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The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal: A History of Weapons and Delivery Systems since 1945

3.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1557506818
ISBN-10: 1557506817
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Norman Polmar is an analyst, consultant, and author specializing in naval, aviation, and science and technology issues. He has been a consultant or advisor on naval-related issues to three U.S. senators, the Speaker of the House, and the Deputy Counselor to the President, as well as to the Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He has written or coauthored more than fifty published books and numerous articles on naval, aviation, technology, and intelligence subjects.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (July 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557506817
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557506818
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 1 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Mcdaniel on July 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An OK book, but rather disappointing. This book has a complete list of nuclear bombs and warheads, but focuses on the delivery platforms. It also lacks any information on nuclear physics or weapons design.

Personally, I'd look very, very hard for a copy of Chuck Hansen's "U.S. Nuclear Weapons", as that book remains the best unclassified reference. I had hoped that this work would be able to challenge Hansen's volume, but it falls short.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is essentially a compendium of data that has already been presented in greater detail by other authors - notably Chuck Hansen's Swords of Armageddon, (And his earlier if dated book US Nuclear Weapons) or is readily accessible on the web or from previous published works. Many of the photographs are tired and have been reproduced many times before. There is little new insight or information here for anyone who has looked into this subject. Neither is there any real context about why various nuclear systems were developed. Above all there is no coverage of US nuclear testing which is a fundamental part of this story.

The book does have some value in that it puts all the information about weapons and delivery systems in one place for those unfamiliar with the subject. Also as a reference it is clear in its presentation and is thankfully relatively free of the political bias or moral outrage that bedevils so many books on nuclear history.

Given the authors reputations and previous research in this area, I was disappointed in this book and feel that an opportunity was missed. Certainly classification presents huge challenges in any book of this type, but an updated synthesis of post war nuclear weapons and delivery systems development is long overdue. This book is more of a catalogue than a history and it does not deliver as advertised.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I first opened "The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal," by Norman Polmar and Robert S. Norris, I had a strong sense of déjà vu (all over again). A quick search through my library turned up James Norris Gibson's "The History of the U.S. Nuclear Arsenal," which was published in 1989. At first glance, the two books seem almost the same. Both are similar in size, shape and layout, and both are similarly organized by the general types of nuclear weapon delivery systems--strategic missiles, tactical missiles, strategic aircraft, tactical aircraft, submarine-launched missiles, etc. Gibson's book features many color photos, while Polmar and Norris's is all in black-and-white. Gibson's photos are also generally larger. Page counts are 192 for Gibson and 275 for Polmar and Norris. All in all, we're talking two very similar books on the same subject separated by a time span of 20 years.

How do they differ? First, Polmar and Norris include a far better, 35-page introduction that summarizes the history of nuclear weapons from before the Manhattan Project to after the Cold War ended. Gibson's introduction is a scant paragraph. The new book also has a detailed nine-page index, compared to Gibson's cursory, essentially useless one-pager that doesn't even list weapons by their "B," "Mark" or "W" designations. Polmar and Norris also include a good "Recommended Reading" list for those who want to delve further.

The new book clearly benefits from additional material declassified during the last 20 years. Let me offer two examples. I compared the treatments of the B-43 and the B-61, two weapons with which I am somewhat familiar.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
None of the other reviewers has mentioned the most serious problem with this book: it has a lot of factual errors. Let's look at Chapter 5, "Strategic Missiles" which is a subject I have studied extensively:

p. 165: Kerosene is not a cryogenic fuel and is not stored at low temperature

p. 169: The numbers of Jupiters deployed in Italy and Turkey are reversed

p. 180: The table of RAF Thor squadron assignments is based on the original plan; in reality each three-missile launch site had its own squadron number (and RAF units are never given ordinal numbers like "7th")

p. 181: Titan I was never deployed in soft sites; all squadrons used hardened silos from the beginning

p. 182: Titan II did not have a larger diameter than Titan I -- as shown in the data tables.

When fundamental errors like this are present in a familiar subject area, I cannot trust anything a book says in other areas. This work has a lot of interesting information about obscure nuclear delivery systems that never became operational -- but is it accurate?
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The book is ok. It's mostly a catalogue type book with many black and white photos of weapons and a brief description of the weapon. The book starts out with the basics of nuclear weapons and a short history. The book discusses the nuclear triad. The aurthor discusses different types of tactical and strategic aircract in the fleet. There is also an area which discusses artillary and anti submarine weapons. Throughout the book every weapon is discussed in a brief and detailed manner the book is in a catalogue style form.
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