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Download The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy, by David E. Hoffman Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (713 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: David E. Hoffman, David Hoffman Narrator: Bob Walter Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The Dead Hand is the suspense-filled story of the people who sought to brake the speeding locomotive of the arms race, then rushed to secure the nuclear and biological weapons left behind by the collapse of the Soviet Union—a dangerous legacy that haunts us even today.

The Cold War was an epoch of massive overkill. In the last half of the twentieth century the two superpowers had perfected the science of mass destruction and possessed nuclear weapons with the combined power of a million Hiroshimas. What’s more, a Soviet biological warfare machine was ready to produce bacteria and viruses to sicken and kill millions. In The Dead Hand, a thrilling narrative history drawing on new archives and original research and interviews, David E. Hoffman reveals how presidents, scientists, diplomats, soldiers, and spies confronted the danger and changed the course of history.

The Dead Hand captures the inside story in both the United States and the Soviet Union, giving us an urgent and intimate account of the last decade of the arms race. With access to secret Kremlin documents, Hoffman chronicles Soviet internal deliberations that have long been hidden. He reveals that weapons designers in 1985 laid a massive “Star Wars” program on the desk of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to compete with President Reagan, but Gorbachev refused to build it. He unmasks the cover-up of the Soviet biological weapons program. He tells the exclusive story of one Soviet microbiologist’s quest to build a genetically engineered super-germ—it would cause a mild illness, a deceptive recovery, then a second, fatal attack. And he details the frightening history of the Doomsday Machine, known as the Dead Hand, which would launch a retaliatory nuclear strike if the Soviet leaders were wiped out.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the dangers remained. Soon rickety trains were hauling unsecured nuclear warheads across the Russian steppe; tons of highly-enriched uranium and plutonium lay unguarded in warehouses; and microbiologists and bomb designers were scavenging for food to feed their families.

The Dead Hand offers fresh and startling insights into Reagan and Gorbachev, the two key figures of the end of the Cold War, and draws colorful, unforgettable portraits of many others who struggled, often valiantly, to save the world from the most terrifying weapons known to man.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Matt | 2/13/2014

    " Really great book on the Cold War arms race - and why the problems that seemed to have ended in 1991 are still haunting us today. Very readable and unbelievably haunting. (The title of the book - The Dead Hand - is the name the Soviets gave to a nuclear response system that was 100% automated and run by a series of satellites and computers that nearly ended life on earth several times. The system would, upon warning of a launch from the US, launch a missile that would fly across the Soviet Union, beaming a code to all the nuclear missiles in their silos to launch.) Also a fascinating expose of the Soviet biological weapons program - despite the US abandoning all interest in biological weapons early on in the cold war (and abiding by all the treaties banning their development for military purposes), the Soviets, victims of their own paranoia and style of thinking, could not believe the US would give up the program, and raced ahead - creating the world's most advanced diseases and toxins, mainly centered around super-strains of anthrax, plague and smallpox. All of these still exist today, sitting in dilapidated warehouses... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Andrew Glasgow | 2/12/2014

    " This is a fascinating story of the cold war drawn from sources that were previously unavailable. Along the way, we get some penetrating glimpses of the personalities who held the world's fate in their hands. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jacob Carter | 1/30/2014

    " Very interesting but a little laborious at some points. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Amy | 1/26/2014

    " I didn't get a chance to finish this as my life is just too busy to process this dense information, but WOW! I'm glad to know I was naive and shielded from all that went on during the cold war. Anthrax outbreaks in the Soviet Union, the U.S. feeding misinformation to them which resulted in one of the largest non-nuclear explosions and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Well documented and fascinating. "

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