Abyss: The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962
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It wasn’t until 1992 that the US learned that the Soviets had had tactical (short-range) nuclear weapons at their disposal – each with a charge similar to that detonated over Hiroshima – and that plans had been drawn up to permit their use in the event of a land invasion. Should this have happened, had Kennedy chosen to follow the recommendations of his military chiefs, a nuclear response would have been probable. The ensuing public pressure would have made it extremely hard for the US president not to retaliate in kind. Kennedy was distrustful of his military and intelligence advisers, partly because of the previous year’s Bay of Pigs fiasco – Dwight Eisenhower’s planned invasion of Cuba that Kennedy had felt obliged to carry through – and we should only be thankful that some in his circle, under his calm leadership, were able to stem their hubris and sabre-rattling. Between July and September 1962, Khrushchev secretly deployed a range of nuclear missiles in Cuba. Together with those missiles, came the deployment of tens of thousands of troops and bombers, SAM missiles and bombers. Khrushchev mistakenly and naively thought that ... Max Hastings excellent book on the Cuban Missile Crisis is terrifying, not least because of its contemporary relevance as relations between Russia and the West enter a new, colder phase. The events that unfolded in late 1962 as the USA realised that the Soviet Union had deployed nuclear weapons in Cuba and sought to secure their removal are quite possibly the closest humanity has ever come to self-extinction. Hastings journalistic instinct for storytelling serves to capture the drama of those frantic days, and his understanding of the principal actors involved on all sides, and of their motivations, add a further depth of insight. All told, this is a first-rate piece of popular narrative history.
A brilliant, beautifully constructed and thrilling re-assessment of the most perilous moment in history' Daily Telegraph JFK had ample opportunity to resort to military action, but staid his hand despite pressure from members of the Joint Chiefs and others. The president was the driver of debate and became more of an “analyst-in-chief.” He pressed his colleagues to probe the implications of any actions the United States would take and offer reasonable solutions to end the crisis. For JFK it seemed as if he was in a chess match with Khrushchev countering each of his moves and trying to offer him a way out of the crisis he precipitated. He stood down as editor of the Evening Standard in 2001 and was knighted in 2002. His monumental work of military history, Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-1945 was published in 2005.In The Abyss, Max Hastings turns his focus to one of the most terrifying events of the mid-twentieth century—the thirteen days in October 1962 when the world stood on the brink of nuclear war. Hastings looks at the conflict with fresh eyes, focusing on the people at the heart of the crisis—America President John F. Kennedy, Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, and a host of their advisors.
A brilliant, beautifully constructed and thrilling reassessment of the most perilous moment in history” - Daily Telegraph Vladimir Putin’s ill-advised invasion of Ukraine last February has not produced the results that he expected. As the battlefield situation has degenerated for Russian army due to the commitment of the Ukrainian people and its armed forces, along with western assistance the Kremlin has resorted to bombastic statements from the Russian autocrat concerning the use of nuclear weapons. At this time there is no evidence by American intelligence that Moscow is preparing for that eventuality, however, we have learned the last few days that Russian commanders have discussed the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons. The conflict seems to produce new enhanced rhetoric on a daily basis, and the world finds itself facing a situation not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 amidst the Cold War.Sir Max Hugh Macdonald Hastings, FRSL, FRHistS is a British journalist, editor, historian and author. His parents were Macdonald Hastings, a journalist and war correspondent, and Anne Scott-James, sometime editor of Harper's Bazaar. An extraordinary new account of the Cuban Missile Crisis and how it created some of the most dangerous, unstable years in world history – from the number one bestselling historian Max Hastings. It’s not the primary source research, for there are no new revelations that have not been published elsewhere. And it’s not the ultimate judgments, for Hastings’s conclusions – that Khrushchev acted precipitously, that the American military establishment verged on the insane, and that President Kennedy handled the situation quite well – are fairly standard.
to reflect Cuban thinking at the time. This is contextualised well, as their fervour was then fresh from their revolution. The alternative perspective is easier to convey now that the adventurism of an American empire is better understood. In fact the book begins with the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs. In between the meetings of great leaders and the movement of ships and submarines he added the recollections of regular Cuban and Russian people that were stationed in Cuba during the time of the crisis. These eye witnesses were interviewed for the book and they are a fantastic addition because they add a much needed ground level view. Hastings corrects a number of myths associated with the crisis. One of the most famous was the idea that on October 24, 1962, as Soviet ships approached the quarantine line the White House held its breath as to whether they could stay the course. In reality no merchant ship carrying weapons or troops approached anywhere near the invisible line. Soviet ships had reversed course the previous day, only one of which was closer than 500 miles. This was due in large part because of the weakness American naval communications. Another area that historians have overlooked was events in the Atlantic Ocean – particularly concerning were four Soviet submarines, one carrying a nuclear warhead. Hastings explores this aspect of the crisis, and the reader can only cringe as to what Washington did not know and the slow communication process that existed throughout the crisis.
The book also goes over all of the incidents during the crisis such as the shooting down of the American U2 spy plane and the famous Soviet nuclear submarine whose captain allegedly was prevented from launching a nuclear missile by his subordinate and potentially preventing World War III. Hastings casts some doubt on the submarine incident as the timeline and the recollections of the witnesses are quite contradictory. Of course, much of the action takes place in the White House, where the so-called Executive Committee met to discuss options, all while being secretly recorded. Unlike the authoritarian regimes in Russia and Cuba, America’s decision-making has been made transparent by the voluminous transcripts that have been released. I appreciated that Hastings took this into account when forming his verdicts, noting that the imperfect logic employed in the U.S. was probably no worse – and likely far better – than that which took place in the Soviet Union. Hastings . . . masterfully places the Cuban Missile Crisis within the tensions and relations between the United States and the Soviet Union in their Cold War context. The tense and suspenseful atmosphere interweaving the negotiations and political developments . . . are palpable in this elegantly written account. The personalities of all major players . . . are all fully realized in this book. . . . Based on extensive archival research, including in the UK, this eminently readable account provides a nice, single volume overview of the Cuban Missile Crisis. — Library Journal