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The Cold War: A MILITARY History Hardcover – December 27, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0312241834 ISBN-10: 0312241836 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (December 27, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312241836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312241834
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,397,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

ICBMs and MIRVs, duck-and-cover drills and fallout suits, the Warsaw Pact and the Berlin Garrison: it has been over for only a decade, but in many ways the material and symbolic culture of the cold-war era seems ancient. British military historian David Miller documents the military aspects of the decades-long struggle between East and West as if it indeed happened long ago, patiently and thoroughly explaining the complex disagreements among the Allied powers over how the post-World War II world was to be ruled, and how those disagreements led in time to the Iron Curtain, the arms race, and the specter of nuclear holocaust.

Miller takes great interest in the ordnance of destruction, cataloging the orders of battle and assets of the contending powers and their satellites. At times this thoroughness overcomes clarity with a surfeit of acronym-laden detail ("the SS-16 carried a single 1 MT warhead and was essentially an SS-20 with an additional third stage, giving it a range of 9,000 km. This range meant that the SS-16 was classified as an ICBM and was covered by the SALT treaty, whereas the SS-20 was an IRBM and thus was not covered by SALT"). The complex prose notwithstanding, Miller offers a highly useful synopsis of the struggle, closing with an understated observation: "Both sides in the Cold War seem to have realized that a conflict between them would almost certainly have escalated from conventional to nuclear.... In consequence, they kept their heads, and for forty years they kept the arms race within reason--just." --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

The British author of 24 books mostly on military history (The United States and Africa, etc.), Miller has produced a look at the Cold War that is astonishingly light on the broad diplomatic perspective and way too heavy on the technologyAin fact, to call this a military history is to misidentify the book in relation to others that explore the larger events shaping the conflict between East and West throughout the postwar period. This account is chock-full of the development of weapon systems, with little discussion of the strategic and political needs that shaped their evolution, and even less of a look at the theaters in which they were deployed. There is nothing in here of Vietnam, Korea, the Cuban missile crisis, Afghanistan or any of the spy incidents between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Instead, we get tallies of how many nuclear weapons tests were carried out by each side, how many battleships, submarines and planes they had and how they were equipped. Only in the first part of the book does the author show his range of knowledge with a thorough and engaging look at the political landscape of the post-WWII world. Given the subject matter, Miller's writing is necessarily dry, a dull enumeration of various types of weapons and war ships ("The first six SSNs all had the traditional long, thin hull and twin propellers of the German Type XXI"). This prodigious accounting of Cold War weaponry will be of interest only to the serious military scholar and technophile. 16 pages b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steven S. Berizzi on July 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Any author seeking to write a military history of the Cold War has undertaken a very formidable task. The intense and extensive military rivalry - and its related political, economic, and diplomatic competition - between the American and Soviet superpowers and their respective allies lasted nearly fifty years and was "fought" on practically every continent. So the fact that David Miller's The Cold War: A Military History is highly selective in the themes it addresses does not, in principle, trouble me. As a practical matter, that is the only way that a military history of the Cold War could be fit into one volume. But this book is not really history. It is, instead, a collection of relatively short essays, mostly about weapons and weapons systems developed and used to arm the Cold War military forces. As an introduction to those subjects, this book probably has some value, but it is not the narrative of Cold War military events which the title suggests.
I also take issue with the book's narrow focus: According to Miller, "central Europe best symbolizes what went on during the Cold War and is the most likely place for the fighting to have started." That assertion will come as a surprise to men and women who served in the American armed forces in Korea and Vietnam, as well as to their Soviet counterparts who served in Afghanistan. Miller's approach probably works for most of the period called the "high Cold War," which lasted from the first Berlin crisis in 1948 until the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. But from that point in time until the demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989, I would suggest that the Cold War in central Europe was relatively stable.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dwayne A. Day on June 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is more of an encyclopedic listing of major weapons systems deployed by the United States and the Soviet Union than a proper history. Such a reference is certainly needed and this one is pretty comprehensive. Unfortunately, what is really needed is a true encyclopedia, complete with photographs, diagrams and extensive cross-references. This book is not it. One gets the sense that Miller was originally trying to write something similar to the Janes series that he has worked on, but the publisher nixed the idea of a glossy, heavily illustrated reference book and wanted something that looked more like a conventional history.
Miller does provide comprehensive coverage of the topic and provides a lot of interesting details. There are also many useful tables and appendices at the back of the book.
Despite this wide-ranging coverage, however, Miller almost completely ignores the role of satellites during the Cold War. Although highly classified, they played significant roles in treaty verification and also improved stability. For instance, the "missile gap" of the early 1960s was eliminated by the first American reconnaissance satellites and as a result, the United States did not build thousands more ICBMs.
One thing that bothered me was the limited references provided for the information. He has only a handful of references for each chapter, despite the fact that the chapters are packed with information. This makes it impossible to look up further information (or check the information in the book). Where, for instance, does Miller get the reliability rates for the Navy's Polaris missiles? That's a fascinating detail, but I wanted to read more about it. Yet he has only two footnotes for the entire chapter.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John G. Hilliard on April 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The author did a disservice to himself by incorrectly stating in the title of the book that it was a history of the cold war. The book is not, unlike the title might suggest, a history of the cold war. The book does not cover anything much outside of Europe and really does not touch on the political issues of the time.
What the book does give you is a very detailed and interesting review of the U.S., NATO and Warsaw Pact equipment, base structure and high level battle strategies for a war in Europe. The author has done a good amount of research on these topics and presents a very readable rundown of this information. If you are interested in these topics, especially the details on the equipment used then this book can almost act as a reference book. Overall it is a good book, good level of detail and written in a readable fashion.
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By cpt matt VINE VOICE on October 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
I thought this was going to be a review of all of the military battles fought on both sides during the cold war. Instead, it is a very technical, statiscally oriented review of the US and Soviet capabilities during the cold war.

The author reviews events leading up to the creation of NATO and the Warsaw Pacts, the nuclear weapons available to both sides, the difficulties the Allies would have had if the Soviets had chosen to launch a conventional war and how difficult it would have been to keep any war conventional. The European response is discussed as well, their land would have been devestated in any confrontation.

There are many statistics about missles, ICBMs, submarines, planes, ships, tanks. One could take issue with these "facts" but the author admits that the data is based on the assumption of whoever is making the case. In the end, no one could win. I was often reminded of the movie "Wargames" where we learn the lesson you could play a game of global thermonuclear war, but there could never be a winner. A thought provoking book, a hard read due to all of the data and as other reviewers have noted, even then, some areas are overlooked.
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