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DEFCON-2: Standing on the Brink of Nuclear War During the Cuban Missile Crisis Hardcover – January 1, 2006
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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.)
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""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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Perhaps one of the most enlightening aspects of the book was the background on Nikita Khruyshev. The bogeyman of my childhood has been redeemed; his was perhaps the coolest, wisest head during a nightmare.
DEFCON-2 tells the story of the "Cuban Missile Crisis." It began in the fall of 1962. Frustrated and threatened by American missiles based in Europe, and seeking both a military and political foothold in the Western Hemisphere, Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev decided to establish SS-4 medium-range and SS-5 intermediate-range nuclear-armed ballistic missile bases in Fidel Castro's Cuba. The clandestine operation was called "Anadyr." It did not remain secret for long. On October 14, an American U-2 spy plane flew a routine high-altitude reconnaissance mission over the Communist island. Intelligence analysts who later examined the photographs from the mission detected the construction of the missile bases. They raised the alarm, and within hours the crisis was on. Before it ended two weeks later, the U.S. and USSR came closer to waging nuclear war on each other than at any other time during the Cold War. The eventual peaceful resolution of the crisis was inarguably U.S. President John F. Kennedy's finest hour, a time in which he and his closest political and military advisors "really earned their paychecks."
There have been many other books about the Cuban Missile Crisis, but none have been as thoroughly researched, detailed and readable as "DEFCON-2." One of the advantages that historians and authors have today is that they can draw on literally thousands of documents that the former USSR has released from the KGB's most secret vaults. These documents reveal the Soviet side of past global events that, for Western researchers, had previously been shrouded in mystery and subject to conjecture. The U.S., albeit at a slow pace and with considerable resistance in some cases, also continues to declassify formerly secret documents. DEFCON-2 authors Norman Polmar and John D. Gresham took full advantage of such sources to construct the most comprehensive history yet of the Kennedy-Khrushchev game of "brinksmanship" that could have ended civilization as we know it. One of the facts that the authors reveal is that we were MUCH closer to nuclear war than previously thought.
With several useful appendices, 40 pages of chapter footnotes and an extensive bibliography, DEFCON-2 can serve as a stand-alone single-volume reference or as an excellent starting point for further research. I highly recommend it for students of the Cold War, for anyone who sweated through the crisis or for anyone who wants to learn a lesson from history.
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