HISTORY

Gambling with Armageddon: Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1945-1962

Knopf. Sept. 2020. 624p. ISBN 9780307266880. $35. HIST
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Pulitzer Prize winner Sherwin (history, George Mason Univ.; with Kai Bird, American Prometheus) served as an intelligence naval officer during the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 16-28, 1962. This deeply researched account has a you-are-there feel, as he discusses the harrowing 13 days when world devastation was only a mistake away. Earlier accounts and TV dramas frequently portray the crisis as an endgame between President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Sherwin dispels this simplistic interpretation by placing the crisis in its Cold War context, identifying its roots within the anti-Soviet and massive retaliation polices of the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. The book reveals West Berlin’s importance to Kennedy and Khrushchev, identifies the roles played by National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, and UN Secretary-General U Thant. Additionally, Sherwin deftly shows how war was almost precipitated by a junior United States officer and avoided by a Soviet officer. Politician and diplomat Adlai Stevenson, the unsung hero, resolutely called for the blockade strategy ultimately adopted by Kennedy.
VERDICT This important investigation of a significant Cold War event will inform and engross modern history readers.

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