Gambling with Armageddon: Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis



From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer comes the first effort to set the Cuban Missile Crisis, with its potential for nuclear holocaust, in a wider historical narrative of the Cold War--how such a crisis arose, and why at the very last possible moment it didn't happen.

In this groundbreaking look at the Cuban Missile Crisis, Martin Sherwin not only gives us a riveting sometimes hour-by-hour explanation of the crisis itself, but also explores the origins, scope, and consequences of the evolving place of nuclear weapons in the post-World War II world. Mining new sources and materials, and going far beyond the scope of earlier works on this critical face-off between the United States and the Soviet Union--triggered when Khrushchev began installing missiles in Cuba at Castro's behest--Sherwin shows how this volatile event was an integral part of the wider Cold War and was a consequence of nuclear arms. Gambling with Armageddon looks in particular at the original debate in the Truman Administration about using the Atomic Bomb; the way in which President Eisenhower relied on the threat of massive retaliation to project U.S. power in the early Cold War era; and how President Kennedy, though unprepared to deal with the Bay of Pigs debacle, came of age during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Here too is a clarifying picture of what was going on in Khrushchev's Soviet Union. Martin Sherwin has spent his career in the study of nuclear weapons and how they have shaped our world. Gambling with Armegeddon is an outstanding capstone to his work thus far.

Product Details

$35.00  $32.20
Knopf Publishing Group
Publish Date
October 13, 2020
6.3 X 9.3 X 1.7 inches | 2.2 pounds

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About the Author

MARTIN J. SHERWIN, George Mason University Professor of History, is the author of A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies, winner of the Stuart L. Bernath and the American History Book prizes, and the coauthor, with Kai Bird, of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, which won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2006. He and his wife live in Washington, DC, and Colorado.


"A thrilling read . . . This book takes us as close as we will ever get to the people whose judgments or insights determined the fate of 200 million people in a nuclear war." --Thomas Leonard, Professor of History of Journalism, and Librarian, University of California, Berkeley, emeritus

"A great achievement that should generate intense discussion not only about what now appears to be the dim past, but also about the kinds of people we now entrust our survival to . . . I found myself (almost) wondering if the world would in fact be destroyed, and was quite relieved when the answer was no . . . A remarkably good book in every way." --Sanford Levinson, W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law, University of Texas at Austin

"Evocative, compelling, interpretive . . . a tour de force. Sherwin makes the crisis so vivid. He clarifies beautifully what was happening meeting by meeting, what were the options, what were the ambiguities . . . Far and away the best book on the crisis." --Melvyn Leffler, Edward Stettinius Professor of History Emeritus, University of Virginia

"Prodigious research, terrific writing, wonderful vignettes. and clever images . . . The story is compelling from the very beginning, with Truman at Potsdam . . . Sherwin's personal involvement is there in just the right dose and right tone." --Janet Lowenthal, Tzedek DC