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The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal: A History of Weapons and Delivery Systems since 1945
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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.
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.
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.Read more ›
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?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a useful book, but note some of the criticisms offered in other reviews. There is not much narration, it's mostly entries under bombs/design, aircraft, missiles, tactical... Read morePublished 16 months ago by lyndonbrecht
Comprehensive and thorough in every detail!!!! Excellent information well presented!!!!Published 23 months ago by Mustang Rider
I've been a Polmar fan for over 30 years and own others of his work. This is volume is thin on details but thorough in the scope of weapons systems covered. Read morePublished on February 20, 2014 by el jefe
As the book says. Very good on delivery systems. It Just touches on warhead design and developement but there are other books that cover that. Read morePublished on January 14, 2013 by Thomas R Pusateri
This is more than a well written and researched reference book, but also an examination by experts of the evolution of nuclear weapons policy. Read morePublished on December 10, 2011 by James B. Bryant
My copy has page missing, and I am sure it is not the only one!Published on September 16, 2009 by Daniel Waltimire