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Face to Face with the Bomb: Nuclear Reality after the Cold War (Creating the North American Landscape) [Hardcover]

Mr. Paul Shambroom , Professor Richard Rhodes
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

9 May 2003 Creating the North American Landscape

"Here in Paul Shambroom's remarkable photographs are the machines we have built at great expense to destroy millions of human lives... and the men and women whose professional duty it is to maintain them until we learn the deep lesson that the discovery of how to release nuclear energy revealed a natural limit to the scale of human conflict." -- from the Introduction by Richard Rhodes

Although the Cold War ended more than ten years ago, the nuclear dimensions of that conflict remain ever present. The United States alone maintains a nuclear force of over 10,000 warheads; the world's other nuclear powers may possess as many as 20,000 more. Further, the atomic aspirations of such states as Iraq and North Korea continue to spark international crises, while in the wake of September 11, the possibility that terrorists might obtain and use weapons of mass destruction has become frighteningly plausible. For most people, however, nuclear weapons -- whether viewed as a dangerous threat or an effective deterrent -- exist only in the abstract.

In Face to Face with the Bomb, photographer Paul Shambroom documents the components of America's nuclear arsenal, and through his series of striking images which depict the devices and their day-to-day maintenance, he the makes clear the magnitude of the nuclear reality we have created. Taken between 1992 and 2001 at military bases in the United States and the South Pacific, these photographs offer an unprecedented inside look at the missiles, warheads, bombers, submarines, and command centers that make up the far-flung nuclear infrastructure of the United States. Shambroom's full-color prints depict both historic, Cold War--era weaponry shortly before it was mothballed and new warhead designs and missile defense prototypes that may be deployed well into the twenty-first century.

Face to the Face with the Bomb also features an introductory essay by Pulitzer Prize--winning historian Richard Rhodes, who places Shambroom's photographs within the context of the arms race with the Soviet Union, and a prologue by Shambroom, in which he discusses his experiences visiting the country's top-secret nuclear installations. Visually arresting and chillingly matter-of-fact, this volume provides a lasting document of one of the most uncertain, dangerous periods in human history.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (9 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801872022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801872020
  • Product Dimensions: 29.7 x 1.7 x 25.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,118,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Shambroom's images embody a personal vision informed by an extraordinary eye. He combines dogged research with a subtle dread of what he is beholding, an openness to the improbable and a cool ability to snatch art from the jaws of restricted access... The value of Face to Face with the Bomb lies in the wealth of its data, the power and order of its images, and the timing of its release... Shambroom's book arrives as our country inaugurates a new kind of endless war." -- Robert Del Tredici, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"What do what weapons of mass destruction look like? Until Paul Shambroom published the remarkable photographs gathered in his new book Face to Face with the Bomb: Nuclear Reality after the Cold War', those of us not personally connected with their manufacture, storage, and maintenance could only speculate on the basis of such antique models as 'Fat Man' and 'Little Boy,' the bombs that eradicated Hiroshima in 1945... Everything more recent was contained somewhere in the depths of vast and remote military bases, protected not only by main force but by taboo... The most jarring thing in these photographs are the periodic reminders that what your are actually looking at bears some relation to violence, to the long history of combat using blunt or edged weapons." -- Luc Sante, Boston Globe

"Paul Shambroom's Face to Face with the Bomb richly deserves the much abused adjective 'unique.' With tenacity and chutzpah, Shambroom got okays from the Defense Department to visit nuclear-weapons sites and to photograph what he saw. No one else has done that; and in today's hyper-tense climate, it is unlikely to happen again. Shambroom neither praises nor condemns America's nuclear deterrent. His purpose was to demystify, to reveal the unseen. Openness, he reasoned, is the American way. The result is a one-of-a-kind artifact of the Cold War." -- Mike MooreSenior, Editor, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

"Paul Shambroom's Face to Face with the Bomb: Nuclear Reality after the Cold War explores this unreal conjunction of everyday and the epic." -- Albert Mobilio, Bookforum

"Face to Face with the Bomb is a compulsively fascinating account, through words and pictures, of the state of America's nuclear force today." -- Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times-Post Intelligencer

"Grappling with the reality of all the nuclear bombs out there is just what photographer Paul Shambroom wants us to do... Some of his images evoke awe, showing that he has a good sense of the magnitude of the enterprise he is trying to document. Others are just plain funny, demonstrating that he also has a good sense of humor." -- American Scientist

"Mr. Shambroom's approach suggests an anthropologist's method and rigor." -- Philip Gefter, New York Times


"With detached neutrality rarely found in documentary photography, Shambroom remains aloof while unleashing the lethal cerebral logic of the architecture and technology of mass destruction. Straddling distinctions between documentary and fine art, Shambroom pictures the internal spaces of the absolute power of the military, industrial, corporate complex with an equally deadly visual objectivity." -- Kristine Stiles, Duke University

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Here is what a U.S. Navy officer saw at Nagasaki in September 1945, fully a month after the city's destruction, and wrote home to his wife. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Basically just a book of photographs. 15 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I Iwas expecting something with more substance,but, this is just a book of photographs of things and places related to nuclear weapons. A few of them are very interesting, there is a short written description tied to each picture, but, little else. I paid a very cheap price so cannot complain to excess. I would not recommend this.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Featured in Mr. Shambroom's book 19 Aug 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am one of the few people who are featured in Mr. Shambroom's book. It was an honor to have him among us as we performed our daily duties. We are not people of evil, we are all Americans bent on protecting our homeland from all who wish to destroy her.
This is a good book. It details our daily life. No one loves nuclear weapons. Not even us who work with them. But the cat is out of the bag and we have to live with our decisions and support our fellow Americans.
Order the book, you won't be sorry you did.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living and learning in a Nuclear World 18 Oct 2003
By M. Petnuch - Published on Amazon.com
I am one of those folks who, like Paul Shambroom, is totally amazed at the vast nuclear network that is found across our nation.. I envy his good fortune in accessing these amazing nuclear sites and his ability to capture all on film. Over the years, I have seen first hand many of the locations he delivers to us, but often under a tight restrictive atmosphere which usually forbade photography. Paul's photos are very impressive. Missile silos, command and control centers,nuclear bomb storage bunkers, and even inside of 'the mountain' at NORAD. The quality is great, and the simplicity of it all is a bit intimidating.
If you have an interest in the weapons of the nuclear age, your choices are these: Head out to Kirtland AFB to see the Atomic Museum, or get yourself a copy of this informative book. The photos alone are well worth the purchase price. This book belongs out on the coffee table to be seen. I guarantee, you will get some comments and serious conversation.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique set of pictures 10 Feb 2004
By Bruce P. Barten - Published on Amazon.com
Don't question reality. The Introduction by Richard Rhodes asserts that only two of the bombs shown on the cover of this book could "encapsulate as much destructive force as all the explosives used in the Second World War. World War II was a mere two-megaton war." (p. 3). I have heard how much noise a load of conventional bombs dropped by a B-52 makes landing in some mountains a few miles away, and it is easy to believe that since March 1949, the U.S. Strategic Air Command has had the power to destroy targets "in and around seventy Soviet cities (and, collaterally, the cities themselves along with several million Soviet civilians) within thirty days with only 133 atomic bombs" (p. 3), and those bombs were only atomic.
This book would have been impossible a hundred years ago: no such weapons. This book was impossible twenty years ago: in 1984, big brother would not allow anyone who did not have the need to know so much precise knowledge of what was going on. These pictures are proof, but such evidence is still subject to the height of absurdity, if anything can compare with one's own dubious experiences after imagining what this all cost: "The deafening roar brought to mind an image of a giant waterfall, with a wide, endless river of dollar bills cascading into a void" (p. xiii) in the Prologue, but logic is subject to worse reasoning when the photographer was accused "of having fabricated my earlier warhead photos. A public affairs officer said that it was impossible that they would ever have given such permission, and that the photos I was showing them must be fakes" (p. xvii). The military is largely a public institution, full of people who are quite capable of normal behavior, including a few deviations from normal conditions of secrecy when the rest of the world is expected to be entirely cowed by America's immense arsenal.
Paul Shambroom admits that he is not likely to get more pictures like these after September 11, 2001, but military authorities were still willing to help with information for the notes on pages 111-116, which include long-range plans, such as "The B-2 is expected to remain in service until 2040." (p. 116). The note for plate 78 also reveals that we have a fleet of 21 B-2 Spirit "Stealth" bombers that cost "considerably more than 2 billion dollars for each plane." (p. 115). There are not many people in the pictures, and the people are not posed, so working with an elbow and chin up in the Trident II D5 submarine missile nose assembly must be the standard procedure at the Naval Submarine Base King's Bay, Georgia, as shown in Plate 42. Reaching way inside a missile in a truck is a technician in Plate 33. Plate 2 shows a chair for the Secretary of the Air Force Sheila Widnall on December 17, 1993, when the first operational B-2 was delivered, but there are only a few women pictured in the entire book. Plate 20 shows a woman serving a twenty-four-hour "alert" at an underground Launch Control Center in Newell, South Dakota. Plate 71 might show a woman, if the wind in the Marshall Islands is ruffling her hair and making Bermuda shorts balloon out so they look like a skirt. With a military watch and sneakers that look less fancy than the striped running shoes on the guy in the picture who looks like a guy. His/her baseball cap could be an attempt to look like one of the guys. My hair is longer than anyone who is in that picture, but I'm not working at a missile site for a missile defense test.
Anyone who would like to see the sunset reflecting from the cars of a long freight train passing a Minuteman III missile silo in North Dakota might appreciate the panorama in Plate 35. Chain link fence with a few barbed wires on top hardly seems like enough security to keep anything except cows out, but there isn't anything in the fence that would shelter a cow or anyone else in a storm in the silo area, so these tiny Launch Facilities were safe enough for a restricted area in America for years. The impressive pictures show the gigantic size of some objects, like a Trident submarine (Plates 36, 38, 47), a spare Trident submarine bow section plastic part under a tarp from Hitco (Plate 43), PARCS missile warning radar (Plate 58), and the OTH-B bomber detection radar (Plate 65). The telephone poles are very close to the ground compared to the towers for the "3000-foot transmitting antenna (one of three on the site)" (p. 114).
The Department of Energy was also requested to allow some pictures to be taken, as much of the responsibility for plutonium is within their power. I doubt if anything that is more concerned about energy than people will ever have an official documented record of anything it does quite like this book. Plate 72 shows an Abandoned Safeguard missile site in North Dakota, and efforts to deactivate systems are part of the information provided in this book, except such information as only the DOE possesses.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unprecedented View into the Abyss 12 Jun 2003
By Bob Mielke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a thoroughly amazing book of photographs, made possible only because of the brief moments of comparative access atomic photographers (and yes, they have a guild) had between the end of the cold war and 9/11. I've also labored in this vineyard; no one surpasses Shambroom. The book illustrates the Robert Jay Lifton remark he cites at its conclusion: "We must look into the abyss to see beyond it." That pisgah view is what Paul Shambroom gives us. Although he says he intended to neither "criticize" nor "glorify" the weapons, his book does both and neither. Many of the images of our Triadic nuclear forces (and Command and Control structures) horrify with their surreal details; but his fine art photography also beguiles us with some true glimpses of the nuclear sublime. (Plate 35's North Dakota missile silo has the same elegance as a Hudson River School landscape, for example.)
This coffee table volume from hell gets under your skin; these images have entered my dreams.... Even if you aren't interested in this subject, this book is worth a look -- and an excellent introduction to the secret world our tax dollars fund. (Every American should be issued a copy at birth.) This is what lies under the rock of the national security state. We pay for it; thanks to Paul Shambroom, you can see what you're buying into.
Many of the images will surprise you with their power. I won't give any of this away; check this one out for yourself. You won't be sorry you did.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 20 Aug 2014
By Erik Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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