Awaiting Armageddon: How Americans Faced the Cuban Missile Crisis

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While officials sometimes used excessive power to curb press freedom, journalists' own preoccupation with national security led many of them to fall in, all too readily, with the official line, thereby serving as a mere "conduit for Cold War dogma" and as "proliferators of selectively disclosed information" p. But on occasions the administration's conduct was heavy-handed.

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As a consequence, the phrase "news management" entered the vernacular and contributed to the emergence of an increasingly skeptical media during the s and beyond. Beyond the domestic-political dimension of the crisis, George examines the effects upon the nation's children and young adults. While she finds the impact on the former fragmentary and hard to quantify, the impact on the latter is easier to measure, in the sense that "the demonstrations of the missile crisis period" planted "some of the seeds for the peace movement The gist of Awaiting Armageddon is that the domestic experience of the Cuban Missile Crisis represented "an often overlooked national passage that almost certainly contributed to changes in the American mind," and helped foster the growing social and political instability that would reach a crescendo in the late s p.

The emphasis on the longer-term as well as the more immediate results of the crisis deserves commendation. The focus on the domestic effects of the crisis, rather than the more customary diplomatic and strategic dimensions of the episode, is refreshing and original.

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Certainly, it resonates with our current preoccupations with homeland security. George writes clearly and economically, and her research is comprehensive. The book has one relatively minor deficiency: It is that when George deals with the international and foreign policy context of the Cuban Crisis, her arguments are often simplistic and tend toward hyperbole.


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For example, she stresses how the "blinding fear of communism as an insidious and monolithic menace to freedom heightened the threat of war" p. In light of the increasingly evident tensions between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China in the early s, American policymakers had, for some time, become less and less inclined to see international communism as a monolith.

Pilot remembers Cuban missile crisis

This is, however, only a minor criticism. On the whole, Awaiting Armageddon is an important and eminently readable book for anyone with an interest in the Cuban Missile Crisis or in the United States of the early s. Citation: Jonathan Colman.


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  • Review of George, Alice L. Hs, H-Net Reviews. June, For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at hbooks mail. In Awaiting Armageddon , Alice George examines the American public's response to the Cuban missile crisis, the point during the cold war when the United States came closest to nuclear annihilation. She fills a gap in the historical literature, which has regarded the crisis almost exclusively from diplomatic and military perspectives.

    ISBN 13: 9781469608839

    She also highlights the peculiar and contradictory relationship between Americans and nuclear technology; by focusing on the missile crisis, she is able to pinpoint the nature of that relationship in a way that few other historians have done. Examining the response of ordinary Americans to this imminent threat of nuclear war brings out nuances in the public's views of technology and cold war politics that have not been articulated so concisely.

    On the whole, the book is a worthwhile addition to the growing body of literature on cold war culture. George helpfully begins with a brief summary of events during the week when the crisis peaked.

    Awaiting Armageddon : how Americans faced the Cuban Missile Crisis / Alice L. George

    While the missile crisis went on for thirteen days, the public only learned of it midway through, and thus confronted the possibility of imminent nuclear war for a total of seven days. In successive chapters, George deals with different aspects of the public response. Chapter 1 is an overview of American attitudes toward communism, the cold war, and nuclear weapons. Chapter 2 deals with the federal government's haphazard attempts to prepare the nation for the possibility of a nuclear strike, and chapter 3 extends George's indictment of civil defense via an examination of local and individual responses to the threat of nuclear annihilation.

    Here her analysis builds upon prior studies and reaffirms the conclusions of scholars such as Guy Oakes, Kenneth Rose, Laura McEnaney, and Andrew Grossman that civil defense was at best a dismal failure and at worst an insidious deception by the federal government.

    Cuban Missile Crisis - Cold War - LibGuides at Duquesne University

    Chapter 4 focuses on the Kennedy administration's manipulation of the media during the crisis. Although the nation's journalists largely accepted the administration's version of events as the crisis was unfolding, in the aftermath the media became more skeptical. Chapter 5 deals with the political ramifications and repercussions of the crisis, and concludes that it [End Page ] largely benefited Kennedy and the Democrats in the midterm election. Finally, chapter 6 centers on the experiences of American children and young adults during the crisis.

    Children who faced the threat of nuclear annihilation also began to confront the "unthinkable" concept that perhaps the policies of adults were foolish and dangerous; this would contribute to the generational conflict that erupted in the latter s. For scholars concerned with the interactions of technology and culture, the most interesting parts of George's book are her introduction and first chapter, in which she examines the complex relationship between the American public and nuclear technology.

    She provides a convincing answer to a question many other historians of cold war culture have pondered: Why was the American public so apathetic about the threat of nuclear war?