Cold War Operations Manual 1946 to 1991 by Pat Ware (book review).

Understanding how the Cold War developed between the USA and the USSR in the aftermath of World War Two is important to what we have today. Pat Ware’s book, ‘Cold War Operations Manual 1946 to 1991’ looks honestly across the board. If you thought that only America was developing nuclear bombs, there is no fiction that Germany was spending a lot of time with heavy water in Norway and had a substantial amount of fissionable material as well.

Just in case you didn’t know the term ‘Cold War’ was used by American statesman Bernard Baruch that was affecting their former allies restlessness with each other’s regimes and had it got ‘hot’ then it would have been all out war. If anything, the two nuclear bombs dropped by the USA on Japan had changed the balance of power in the world and, in some respects, it is understandable that the USSR was unsettled because it had no counter-measures with what became an arms race. Thankfully, nuclear treaties were signed to prevent their misuse and hence the nerviness today over North Korea wanting in. Seeing the devastation caused in Japan here should stop and make you think. Whether nuclear bombs would have been created later had they not been used in Japan is debatable but had they, there would have been over conflicts that they would have been used in without these treaties. I had a think about this and even though it would have been kept secret, any testing would surely have to the attention of the public eye sooner or later and we’d still have a similar situation to what we have today.

Oddly, I was expecting to see more about the various conflicts between America and Russia throughout the Cold War. Instead, there is an emphasis on the development of nuclear arms. As the USSR was a lot more cagey about revealing their own armaments, much of the emphasis is on the western bloc, chiefly the USA and the UK. There is also a little hint at other countries, including more up-to-date ones.

There are a lot of facts revealed along the way. Some of which I didn’t know. Take the detonation of the nuke over Hiroshima. Only 1.7% of its fissionable material exploded. You really do have to question yourself had it been more. Seeing the payload of later missiles and bombs, I only hope their estimates are also similar and not all of it would ignite.

As usual with Haynes books, there are a lot of photos although oddly not one showing maps of the spread of these missiles and bombs across the world at that time. One can only hope that is for security reasons even beyond the Cold War. It isn’t as though all sites are stationary as much of the developments were in making these bombs and missiles smaller.

A lot of the information here is inferred. Certainly, you can understand the need for not having any nuclear deterrent in a stationary position because it makes for an easy target. In many respects, having countries open about what they have and their capacity is probably better than keeping it hidden. Telling people where the ground base silos are just makes them targets. Then again, I suspect some of the smaller nations would then see it as a need to keep up with current technology and try to advance it. In the conclusion to this book, author Pat Ware points out that its better for several nations to have nuclear capacity than for only a couple. Better an eternal stalemate than someone itching to press a button without thinking.

The end chapters of this book focus on protecting the population. Although there is a focus on the lack of it in the UK, reference is also given to the home bunkers that were made in America. In either case, at ground zero of a nuclear blast there is no protection. I’m not even sure if any government officials could make it to the official bunkers in time come to that. I should point out that most of these bunkers were decommissioned after 1992 when the Cold War came to an end.

There is only half a page devoted to fictional material about the results of a nuclear war. Although that was probably not seen as the purpose of this book, there was more emphasis on music than either films or our own genre. I’m surprised Ware overlooked the Henry Fonda starring film ‘Fail-Safe’ (1964) and some of the more sober realistic SF books than including the original ‘Planet Of The Apes’ film series. It isn’t as though SF authors haven’t treated the subject from a realistic point of view.

What is important about this book is showing why the Cold War happened and why in some form it still exists. As Ware points out, even if all nuclear powers agreed to total disarmament then each would keep a couple ‘just in case’. It might not be an easy peace but it’s better than Armageddon. Be prepared to be shocked but come away from this book with some understanding.

GF Willmetts

January 2018

(pub: Haynes, 2016. 156 page illustrated indexed large hardback. Price: £22.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78521-053-2)

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