Command and Control: Book summary and reviews of Command and Control by Eric Schlosser

Command and Control

Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

by Eric Schlosser

Command and Control

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Book Summary

Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of America's nuclear arsenal. A ground-breaking account of accidents, near-misses, extraordinary heroism, and technological breakthroughs, Command and Control explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: how do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? That question has never been resolved - and Schlosser reveals how the combination of human fallibility and technological complexity still poses a grave risk to mankind.

Written with the vibrancy of a first-rate thriller, Command and Control interweaves the minute-by-minute story of an accident at a nuclear missile silo in rural Arkansas with a historical narrative that spans more than fifty years. It depicts the urgent effort by American scientists, policymakers, and military officers to ensure that nuclear weapons can't be stolen, sabotaged, used without permission, or detonated inadvertently. Schlosser also looks at the Cold War from a new perspective, offering history from the ground up, telling the stories of bomber pilots, missile commanders, maintenance crews, and other ordinary servicemen who risked their lives to avert a nuclear holocaust.  At the heart of the book lies the struggle, amid the rolling hills and small farms of Damascus, Arkansas, to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the United States.

Drawing on recently declassified documents and interviews with men who designed and routinely handled  nuclear weapons, Command and Control takes readers into a terrifying but fascinating world that, until now, has been largely hidden from view. Through the details of a single accident, Schlosser illustrates how an unlikely event can become unavoidable, how small risks can have terrible consequences, and how the most brilliant minds in the nation can only provide us with an illusion of control.  Audacious, gripping, and unforgettable, Command and Control is a tour de force of investigative journalism, an eye-opening look at the dangers of America's nuclear age.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Nail-biting... thrilling... Mixing expert commentary with hair-raising details of a variety of mishaps..." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Vivid and unsettling... An exhaustive, unnerving examination of the illusory safety of atomic arms." - Kirkus

"Command and Control shows how Cold War priorities, pervasive secrecy and public ignorance about the volatility of radioactive material have led to an false illusions of safety." - Barnes and Noble

"The lesson of this powerful and disturbing book is that the world's nuclear arsenals are not as safe as they should be. We should take no comfort in our skill and good fortune in preventing a nuclear catastrophe, but urgently extend our maximum effort to assure that a nuclear weapon does not go off by accident, mistake, or miscalculation." - Lee H. Hamilton, former U.S. Representative; Co-Chair, Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future; Director, the Center on Congress at Indiana University

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Reader Reviews

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robert s boley

Command and Control
Gripping, terrific edge-of-your-seat experience. The scariest history book you will ever read. Being born in the mid fifties and having been subjected to the possible nuclear war exercises at my elementary school by hiding underneath our desks at school, brought back all those frightful moments I lived as a child in Alberquerque. An excellent trilling account of a tragic and almost unbelievable past relived in a small Arkansas town. This book brings the reality of nuclear mistakes to the forefront of our future.

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Author Information

Eric Schlosser Author Biography

Photo: Jim Scherer

Eric Schlosser, an award-winning journalist, has written for Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, the Nation, and The New Yorker, among others. He has received a National Magazine Award and a Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for reporting. His books: Reefer Madness, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, and Chew on This which he has co-authored, have been national bestsellers. Fast Food Nation is assigned reading at universities across the country and was adapted to film in 2006.

His recent works include, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident and the Illusion of Safety (2013), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for History award, and Gods Of Metal (2015).

Schlosser has addressed the United States House of Representatives and ...

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