BROTHERHOOD OF DOOM: Memoirs of a Navy Nuclear Weaponsman
Author: James S. Little
Publisher: Booklocker.com, Inc. (2007)
Binding: Paperback, 440 pages
BROTHERHOOD of DOOM provides a look inside a national program that was shrouded in secrecy, during the cold war. The book details the dedication and patriotism of a small group of sailors that were denied much of the liberty, and freedoms their fellow citizens enjoyed, to insure the survival of America in the event of a nuclear war. Emphasized throughout the book is the extraordinary effort by nuclear weaponsmen to handle and maintain these weapons of mass destruction with safety, and to continually strive for perfection. The book is an effort to honor the many outstanding, and colorful sailors he served with for thirty years, and to educate the American public about a national program that little is known about, a program all citizens should be thankful for. The job of navy nuclear weaponsman no longer exists, and BROTHERHOOD of DOOM is an attempt to preserve this important story of the American military.
Little reflects on his remarkable thirty year Navy career while primarily assigned to nuclear capable activities. In 1960 at seventeen, Little enters the service and begins training as an enlisted man who soon turns wrenches on nuclear weapons of mass destruction and other bombs. He evolves into an elite Chief Petty Officer, highly respected and in charge of all the 'hands on' details of tactical nuclear safety and security within his duty station. Little shares the painstaking advances through ten rank changes, the separation from family and friends, and a multitude of personal and professional relationships encountered. Prior to discharge at forty-eight, Jim attains the rank of Chief Warrant Officer and is in charge of one-third of our country's nuclear stockpile. He advances in rank and duty while completing his Navy career, and relates his further influence on systematic nuclear protocols as a member of stockpile management and planning committees, and while on the job as Officer in Charge of a Sound Surveillance Underwater System (SOSUS) base.
I liked Jim Little's watercolor artwork on the book cover that shows an all weather bomber and wingman streaking away from the blast of a nuclear weapon dropped on target. I found the pragmatic details of managing weapons, the snafus at sea and shore, and the never ending movement of this serviceman interesting. Navy loyalty was most evident in this book. I appreciate that Little's mother never quit writing him for thirty years, and that he and his wife, Carmen, retired together after living through many less than ideal situations dictated by Navy relocation. Little describes the hearty soul that endures Navy life -- evidenced by his examples of officers bunking directly under the aircraft catapult at sea and the sailors never ending transitions. I enjoyed the authors reflections about how proud ships and aircraft carriers became retired and scuttled, how highly sensitive locations closed, and how even his job of Navy Nuclear Weaponsman outdated with new ways to manage and trigger our nukes. I am thankful to this dedicated sailor for never forgetting those lost at sea, and for portraying the hard work required to prepare weapons below the bow on his five cruises off the coast of Vietnam.
Little tries to capture every step of his Navy journey, so this is no quick read. The book is 440 pages long, each page 8.5 X 11 inches in size, with small print and half inch borders. Without a doubt, it's the longest book I've ever read. If not concerned with length, I recommend Brotherhood of Doom to those who care to learn how tactical nuclear weapons were handled in the Cold War era, and for those curious about the intricate formality and duty details of Navy life.
Reviewed by: Hodge Wood (2009)