CONELRAD READ ALERT: Selected Books and Miscellaneous Tracts


ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War

Author Michael Dobbs admits in his riveting new book (published June 3, 2008 by Knopf) on the Cuban Missile Crisis, One Minute to Midnight, that there are certain to be further revelations about this dark period in world history when more archival documents are declassified. However, the release of additional government and military paperwork - no matter how Top Secret - is unlikely to change the achievement of Mr. Dobbs' book in telling the definitive story of the October 1962 crisis.

Many people might ask what is left to tell after the dozens of books, movies and television documentaries that have already been released concerning one of the defining events of the Cold War. The answer is plenty. Dobbs, a reporter for the Washington Post who covered the collapse of Communism for that newspaper, has assembled a breathtaking narrative of the missile crisis covering all of the bases - small and large.

Among the new revelations from One Minute to Midnight:
The Soviets had detailed plans to nuke the Guantanamo Bay naval base and had deployed FKR cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads to a firing position within 15 miles of the base on the night of October 26-27, 1962. When speaking to a U.S. emissary early in the crisis, Khrushchev had threatened to destroy Guantanamo, but the U.S. dismissed the threat as bluster. The U.S. was, in fact, unaware of the actual danger to the base during the crisis.

A comprehensive narrative with new details of U-2 pilot Charles Maultsby's accidental overflight of Soviet airspace during the height of the crisis. Dobbs used Maultsby's memoirs, charts found at the National Archives and JFK Library and interviews to reconstruct the harrowing flight. The route map of the flight is revealed for the first time in the book.

The story of the Soviet ship Alexandrovsk and its weather-beaten trip across the Atlantic carrying 68 nuclear warheads. Incredibly, the ship delivered its deadly cargo to Cuba undetected by the U.S.
Of course, CONELRAD also enjoyed the small, but telling details about civil defense that are contained in One Minute to Midnight. Details such as the following: Assembled journalists broke into guffaws when the subject of civil defense was raised at a Robert McNamara press conference during the crisis; pink identification cards were provided to JFK's top advisers that identified them for admittance to the Mount Weather government relocation site (aka The Special Facility); the fact that the President's naval aide, Captain Tazewell Shepard, was charged with filling the gap of what to do with the dependents of senior staff in civil defense contingency planning (family members were told by Tazewell that in the event of the necessity for relocation, they were to assemble inside a fenced-off reservoir in Northwest Washington without any personal belongings); Civil Defense head Steuart L. Pittman cautioned the President that evacuating the city of Miami would cause "a hell of a mess." There is also a surreal description in the book of JFK quizzing his military aide about "the Football" (the ever-present briefcase containing nuclear strike codes). Some of the President's questions were prompted by procedural details contained in the then recent novel about a military coup against a fictional chief executive entitled Seven Days in May.

The 40+ pages of research notes and citations at the back of One Minute to Midnight testify to the historical integrity of the tome and the amount of effort Michael Dobbs put into it. Many portions of the book read like a thriller and it is ideed hard to put down. Given the fact that we know the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the intensity of the "read" that Mr. Dobbs has provided is a remarkable accomplishment and one that should not be passed up.
ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War
By Michael Dobbs
Copyright 2008
Published by Knopf
426 Pages

[ 1 | COMMENTS | Jun 11, 08 | 9:31 pm ]
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction


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