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The Bomb and America's Missile Age

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The Bomb and America's Missile Age

How nuclear weapons helped drive the United States into the missile age.

The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), designed to quickly deliver thermonuclear weapons to distant targets, was the central weapons system of the Cold War. ICBMs also carried the first astronauts and cosmonauts into orbit. More than a generation later, we are still living with the political, technological, and scientific effects of the space race, while nuclear-armed ICBMs remain on alert and in the headlines around the world.

In The Bomb and America’s Missile Age, Christopher Gainor explores the US Air Force’s (USAF) decision, in March 1954, to build the Atlas, America’s first ICBM. Beginning with the story of the guided missiles that were created before and during World War II, Gainor describes how the early Soviet and American rocket programs evolved over the course of the following decade. He argues that the USAF was wrongly criticized for unduly delaying the start of its ICBM program, endangering national security, and causing America embarrassment when a Soviet ICBM successfully put Sputnik into orbit ahead of any American satellite.

Shedding fresh light on the roots of America’s space program and the development of US strategic forces, The Bomb and America’s Missile Age uses evidence uncovered in the past few decades to set the creation of the Atlas ICBM in its true context—not only in the America of the postwar years but also in comparison with the real story of the Soviet missiles that propelled the space race and the Cold War. Aimed at readers interested in the history of the Cold War and of space exploration, the book makes a major contribution to the history of rocket development and the nuclear age.