Jonathan Schell, Newsday columnist and author of FATE OF THE EARTH (Avon, 1982) and GIFT OF TIME: THE CASE FOR ABOLISHING NUCLEAR WEAPONS NOW (Holt, 1998).

"The surprise of recent years has been that after the end of the Cold War–just when some of us imagined that we were acquainted with the essential facts of the nuclear age–a remarkable number of books have forced fundamental revisions in our understanding of the historical record. Gar Alperovitz’s masterpiece of scholarship DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB AND THE ARCHITECTURE OF AN AMERICAN MYTH (Knopf, 1995), lays to rest forever the myth that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary for the defeat of Japan. And Bruce G. Blair’s LOGIC OF ACCIDENTAL NUCLEAR WAR (Brookings, 1993) has shown that the doctrine of mutual assured destruction–supposedly the mainstay of policy during much of the Cold War–never corresponded to operational fact, which instead was based on a policy of launch on warning. Thus, the principal strategic debates of the period, however fascinating, concerned an arrangement that never actually existed."


Michael Hogan, professor of history at Ohio State University, editor of the journal Diplomatic History, editor of HIROSHIMA IN HISTORY AND MEMORY (Cambridge, 1996), and author of CROSS OF IRON: HARRY S. TRUMAN AND THE ORIGINS OF THE NATIONAL SECURITY STATE (Cambridge, 1998).

"Campbell Craig’s insightful DESTROYING THE VILLAGE: EISENHOWER AND THERMONUCLEAR WAR (Columbia, 1998) focuses on Eisenhower’s realization that total war was far too perilous a prospect in the thermonuclear age. A system of deterrence, it seemed to Eisenhower, had to be devised, in order both to protect American interests abroad and to prevent conflict. This system rested on two premises: one, that any conflict between superpowers would involve nuclear weapons, and two, that nuclear conflict was to be avoided at all costs. Eisenhower’s strategy had important political consequences for the development of a policy of coexistence with the Soviet Union as he, and then John F. Kennedy, came to understand that nuclear weapons presented not the promise of security but a threat against it. Andreas Wenger’s LIVING WITH PERIL; EISENHOWER, KENNEDY, AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997) adds further important detail to the story of this evolution."


Paul Boyer, Merle Curti Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin and author of BY THE BOMB'S EARLY LIGHT; AMERICAN THOUGHT AND CULTURE AT THE DAWN OF THE ATOMIC AGE (North Carolina, 2nd ed., 1994) and FALLOUT; A HISTORIAN REFLECTS ON AMERICA'S HALF-CENTURY ENCOUNTER WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS (Ohio State, 1998).

"The 1995 controversy over the Smithsonian’s Enola Gay exhibit spawned several good books, including HISTORY WARS: THE ENOLA GAY AND OTHER BATTLES FOR THE AMERICAN PAST, edited by Edward T. Linenthal and Tom Engelhardt (Metropolitan, 1996) and HIROSHIMA'S SHADOW: WRITINGS ON THE DENIAL OF HISTORY AND THE SMITHSONIAN CONTROVERSY, edited by Kai Bird and Lawrence Lifschultz (Pamphleteer’s Press, 1998). But I’m especially partial to an eye-opening book on another topic, ATOMIC SPACES; LIVING ON THE MANHATTAN PROJECT (Illinois, 1997), by cultural historian Peter Bacon Hales. Hales unearths rare documents and photographs that illuminate the Manhattan Project’s myriad effects on the physical environment it occupied, the people it displaced, and the carefully monitored ‘communities’ it created for Project personnel. Hales combines careful research with stylistic power, a playful intellect, a strong visual sense, and an unobtrusive but keen moral sensibility."


Dan O’Neill, research associate at the University of Alaska Oral History Program and author of THE FIRECRACKER BOYS (St. Martin’s, 1995).

"The United States spent more than $5 trillion on the atomic arms race, according to ATOMIC AUDIT; THE COSTS AND CONSEQUENCES OF U.S. NUCLEAR WEAPONS SINCE 1940 (Brookings, 1998), edited by Stephen I. Schwartz. Why go into all this now, with the Cold War over and won? For one thing, as we embark on a dubious and costly missile defense system, it is not entirely clear that we have absorbed the lessons of political and fiscal accountability. For sheer reading pleasure, Paul Boyer’s FALLOUT; A HISTORIAN REFLECTS ON AMERICA'S HALF-CENTURY ENCOUNTER WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS (Ohio State, 1998) contains thoughtful, informed, and well-written observations on topics ranging from Hiroshima to the nuclear freeze movement to Dr. Strangelove."


Gregg Herken, historian and curator of military space at the Smithsonian, and author of The Winning Weapon: The Atomic Bomb in the Cold War, 1945-1950 (Knopf, 1981) and Cardinal Choices: Presidential Science Advising from the Atomic Bomb to SDI (Oxford, 1992).

"For nearly fifty years, historians argued over the role that espionage played in the development of the Soviet bomb. That debate is now over, thanks to two books that reveal the importance of spy craft: BOMBSHELL: THE SECRET STORY OF AMERICA'S UNKNOWN ATOMIC SPY CONSPIRACY (Times Books, 1997) by journalists Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstel, and Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939—1956 (Yale, 1994), by David Holloway. Now, of course, the big question is how many nations in the present day will enter the ‘nuclear club.’ Avner Cohen’s answer in Israel and the Bomb (Columbia, 1998) is that any state that wants a bomb badly enough will get one–or several–and hence that America’s nonproliferation policy is an effort to sweep back the tide."


Margot Henriksen, associate professor of history at the University of Hawaii and author of DR. STRANGELOVE'S AMERICA; SOCIETY AND CULTURE IN THE ATOMIC AGE (California, 1997).

"The most important recent works on nuclear weapons and nuclear culture are perhaps those that argue that Americans did not fully succumb to a somnolent apathy about the potential for mass destruction in their midst. Allan M. Winkler in LIFE UNDER A CLOUD: AMERICAN ANXIETY ABOUT THE ATOM (Oxford, 1993) detects discrete periods of antinuclear activism after Hiroshima that punctured (but did not completely eliminate) American atomic apathy. A different flashpoint, the 1995 melee over the proposed display of the Enola Gay, informs the passionate (if overpsychoanalyzed) treatment by Robert Jay Lifton and Greg Mitchell, Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial (Grosset/Putnam, 1995). Lifton and Mitchell demonstrate to what extent Hiroshima lays open a ‘raw nerve’ in America’s emotional life–a nerve that runs through the wonderfully hilarious, postmodern novel by Phyllis Burke, ATOMIC CANDY (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989)."


Helen Caldicott, former president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, a leader of the international nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s, a contributor to The Progressive, and author of DESPERATE PASSION; AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Norton, 1997).

"It is difficult to distill a meaningful account of a complex, global movement from huge quantities of files, data, and oral histories, but in RESISTING THE BOMB; A HISTORY OF THE WORLD NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT MOVEMENT, 1954-190 (Stanford, 1998), Lawrence Wittner has done just that. The second volume of Wittner’s projected trilogy, STRUGGLE AGAINST THE BOMB: RESISITING THE BOMB, it is a story of official duplicity (‘Keep them confused as to fission and fusion,’ urged Eisenhower), espionage (the CIA, the USIA, and the FBI all systematically monitored peace and disarmament groups), and the heroism of those men and women who worked to free humanity from the menace of nuclear annihilation. Wittner has produced a useful reference tool for activists and government officials who truly wish to represent the future of the planet."

Paul Lawrence Rose, professor of history at Penn State University and author of HEISENBERG AND THE NAZI ATOMIC BOMB PROJECT : A STUDY IN GERMAN CULTURE (California, 1998).

"Transcribed from secretly taped discussions between Werner Heisenberg and the other German scientists interned in England in 1945, the recently declassified Farm Hall documents reveal that the Nazis were never close to acquiring atomic weapons: Heisenberg lacked crucial information about the small critical mass of U235 necessary for building a bomb. The transcripts also highlight the moral bankruptcy of the German scientists: They falsified the history of their project in order to give the impression that they were morally opposed to building Hitler a bomb, and they sanctimoniously criticized Niels Bohr for his involvement with the Allied bomb. The first edition of the Farm Hall transcripts, OPERATION EPSILON; THE FARM HALL TRANSCRIPTS (California, 1993), includes a valuable introduction by Sir Charles Frank, the British scientific intelligence officer who oversaw the original surveillance. J. Bernstein and David Cassidy’s HITLER'S URANIUM CLUB : THE SECRET RECORDINGS AT FARM HALL (American Institute of Physics, 1995) is more accessible, thanks to its lucid commentary on the often strange–sometimes hilarious–text."


David Holloway, professor of political science at Stanford University and author of STALIN AND THE BOMB: THE SOVIET UNION AND ATOMIC ENERGY, 1939-1956 (Yale, 1994).

Apart from the Enola Gay controversy and issues of proliferation, Holloway observes, the nuclear threat is not as prominent a subject as it was ten or fifteen years ago. "It does continue to exist, however," he says, "and is analyzed in different, but quite specific, ways in two fascinating and disturbing books. The first is KENNEDY TAPES: INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE DURING THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS , edited by Ernest R. May and Philip D. Zelikow (Harvard, 1997). This book contains the transcripts of the White House discussions during the most dangerous nuclear crisis to date. These extraordinary documents convey the tortuous steps by which the crisis was resolved, and also the unsettling possibility that it all could have ended differently. In LIMITS OF SAFETY : ORGANIZATIONS, ACCIDENTS, AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS (Princeton, 1993) Scott Douglas Sagan exposes a frightening history of near accidents with nuclear weapons. He argues that the organizations that handle nuclear weapons can never be completely reliable and that the danger of nuclear weapons accidents will therefore exist as long as we have these weapons."


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