This Week’s Book Review – An Anxious Peace

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘An Anxious Peace’ looks at the Cold War

By MARK LARDAS

June 8, 2019

“An Anxious Peace: A Cold War Memoir,” by Hans Mark, Texas A&M University Press, 2019, 688 pages, $47

Hans Mark entered the United States as a refugee from Austria, immediately before the United States entered World War II. He went on to a career where he was a key player in technologies critical to the United States’ success during the rest of the century: atomic physics, aerospace engineering and space exploration.

In “An Anxious Peace: A Cold War Memoir,” by Hans Mark, he tells his story.

Mark’s family fled Austria after the German Anschluss. Mark’s father, a noted polymer chemist and professor, had been imprisoned by the Nazis, escaping with a former student’s assistance. The family spent time in Britain and Canada. In 1940, Mark’s family came to the United States after his father became a chemistry professor at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute.

Hans grew up in New York attending Stuyvesant High School, a school focused on science and technology. Attending the University of California Berkeley, and MIT, he earned a Ph.D. in physics.

He spent his life showing his gratitude to the country that adopted him by protecting it from its enemies, especially the Soviet Union. Mark viewed communism as little different from the national socialism he had fled.

Mark’s next 50 years found him at the tip of the current hot technology battle of the Cold War. He designed helped nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. He led NASA-Ames Research Center, pioneering airborne astronomy, space exploration (including three Pioneer probes) and cutting-edge aeronautics. He served as an undersecretary and secretary of the Air Force, deputy administrator of NASA and chancellor of the University of Texas.

Along the way he influenced some of the technologies and tools critical to eventual U.S. victory in the Cold War: stealth technology, the B-1, orbital intelligence gathering, the space shuttle, the space station and parallel processing computers. He seemed to be at the right place at the right time.

The book is long, 650 7-by-10 inch pages. Yet it’s never dull. It’s a fascinating read, perhaps the most engaging memoir since “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.” Readers will be rewarded with an intimate yet comprehensive account of the Cold War.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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4 thoughts on “This Week’s Book Review – An Anxious Peace”

  1. For people interested in picking up a copy, here are Amazon links for the hardcover and Kindle editions.

    It’s a pity the cover photo isn’t in colour.  I think what’s sitting on the desk in front of him is the famous “Blue Shuttle”.  Lots of people in the space and defence communities in the 1970s and 1980s had models of the Space Shuttle in their offices, but Hans Mark’s was famously painted blue, indicating it was an Air Force orbiter, not a NASA ship.  This was before the Great Disenchantment when it became apparent the Shuttle was never going to meet the (absurdly) over-optimistic cost and flight rates that NASA had promised in order to sell it to the Air Force and Congress.

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  2. John Walker:
    It’s a pity the cover photo isn’t in colour.  I think what’s sitting on the desk in front of him is the famous “Blue Shuttle”.  Lots of people in the space and defence communities in the 1970s and 1980s had models of the Space Shuttle in their offices, but Hans Mark’s was famously painted blue, indicating it was an Air Force orbiter, not a NASA ship.  This was before the Great Disenchantment when it became apparent the Shuttle was never going to meet the (absurdly) over-optimistic cost and flight rates that NASA had promised in order to sell it to the Air Force and Congress.

    I believe (looking at my copy) it is actually a metal wind tunnel model. There were a bunch of them in a display case in Bldg 16 at Johnson Space Center when I wrote my book about the Shuttle. (It covered the military history of the Shuttle program, and discusses the reasons the Air Force backed away from using the Shuttle.)

    Mark’s involvement in the Shuttle program was a big reason I asked for a review copy of the book. I was a junior engineer at JSC at that time. I found I agreed with his views on how the Shuttle program should be run and what NASA’s mission should be.

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  3. I want to read this.  A child of the 50’s , I grew up in mortal terror of the mushroom cloud.  We knew the tone of the Emergency Broadcast System would be the last sound we would ever hear. No comfort to be  found; our parents were scared, too.   “Anxious” peace, indeed.

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