Rafeeq O.'s Reviews > Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

Command and Control by Eric Schlosser
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it was amazing

Eric Schlosser's 2013 Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety is a fascinating 5-star read, a well researched and well written history of the development of nuclear weapons and the evolution of nuclear strategy from the beginnings during the Second World War, through the perilous decades of the Cold War, to our post-Cold War present.

The nominal focus of the book is the 1980 propellant explosion in a Titan II missile silo in Damascus, Arkansas. Arguably one of the flashiest "oops" in the history of nuclear weapons accidents, the Titan II incident is covered in great detail, with information drawn from contemporary news accounts, declassified reports, and firsthand interviews with participants. Especially because of the finely grained coverage of the experiences of those who risked their lives for their friends, and for duty, the tale is riveting.

Really, though, of perhaps even more interest to those with a penchant for nuclear history is Schlosser's interwoven treatment of the origin of the Bomb, the development of United States nuclear targeting strategies, and the competing demands of military readiness versus safety. If a missile tipped with a hydrogen bomb blows up in small-town America in 1980, after all...well, we could be forgiven for asking exactly what it was doing there in first place. Why did anyone invent nuclear weapons? How? And then how did such things end up not just aboard Air Force bombers and Navy submarines but also, essentially, right next door? Oh, yes-- And what about all the times nuclear weapons accidentally got dropped, blown up by their non-nuclear high explosives, melted, or just plain lost?

Command and Control tells the story ably and excitingly. In this book we will read about familiar figures such as J. Robert Oppenheimer and Curtis LeMay, familiar aircraft such as the B-29 and B-47 and B-52, and familiar accident sites such as Thule and Palomares and Goldsboro. The student of history will find much familiar here, and yet much that is new, or filled in with richer details. Schlosser's text is a fine addition to the library of any student of the Cold War or military history.

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Reading Progress

December 29, 2017 – Started Reading
January 18, 2018 – Finished Reading
January 20, 2018 – Shelved

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