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

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

by Michael Dobbs

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One Minute To Midnight 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Quite obviously the author has painstakingly researched those thirteen days of October 1962. Very well written, the story jumps off the pages as John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev wrestle with the demons of a potential nuclear holocaust. One miscalculation by either side could result in worldwide annihilation. If you¿re looking for a top notch book to read this is it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is very easy to read. It gives a minute by minute account, which is something that many books don't offer. Out of all the history books I've read, this one was the greatest. The material covered is incredible. It doesn't only cover the U.S. side of the event, but of all those involved.
Undercover101 More than 1 year ago
This book started off great and at first I could not put it down, but then towards the middle it loses its steam. It became very boring with facts that I did not care about and did not relate to the Cuban Missile Crisis they were detailed descriptions of Kennedy's officials and their background stories.
Beej415 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up because I had very little knowledge of the events that comprised the Cuban Missile Crisis. I really was only expecting a well-written history lesson. What I got was an emotionally engaging and dramatic re-enactment of those thirteen days. Michael Dobbs does an excellent job of creating and maintaining suspense while conveying fact after fact after fact. Sometimes the facts alone sufficed to establish drama, especially where, for example, Dobbs described the amount of firepower available to the United States on the second Sunday of the standoff. "By midday Sunday, [the U.S. Strategic Air Command] would have a 'cocked'--meaning 'ready to fire'--nuclear strike force of 162 missiles and 1,200 airplanes carrying 2,858 nuclear warheads." Add to this the fact that a single warhead carried by a B-52 bomber had a destructive power that was seventy times that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and the drama is set.The most valuable aspect of the book, and clearly the author's purpose in writing it, was the frequent portrayal of both Krushchev and Kennedy as seeking a peaceful resolution, but clearly and knowingly dealing with problems beyond their immediate control. The description of the hugely inflated times that it took messages to travel through diplomatic channels (many, many hours) demonstrated the point. How were Krushchev and Kennedy going to avoid nuclear war when diplomatic messages took so long to be received, yet missiles were on 15 minute alert? The smallest screw-up by anyone, even down to a soldier or pilot, could ignite the flame that began World War III.The "Afterword" alone is worth reading. In it, Dobbs persuasively argues that many American military decisions since the Cuban Missile Crisis have been premised on a mis-reading of its lessons. According to conventional wisdom, Kennedy's cool, clear decision-making strategy and strong showing of military might forced Krushchev to back down. As the book demonstrates, however, nothing was further from the truth. Yet, we can see remnants of that popular belief in the Vietnam War and even in Iraq.While One Minute to Midnight is not perfect (at times the level of detail is overwhelming and a bit gratuitous), it is an entertaining and eye-opening read about a series of events that brought us one small accident away from nuclear devastation.
delphica on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm woefully ignorant of much of 20th century history, so occasionally I make tepid attempts to shore that up. This was a fairly comprehensive review of the Cuban Missile Crisis, following an hour by hour format that covered events in Washington DC, Moscow, and Cuba. As one would expect, there is a lot of very specific information about types of missiles and where they were moving to and from. I, um, skimmed over much of this. There was plenty of focus on Kennedy and his administration and how they were dealing with the situation as it unfolded. One key difference between this book and the way the Cuban Missile Crisis is often presented is that Dobbs gives a much more evolving, collaborative picture of how the President and his advisers developed their responses, and in particular, highlights RFK's changing views between the initial discovery of the missiles and the ultimate resolution. Overall, the author credits both JFK and Khrushchev with being thoughtful, responsible leaders who approached their duties to their nations and the international community with gravitas.It also ends with an extremely chilling foreshadowing of the Kennedy assassination (there's no way that's a spoiler, right?) that was probably a little maudlin but really effective anyway. Here I am, reading this entire book and it's the last paragraph that grabs me.There was also an afterword that compares the leadership during the crisis with the Bush administration's actions in the Middle East, and it is not favorable. I could have done without this. I agree, actually, with the assessment but the tone was too shrill and scolding and I felt it took away from the book overall.Grade: BRecommended: It's certainly comprehensive and successfully organizes a great deal of information into a reasonable narrative. People interested in military history will no doubt appreciate the level of detail more than I was able to. There were only a few, very scant, accounts of the response of the general public -- the focus was almost entirely on the military and the political players.(less)
keylawk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the single month of October 1962, Fidel Castro, Jack Kennedy, and Nikita Khrushchev nearly annihilated the world in a nuclear conflagration. The Ireland-born American Harvardian scholar-journalist, Michael Dobbs, limns the details and touches upon the background which led to the confrontation.In 1897, the United States invaded the most prosperous island in the Carribean. The invasion of Cuba did result in an expansion of the Middle Classes on the island and one colonial power was removed, but the American invaders had no real plan for what would happen after their ¿splendid little war¿. World politics polarized into Fascist/Marxist factions, and at the turn of the century, fascists took over the island. Cuba became a haven for opportunistic criminals. In the mid-1950's, the island became the target of a hybrid manipulator who now holds the record for longevity among all living dictators.Fidel Castro promised ¿liberation¿ from the fascists who were his predecessors. From hideouts in the Sierra Maestro Mountains of eastern Cuba, ¿Fidelistas¿ launched an uprising against the 50,000-man army of the dictator, Fulgencia Batista, who fled the island in December 1958. While President Eisenhower was concluding his term, and at the height of the Cold War, Castro received the support of the American government. However, Castro began widespread persecution of his ¿opposition¿. Many Cubans fled the island. Castro broke off relations with the United States which offered refuge to fleeing Cubans, and declared Cuba a Marxist paradise.During the 1960 presidential election, a Democratic Party candidate, Senator Jack Kennedy, used the fact that the Republicans had supported Castro, as a campaign point, and he won the election. The Cuban refugees organized and lobbied for American support of an armed revolt against Castro. In April 1961, with a series of miscalculations and mis-communications, an attack was launched, now known as the ¿Bay of Pigs¿. This infamous example of idealist ineptitude ended in a military disaster for the rebels, largely as a result of the failure of the Kennedy Administration to understand or support the assault. After the Bay of Pigs, Fidel Castro became convinced that the Yanqui devils and Middle class Cubans whose property he had confiscated, would try again for regime change. At the height of the Cold War, Nikita Khrushchev, the Chairman of the USSR, rose to power in his country as a provocateur and a bully. Castro turned to the Soviet Union for aid. The United States, after years of NATO and UN discussions, announced that long-range Jupiter missiles would be placed in Turkey. Under cover of denials and secrecy, and after the Bay of Pigs attack, the USSR shipped and deployed both tactical and strategic nuclear missiles into Cuba. In addition, more than 60,000 well-armed Russian soldiers accompanied the warheads. After the war footing on the island was discovered by the Americans, Castro and Khrushchev announced a mutual defense agreement. After claiming himself a nuclear power, in 1962 Castro declared war against the United States. He wrote to Khrushchev, insisting that he launch missiles against cities in the United States due to the ¿necessity¿ of a first strike to avert the ¿inevitable¿ invasion of his country. The crisis began.Fortunately, Khrushchev and Kennedy were veterans of hostilities and were sane. Their character almost alone averted a nuclear conflagration. [353] In the 46 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis took place, many thousands of books have been written on this subject, and almost all of them agree that the world almost destroyed itself. Most, however, were not written with the full availability of the records and facts which were ventilated by Mr. Dobbs in this work. He read recently-released archives and interviewed eye-witnesses across the linguistic and political barriers. Although US Air Force and Cuban sources remain closed, the CIA and Cuban-American community, and many Russian records
bezoar44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Narrative history of the Cuban missile crisis that focuses particularly intently on Saturday, October 27. The work reflects impressive historical research and presents new information on Soviet troop placements and the location of nuclear weapons in Cuba. More importantly for a general reader like me, the book does a particularly adept job of tracing the ways events threatened to escape the control of Kennedy and Khrushchev and propel the United States and the USSR into what would have been a devastating war. The book's new historical research reinforces the sense that the world was extraordinarily fortunate to make it through this crisis unscathed.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was born in 1961, so was only a small child when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. I was only passingly familiar with both the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Missile Crisis prior to reading this book and therefore learned many new and interesting facts. After reading this account, I can only say that it must have been terrifying to have lived through the Crisis, the more you knew, the more frightening it must have been. The world was literally on the door step of a large scale nuclear exchange.Kennedy was a young, inexperienced President, fresh off the Bay of Pigs disaster and having been completely dominated by Khrushchev at their summit in Vienna. He was surrounded by an eclectic crew of advisors, from those equally as naïve and inexperienced as himself (namely his brother Bobby), egghead bureaucrats (such as Robert McNamara) and aging Cold Warriors (LeMay) who were eager for a showdown with the Soviets.Most troubling was the ¿chain of command¿ and delegation of authority as a result of which the lowest level bureaucrat or member of the armed forces (on either side) could have triggered a sequence of events leading to ultimate launching of missiles. When a national leader such as Castro and top level U. S. military advisors can be so adamantly in favor of a nuclear exchange, it certainly causes one to reflect upon our current world situation in which unstable democracies such as Pakistan and aspiring nuclear club members such as the theocracy governing Iran and the dysfunctional regime in Pyongyang virtually hold the world hostage through their possession of nuclear material and the devices to deliver them.This book should be required reading for anyone aspiring to leadership of a ¿nuclear club¿ member, and anyone dealing with such a member. After reading this book, and reflecting upon the impending nuclear proliferation, I must admit to a high degree of pessimism as it relates to the world¿s ability to avoid a nuclear exchange.
callmecayce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been listening to this for a few months and I learned a lot. But the thing that struck me is how very, very close we were to the end of the world. At one point, I called up my sister to explain to her exactly just how amazed I was that we were still alive. The reader, Bob Walter, was not great, but he was very good. He conveyed, at least to me, the emotions that Dobbs wrote into the text. I'm glad I read this book, but holy crap. There was a lot I didn't know about the Cuban Missile Crisis. And, finally, this isn't a book just about that event, it's about the built up and aftermath, as well as views from the Russians and the Cubans. Dobbs leaves no stone unturned and for that I applaud him.
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A new view on an old topic. Fast read and very interesting with stories never told before.
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