One Minute to Midnight : Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War, Paperback

One Minute to Midnight : Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War Paperback

5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


October 27, 1962, a day dubbed Black Saturday in the Kennedy White House.

The Cuban missile crisis is at its height, and the world is drawing ever closer to nuclear apocalypse.

As the opposing Cold War leaders, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, mobilize their forces to fight a nuclear war on land, sea and air, the world watches in terror.

In Bobby Kennedy's words, 'There was a feeling that the noose was tightening on all of us, on Americans, on mankind, and that the bridges to escape were crumbling'.In "One Minute to Midnight" Michael Dobbs brings a fresh perspective to this crucial moment in twentieth-century history.

Using a wealth of untapped archival material, he tells both the human and the political story of Black Saturday, taking the reader into the White House, the Kremlin and along the entire Cold War battlefront.

Dobbs' thrilling narrative features a cast of characters - including Soviet veterans never before interviewed by a western writer - with unique stories to tell, witnesses to one of the greatest mobilizations of men and equipment since the Second World War.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 448 pages, 16
  • Publisher: Cornerstone
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: History of the Americas
  • ISBN: 9780099492450



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

This is a systematic account of the Cuban missile crisis from the American, Soviet and Cuban points of view.  It is hard for those of us born after this time (the 50th anniversary of which is almost upon us) to understand how close the world came to nuclear destruction, especially on so called Black Saturday, 27 October 1962. Leading figures seriously wondered whether they would live to see another dawn. What emerges clearly, despite their faults and weaknesses, is the essential humanity and statesmanship of both Jack Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchov. Both had seen warfare at first hand and were ultimately determined that they would not destroy future generations by allowing nuclear weapons to be used first by their respective countries and thereby condemn the rest of the world as well as their opponents. Kennedy was held back by the belligerence of many of the top military echelon, especially Curtis LeMay and Thomas Power, who openly advocated as a matter of general policy a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union; while Khrushchov was held back by the adventurism and rashness of Castro, who saw no reason why nuclear holocaust should not be risked if it meant destruction of American imperialism and who advocated a nuclear first strike by the Soviets to achieve this. Both Kennedy and Khrushchov were held back more generally by the mad logic of nuclear deterrence and international diplomacy which permitted no admission of weakness or public backing down. On Black Saturday, a US plane accidentally entered Soviet airspace without Kennedy's knowledge, while a US reconnaissance plane was shot down over Cuba without Khrushchov's knowledge, either of which incidents could have triggered off nuclear armageddon.Some of the statistics of the weapons of mass destruction here are astonishingly sobering and horrible - just one Soviet ship (the Aleksandrovsk) heading for Cuba had on it nuclear weapons with the destructive capacity of some 1700 Hiroshima bombs - over three times the total amount of explosive ever detonated in all the wars in human history put together. This book combines horrific details like this together with the personal stories of low level participants on all three sides, in a day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute account that truly brings across the horror of those days when we came closer than ever before or since to the End of the World. 5/5

Review by

An excellent and absorbing piece of work. And although we all know the outcome there is palpable tension and menace in the air as the events unfold. Although I knew the basic facts of the Cuban Missile Crisis, there were a number of elements that I wasn't aware of and that really surprised me. Firstly, the hungriness for preemptive nuclear strikes from so many of the Excomm - a point of view that seems madness to us with the benefit of hindsight. Whether this was replicated in Moscow we don't know - Dobbs spends more time on the US and even Cuban response, presumably because it is better documented. The second is the potential for random human error to trigger a chain reaction - the world might expect its leaders such as Kennedy and Khrushchev to act responsibility but you can't legislate for Soviet air crews to decide to shoot down an American U2 over Cuba or for another U2 to wander off course over Soviet territory in the Arctic. And the third is how much of the crisis was caused, and resolved by poor communications. The US and Soviet leaders constantly misinterpret each others actions and communiques take hours to be delivered - and yet this leads to a happy conclusion. Its interesting to consider how the crisis might have played out in a modern world of much better communications and less room for creative interpretationI also thought that Dobbs conclusions about how the "success" of the Cuban Missile Crisis informed less successful actions in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf were very well thought through . Highly recommended all round

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