John M. Curatola, "Autumn of Our Discontent: Fall 1949 and the Crises in American National Security" (US Naval Institute Press, 2022)


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In the Fall of 1949, a series of international events shattered the notion that the United States would return to its traditional small peacetime military posture following World War II. John M. Curatola's book Autumn of Our Discontent: Fall 1949 and the Crises in American National Security (US Naval Institute Press, 2022) chronicles the events that triggered the wholesale review of United States national security policies. The review led to the adoption of recommendations advanced in NSC-68, which laid the foundation for America's Cold War activities, expanded conventional forces, sparked a thermonuclear arms race, and, equally important to the modern age, established the national security state-all clear breaks from America's martial past and cornerstone ideologies.

In keeping with the American military tradition, the United States dismantled most of its military power following World War II while Americans, in general, enjoyed unprecedented post-war and peacetime prosperity. In the autumn of 1949, however, the Soviet's first successful test of their own atomic weapon in August was followed closely by establishment of the communist People's Republic of China on October 1st shattered the illusion that American hegemony would remain unchallenged. Combined with the decision at home to increase the size of the atomic stockpile on and the on-going debate regarding the "Revolt of the Admirals," the United States found itself facing a new round of crisis in what became the Cold War. Curatola explores these events and the debates surrounding them to provide a detailed history of an era critical to our own modern age. Indeed, the security state conceived of in the events of this critical autumn and the legacy of the choices made by American policymakers and military leaders continue to this day.

Charles Coutinho, PH. D., Associate Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written for Chatham House’s International Affairs, the Institute of Historical Research's Reviews in History and the University of Rouen's online periodical Cercles.

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