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Command and Control

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

Eric Schlosser

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Description

The New Yorker

“Excellent... a hair-raising, minute-by-minute account of an accident at a Titan II missile silo in Arkansas, in 1980, which [Schlosser] renders in the manner of a techno-thriller… Command and Control is how nonfiction should be written.” (Louis Menand)


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.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jul 15, 2013 – In 1980 in rural Damascus, Ark., two young Air Force technicians (one was 21 years old, the other 19) began a routine maintenance procedure on a 103-foot-tall Titan II nuclear warhead–armed intercontinental ballistic missile. All was going according to plan until one of the men dropped a wrench, which fell 70 feet before hitting the rocket and setting off a chain reaction with alarming consequences. After that nail-biting opening, investigative reporter Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) goes on to tell the thrilling story of the heroism, ingenuity, mistakes, and destruction that followed. At intervals, he steps back to deliver an equally captivating history of the development and maintenance of America’s nuclear arsenal from WWII to the present. Though the Cold War has ended and concerns over nuclear warfare have mostly been eclipsed by the recent preoccupation with terrorist threats, Schlosser makes it abundantly clear that nukes don’t need to be launched to still be mind-bogglingly dangerous. Mixing expert commentary with hair-raising details of a variety of mishaps, the author makes the convincing case that our best control systems are no match for human error, bad luck, and ever-increasing technological complexity. “Mutually assured destruction” is a terrifying prospect, but Schlosser points out that there may be an even more frightening possibility: self-assured destruction.

Customer Reviews

Excellent Book

I can't say I agree with the author's politics, but this is an excellent work describing the evolution of nuclear weapons. I have some personal knowledge of the accident in Damascus, Arkansas and the author did an excellent job of accurately describing the event and the major players who were participating in the efforts to avert the explosion that occurred.

Excellent Read

Excellent book. Author does a great job of telling the story while also sharing vital information and stories from the past. All you old SAC Warriors will love it.

Thoughtfully compelling.

Simultaneously fascinating, eye-opening and terrifying. An exhaustively researched and invaluable contribution to a topic which should be far more in out nation's consciousness. Woven together artfully are re-tellings of events and corresponding technical data/jargon in a perfect balance; technical enough for the curious, but not burdened by the weight. One of the best-written NF selections I have read in years. This should be required reading for all Americans.

Command and Control
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  • $7.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Military
  • Published: Sep 17, 2013
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
  • Print Length: 656 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings