A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon
From Neil Sheehan, author of the Pulitzer Prize—winning classic A Bright Shining Lie, comes this long-awaited, magnificent epic. Here is the never-before-told story of the nuclear arms race that changed history–and of the visionary American Air Force officer Bernard Schriever, who led the high-stakes effort. A Fiery Peace in a Cold War is a masterly work about Schriever’s quests to prevent the Soviet Union from acquiring nuclear superiority, to penetrate and exploit space for America, and to build the first weapons meant to deter an atomic holocaust rather than to be fired in anger.
Sheehan melds biography and history, politics and science, to create a sweeping narrative that transports the reader back and forth from individual drama to world stage. The narrative takes us from Schriever’s boyhood in Texas as a six-year-old immigrant from Germany in 1917 through his apprenticeship in the open-cockpit biplanes of the Army Air Corps in the 1930s and his participation in battles against the Japanese in the South Pacific during the Second World War. On his return, he finds a new postwar bipolar universe dominated by the antagonism between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Inspired by his technological vision, Schriever sets out in 1954 to create the one class of weapons that can enforce peace with the Russians–intercontinental ballistic missiles that are unstoppable and can destroy the Soviet Union in thirty minutes. In the course of his crusade, he encounters allies and enemies among some of the most intriguing figures of the century: John von Neumann, the Hungarian-born mathematician and mathematical physicist, who was second in genius only to Einstein; Colonel Edward Hall, who created the ultimate ICBM in the Minuteman missile, and his brother, Theodore Hall, who spied for the Russians at Los Alamos and hastened their acquisition of the atomic bomb; Curtis LeMay, the bomber general who tried to exile Schriever and who lost his grip on reality, amassing enough nuclear weapons in his Strategic Air Command to destroy the entire Northern Hemisphere; and Hitler’s former rocket maker, Wernher von Braun, who along with a colorful, riding-crop-wielding Army general named John Medaris tried to steal the ICBM program.
The most powerful men on earth are also put into astonishing relief: Joseph Stalin, the cruel, paranoid Soviet dictator who spurred his own scientists to build him the atomic bomb with threats of death; Dwight Eisenhower, who backed the ICBM program just in time to save it from the bureaucrats; Nikita Khrushchev, who brought the world to the edge of nuclear catastrophe during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and John Kennedy, who saved it.
Schriever and his comrades endured the heartbreak of watching missiles explode on the launching pads at Cape Canaveral and savored the triumph of seeing them soar into space. In the end, they accomplished more than achieving a fiery peace in a cold war. Their missiles became the vehicles that opened space for America.
referred to wryly within the Pentagon. They were currently working at the Army Ordnance Department’s Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama. Twining and White were being warned by the handful of officers who sided with Gardner and Schriever that if the Air Force did not build the ICBM, the Army, claiming superior expertise in von Braun’s group, would snatch the mission from it. With this threat in mind, the council accepted Gardner’s plan and on March 23 recommended directing the Air Research
Schriever’s Fiscal Year 1957 missile budget and ordered a revision with substantial cost reductions. Quarles was reflecting pressure from Wilson, who was in turn reflecting it from Eisenhower, to rein in military expenditures in order to avoid raising the ceiling on the national debt, then running at approximately $275 billion. In testimony before a Senate committee that summer, Quarles had defended his severe reductions in the overall research and development budget of the Air Force with classic
he could not marry them because Dora would not give him a divorce. She would have agreed to one, but he was careful not to ask. He tried the tactic with Joni. They could live together in Washington, but for appearance’s sake not at his house. He would buy a separate apartment for her so that everything would seem genteel. Becoming the mistress of a technically married man was a proposition Joni could not accept. She was also a practicing Catholic who had been born Giovanna (Italian for Joan)
to Hall’s briefing at the Pentagon and his support for Hall during the subsequent briefing for Secretary Neil McElroy. Chapter 68: Interviews with Schriever, Edward Hall, Lt. Gen. Charles Terhune, Sidney Greene, Col. Richard Jacobson; Air Force biographical sketch of Gen. Samuel Phillips; Roy Neal’s 1962 Ace in the Hole: The Story of the Minuteman Missile, which also provided more biographical information on General Phillips. Colonel Hall had preserved the telegram from Maj. John Hinds among his
confusion as they did information.) The second physicist spy for the Soviets at Los Alamos, Theodore Hall, has been little noted because he escaped prosecution and even the embarrassment of disclosure until 1995, when the first fruits of the code breaking, the so-called Venona documents (Venona was the code name of the code-cracking project), were made public. The rest followed in 1996. Hall was a mathematics and physics prodigy from New York who transferred to Harvard as a junior from Queens