Michael Dobbs - One Minute To Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War

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The Cuban Missile Crisis with Play by Play Action

Aug 1, 2012 (Updated Aug 1, 2012)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Cuban Missile Crisis minute by minute, Research, Page Turner, History

Cons:None-get this one

The Bottom Line: Michael Dobbs and his book "One Minute to Midnight" is a must read. Five stars.


I wasn't around during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but have often broached this subject with my father, and other relatives who experienced this tough time in history. There are just so many angles to this event, whether it be President Kennedy, Krushev, Castro, and the chess board of the cold war. Yet, this really was an episode of how close, we came to the brink of global destruction. I am kind of pleased to have missed out on this one, as it is amazing to think, that just one error or misperception could have caused nukes to have been released. There have been movies about this, but I haven't seen any of the cinematic versions, although I did like seeing one on the History Channel. Perhaps the folks with the bomb shelters had the right idea, from a "comfort zone" level, but they wouldn't have done much good if a conflict erupted from this.

Michael Dobbs I had never heard of, before reading this book, and I'm impressed by his effort "One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Krushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War." I read it in just a couple of days, because I could not stop turning the pages. This is one of the best history books I've read in a long time, because not only is the research excellent, but also is the flow of how it is written. Its almost as if you get to relive it, minute by minute. You see firsthand how each of the key players mentioned in the title are involved, and how close we came to war. I am shocked by some of the mishaps, and of course am thankful that it did turn out peacefully.

John F Kennedy's "Bay of Pigs" invasion was a complete failure. This is briefly mentioned in the book, and shows the pickle that Krushev and Castro put him in, with this cold war horror story. From every side he was under immense pressure, and it is good that cool heads such as Defense Secretary McNamara held firm. Bobby Kennedy was involved in Operation Mongoose at the time, a way to sabotage Cuban interests, and his aggression could have led to catastrophe. So could have Krushev's army units, that had accidents with the handling of nuclear materials. These folks didn't even guard the nuclear missiles, and had them "ready to go," with minimal precautions. Often they were left unattended, with Cubans who wanted nothing more than the demise of the United States, to have a chance to procure them with haste. 

At the same time, influencial folks like Curtis "Bomb them to the Stone Age"LeMay were in charge of the Strategic Air Command, and the Air Force bypassed its usual safety requirements at the missile silos. Instead of having two people to launch, they cut it to one at the time, and there were a lot of low overflights of F-8 Crusaders over Cuba, Russian ships, and of course both Navies were in close proximity to each other. There were missed communications, errors in intelligence, and so many close calls that I was almost sweating reading this book. Mr. Dobbs details them all, and I just sat back amazed, at the horror that one of these blunders could have caused. Krushev and Castro's differences too, played into this, as you also see how other players such as Che got involved in this "game of horror."

A U2 flown over Cuba was shot down during this crisis. I had no idea of this, and also about how the Soviet soldiers contended with heat and abysmal conditions enroute to Cuba. They lost a lot of weight, and their general was a Calvary Man who got the position, due to Krushev and other members of the Communist Party having faith in him. Guantanamo Navy Base was positioned to have nuclear missiles hit it right away, and there was talk of a preemptive strike on the Cuban/Soviet side. American soldiers mobilized by the thousands to Florida. While it did end with a peaceful outcome, this book details every moment. It is a classic and I fully recommend it.  

There are a lot of good pictures here. For the first time ever, there are new ones of the Soviet silos, along with some of the missiles both sides had at the time. You get to see some of the Soviet submarines, including one that got depth charged by the Americans, and they are of high quality. Also, there are pictures of the key players, including several of anguished looking Kennedy and Krushev. Also, for the first time, there are clippings of everyday Cubans, who were caught in the middle of this, and what their thoughts were. This is among the best history books I have read, and I happily give it five stars, because it shows the horror of nuclear weapons, and also how safety nets do fail. It is a startling reminder, of how we must share this planet, and pray that nuclear war never happens.


Recommend this product? Yes

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