15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation by L Douglas Keeney - review by Michael Burleigh

Michael Burleigh

Fully Cocked

15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation

By

St Martin’s Press 372pp £16.67 order from our bookshop
 

At the end of the Second World War the US was the sole nuclear power in the world, although paradoxically it did not possess a single functioning atomic bomb after the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These were big, complex devices requiring weeks to prepare and prime. The US also had an air force and navy capable of projecting power around the globe, even if in Europe the Soviets had a colossal advantage, with 4.5 million troops, 15,500 combat aircraft and vast numbers of tanks. 

The obvious answer to this conventional imbalance was to rapidly stockpile nuclear bombs – the initial target was 200 such weapons – and combine them with a dedicated bomber force, Strategic Air Command (SAC). Unlike the 1,000-bomber raids of the Second World War, this would concentrate on small

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter