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Doomsday Scenario - How America Ends: The Official Doomsday Scenario Written By the United States Government During the Cold War Hardcover – March 17, 2002

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From Library Journal

In 1998, Keeney (Secret Messages: Concealment, Codes, and Other Types of Ingenious Communications) found a brief document in the National Archives that had recently been declassified, titled The Emergency Plans Book. The document presents the U.S. military's picture of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union and the grim aftermath faced by the survivors. Keeney copied the text, which soon was reclassified in 1999 and remains as such in the archives. Now published with a commentary on various technical terms and concepts, it makes for chilling reading. During the Cold War and the nuclear standoff with the Soviets, the U.S. government assumed that a full nuclear attack would kill 25 million Americans outright. Millions more would die owing to other illnesses, hunger, and exposure. Also, most of the country's economic, transportation, and communication systems would need to be rebuilt from the ground up. Stephen Schwartz of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists provides a foreword that draws comparisons between the government's actions outlined in the document and its reactions to the September 11 terrorist attacks. This dark but important book is recommended for all libraries. Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ., Parkersburg
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Zenith Press (March 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076031313X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760313138
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,641,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

L. Douglas Keeney is the bestselling author of more than a dozen histories of the events that shaped American and world history. He has been well reviewed by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,, Newsweek, The New Yorker, The Courier-Journal, Publisher's Weekly, the Portland Book Review, The San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Fox, and many other media outlets. He is a frequent speaker and keynoter, and a dedicated researcher.

"Keeney's passion is to unearth the lost voices of American history -- the stories of unselfish sacrifice, as he calls them -- and through those voices tell the stories that are the fabric of the nation we know today."

Keeney earned his Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Southern California and was a sponsored post-graduate student at the Institute of Advanced Advertising Studies in New York City. He worked for 18 years on Madison Avenue and Wilshire Blvd before writing his first book. During his years in marketing he was the recipient of numerous awards and served as a board member of several industry associations.

Keeney lives in Kentucky with his wife, the journalist Jill Johnson Keeney. He is a pilot and scuba diver and spends his free time visiting archives to further his research.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on June 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Doomsday Scenario" by L. Douglas Keeney is actually a briefly declassified copy of the "Emergency Plans Book", a high level consideration of the challenges facing the U.S. in a post nuclear strike world, published in 1958. Along with Keeney's extensive footnoting (on opposite pages to the original text) and an excellent introduction by Stephen I. Schwartz, that is the extent of the book; thus, those reviewers who have argued that this book is dry are correct, although I would argue that their focus is incorrect.
Keeney's primary purpose in "The Doomsday Scenario" was to make available to the public a fascinating snapshot of how the government viewed the prospects for survival in a nuclear war as the Cold War approached its height (although, ironically, 1958 was a time when the U.S. actually had legitimate first-strike capability). As such, his notes are largely contextual (he also includes some excellent pictures of test shots, which effectively convey the destruction being so baldly stated in the document) rather than opinion or conjecture. Hence, if you are looking for a fleshed out portrait of a individual survival after a nuclear war, I would recommend fiction such as "Alas, Babylon", "On the Beach" or "The Last Ship". However, if you are interested in Cold War history in general, "The Doomsday Scenario" offers a superb primary reference, and nicely frames the nuclear strategy of the following thirty years.
As for the text itself, the document covers quite thoroughly (albeit at a high level) all of the military and societal implications of a nuclear war. Among the items considered are casualties, accessibility to medical facilities, economic consequences, food production, transportation and communication.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Harold W Miller on March 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Doomsday Scenario" isn't a great work of historical writing, however, it is an explanation of a most important government document. It is the "official" prediction of what might have occurred if the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in full-scale thermonuclear war. The actual document, "The Revision of Emergency Plans Book, which remained secret for over forty years, no doubt, guided the policy making of presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan so it should be read.

If it wasn't for the commentary by the authors, it would be extremely turgid with all of its passive sentences. But this is how the military writes its scenarios. I was fascinated how the military from the extensive above-ground atomic tests found out how nearly impossible it was to decontaminate military installations and naval vessels. Other observations seem to indicate that the government had no feasible way of recovering from World War III.
The book, slim as it is, does show in pictures the effects of nuclear bombs on civilians and civilian structures. The authors do point out that nuclear bombs aren't supernaturally fatal and that they have recognized limitations. The authors also point out similarities to World War III and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. But the postulated thermonuclear war can't really be compared to what happened on September 11, 2001. The potential loss of one in five Americans really would be a disaster that could only visit this nation once.
"Doomsday Scenario" is a important piece of American History.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Adam Brown on March 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
One of a kind book, it covers most aspects of a full scale nuclear assualt by the USSR during the cold war. It provides a grim look at the civilian and governmental aspects but is nearly devoid of even references to the military aspects of such an event, this is due mainly to the fact that section B of the document which the book was written on entitied "MILITARY EFFECTS" was not declassified. The book tells in dry but grity detail the aftermath and the effects on the populace as well as providing information about our and the USSR's nuclear capibilites at the time you sure not to find any where else. It also detials what the countries state of industry as well as the state of resources such as fuels and medical supplies, and attempts to give estimations on efforts to rebuild. To top it off the author tried to tie such an event in with 9/11, these rather poor attempts rarely shed any light on what the mental state of america would be after the bombs dropped. Overall this isnt a mass market book but for enthusiasts on the subject its a must read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Stieglitz on March 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I took my time reading this book and even then it only took me three hours to get through it. The author admits that he debated publishing this in a magazine as it was so short. The book is thin and has wide margins. That said, I'm not disappointed -- I have all of the major works on nuclear weapons and this is a valuable addition to the collection. Not a lot of hard data, but rather an interesting government assessment of what will happen after an attack.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book was hyped in a number of magazines and newspapers that I read. The reviewers seemed to be quite impressed with the book, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.
The book was not impressive. What's in here, you've seen before on numerous History Channel shows and read before in many a book. Many will die, many more will be injured, transportation an industry will grind to a halt, and there will be food shortages. Is anyone unaware of this?
There were very few technical details, which is really why I bought the book. If that's what you are looking for, look elsewhere.
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