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One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War

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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  1,465 ratings  ·  189 reviews
In October 1962, at the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear conflict over the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba. In this hour-by-hour chronicle of those tense days, veteran Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs reveals just how close we came to Armageddon.

Here, for the first time, are gripping accounts of Khrushch
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Paperback, 426 pages
Published June 2nd 2009 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Andrew Smith
This is the third account of the Cuban Missile Crisis I’ve read; following versions published in JFK & RFK biographies I’ve ploughed through in the past year or so. It’s very, very detailed and provides a view of events from both the Cuban and Russian camps, as well as from the team managing the crisis in Washington. There is quite a bit of additional information here and though it’s historically fascinating I’d have to say it’s a pretty dry read.

Three things I learnt:

1. RFK & JFK were n
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Geevee
I knew of the Cuban Missile Crisis but had never read anything about it, but thanks to another GR member's review I decided to order a copy from my library. I was not to be disappointed.

The author is well placed to write on the superpowers having been a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post in Europe, for much of the time in the USSR and Russia, and as a State Department reporter for that newspaper too.

So with this experience and expertise Mr Dobbs delivers a book that is a fast paced an
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Jason
John F. Kennedy was a man of peace. Whatever else anyone says or tells you, he believed firmly in a world free of war and destruction. Nowhere is this more self-evident than in the crucible of his greatest moment as President of the United States: the Cuban Missile Crisis and the thirteen days the US (and the world) stood upon the brink of an unthinkable nuclear war. Some people have said that he was assassinated for his belief in a world free of wars, alas that is a topic for another time (and ...more
Alex
We were dang close to nuclear war. I guess I knew that, but this book really drove that point home to me. Basically, humans were just lucky. We were apparently lucky that for one thing Kennedy and Khrushchev were the leaders in power at that moment (they were both gone in two years). Certainly, there were those in positions of influence on both sides who wanted to escalate the conflict.

This book is written as a timeline, but it seems like it could have used that framework more effectively. In fa
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Keith
After a certain age when we read history we generally know the broad outlines, we more or less know how it came out in the end. What we don't often know are the details, the stories of how things came to end up in a particular configuration. In One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Kruschchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War Michael Dobbs accurately fills in the details of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. He has made use of many previously unpublished archival materials. He has arrang ...more
Frank Stein

This is a kaleidoscopic view of humanity's most dangerous thirteen days, tracking everyone from the President of the United States and the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party to the U-2 pilots and submarine captains who fought out this almost silent war across the globe. Though the narrative can sometimes get lost in the details, Michael Dobbs knows that the details are fascinating, and they were often what determined the course of events.

Dobbs emphasizes that by Tuesday October 23rd
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Michael Flanagan
As a child of the 80's I often heard reference to the Cuban Missile Crisis as the day the world held its breath. I knew it had to do with some nuclear missile being placed in Cuba by the Russians that in turn upset the US, but that was about as far as my knowledge went. As I read my way through this book my eyes grew wider and wider till I thought they were going to pop out of my head. What an amazing and utterly terrifying moment in history.

The authors goes to great lengths to instill into the
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Pete daPixie
Michael Dobbs' fascinating trawl through the historical archives has produced a worthy examination of the Cuban Missile Crisis in his 2008 publication of 'One Minute To Midnight'.
For those readers who were alive in 1962, as well as those born since, this book should convince all, how lucky we are to be alive and kicking.
Dobbs also taught me that one of my favourite movies, Kubrick's 'Dr.Strangelove' contained a serious flaw. It wasn't insane enough. Here was the real thing, with crazy military p
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Andy
Jan 05, 2009 Andy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs, military history buffs, anti-nuclear folks, my mother.
Dobb's effectively argues that once the Cuban missile crisis was set in motion, the difficulty for the two leaders was not deciding to prevent an escalation (which would almost surely have lead to nuclear war), but rather preventing the situation from spiraling out of control despite their wishes. The terrible timing of many smaller events during the crisis could have easily turned any one of them into a match for nuclear war. Most disturbing were the many descriptions of single low ranked indiv ...more
Tony
Dobbs, Michael. ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War. (2008). *****. This is probably the best account I have ever read of the Cuban Missle Crisis. The author has used recently declassified sources to explore the actual events that occurred in October of 1962 and gone back to original sources and new interviews to characterize the personalities involved. The book reads like a top-notch spy novel by LeCarre or Furst, but is unbelievable based on true ...more
Cailean
Extraordinary detail and research went into this book. At times I wanted to stop because it was so dense and took a lot of mental power to truly comprehend all the details and the timeline. I could only read it in 30-minute sessions and would tell my husband after each one, "My brain is tired!" I persevered because I had to know what would happen next. Sure, the author could have written a much shorter book and said basically "this happened, the end" but that's what Wikipedia is for, right? This ...more
Eric Bittner
Easily one of the best books that I've read in the last 5 years, and by far the best book I've read on the Cuban Missile Crisis (and I've read at least 5 others). The author demolishes a lot of the mythology and conventional wisdom surrounding the events of October 1962. What emerges is an even more frightening account of just how close we came to a nuclear holocaust. Among the frightening revelations that are made in this book for the first time, the Soviets were prepared to strike the US base ...more
Martin
A minute by minute account of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this exhaustively researched history book is a compulsive page-turner, like a Cold War spy novel of the time. The players are not just JFK, RFK, McNamara, Kruschev, Castro and Che, but everyone involved directly or indirectly, from a pilot gone off course over Siberia to a Swedish captain of a cargo ship taking Russian potatoes to Cuba. The author states that any of the smallest actions could have had tremendous consequences if reacted to w ...more
Grant
Dobbs provides a gripping narrative arguing that the successful (i.e. not the end of the world) resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis was the result more of improvisation and luck than effective crisis management or unshakable will. While much of the material has been covered before, Dobbs does an excellent job or integrating tactical-level events that had (or could have had) strategic-level consequences with the high-level EXCOM and Presidium discussions. Here, the key point remains that due t ...more
Bryan Craig
This book goes far beyond the naval blockade and "eye ball to eye ball." The author uses recently declassified documents to paint a scary picture of how close we could have gone to war. The Cuban side of things is great. This might be my new standard on the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Jesper Jorgensen
Never read in detail about the Cuba Crisis. So after reading Dobbs book I actually was a bit shaken.

So many things could have gone wrong, so many things beyond control from JFK or Khrusjtjov, so many close calls, so many series of events having their own life and momentum. The way USAF planes with atomic weapons was dispersed throughout USA on airfields utterly unsuitable for the task. Atomic weapons that could be launched by individuals, not needing a second person or code to confirm. From bo
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Amit Tiwary
One of the finest book on Cuban Crisis.

If you have not read much on Cuban Crisis, you should pick this one.
Phil
This book somehow made one of the most fascinating and terrifying events in world history even more fascinating and terrifying. This book provided insight into the mindset of not just Kennedy, Krushchev, and Castro, but also pilots, troops, rebels, and many others who played a role in the Cuban missile crisis. It was also interesting to learn about the capabilities of each nation and how the other side frequently misjudged them. It is a chilling story.

I liked the organization as a timeline, show
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S Jordan
The 1962 Cuban missile crisis is a seminal moment in the Cold War – by most accounts its most dangerous moment. But like the Alamo (another seminal moment in the American narrative), the crisis has become encrusted with myth. Dobbs’ imminently readable book examines the crisis with the advantages of hindsight and the archives of history, and without an ax to grind. He debunks the mythology that has grown around the events from self-serving interviews and books, as well as from films that could n ...more
Brian
History is never as simple as perceived. The story of the Cuban Missile Crisis is often boiled down to Kennedy vs Krushchev and that moment when American ships stared down Soviet ships, daring them to cross the quarantine line. But that telling, while also completely untrue, forgets what Kennedy knew at the time, that no president waves his arm and makes history happen. There are often people and events over which leaders have no control. This book was written to tell the other stories and inter ...more
James Murphy
I was in school during the Cuban missile crisis. I was living alone off campus and remember going to bed one night with uncertainty and fear of what events might unfold while I slept. I don't remember the date but think it must have been 27 Oct 62, the day Dobbs calls Black Saturday. He's written a gripping account of those days at the edge of nuclear war. He lays his narrative out in day-by-day and hour-by-hour detail told from the perspective of all 3 players, America, the Soviet Union, and Cu ...more
Tom Carrico
Book Review
One Minute to Midnight
By Michael Dobbs

The death of Osama Bin Laden was met with many emotions and prompted much rhetoric in the press. One of the commentaries which I found quite compelling was one by a talking head on CNN who spoke of “the children of 9/11.” He was not referring to the children of victims of that tragic day’s attacks, but the children who have grown up under the specter of terrorism. He wondered how growing up in an “unsafe and unpredictable world” would affect these
...more
Hunter Marston
A bit drier and not quite as personable as his other monumental work, Six Months in 1945. What I liked about Six Months in 1945 - the in-depth, up-close looks at the people in the story, Churchill, Truman, Roosevelt, and Stalin - I found somewhat lacking in this more tactical, strategic narrative. I appreciated the author's amazing breadth of research and his take-away lessons about foreign policy decision-making (namely, JFK's realization that it is the small people who often make history in cr ...more
Bim Oliver
Truth is not only stranger than fiction, it’s more dramatic. Michael Dobbs’ minute-by-minute account of the Cuban Missile Crisis proves the point. Dobbs tracks the harried, jumbled, and dysfunctional decision-making and communication among Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro that led to and (in spite of those involved) eventually resolved the crisis. Along the way, he introduces ordinary actors (pilots, soldiers, and sailors) whose individual actions had the potential to produce the same devastating ...more
Daryl
This book, among others reminds me how much false information I received in school. I was born the month that this happened, October 1962 and in grade school and even high school, we were thought the usual 'US versus the evil communist' version of this event. History is never this simple. This book does a great job showing the event from the perspective of all who were involved. It is terrifying to read how the hawks in Pres. Kennedy's cabinet were so ready to go to nuclear war rather than try a ...more
Annabelle
extremely well put together day by day/hour by hour account of the cuban missile crisis in the week leading up to 'black Saturday' 27th of October 1962 and how the powers that be from all sides were responding to news as it came in. Also told in such vivid detail that it brings home how terrifying close the world came to nuclear war. This book really takes you behind the scenes. I've read many books and articles on how the ordinary people were reacting to nuclear threat, all the protests movemen ...more
William
Robert McNamera's The Fog of War movie gives some interesting insights into the Cuban missle crisis; this book fills in the rest of the blanks.

Well researched and well written it highlights how two superpowers and their leaders brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.

The US was 24 to 48 hours away from invading Cuba, without knowing that there were already multiple nuclear weapons in Cuba that could hit or were targeted on the beaches where the US landings would take place, the US
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Matthijs
This is a great history book that reads like a novel (it was written by a journalist) but never feels "fictionalized". Not only does Dobbs retell the well-known sequence of events with a compelling narrative, he also introduces a surprising amount of thoroughly sourced original research that challenges several long-held beliefs about the crisis! The book does a great job of bringing out the character of the major actors during the crisis and describing the circumstances. The technology takes a b ...more
Julio Gerchman
Everyone is totally just winging it, all the time.

Specially on the brink of a nuclear war.

If you ever believed in the all that propaganda from 1980's movies, where the world leaders are tough, rational, and know what they are doing, please do yourself a favor and read this. The Third World War almost blew up by a sequence of stupid decisions from all levels of all sides, with plenty of random things sprinkled all over. Nobody had any idea of what they were doing, of what the other side could be
...more
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Michael Dobbs was, almost literally, a child of the Cold War. His diplomat parents whisked him off to Russia at the age of six weeks. As a child, he lived through the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and the construction of the Berlin wall. As a reporter for the Washington Post, he witnessed the birth of the Solidarity movement in Poland, the hope and tragedy of Tiananmen Square, th ...more
More about Michael Dobbs...
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“JFK's great virtue, and the essential difference between him and George W. Bush, was that he had an instinctive appreciation for the chaotic forces of history.” 1 likes
“Khrushchev had been ready to settle for a” 0 likes
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