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A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon Hardcover – September 22, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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The Brave Ones: A Memoir of Hope, Pride and Military Service by Michael J. MacLeod
"The Brave Ones" by Michael J. MacLeod
Candid, wise, and powerful, this memoir takes readers on an unforgettable journey through war and allows them to witness bravery firsthand. Learn more | See related books
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The military-industrial complex proves an unlikely arena for plucky individualism in this history of the men who built America's intercontinental ballistic missile program in the 1950s and '60s. Sheehan paints air force Gen. Bernard Schriever and his colorful band of military aides, civilian patrons, defense intellectuals and aerospace entrepreneurs as a guerrilla insurgency fighting Pentagon red tape, and a hostile air force brass, led by Strategic Air Command honcho Curtis LeMay, who advocated megatonnage bomber planes over ICBMs. Sheehan gives a fascinating run-down of the engineering challenges posed by nuclear missiles, but the main action consists of bureaucratic intrigues, procurement innovations and epic briefings that catch the president's ear and open the funding spigots. Like the author's Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning A Bright Shining Lie, this is a saga of underdog visionaries struggling to redirect a misguided military juggernaut, this time successfully: the author credits Schriever's missiles with keeping the peace and jump-starting the space program and satellite industry. Sheehan's focus on personal initiative and human-scale dramas lends an overly romantic cast to his study of cold war policy making and the arms race, but it makes for an engrossing read. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Oct. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

As he did unforgettably in “A Bright Shining Lie,” Sheehan here tells the story both of a warrior and of a war, in this case a cold one. The warrior is Bernard Schriever, a pilot who was “the handsomest general in the United States Air Force,” and the organizing force behind the intercontinental-ballistic-missile program. The I.C.B.M., as Schriever put it, was the weapon with the “highest probability of Not being used.” Schriever is a charismatic figure, and the supporting characters are fascinating, too: General Curtis LeMay, who, after one showdown, challenged Schriever to a judo match; the brothers Ed and Ted Hall, one the father of the Minuteman and the other a Russian spy; and John von Neumann, the theorist of mutual assured destruction. The question that Sheehan can’t quite answer is, perhaps, unanswerable: If, following Schriever’s idea, we built bigger and bigger bombs so as to not blow ourselves up, and we find ourselves still here, is it because we were wise or because we were lucky?

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679422846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679422846
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #834,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joel R. VINE VOICE on December 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
General Bernard Schriever is well-known within the Air Force as the `Father of the Air Force Space and Missile Program'. Neil Sheehan has delivered a comprehensive masterpiece highlighting the lasting impacts `Bennie' Shriever had on America's youngest, yet most technologically oriented military service.

As expected, this book covers the Air Force rocketry and missile programs that were led by General Shriever's Western Development Division. "Dr. Space: The Life of Wernher von Braun" provides an interesting perspective on many of the Army's similar efforts. Sheehan's work is far better in providing the strategic context for how the weapons were deployed, as Ward's book is limited to a biography of von Braun and does not discuss the system deployments at all.

Sheehan uses his journalistic writing abilities to make Shriever's accomplishments accessible for most readers. Personally, I prefer authors who provide a contextual background to understand a person's contributions, so Sheehan's writing style was a good fit for my tastes. He does have a journalistic bias and sometimes trades off complete factual accuracy in order to provide simplified explanations of historic events and technically advanced concepts.

This book covers far more than the AF missile & rocketry programs by including topics such as the expansion of the AF Scientific Advisory Board. It was in his role here that Shriever crossed paths with General Curtis Lemay over such topics as to what kind of refueling system (probe & drogue versus boom) the Air Force should standardize across the fleet. Sheehan's perspective on General Lemay may distress some readers, since he criticizes this Air Force icon.
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Format: Kindle Edition Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A FIERY PEACE IN A COLD WAR by Neil Sheenah is about 506 pages and printed on off-white paper. The book contains 83 chapters. Therefore, even though most of the paragraphs are big chunky things, generally taking up a half page to an entire page, the 83 chapters divide the subject matter, allowing a manageable reading experience.

The book is about General Bernard Adolph Schriever (1910-2005), who was born in Bremen, Germany, and after immigrating to the United States, played a major role in the U.S. Air Force programs for space and ballistic missile research.

The book describes Mr.Schreiver's German-ancestry parents, and attempt to escape from anti-German sentiment by moving to San Antonio, Texas. We learn that Mr.Schreiver's father Adolph perished at the age of 35. "Adolph had his head down inspecting an engine. Someone accidently flipped the starter. The fly wheel fractured his skull . . ."

We learn of Mr.Schreiver's interest in golf, where he "led the field of 54 in the qualifying round to win a pair of golfing shoes from the Broadway Sporting Goods Store and a silver medal from a San Antonio newspaper." The book's early dwelling on golf is not a trivial fact, as golf enabled Mr.Schreiver to hobnob with military brass, and to acquire valuable career connections.

We read that Mr.Schriever attended Texas A & M which, at that time, was all male and was a military school, and that Mr.Schriever was awarded his wings in June 1933.

The first 20 pages or so of this book are simplistic and they read like a book intended for children between the ages of 8-12. But then there is a transition, and after this point we learn about military strategy, leaders in the military, and about various airplanes (advantage and disadvantages of various planes).
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Neil Sheehan's biography of Bernard Schriever gets it right on every level. He captures Schriever's path from pre-World War I Germany to the Texas hill country and into World War II as a young pilot. Schriever's talent for managing large programs and understanding complex technology would eventually make him the driving force behind the USA's successes in developing and fielding strategic missile systems.

Sheehan captures all of the elements needed for this story. This includes the historical context of World War II (and especially the brainpower behind Germany's V-2 program that would eventually disperse to both the United States and Soviet Union), the technological and political challenges of the Cold War (with superb insights into how Schriever's Soviet counterparts were going about their business). Inter-service rivalries between the Air Force and Army over ownership of missiles and rockets? Sheehan nails it. Intra-Air Force rivalries between Schriever's missileers and Curtis LeMay's long range bombers? Sheehan lays it all out. The military and political kabuki dances of big budget programs and untested technologies? Sheehan illuminates them wonderfully (especially during the high stakes decision briefings for flag officers, cabinet members or the President).

Schriever emerges as a military leader whose ability to lead talented subordinates possessing specific skills while standing up to his superiors for the tools he needs to succeed keep his programs marching towards to success. While never in command of large numbers of troops, he effectively managed large (and sometimes tenuously held) budgets and complex programs, got the most out of talented technicians, and successfully navigated the rocks and shoals of defense funding.
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