Academic journal article Air Power History

Launch Pad UK: Britain and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Academic journal article Air Power History

Launch Pad UK: Britain and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Article excerpt

Launch Pad UK: Britain and the Cuban Missile Crisis. By Jim Wilson. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Aviation, 2008. Maps. Diagrams. Photographs. Appendices. Bibliography. Index . Pp. vii, 200. $39.99 ISBN: 978-1-84415-799-0

Jim Wilson was a journalist in Norfolk when the Thor missiles were based there and, much later, was awarded the Order of the British Empire by the Queen for his services in that field. But this book may be the high point of his career.

The story of those missiles has not been well recorded. East England became the West's first launch pad for nuclear ballistic missiles and, thus, was a prime target for pre-emptive strikes. The weekend of October 28-29, 1962, was the most dangerous in human history. We were on the brink of mutually assured destruction. For five Cold War years, sixty Thor missiles were ready to fire within fifteen minutes, each with a 1.44-megaton warhead. This book is their story.

There were twenty Thor bases, each with three launch pads. At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, missiles from the U.S. couldn't reach the Soviet Union, but those from England could. The Thor bases thus became the first-strike target for the Soviets, and they started plans for their own missiles in Cuba that could hit the major cities of the U.S. Wilson's story summarizes the grave problems this caused. …

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