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Awaiting Armageddon: How Americans Faced the Cuban Missile Crisis [Hardcover]

Alice L. George
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 22, 2003 0807828289 978-0807828281
For thirteen days in October 1962, America stood at the brink of nuclear war. Nikita Khrushchev's decision to place nuclear missiles in Cuba and John F. Kennedy's defiant response introduced the possibility of unprecedented cataclysm. The immediate threat of destruction entered America's classrooms and its living rooms. Awaiting Armageddon provides the first in-depth look at this crisis as it roiled outside of government offices, where ordinary Americans realized their government was unprepared to protect either itself or its citizens from the dangers of nuclear war.

During the seven days between Kennedy's announcement of a naval blockade and Khrushchev's decision to withdraw Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba, U.S. citizens absorbed the nightmare scenario unfolding on their television sets. An estimated ten million Americans fled their homes; millions more prepared shelters at home, clearing the shelves of supermarkets and gun stores. Alice George captures the irrationality of the moment as Americans coped with dread and resignation, humor and pathos, terror and ignorance.

In her examination of the public response to the missile crisis, the author reveals cracks in the veneer of American confidence in the early years of the space age and demonstrates how the fears generated by Cold War culture blinded many Americans to the dangers of nuclear war until it was almost too late.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Alice George succeeds in exploring a neglected aspect of the much-studied Cuban missile crisis. By showing how the average American responded to the threat of Soviet missiles in Cuba, her book fills an important gap in the scholarly literature.(Robert A. Divine, University of Texas at Austin) -- Review

Book Description

"[An] admirable social history . . . especially notable for its portrayal of how children were traumatized. . . . George skillfully demonstrates that the crisis was inflamed by the Cold War culture. . . . [A] first-rate investigation . . . Strongly recommended."--Library Journal

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (October 22, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807828289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807828281
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,256,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Side of the Cuban Missile Crisis September 29, 2010
Format:Hardcover
As most readers are aware, the Soviet Union secretly placed missiles with nuclear warheads in Cuba during the early 1960s, touching off what is generally known to history as the Cuban Missile Crisis. For many who lived through it, this was the scariest week of their lives. Nuclear war might have come at any moment.

While scores of books and articles have been written on this event, most have been concerned with the political, diplomatic, and/or military aspects. Alice George in her 2003 book AWAITING ARMAGEDDON chose to focus mainly on the impact of the crisis on the US population. What does she reveal?

Her single most important point is how ill-prepared in civil defense the country was at the time (and after). Preparation to preserve both the civilian population and the civilian government in case of attack was sadly lacking. If a nuclear attack against the US had taken place, the country would have suffered millions and more likely tens of millions of deaths.

Ms. George attempts to explain why people in the US never "embraced" civil defense. Her identifying a conflict between hope and fear leading to "a sort of paralysis" (p. 11) is somewhat murky. She says the public abdicated civil defense concerns to their leaders (e.g. the Truman and especially the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations), nad their leaders failed them.

Oh sure, there existed public fall-out shelters in some areas. But most were lacking not only in food and other necessities, but they even lacked identifying signs. And of course most families did not invest in expensive personal shelters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How we faced doomsday June 17, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The material itself is pretty good, once you get past the nay-saying of the threat of communism and the typical "Red Scare" rhetoric (extremely out of place in a book written about a crisis triggered by the creation of a Soviet missile base within missile range of D.C. and NYC). I had expected a collection of personal anecdotes by Soldiers, civilians, housewives, policymakers, etc. but instead it is a book of contexts and social reactions. How did the state of U.S. civil defense effect government workers? How did mobilization effect Soldiers sent to Florida? How did the media view the Blockade? The author puts all this together in a way that is informative and easy to read. She also has the latest information that we have discovered about the missile crisis, including the presence of Soviet tactical nukes in Cuba.

A good book but it was just short of being an EXCELLENT book. Especially when the author seems to imply that there was somthing wrong with anticommunists... men and women who opposed a system which killed millions in the name of political correctness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nuclear Confrontation 2006? June 17, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just what would the government tell us at the brink of a nuclear war? I believe very little. The intense media we have over relatively small events today would certainly amplify the helpless feeling of not just the US population but of the world about another nuclear confrontation.

What I was looking for in this book was a description of the sheer terror that people might feel if we thought Russia or China was about to attack. Ask someone the sequence of events leading up to a nuclear attack in progress and the answers vary widely. If people knew how bad a nuclear attack, just one warhead, would be and thought it was about to happen they would be dropping on the streets from fright. The author describes this when comparing 1962 to the 2001 terrorist attacks. Compound the feeling most people had that day many times over and you can imagine the emotional and physical affect on people. Next take away the tv, phones, Internet and power as the attack gets underway and life in a digital void is a frightening thought.

The section about effects on children is interesting as some experts told adults to confront and talk about the issue with the children. Others told adults to just shut off the television/radio and don't over stimulate the child. Seemed like good advice for 2001 when children in school were subjected to continuous television replays with aircraft crashing into buildings.

Good topic and book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fear of World's End December 30, 2003
Format:Hardcover
With the precision of a journalist, Dr. Alice George returns a generation of baby boomers to a protracted period of dread. Her delvings into a broad span of source material, scholarly and popular, touch anew the terrors of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a time when people began to see the world as finite. As the current administration searches for weapons of mass destruction and biological killers, those of us old enough to remember the 1960s can recall the helpless feeling of squat-and-duck exercises that had no chance of protecting us from nuclear fallout. Well done, Dr. George.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Buy October 27, 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I sat down to read this book immediately upon receipt and have just come up for air. I could not put it down. (UPS dropped the Amazon shipment at my door this afternoon.) Upon completion of it, I am compelled to share my reaction immediately. For anyone who lived through this period or has an interest in our country's nuclear history, George's work is important. It's something you cannot miss. Many of us boomer have vague but indelible memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis from our youth. We learned then that we lived under (and continue to) the threat of annihilation. For those who share this experience, this book fills in many gaps in our understanding of this pivotal event in our lives and the direction of the country. It is a book long overdue. George does the subject justice. She is a fine writer and has uncovered and woven together fascinating details, developing a vivid picture of life during that week. I hope Alice George is now at work on another such masterpiece. I thank her for this book.
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