Nuking the Moon:... - Vince Houghton

Nuking the Moon:... - Vince Houghton

This book dropped through the door with a note from AG, “Looks interesting, hope it is.” Truly, I think interesting is an understatement. Some of the content I was already aware of, but much was new. However, all were presented in a very different style to what I’ve previously seen.

The author, Vince Houghton, is a historian and curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. This is the first time I’ve come across his work and I must say that I like his chatty, self-deprecating style: his ‘aside’ notes are often genuinely amusing.

In the past I’ve complained about historians being dogmatic and making statements that they couldn’t possibly know to be true, this author is a refreshing change and makes suggestions rather than outright claims.

Normally, history books are full of stories of things that happened; this book is different: it’s a history book full of the stories behind things that didn't happen: and in most cases we should be very grateful that they didn’t happen.

Set predominantly in the cold war and mainly American in origin, some of the revelations in this book are hard to believe, but all are backed up with evidence in the adequate ‘references and further reading’ section.

However, we must take things in context and it must be remembered that the cold war was a time of desperation and despair and things were fast-moving. Often events simply overtook the schemes so they were simply dropped as being no longer required. Not everything in this book was unworkable or mad-cap.

There is an old saying, ‘never underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups’: it does hold true for many cases revealed in this book. Who would realistically think of using nuclear bombs in order to alter the direction of storms without contemplating the undesired effects and outfall of radiation?

The book is divided neatly into four sections:

Adventures in the animal kingdom, where we learn of such schemes as using bats to carry incendiary devices to destroy Japanese homes and of hiding listening devices in cats to eavesdrop on conversations.

Astonishing operations, where amongst other things, it is revealed that the Russian embassy in Washington was ‘bugged’ during its construction, in direct retaliation for the American embassy bugging in Moscow a few years earlier.

Truly extraordinary technology, where one of the revelations is the idea to use giant mirrors to harness (and direct) the power of the sun to ‘fry’ recalcitrant powers into oblivion.

Fun with nuclear weapons, where amongst some very odd acronyms we get to learn of some very ambitious plans for Greenland and some very oddball propulsion systems.

Coming in at just £9.99, I reckon this book would make an ideal Christmas present for anyone with an interest in the cold war or intelligence services in general: it really is good value.

A book I thoroughly enjoyed, I’m coming in at 4 1/2 anchors: it kept me engaged and amused for just over a week.