Gambling with Armageddon: Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1945–1962

Martin J. Sherwin. Knopf, $35 (624p) ISBN 978-0-307-26688-0
Blunders, misunderstandings, and “dumb luck” shape history in this captivating reevaluation of post-WWII nuclear brinksmanship. Examining America’s use of atomic weaponry to contain Soviet expansion in Asia and the Americas, Pulitzer winner Sherwin (coauthor, American Prometheus) relates in nerve-jangling detail how presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy grappled with their Soviet counterparts, Stalin and Khrushchev. According to Sherwin’s portrayal, Truman was “intellectually and emotionally unprepared” to understand the atomic high stakes and often deferred to his hawkish secretary of state, James F. Byrnes. Entangled in an affair with a White House intern, Kennedy wavered during the Cuban Missile Crisis and depended on his brother, Robert, to back-channel with the Soviets to avoid nuclear war. According to Sherwin, military personnel countermanded orders to launch nuclear weapons on multiple occasions during the two-week confrontation. In one instance, a U.S. missile squadron on Okinawa was poised to fire 32 nuclear missiles at targets in China and the Soviet Union before deciding to stand down. Intricately detailed, vividly written, and nearly Tolstoyan in scope, Sherwin’s account reveals just how close the Cold War came to boiling over. History buffs will be enthralled. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 06/19/2020
Release date: 10/20/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-0-525-65931-0
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