potential to be much better, March 10, 2011
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This review is from: 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation (Hardcover)
This is a great history of SAC and the US nuclear weapons programs. It could have been a much better book. It is poorly organized into little snippets of history that bounce around without a good flow or cohesiveness. I also noticed Edward Teller, father of the H-bomb referred to as Edwin Teller. Probably not a mistake one wants to make when the book is ABOUT nuclear weapons. Defintely worth a read if you have an interest in this very dark part of US history.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A nuclear disappointment, September 26, 2011
This review is from: 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation (Hardcover)
This book is a big disappointment. Keeney starts out well with a promise to reveal a rather large quantity of recently declassified DoD documentation regarding Lt Gen Curtis LeMay , SAC, and the prep for atomic Armageddon. Unfortunately, his effort basically reads like a long winded and poorly documented Wikipedia entry. Citations are almost nonexistent and at one point the phrase, "a reporter of the time" is given as a background source, which is totally outrageous. I would have appreciated some minimal ability to check his storyline. Perhaps the most glaring annoyance is Keeney's continual use of staccato one liners and short space offset paragraphs, a juvenile writing style that is crying for an editor's blue pencil. As a final frustration, I found that this book isn't really about LeMay at all; when mentioned at all, the General comes across as a two dimensional cardboard cutout.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No thesis or cohesion, just a collection of anecdotes, May 19, 2011
By 
Koba (Reston, VA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation (Hardcover)
Another one-star reviewer, Liberty Skier, pretty much nails it with his review. This book is "a long series of anecdotes and vignettes loosely arranged in chronological order" and appears to be a "chronologically arranged research notes that the author either didn't, or couldn't, coalesce into an ordered whole". The author often ends his anecdotes with a short sentence or fragment, sometimes starting with a conjunction (e.g., "But SAC had none"). This habit gets extremely tiresome after the umpteenth repetition.

The author devotes entirely too much attention to the "Texas Towers" (radar surveillance platforms the Air Force briefly used off the East Coast). Why he wants to say so much about this relatively insignificant episode is extremely unclear. He should either have written his entire book about the Texas Towers or greatly reduced the discussion of the Texas Towers in a book about Strategic Air Command.

One can't really expect such an incoherent work to conclude coherently, but it is worth noting that the vast majority of the book covers 1945 to about 1965, and then ludicrously covers 1965 to 1991 in a few pages. There is a LOT more to say about Strategic Air Command from 1965 to 1991, but this author was unable or unwilling to say it.

There are one or two nuggets in here, but not enough to make the purchase price worthwhile. At least it was easy to read on the subway, because you could pick it up and read each short anecdote without having to remember the author's argument -- since he doesn't have one! Indeed, you could read this book one randomly selected page at a time, rather than from start to finish, that is how lacking in overall structure it is.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Age of Anxiety--With Good Reason, March 6, 2011
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This review is from: 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation (Hardcover)
I just finished L. Douglas Keeney's <em>Fifteen Minutes General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Anhiliation.</em> While it was not a particularly restful book, it was fascinating. Keeney inter-weaves several story lines, and the one about the huge "Texas Towers", the radar early warning stations built on oil-rig platforms I think detracted from the overall story.

I knew that SAC flew missions that had airplanes constantly in the air with armed nuclear weapons. I knew that two had been lost near Palomares, Spain after a mid-air with a tanker, but I did not know about the other three that were also lost. SAC war planners developed plans for many, many targets in the Soviet Union, and some cities would be hit with four thermonuclear weapons.

More worrisome was learning that the first Soviet strike was thought to occur when megaton bombs went off in the diplomatic missions to the UN and the Soviet Embassy in Washington DC. The contingencies for that involved a missile response on a dead man switch. Between this knowledge and the projected casualty figures (50-75 million Americans) you really begin to understand why the Cold War was called the "Age of Anxiety."
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15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation
15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation by L. Douglas Keeney (Hardcover - February 1, 2011)
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