The abyss Nuclear crisis Cuba 1962

Max Hastings

Book - 2022

"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. Combining in-depth research with Hasting's well-honed insights, The Abyss is a human history that unfolds on a wide, colorful canvas. As the action moves back and forth from Moscow to Washington, DC, to Havana, Hastings seeks to explain, as much as to describe, the attitudes and conduct of the Soviets, ...Cubans, and Americans, and to recreate the tension and heightened fears of countless innocent bystanders whose lives hung in the balance. Reflecting on the outcome of these events, he reveals how the aftermath of this momentous crisis continues to reverberate today"--provided by publisher.

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New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers [2022].
Main Author
Max Hastings (author)
First U.S. edition
Physical Description
xxxviii, 538 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • List of Illustrations
  • Introduction
  • A Timeline of Significant Global Events during the Cold War Era
  • Principal Participants in the Missile Crisis
  • Time Zones and Spellings
  • Prologue: Operation Zapata 17-19 April 1961
  • 1. Cuba Libre
  • 1. The American Colony
  • 2. Granma
  • 3. The Liberator
  • 2. Mother Russia
  • 1. Triumph in Space, Hunger on Earth
  • 2. 'The Shark'
  • 3. Khrushchev Abroad
  • 3. Yanquis, Amerikantsy
  • 1. American Pie
  • 2. Jack
  • 3. Nukes
  • 4. The Red Gambit: Operation Anadyr
  • 5. The Shock
  • 6. Drumbeat
  • 1. The President is Told
  • 2. The Warmakers
  • 7. 'They Think We're Slightly Demented on This Subject'
  • 1. Behind Closed Doors
  • 2. 'Iron Ass'
  • 3. The Decision
  • 8. The President Speaks
  • 1. Kennedy Confronts his People
  • 2. Khrushchev Confronts Disaster
  • 9. Blockade
  • 1. High, Confused Sea
  • 2. 'Shoot the Rudders Off!'
  • 10. 'The Other Fellow Just Blinked'
  • 1. Hair Triggers
  • 2. 'Should I take out Cuba?'
  • 11. Khrushchev Looks for an Out
  • 1. 'Everything to Prevent War'
  • 2. The Kremlin Decision
  • 3. 'A Trial of Will'
  • 12. Black Saturday
  • 1. Castro Frightens Khrushchev
  • 2. The Soviets Shoot
  • 13. The Brink
  • 1. Impasse
  • 2. The Hounding of B-59
  • 3. The Offer
  • 14. Endgame
  • 1. Time Runs Out
  • 2. The Cubans Cut Up Rough
  • 15. 'This Strange and Still Scarcely Explicable Affair'
  • Acknowledgements
  • Notes and References
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was a frightful Cold War confrontation that easily could have escalated to nuclear war. Accordingly, It has generated many books, including Serhii Plokhy's Nuclear Folly (2021). Now, notable historian Hastings provides a narrative more coherent than would have been experienced by the principals, emphasizing how limited information could have led to disaster, such as when the USSR's Nikita Khrushchev proposed to base nuclear missiles in Cuba as his military assured could be done secretly and without provoking the U.S. This was wrong on both counts. Once the crisis broke, the Americans, led by President John Kennedy, groped to discern the intent of Khrushchev's gambit, which, as Hastings notes, was not even clear to the Soviet leader himself. When exposed by Kennedy's October 22 revelation of the Soviet missiles, Khrushchev immediately began a week-long retreat, during which Kennedy was under immense pressure to invade Cuba. Replete with astute characterizations of participants in the crisis, Hastings' able account registers the peril humanity then faced and still faces in a world of competitive, nuclear-armed countries.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Hastings (Operation Pedestal) highlights in this engrossing account just how close the U.S. and the Soviet Union came to nuclear war in October 1962. Contending that Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine gives the Cuban Missile Crisis "a deeply distressing immediacy," he notes that all nuclear nations "take risks that could one day prove disastrous for humanity, because somebody miscalculates, overreaches, or concedes to subordinates opportunities to do so." Throughout, Hastings draws sharp personality profiles of John F. Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro, and their top-level advisers, and expertly mines archival records to recreate the contemporaneous rationale for their decision-making, even when it looks foolish or reckless in hindsight. He also expands beyond the "pivotal thirteen days" when the crisis reached its height, providing essential context in cogent discussions of the Cuban Revolution, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Soviet space program, and more. Flashes of color ("What sort of camp is it?" asked Khrushchev when told he'd been invited to visit President Eisenhower at Camp David in 1959. "A place they put people they don't trust?") enliven sober warnings about the need for world leaders who can sift through multiple sources of information and back down from a fight when the cost is too great. This riveting history speaks clearly to the present moment. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

In his account of the Cuban Missile Crisis, celebrated journalist/military historian Hastings shifts his focus to the attitudes of Soviet, Cuban, and U.S. participants, explaining as much as describing their actions. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

One of the greatest living historians tackles the Cuban missile crisis. In his long, distinguished career, Hastings has masterfully covered both world wars, the Korean War, and Vietnam. In his latest, he thoroughly explores a fraught set of circumstances that almost lead to World War III. He sets the scene with a highly illuminating description of the Cold War world in 1960. The Soviet Union, barely recovered from World War II, was no match for the wealthy U.S., but its flamboyant premier, Nikita Khrushchev had convinced the world that he commanded a massive intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal--although he didn't. Fidel Castro's seizure of power in Cuba in early 1959 made him popular in America for several months until he seized all American businesses and resorted to violence to maintain his position. When John F. Kennedy took office in January 1961, the purportedly covert action to overthrow Castro was underway. To his everlasting regret, Kennedy assumed that its organizers knew what they were doing. Delighted at crushing America's Bay of Pigs invasion but certain there was more fighting to come, Castro appealed to the Soviets, who responded favorably. Aware of Russian shipments arriving in Cuba, Kennedy's administration assumed that these contained conventional weapons until overflights photographed nuclear missile sites. Hastings does not hide his contempt for Khrushchev's decision to send atomic weapons. Explanations exist because Khrushchev, his son, and many high-level officials wrote memoirs. All blamed him, but Khrushchev himself insisted that it was a sensible response to American missiles on his nation's border. Early on in the crisis, almost everyone, Kennedy included, agreed to bomb strategic sites and invade, which would likely lead to war. Hastings argues that Kennedy prevented a catastrophic conflict by deciding that this was a bad idea. Instead, he ordered a blockade and sent a warning to Khrushchev, who withdrew the missiles. The author's painfully insightful conclusion credits Kennedy with brilliant statesmanship but adds that most successors would have chosen war. The definitive account of a brief yet frightening period in global history. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.