A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon
Neil Sheehan. New York: Random House, 2009. 560 pp. Interviews. Source Notes. Bib. Index. $32.
Reviewed by Norman Friedman
Neil Sheehan's latest is really two books: an account of the creation of Air Force ballistic missiles and a rumination on the larger Cold War. The first seems very successful; the second will raise
questions among some readers.
First, the success. Every so often, discussions of U.S. strategic missiles bring up the names of Bernard Schriever, his Western Missile Division, and the company Ramo-Wooldridge (later TRW). Schriever seemed to be to the Air Force what Admiral Hyman G. Rickover was to the nuclear-powered Navy. Sheehan managed to interview Schriever extensively, and his book explains how crucial he was and how the program went from idea to reality in a way I had not previously seen. There are a few technical glitches (most notably a misleading explanation of inertial guidance), but the important story is how Schriever managed to maneuver among several minefields to success.