At the Abyss: An Insider's History of the Cold War (Google eBook)
“The Cold War . . . was a fight to the death,” notes Thomas C. Reed, “fought with bayonets, napalm, and high-tech weaponry of every sort—save one. It was not fought with nuclear weapons.” With global powers now engaged in cataclysmic encounters, there is no more important time for this essential, epic account of the past half century, the tense years when the world trembled At the Abyss. Written by an author who rose from military officer to administration insider, this is a vivid, unvarnished view of America’s fight against Communism, from the end of WWII to the closing of the Strategic Air Command, a work as full of human interest as history, rich characters as bloody conflict.
Among the unforgettable figures who devised weaponry, dictated policy, or deviously spied and subverted: Whittaker Chambers—the translator whose book, Witness, started the hunt for bigger game: Communists in our government; Lavrenti Beria—the head of the Soviet nuclear weapons program who apparently killed Joseph Stalin; Col. Ed Hall—the leader of America’s advanced missile system, whose own brother was a Soviet spy; Adm. James Stockwell—the prisoner of war and eventual vice presidential candidate who kept his terrible secret from the Vietnamese for eight long years; Nancy Reagan—the “Queen of Hearts,” who was both loving wife and instigator of palace intrigue in her husband’s White House.
From Eisenhower’s decision to beat the Russians at their own game, to the “Missile Gap” of the Kennedy Era, to Reagan’s vow to “lean on the Soviets until they go broke”—all the pivotal events of the period are portrayed in new and stunning detail with information only someone on the front lines and in backrooms could know.
Yet At the Abyss is more than a riveting and comprehensive recounting. It is a cautionary tale for our time, a revelation of how, “those years . . . came to be known as the Cold War, not World War III.”
From the Hardcover edition.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
This book can be neatly divided into two halves. The first half, encompassing the author's career from his start in the USAF in the late 50s, through Reagan's election in 1980, is a fascinating account of cold war history that reads like a Tom Clancy novel. Once Reagan is elected, and the author becomes Secretary of USAF, it becomes too autobiographical and loses objectivity. He spends 4 chapters cheer leading Reagan's accomplishments, and devotes about two sentences to Iran Contra, which he seemed to blame on Nancy. There is a lot of fascinating history in this book, and the I do share the author's admiration for the men and women on the ground who never screwed up and pushed us over the brink into WWIII. One thing you will get from this book is a sense of just how lucky we are to have made it through the cold war without a civilization ending accident.
At the abyss: an insider's history of the Cold WarUser Review - Book Verdict
Reed served as secretary of the U.S. Air Force under President Gerald Ford, but his story begins in the late 1940s with the onset of the Cold War and the Alger Hiss case. As a college student, he was impressed with the sensational revelations of Whittaker Chambers, and from that point, he began his career as an avid cold warrior and an officer in the air force, which he would head 25 years later. Reed's tale mixes history and autobiography, but it is mostly made up of history, since he often buries his own professional development within pages of narrative that often go into agonizing detail about the technical evolution of our nuclear and conventional forces arrayed against the Soviets. The most interesting part of Reed's story involves his service as special assistant for National Security Policy in Ronald Reagan's National Security Council. Reed knew Reagan from his California days and offers some intriguing insights into the thinking and decision-making processes of this enigmatic President. For larger collections.-Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames ...