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. In his hour-by-hour chronicle of those near-fatal days, Dobbs reveals some startling new incidents that illustrate how close we came to Armageddon.Here, for the first time, are gripping accounts of Khrushchev's plan to destroy the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo; the accidental overflight of the Soviet Union by an American spy plane; the movement of Soviet nuclear warheads around Cuba during the tensest days of the crisis; the activities of CIA agents inside Cuba; and the crash landing of an American F-106 jet with a live nuclear weapon on board.Dobbs takes us inside the White House and the Kremlin as Kennedy and Khrushchev agonize over the possibility of war. He shows how these two leaders recognized the terrifying realities of the nuclear age while Castro - never swayed by conventional political considerations - demonstrated the messianic ambition of a man selected by history for a unique mission. Dobbs brings us onto the decks of American ships patrolling Cuba; inside sweltering Soviet submarines and missile units as they ready their warheads; and onto the streets of Miami, where anti-Castro exiles plot the dictator's overthrow.More
"One Minute to Midnight is nothing less than a tour de force, a dramatic, nail-biting page-turner that is also an important work of scholarship. Michael Dobbs combines the skills of an experienced investigative journalist, a talented writer, and an intelligent historical analyst. His research is stunning. No other history of the Cuban missile crisis matches this achievement." (Martin Sherwin, co-author of American Prometheus)
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Armageddon averted by pure dumb luck?
I haven't seen the print version. Audio editions are better for me to absorb, but worse to refer back to. It annoys me when names are wrongly pronounced: that's not a problem for a print edition.
I think of W S Churchill writing on the Second World War. Both authors are accomplished historians and draw on a vast store of facts, yet offer some fascinating anecdotes amusingly told. Both sum-up brilliantly and produce original, compelling analyses of the causes and results of their historical topic.
The narrator pronounces Spanish names and quotations well, but Russian less confidently. His voice is pleasing and avoids sounding monotonous, which would be easy with so much detail to recount.
In Dobbs's conclusions he quotes Jackie Kennedy writing personally to Nikita Kruschev after JFK's assassination: "You and he were adversaries, but you were allied in the determination that the world should not be blown up. The danger that troubled my husband was that the war might be started not so much by the big men as by the little ones." Apart from being a touching admission to a national enemy by a grieving widow, this gets to the heart of the matter. Together with the JFK quote "There's always some son-of-a-bitch that doesn't get the word!" it sums up the book's subject matter and findings.
In 1962 the two superpowers juggled with the future of humanity like Laurel and Hardy trying to negotiate a flight of steps with a grand piano. Secretary of State Dean Acheson later claimed nuclear war was averted "by pure dumb luck". But for all their miscalculations and personal failings, let's be grateful it was JFK and NK who led their respective countries and not any of their gung-ho advisors.
- I. A. Clark
Everything an audiobook should be