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DEFCON-2: Standing on the Brink of Nuclear War During the Cuban Missile Crisis Paperback – January 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (January 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471670227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471670223
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #534,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran military analysts Polmar (Spyplane, etc.) and Gresham (Seapower, etc.) distinguish their examination of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis from scores of other books on the subject by detailing how military maneuvers undertaken months in advance led to the tense showdown. The book's title, which is also the name of a Discovery Channel documentary based on this volume, comes from the acronym for Defense Condition Two, the Unites States' highest state of military alert short of war. The only time America went to DEFCON-2 during the Cold War was on October 22, 1962, the day that President Kennedy publicly denounced the Soviet Union's construction of missile launching sites in Cuba. The authors, who interviewed Russian, American and Cuban military men who had leading roles in the showdown, provide new logistical information on how the Soviet Union moved a small nuclear arsenal to Cuba. They deftly meld accounts of what happened in the sea and air with descriptions of the political and intelligence operations in Washington and Moscow. Thoroughly researched and suspenseful, their book is an excellent choice for fans of Cold War history. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

* Veteran military analysts Polmar (Spyplane, etc.) and Gresham (Seapower, etc.) distinguish their examination of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis from scores of other books on the subject by detailing how military maneuvers undertaken months in advance led to the tense showdown. The book's title, which is also the name of a Discovery Channel documentary based on this volume, comes from the acronym for Defense Condition Two, the Unites States' highest state of military alert short of war. The only time America went to DEFCON-2 during the Cold War was on October 22, 1962, the day that President Kennedy publicly denounced the Soviet Union's construction of missile launching sites in Cuba. The authors, who interviewed Russian, American and Cuban military men who had leading roles in the showdown, provide new logistical information on how the Soviet Union moved a small nuclear arsenal to Cuba. They deftly meld accounts of what happened in the sea and air with descriptions of the political and intelligence operations in Washington and Moscow. Thoroughly researched and suspenseful, their book is an excellent choice for fans of Cold War history. (Feb.) (Publishers Weekly, January 9, 2006)

""DEFCON-2 provides significantly more detail than any existing books on the subject. It's a valuable addition to the library of any intelligence professional."" (Naval Intelligence Professional Quarterly)

""One of the most striking accounts of the Cold War."" (Sea Power magazine)


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Customer Reviews

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I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the world history of the Atomic Age.
LastRanger
I thought that the ananlysis presented in this chapter tied all of the previously written history together into a nice package.
Eric Hobart
From time to time since then more information has come out about what was really happening.
John Matlock

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eric Hobart VINE VOICE on February 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
The authors of this fine book have provided us with an insightful and comprehensive look at how the world was nearly subjected to the catastrophic events of a global thermonuclear war.

Rather than simply providing us with a simple chronology or details of the individual events making up the crisis, Normal Polmar & John Gresham have combined to provide us with a solid explanatory volume of how this crisis nearly devolved into something akin to the end of the world as it was then known.

Providing details based on interviews from participants in the crisis and on recently declassified documents, Polmar & Gresham provide us with details not before seen, but critical in understanding the crisis.

The book does not simply explain the crisis from either the American or the Soviet side, but instead looks at it from three different viewpoints - the Americans, the Soviets, and the Cubans (primarily Fidel Castro). This makes for an enlightening & very useful study of this critical period in Cold War history.

I especially enjoyed the final chapter of the book - the lessons learned from Operation Anadyr (the Soviet code name for the installation of nuclear weapons in Cuba). I thought that the ananlysis presented in this chapter tied all of the previously written history together into a nice package. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a solid explanation of the Missile Crisis and just how close we really did come to global destruction.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dwight Zimmerman on January 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was in the third grade when the events recounted in DEFCON-2 happened. So, I remember the air raid drills of ducking under my desk, and of the sirens, and television announcements, and the many shelter signs that appeared on buildings. Norman Polmar and John Gresham have done a tremendous service in presenting this account of the events that happened behind closed doors, and on the field. This is a benchmark work that pulls you in and places you in the meeting rooms, the cockpits, on the decks, and on the ground. It is a frightening story because they reveal just how close we actually came to nuclear war. The courage displayed by the political leaders on both sides for NOT going to war is thoroughly presented. This is a must read book for anyone who is interested in knowning how governments make decisions in moments of extreme crisis.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on March 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
During the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis I was living in Boston. One day I was flying somewhere and while taxing out to the runway I noticed several B-47 jet bombers, their wings bent down with fuel, and armed guards with dogs walking around them. I realized that this was pretty serious.

From time to time since then more information has come out about what was really happening. And in very recent times de-classification of materials from the time and open discussion with some the people involved make it clear that this was a much more serious incidend that we thought at the time.

For instance there were some 40,000 Russian soldiers on the island that we didn't know about. These soldiers were armed with short range nuclear missiles. They had the authority to use them if the U.S. invaded. A few nukes set off in the midst of an invasion fleet would have made a real mess.

Some of the intelligence reports of the time were real good. Some of them were otherwise. Admidst the bluster and the threatening, cooler heads prevailed and nuclear was was avoided. Never again would the two superpowers come so close. Maybe the truth of this flight was enough to make the leaders of both powers back down.

This is the most complete, the most detailed report of what happened. It is a scary book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Charles G. Jarrells on February 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
The story of the Cuban Missile Crisis has been told in several other books, but DEFCON-2 is the first I've seen that tells the story with warts and all. Yes, the Kennedy Administration stood up to the Soviets, but was forced to do so primarily due to poor intelligence gathering and analysis. In addition, many of the decisions Kennedy and his ExComm team made once the crisis was upon them were, in hindsight, extremely frightening considering how little they knew about what was going on in Cuba. For example, while the US knew about the strategic nuclear weapons in Cuba, they knew nothing of the tactical (battlefield) nukes the Soviets had deployed there. Nor did the US know the Soviets had, at least initially, delegated the decision authority to use those tactical nukes to their senior officer on the island in the event of a US invasion. Had the US invaded, there is every indication the Soviets would have used their tactical nukes both against invading ground forces and USN ships supporting the invasion. World War III??

The authors did a fine job of developing the "characters" in the story, men whose names I remember from childhood, including John and Robert Kennedy, McNamara, Rusk, LeMay, DeGaulle, and of course, Khrushchev. Perhaps the two most intriguing figures in the drama were Vice President Johnson, who was all but excluded purposely by the Kennedys, and SAC commander Gen Thomas Power, who angered President Kennedy with his unilateral, and provocative, actions. Surprisingly, French President DeGaulle fully supported Kennedy and the US, despite friction between the two nations over France's policies in Algeria at the time.
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