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

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4.21  ·  Rating details ·  2,831 ratings  ·  292 reviews
In October 1962, at the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union appeared to be sliding inexorably toward a nuclear conflict over the placement of missiles in Cuba. Veteran Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs has pored over previously untapped American, Soviet, and Cuban sources to produce the most authoritative book yet on the Cuban missile crisis ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published February 2008 by Hutchinson Radius (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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 ·  2,831 ratings  ·  292 reviews


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Matt
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cold-war, nuclear-war
The “Doomsday Clock” is one of the great attention-grabbers ever devised. It is a symbolic clock created by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to represent the countdown to a nuclear war. (At least initially. Now the representation also includes climate change). Once the clock strikes midnight, Cinderella turns into a shadow on the wall from the thermal radiation of an atomic blast.

The Doomsday Clock appropriately lends itself to the title of Michael Dobbs’s One Minute to Midnight, a detailed ac
...more
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
...more
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
...more
Michael Kotsarinis
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.75/5

One of the books that prove history (when written in such an engaging way) is at least as good as fiction!

Extensively researched, debunks many of the myths associated with the crisis and doesn't attempt to create more sensation than the actual events. I may be wrong but I also got the feeling that it's one of the most impartial books out there regarding the Cold War.
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
Andy
Jan 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Pete daPixie
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-u-s
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
...more
Michael Flanagan
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Matt
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
“The real good fortune is that men as sane and level-headed as John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev occupied the White House and the Kremlin in October 1962.”
This book recounts many little instances during the “thirteen days” of the Cuban Missile Crisis where nuclear war nearly became a reality. Khrushchev and Kennedy were finally able to come to terms before nuclear weapons were used. Good thing too! The world would be drastically different if they had listened to some of t
...more
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
Joe
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, 15
The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 may be one of the most analyzed events of the Cold War and hence one more book on the topic could be considered redundant – One Minute to Midnight proves this is not so. Using a multitude of sources and written from a variety of perspectives, this book reads at times like one of Tom Clancy’s early books. The reader finds himself in the White House, the Kremlin, the cockpit of a U2 spy plane, a Russian submarine and the jungles of Cuba – most of this information p ...more
Alex
Mar 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Amit Tiwary
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-books
One of the finest book on Cuban Crisis.

If you have not read much on Cuban Crisis, you should pick this one.
Tom Carrico
Sep 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Frank Stein
Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
...more
Eric Bittner
Jun 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Cailean
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jesper Jorgensen
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cold-war
2018-05-31: Still a scary read

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 pers
...more
Matt
“…there was the feeling that the noose was tightening on all of us, on Americans, on mankind, and that the bridges to escape were crumbling”.

For many years I’ve had a keen interest in military and political history, with a particular focus on the twentieth century and the Cold War. This was first instigated way back in 2006 during history class, and I have continued to study and learn over the years. Building on my review of the fascinating Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone and
...more
Annabelle
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Aditya Pareek
I absolutely love the writing's pace and the trilogy deserves more exposure than it has, sadly the author is absent or inactive on GRs since 2012, when he apparently "bothered" with a little online marketing of his work.
Michael you won't get far without engaging your readers.
Still The best book on geopolitical history I have ever read.
The included pictures of the FKR cruise missiles pointed at Guantanamo marine base..never in my life have I come across such an in-depth history in such an engagin
...more
Bryan Craig
Mar 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
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.
BrokenTune
Apr 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Review posted on BookLikes:
http://brokentune.booklikes.com/post/...
Sebastian Waisbrot
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've recently became interested in the Cold War era. I grew up after it the fall of the USSR and I find it difficult to understand the tension the world faced during that time, considering I'm pretty sure no Thermonuclear War did start. This book, however, was able to get me into that environment: I could really feel how each player thought the war was inevitable.

I was also shocked to see the technology at the time. It's not that I did not know, but I never thought about all the limitations and
...more
Campbell
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't really know what to say about this. Fascinatingly detailed, compelling and terrifying in equal measure. If you've any interest at all in the politics of nuclear war (and how to avoid it), then this is the book for you.
Tim
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book - tells the story well.
Tony Moze
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it
It was interesting to know about the crisis, but it was too boring for me!
Meihan Liu
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Unlike Prof H, not all reporters write better history books than academians. This book of Dobbs lacks explanation on a very basic issue while building up a fascinating story: why did the Soviets send missiles to Cuba in the very first place? (Some other popular journalism history works, such as The Best and the Brightest, are too opinionated to my taste. Not to mention those about uprisings in Eastern Europe since the beginning of the CW).
James Murphy
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
“The most enduring lesson of the Cuban missile crisis is that, in a world with nuclear weapons, a classic military victory is an illusion. Communism was not defeated militarily; it was defeated economically, culturally, and ideologically. Khrushchev’s successors were unable to provide their own people with a basic level of material prosperity and spiritual fulfillment. They lost the war of ideas. In the end, as I have argued in Down with Big Brother: The Fall of the Soviet Empire, communism defeated itself.” 4 likes
“The captain of the Lowry tried a new approach. He assembled the destroyer’s jazz band on deck, and told them to play some music. Strains of Yankee Doodle floated across the ocean, followed by a boogie-woogie number. The Americans thought they could see a smile on the face of one of the sailors. They asked if there was any particular tune he would like to hear. The Soviet sailor did not respond. The” 1 likes
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