The Destroyer of Worlds by Dan Carlin


I had subscribed to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History a while ago but never went on to listen a full episode because of its size. It’s more like listening to an audiobook then a podcast. From the title itself I wasn’t able to understand about what it was but started listening anyways. The podcast was about the dawn of the nuclear age. Starting in the end of the WWII and the repercussions of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Dan Carlin goes on to lay down what was at stake in the first years of the atomic age and the challenges imposed by the new paradigm.

The podcast is interesting not only for the historical account that it is but also for framing clearly what were the questions faced by those men. This is important and significant because it was the first time that humanity faced such power of destruction and its consequences. Today is harder to comprehend what the humanity, and particularly the US government, was facing. A lot could go really wrong but it didn’t and you shall see why in this podcast.

The period that is reviewed in this episode in from the Truman presidency until the cuban missile crisis with John F. Kennedy as the President of the United States. A remarkable period in the history for it was responsible for the determination of how foreign relations would be conducted until this day. The never seen before technologic advances would pose an additional and powerful challenge to the world military powers. Powerful men from different backgrounds dealing with the most difficult questions ever asked.

An excerpt from a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with President John F. Kennedy that is played in the show but the audio is not top notch is below (taken from Hardcore History’s page):

General Curtis LeMay (Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force and reorganizer of the Strategic Air Command, responsible for Cold War command and controle of two of the three components of the U.S. miltary’s strategic nuclear strike forces — Nuclear Triad):

Now, as for the Berlin situation, I don’t share your view that if we knock off Cuba, they’re going to knock off Berlin. We’ve got the Berlin problem staring us in the face anyway. If we don’t do anything to Cuba, then they’re going to push on Berlin and push real hard because they’ve got us on the run. If we take military action against Cuba, then I think that the . . .

President John F. Kennedy meets with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. L-R: Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Curtis E. LeMay; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lyman L. Lemnitzer; President Kennedy; Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General George H. Decker; Chief of Staff of the United States Navy, Admiral Arleigh A. Burke; Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General David M. Shoup (seated). Cabinet Room, White House, Washington, D.C.

President Kennedy:

What do you think their reprisal would be?

General Curtis LeMay:

I don’t think they’re going to make any reprisal if we tell them that the Berlin situation is just like it’s always been. If they make a move we’re going to fight. Now I don’t think this changes the Berlin situation at all, except you’ve got to make one more statement on it.

So I see no other solution. This blockade and political action, I see leading into war. I don’t see any other solution for it. It will lead right into war. This is almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich.


Because if this [unclear] blockade comes along, their MiGs are going to fly. The IL-28s are going to fly against us. And we’re just going to gradually drift into a war under conditions that are at great disadvantage to us, with missiles staring us in the face, that can knock out our airfields in the southeastern portion [of the United States]. And if they use nuclear weapons, it’s the population down there. We just drift into a war under conditions that we don’t like. I just don’t see any other solution except direct military intervention . . . right now.

According to the caption on the back of this photo: “At a meeting in the White House … President John F. Kennedy talks with members of Major Rudolph Anderson’s reconnaissance team who uncovered the Soviet missile buildup in Cuba. Left to right: Col. Ralph D. Steakley, photo evaluator with Joint Chiefs of Staff; Lt. Col. Joe M. O’Brady, Huntington, ARK, and Major Richard B. Heyser, Apalochicola, Fla., reconnaissance pilots, and Gen. Curtis E. LeMay , USAF Chief of Staff. Brig. General Godfrey McHugh, Air Force Aide to the President, is shown in the background. November 1962.” Steakley was actually a significant figure in the intelligence bureaucracy; he was director of the Joint Reconnaissance Center, which, according to a CIA history, was “a focal point for policy decisions on US reconnaissance missions. “ During the crisis, President Kennedy did not want Steakley to be away from the telephone for more than three rings. Source: National Archives, Still Pictures Branch, Record Group 342-B, box 571

That was just a sneak peek into a 5-hour long episode full of history about one of the most crucial periods in history.