Few have witnessed as many turning points in the history of the nuclear age as Bill Perry, and no one at all has contributed so much to human safety from this danger.
— Ashton Carter, U.S. Secretary of Defence


My Journey at the Nuclear Brink is William J. Perry's latest effort to keep the world safe from a nuclear catastrophe. It tells the story of his coming of age in the nuclear era, his role in trying to shape and contain it, and how his thinking has changed about the threat these weapons pose

In a remarkable career, Perry has dealt firsthand with the changing nuclear threat. Decades of experience and special access to top-secret knowledge of strategic nuclear options have given Perry a unique, and chilling, vantage point from which to conclude that nuclear weapons endanger our security rather than securing it.

This book traces his thought process as he journeys from the Cuban Missile Crisis, to crafting a defense strategy in the Carter Administration to offset the Soviets' numeric superiority in conventional forces, to presiding over the dismantling of more than 8,000 nuclear weapons in the Clinton Administration, and to his creation in 2007, with George Shultz, Sam Nunn, and Henry Kissinger, of the Nuclear Security Project to articulate their vision of a world free from nuclear weapons and to lay out the urgent steps needed to reduce nuclear dangers.

Now available in Korean, Chinese, and English Audiobook

an Excerpt from the book

My phone rang on a beautiful fall day in 1962, just a week after I had celebrated my thirty-fifth birthday. I was the director of Sylvania's Electronic Defense Laboratories, which pioneered in sophisticated electronic reconnaissance systems directed at Soviet nuclear weapons systems. I was living with my wife, Lee, and our five children in a beautiful home in Palo Alto, California, near the picturesque San Francisco Bay. Life was good. But it was about to be turned upside-down
The phone call was from Albert "Bud" Wheelon, my colleague on high-level government panels to assess Soviet nuclear capabilities. Wheelon, also in his thirties, was the youngest-ever head of the CIA's Office of Scientific Intelligence, as well as chairman of the Guided Missile and Astronautics Intelligence Committee (GMAIC), an expert group reviewing all intelligence on the Soviet missile and space programs. He asked me to fly to Washington to consult with him, and I told him that I would rearrange my schedule and fly back the following week. "No" he said, "I need to see you right away." His sense of urgency alarmed me. Our country was deep in a spiraling nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union, which just the previous year had broken the nuclear test ban to detonate their "monster" 50-megaton bomb. I took the night flight to Washington, D.C., and met him the next morning.
Without a word of explanation he showed me photos of what I quickly recognized as Soviet missiles in Cuba. My instant reaction was dread. It was all too clear that this deployment could be the catalyst to trigger a nuclear exchange between the United States and the USSR. My study of nuclear effects told me that such an exchange could bring about the end of civilization.


I know of no person who understands the science and politics of modern weaponry better than William J. Perry, the US Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1997. When a man of such unquestioned experience and intelligence issues the stark nuclear warning that is central to his recent memoir, we should take heed. Perry is forthright when he says: “Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.” He also tells us that the nuclear danger is “growing greater every year” and that even a single nuclear detonation “could destroy our way of life.”
— Jerry Brown, Governor of California

A stark Nuclear Warning
June 21, 2016
The New York Review of Books

“...former Defense Secretary William Perry’s authoritative memoir, “My Journey at the Nuclear Brink,” is a clear, sobering and, for many, surprising warning that the danger of a nuclear catastrophe today is actually greater than it was during that era of U.S.-Soviet competition... His frightening call to action is relentlessly mature, disarmingly friendly and inspiring. Perry’s imperative remains that these weapons must never be used again; he sets forth a realistic security argument based on expertise and experience that the goal of eliminating the nuclear threat requires a renewed invigoration amongst citizenry and leaders alike. Memoirs are confessional, and this brief but potent one is told in an understated style through which the historical urgency dawns on the reader. It is certainly the right time for such a book to appear.”
— Mortimer Zuckerman, chairman and editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report

JUNE 7, 2016

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