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One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev,…

One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of… (2008)

by Michael Dobbs

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Cold War Trilogy (2)

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
One Minute to Midnight is an hour by hour reconstruction of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Dobbs has done original archival research and brings to the page new facts never before published. His main thesis is that there was no "eyeball to eyeball and the Soviets blinked", that was propaganda by the Kennedy team. Rather he shows that both sides came closer to war than they realized, were in less control of events then they thought. It's a great lesson of history and instructive about the complexity of events. It leads to the pessimistic conclusion that an accidental nuclear detonation or war was (and still is) very possible. ( )
1 vote Stbalbach | Jun 22, 2014 |
A well researched book that brings new light to a crisis that was mythologized in the immediate aftermath and in the decades following. It gives a very balanced view of events from the three main perspectives: American, Russian, and Cuban. With the addition of declassified US and Soviet records of military activities as well as conversations among senior leadership, we see Kennedy and Kruschchev as the cooler heads who prevailed over institutions that had a lot of inertia moving them towards war. It wasn't the macro level brinksmanship of placing the missiles in Cuba nor the American blockade that brought the world to the brink, but rather several small events beyond anyone's real control that could have triggered a tumble into a nuclear exchange; from a Soviet sub skipper ordering the "lock and load" of a nuclear torpedo to a US U-2 pilot inadvertently straying 300 miles into the USSR at just the wrong time, things could've gone very badly. A final chapter on lessons-learned for the US and USSR would have been interesting, in terms of improved protocols for military encounters at sea, airspace incursions, and direct communications between the heads of state. ( )
  traumleben | Jun 1, 2014 |
An excellent and absorbing piece of work. And although we all know the outcome there is palpable tension and menace in the air as the events unfold. Although I knew the basic facts of the Cuban Missile Crisis, there were a number of elements that I wasn't aware of and that really surprised me. Firstly, the hungriness for preemptive nuclear strikes from so many of the Excomm - a point of view that seems madness to us with the benefit of hindsight. Whether this was replicated in Moscow we don't know - Dobbs spends more time on the US and even Cuban response, presumably because it is better documented. The second is the potential for random human error to trigger a chain reaction - the world might expect its leaders such as Kennedy and Khrushchev to act responsibility but you can't legislate for Soviet air crews to decide to shoot down an American U2 over Cuba or for another U2 to wander off course over Soviet territory in the Arctic. And the third is how much of the crisis was caused, and resolved by poor communications. The US and Soviet leaders constantly misinterpret each others actions and communiques take hours to be delivered - and yet this leads to a happy conclusion. Its interesting to consider how the crisis might have played out in a modern world of much better communications and less room for creative interpretation

I also thought that Dobbs conclusions about how the "success" of the Cuban Missile Crisis informed less successful actions in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf were very well thought through . Highly recommended all round ( )
  Opinionated | Jun 21, 2013 |
This is a systematic account of the Cuban missile crisis from the American, Soviet and Cuban points of view. It is hard for those of us born after this time (the 50th anniversary of which is almost upon us) to understand how close the world came to nuclear destruction, especially on so called Black Saturday, 27 October 1962. Leading figures seriously wondered whether they would live to see another dawn. What emerges clearly, despite their faults and weaknesses, is the essential humanity and statesmanship of both Jack Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchov. Both had seen warfare at first hand and were ultimately determined that they would not destroy future generations by allowing nuclear weapons to be used first by their respective countries and thereby condemn the rest of the world as well as their opponents. Kennedy was held back by the belligerence of many of the top military echelon, especially Curtis LeMay and Thomas Power, who openly advocated as a matter of general policy a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union; while Khrushchov was held back by the adventurism and rashness of Castro, who saw no reason why nuclear holocaust should not be risked if it meant destruction of American imperialism and who advocated a nuclear first strike by the Soviets to achieve this. Both Kennedy and Khrushchov were held back more generally by the mad logic of nuclear deterrence and international diplomacy which permitted no admission of weakness or public backing down. On Black Saturday, a US plane accidentally entered Soviet airspace without Kennedy's knowledge, while a US reconnaissance plane was shot down over Cuba without Khrushchov's knowledge, either of which incidents could have triggered off nuclear armageddon.

Some of the statistics of the weapons of mass destruction here are astonishingly sobering and horrible - just one Soviet ship (the Aleksandrovsk) heading for Cuba had on it nuclear weapons with the destructive capacity of some 1700 Hiroshima bombs - over three times the total amount of explosive ever detonated in all the wars in human history put together. This book combines horrific details like this together with the personal stories of low level participants on all three sides, in a day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute account that truly brings across the horror of those days when we came closer than ever before or since to the End of the World. 5/5 ( )
1 vote john257hopper | Oct 15, 2012 |
An exceptional work of research. Dobbs draws upon recently declassified material and interviews to provide an excellent hour-by-hour account of the crisis. In the process, he clarifies the sequence of events and shows that many of the myths (such as the Soviets blinking on Wednesday, Oct 24 at the "eyeball to eyeball" moment) were not, in fact, accurate.

A must-read for policy professionals, historians, international affairs experts and anyone interested in foreign policy. ( )
  JLHeim | Feb 7, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Dobbsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Booher, JasonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walter, BobNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In October 1962, at the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were sliding inexorably toward a nuclear conflict over the placement of missiles in Cuba. Veteran journalist Michael Dobbs has used 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, he takes us onto the decks of American ships patrolling Cuba; inside sweltering Soviet submarines and missile units as they ready their warheads; and inside the White House and the Kremlin as Kennedy and Khrushchev--rational, intelligent men separated by an ocean of ideological suspicion--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.--From publisher description.… (more)

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