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


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A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon + A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam (Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books)
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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: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #720,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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?

More About the Author

Neil Sheehan is the author of A Fiery Peace in a Cold War and A Bright Shining Lie, which won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1989. He spent three years in Vietnam as a war correspondent for United Press International and The New York Times and won numerous awards for his reporting. In 1971, he obtained the Pentagon Papers, which brought the Times the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for meritorious public service. Sheehan lives in Washington, D.C. He is married to the writer Susan Sheehan.

Customer Reviews

Sheehan uses his journalistic writing abilities to make Shriever's accomplishments accessible for most readers.
J. Rudy
It took me a long time to finish because I couldn't read more than a few pages at a time if I wanted to really understand it.
Linda Linguvic
Neil Sheehan outlines his story in his recent book A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon.
Andrew Liptak

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Rudy 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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40 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Tom Brody VINE VOICE on September 24, 2009
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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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Gerald Brennan VINE VOICE on October 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's hard to judge this book on its own merits.

A Fiery Peace in a Cold War, Neil Sheehan's new book about American ballistic missile pioneer Bennie Schreiver, is evocative of past triumphs--both in rocketry and book-length journalism. The development of the Air Force's long-range nuclear missiles during the Cold War has long been obscured by secrecy and bluff and political posturing; still, as a book topic, it seems designed to follow up on Richard Rhodes' highly acclaimed works on the Manhattan project and the subsequent development of the hydrogen bomb. And the structure, wherein Sheehan shines a light on the life and career of a heretofore-unknown subject in order to bring out new shapes and shadows in a familiar historical terrain, calls to mind Sheehan's own magisterial work about Vietnam, "A Bright Shining Lie."

It's difficult to oversell that book, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; one of my journalism professors at Columbia, a member of the Pulitzer committee, called it "one of those rare books that enhances the Pulitzers, rather than the other way around." But that book's massive shadow seems to diminish this well-researched and well-written but comparatively pedestrian work.

Sheehan's subject in "A Bright Shining Lie" was a fascinating Army officer and civilian advisor named John Paul Vann whose distinguished military efforts and dark personal life mirrored the well-meaning public rhetoric and duplicitous behind-the-scenes behavior that characterized America's efforts in the Vietnam War. Bennie Schriever, by comparison, is somewhat flat and uninteresting as a subject for biography. His story has a certain God-mom-apple-pie American simplicity to it; he emigrated to the U.S.
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