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One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 3, 2008
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One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War
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For the history nerds out there like myself: this one is spectacular. Underlined. The format is engaging and interesting, not boring at all but certainly designed for people interested in the matter. It was nerve-wracking even when we all know how it ended. One thing that will stay with me forever was how close we were of a nuclear war, but most importantly, that I would not have been because of the big, important pieces of the chess game, like Kennedy or Khrushchev or Castro but because of people with little minds and no capacity of realizing how the consequences of their actions could hurt millions of people.
Being a veteran who served with the Navy photo reconnaissance squadron VFP-62 during that period, I had particular interest in reading the new material uncovered by Mr. Dobb's investigative reporting. VFP-62 photo Crusaders flew the low-level photo missions over Cuba, gathering the intelligence needed to help President Kennedy forge a plan of action that avoided nuclear catastrophe. The discovery of nuclear capable cruise missiles, by VFP-62 photos, revealed new information on how they were to be used against Guantanamo Naval Base and invading U.S. forces. The use of tactical nuclear weapons was not considered by the Pentagon in the initial planning of the intended invasion of Cuba.
The book is spell binding with the fast moving anticipation of a Tom Clancy novel, although in this case, events are real. Mr. Dobbs gets into the minds of the decision makers and probes the many ways the crisis could have ended in a total nuclear annihilation for Cuba, the Soviet Union, and the United States. The accounting of the wayward U2 that strayed over the Soviet Union during the height of the crisis, the crash of a F-106 with a nuclear bomb on board, the shoot down of a U2 over Cuba, the lack of full control over the nuclear weapons, in Cuba, the Soviet Union, and the United States, is a chilling reminder of how close we came to a nuclear disaster. Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, came to believe that only "luck" had prevented nuclear war over Cuba.
After 46 years, many today believe that they know all that is necessary about the Cuban missile crisis. Through television documentaries such as, "Man, Moment, Machine", or "DEFCON 2" by the History and Discovery Channels, or the movie "Thirteen Days", the public is led to a superficial coverage of the most dangerous time in our nation's history. Only a book such as this, written by a skilled writer, can provide that sense of conflict between the military and the civilian control over the use of nuclear weapons. The book provides the most chilling account of the indifference of the Generals and Fidel Castro to the eminent deaths and destruction of millions of lives. This is a must read that is relevant today as it was in 1962.
It is not surprising but still horrifying to learn that several missteps and miscommunications brought us closer to the end of the world. As Jackie Kennedy wrote Khrushchev (paraphrasing), it won't be the big men that cause a nuclear war, it will be the little men.
Thank God cooler heads prevailed. If you want to know more about the Cuban Missile Crisis, consider this a Must Read.
It definitely makes you wonder how very easily this event could have easily turned out very differently, with disastrous consequences that would have changed civilization forever. If you have any interest in the cold war, history, the military, or political drama you will probably love it. This book makes House of Cards look like penny-ante poker -- a real-life political and military drama with the stakes no less than the future of mankind. Well worth the read.