Almost History: Close Calls, Plan B's, and Twists of Fate in America's Past (Fall River Press Edition)

Overview

“Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay to rest in peace….These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, know there is no hope for their recovery.”

Fortunately, these stirring words were never spoken by President Richard Nixon. Like many speeches, this one was written in preparation for events that might have happened, but never did. Almost History is a fascinating collection of speeches, memos, and other archival material that reveals how our government would have ...

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Overview

“Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay to rest in peace….These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, know there is no hope for their recovery.”

Fortunately, these stirring words were never spoken by President Richard Nixon. Like many speeches, this one was written in preparation for events that might have happened, but never did. Almost History is a fascinating collection of speeches, memos, and other archival material that reveals how our government would have handled historic moments that nearly came to be. Among these documentary moments are:

  • JFK’s prepared address justifying the bombing of Cuba during the     1962 Missile Crisis;
  • Abraham Lincoln’s plans for post-Civil War Reconstruction;
  • the authorization to use nuclear weapons in the Vietnam War;
  • the CIA’s memo discussing the use of Americans as guinea pigs in drug tests;
  • the FBI’s memo on deporting John Lennon.

This extraordinary and often provocative material demonstrates, in handwritten notes, telegrams, memos, and photographs, just how close America came to defeat, disaster, and national distress—and provides chilling proof that the course of history can change in an instant.

 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760792254
  • Publisher: Sterling
  • Publication date: 4/14/2007
  • Pages: 304

Table of Contents

Introduction
Planning for the Worst
If D-Day Had Stood for Disaster - 1944 2
Operation Unthinkable and World War III - 1945 4
When Bomb Shelters Were In: The ABCs of Surviving an A-Bomb Attack - 1954, 1962 6
Pricing Quemoy and Matsu - 1958 10
Predelegating Nuclear Terror - 1959 14
Not an Extraterrestrial - 1962 17
Losing the Astronauts - 1969 19
Forks in the Road
A Road Not Taken to Harper's Ferry - 1859 22
Powell's Choice - 1869 26
The Ascension of "His Fraudulency": John Reid and the Victory of Rutherford B. Hayes - 1876 31
A Bombing Order Away from Doomsday: Cuba - 1962 34
A Federal-State Showdown in Mississippi - 1962 38
To Indict a President? - 1974 41
Fortuitous Occurrences
Manifest Destiny or Lucky Circumstance: Jefferson and Louisiana - 1802 46
The Five-Spot Would Have Looked Different: The Story of Lincoln's Beard - 1860 49
How a Cigar Wrapper Smoked the Confederates - 1862 52
Saved by a Speech - 1912 56
"Don't Forget to Be a Good Boy": A Tennessee Legislator Listens to His Mother and Saves the Vote for Women - 1920 62
Einstein's Modest Suggestion - 1939 64
Code Maker's Dream, Enemy's Nightmare - 1942 68
Informing on the Veep: The Kickback Revelations that Brought Down Agnew - 1973 71
Close Calls
General Washington Under Fire - 1783 76
The "Firebell in the Night" Nearly Rang Early: The Tallmadge Amendment and the Missouri Compromise - 1819 81
Declining an Invitation to Ford's Theatre - 1865 85
How a Taxicab Accident Nearly Changed World History - 1931 87
Others Didn't Make It - JFK Did - 1943 90
Wernher von Braun: The Soviet Union's Loss - 1945 93
A Heartbeat Away - 1955 95
If the Heat Shield Had Blown - 1962 98
What the Public Didn't Know About Three Mile Island - 1979 103
Twists of Irony
Revolt Not Revolution: Washington Denies Seeking Independence - 1774 108
James Whistler, Failed Soldier and Bureaucrat - 1855 111
More Than Mischief: The Cartoon That Did in Boss Tweed - 1875 113
But for Metal Mattress Coils - 1881 115
Letter from a Dayton Bicycle Shop - 1899 117
Richard Nixon, FBI Agent - 1937 120
The DAR Loses a Member - 1939 128
LBJ: Vietnam Dove - 1954 130
To Assure Nonviolence: King on Trial - 1968 134
Deporting John Lennon - 1972 138
If I Were in Your Shoes ... - 1987 140
Plans Thwarted
Dousing Confederate Fire: A Conspiracy Foiled - 1864 144
Jefferson Davis, Guerrilla Fighter - 1865 146
A Different Path to Reconciliation - 1865 148
Trashing Diplomacy: Japan Rebuffs a Peace Plan - 1941 151
Avoiding the Quagmire - 1963 154
Planning for Cuban Rapprochement - 1963 156
A Speech Undelivered - 1963 161
Trying to Take Down the Cuban Roadrunner - 1967 163
Opportunities Missed; Warnings Unheeded
A Young Illinois Congressman Challenges U.S. Imperialism - 1847 168
A Georgian Olive Branch Rejected - 1863 171
"Ma Bell" Beats "Ma Gray" by a Nose - 1876 173
No Hurricane Can Make a Left Turn: How a Killer Storm Defied the Rules and Destroyed a City - 1900 175
Ice Warnings and the Unsinkable Titanic - 1912 177
Advertised in Advance: The Lusitania Disaster - 1915 179
Eleven Months' Warning - 1941 182
Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, and Ho Chi Minh - 1945 184
A Ripsnorting Change to "Give 'Em Hell" Missed - 1950 188
Left at the Space Race Starting Gate - 1957 192
Genocide Alert Ignored - 1994 196
For Lack of a Ferret: Aldrich Ames and the CIA Fiasco - 1985-94 201
Vagaries of War
British Frustration and the Saratoga Debacle - 1777 206
Establishing a Second Europe: The American Revolution Truce Plan - 1781 209
SOS from the Alamo - 1836 212
Some Thought It Lunacy: Pickett's Charge Questioned - 1863 215
A Question of Guilt: Custer and His Orders - 1876 219
Japanese Americans: Evidence to the Contrary - 1941 222
Code-Breaking Consequences
A Decoded Note and the End of Neutrality - 1917 228
Herbert Yardley's American Black Chamber and the Arms Conference - 1921 230
Breaking the Code and Winning Midway - 1942 232
Slippery Truth
Plots, Forgeries, and the Assassination of Jefferson Davis - 1864 236
Horror Concealed: Vignettes of an American Army Nurse - 1916 240
Harry Truman's Puzzling Diary Entry - 1945 243
Human Guinea Pig Research and the Tragic Death of Dr. Frank Olson - 1963 246
Urban Legends
Milking Chicago's Urban Cow Legend: Mrs. O'Leary's Cow or a Terrorist? - 1871 250
Giving the Country a Bath - 1917 253
The Advent of the Bambino's Curse - 1920 259
Lousy Predictions
What About Radial Tires? - 1909 262
Who Is This Guy, Jules Verne? - 1920 264
Some Got It Right - 1948 267
A Laptop for a Large Lap - 1949 269
Document Sources 272
Index 279
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2008

    A reviewer

    This is one of the finest examples of historical literature ever. Its title is a bit misleading for it contains a lot of truth about actual events. The actual documents are also very well organized in the book and have been transcribed making them easy to read. There¿s even a copy of Richard Nixon¿s FBI application which gives great biographical information from a primary source. Many of the documents focus around the latter half of the twentieth century but there are some dating back to the Civil War and beyond. Included is Georgia¿s letter to the Union asking for an end to hostilities which was never approved. Like I mentioned above, the book is also very well organized allowing you to find information quickly. It has several main categories like ¿Twists of Fate¿ and ¿Planning for the Worst¿. It also helps that there are short explanations at the beginning of every document.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2000

    An amazing collection of close calls and plan B's

    This book, whose author works for the national archives, is an amusing collection of 'Close Calls, Plan B's and Twists of Fate in America's past.' Some of the items are merely drafts for press releases if D-day, Apollo 11, etc, failed disastrously. More fascinating were plans for actions not taken - Robert McNamara's meeting with Kennedy on the pre-invasion bombing of Cuba and the prosecution memorandum on indicting Nixon after his resignation. Others are little known items like Alexander Graham Bell's attempt to locate the bullet in Garfield with an induction coil that failed because the dying President was on a (then) newfangled metal spring mattress and Bell didn't know it. The great majority are amusing, some are poignant (Colonel Travis' appeal for reinforcements at the Alamo - although in the words of Chief Hendrick 'if they are to fight, they are to few, if they are to die, they are too many') and H.L. Mencken's dryly humorous falsified history of the bathtub (that got out of hand when too many readers treated it as fact) is a real hoot!

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent look at major American historical events

    ALMOST HISTORY is not just a what if book along the lines of exploring an alternative path from a pivotal moment. It is not Marvel comics providing a tale such as What If the Radioactive Spider Bit Aunt May?. Instead, Roger Bruns has collected real documents that provide insight into the thinking of the key players in the event something else than what ultimately occurred happened. For instance, President Nixon had a speech written in case he had to provide solace to a mourning American people upon the failure to return of Apollo XI. General Eisenhower likewise prepared a speech explaining the failure of the D-Day invasion. <P> Tidbits from the archives make for a fascinating look at what was going through the minds of the leaders dealing with possible consequences and other contingencies. Thus, the book is incredibly engaging for more than just the history buff. In point, the student of history might find ALMOST HISTORY a bit short in length in terms of each included entry. Mr. Bruns adds commentary to his eighty plus entries that help bring the genuine documents, thought-processes of the players, and other evidence to life. This book is a great, sort of a paradigm look at America¿s heritage and hopefully the start of something fascinatingly new. <P>Harriet Klausner

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