Review: Days that Changed the World by Carrie Gibson

Title:  Days That Changed the World

Author Carrie Gibson

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Audiobook

Length: 4h 50m

Dates Read: November 10, 2020

4 stars
4 stars – It was really good

*Overall rating is the average of the following ratings.*

Episode 1: World War II Ghost Army: 5 stars
September 21, 1944.

This was a fascinating episode. Before listening to this, I had never heard of the Ghost Army. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, aka Ghost Army, was a 1,100 man unit that pretended to be an armored division of 20,000 troops by deceiving the enemy with sound effects, inflatable tanks, and other fakery. You actually get to hear some of the original sounds that were used to deceive them. 

The fact that this Ghost Army is pretty much unknown is very sad because they really helped in the defeat of the Germans. I loved that we got to hear interview clips from Gilbert Seltzer who was an officer in this “ghost army”.  Also, Gilbert is 101-year-old, still works, and still drives! 

Overall, this was a fascinating day in history and I learned so much. 

Episode 2: Stuxnet: The Day That Revolutionized Cyberwarfare:  3 stars
July 12, 2010

This was a malicious cyberattack that caused substantial damage to the nuclear program of Iran. This attack changed cyberwarfare.I was 18 when this cyberattack happened and I don’t remember hearing about it so this was fascinating to listen to. 

There was a lot of technical talk in this one that I didn’t really understand, but I still got the general idea of what they were saying. My biggest issue was the scratching sound that they kept playing. It was very annoying and headache inducing. 

Episode 3: The 1968 Olympics Black Power Salute: 4 stars
November 16, 1968

Another fascinating episode. This is an event that I have heard of but didn’t know a lot about. This episode was very enlightening and interesting, especially since there are still protests going on for equal rights. 

I never realized that the silver medalist, Peter Norman was a part of this protest. He didn’t raise his hand but he did wear a human-rights badge in solidarity. All of these men basically lost their athletic careers after this but they continued to fight for equal rights. It is very disappointing that this event isn’t discussed more in history class. I remember it being mentioned but nothing about the underlying facts behind it or how it changed the world. 

Episode 4: The Gulf of Tonkin Incident: 4 stars 
August 4, 1964

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, also known as the USS Maddox incident, is a highly disputed international confrontrontation that led to the U.S. engaging in the Vietnam War. This event was a confrontation between North Vietnam and US ships in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. The original report blamed North Vietnam for the ‘attack’  but in 2005, NSA publications proved that the US government lied to justify the war in Vietnam.

I knew that the Vietnam war was a very controversial one. I didn’t realize that the original event that prompted the US to directly get involved was a lie. The truth was revealed in 2005 but I still figured this would have been something that I would have heard about when it came out. 

This  was a fascinating look at history and the lies that have been told to further people plans. I found it fascinating that President Johnson’s actions in declaring the war changed how future presidents would act on these matters. I never realized it was different before his presidency. 

Again, the only issue with this episode was the sonar noise they kept making. It was very annoying and headache inducing. 

Episode 5: The First Spacewalk: 5 stars

On March 18, 1965, Russian cosmonaut Alexei Lenov made history as the first human to walk in space. His flight led to future space exploration that led to people on the moon. It also led to the International Space Station, modern day space satellites that provide everything from GPS, weather, and monitor the planet. 

I knew the basics of this flight but there was still a lot that I didn’t know about. I didn’t realize that the flight, taken in the Voskhod 2, was actually a 2 person flight:  Alexi Lenov and Pavel Belyayev. I also never realized that there were major malfunctions with this flight that could have easily have caused the deaths of both of these astronauts. During the spacewalk, there was an issue with Alexei’s spacesuit that could have easily caused issues on entering the airlock to reenter the Voskhod 2. The automatic re-entry system also failed, leading Belyayev to manually pilot the ship back to earth. They landed in the Taiga, a snowbound icy part of Siberia, which meant they had to survive in the snow until they were rescued. 

This was a mission that should have never have been completed but with these two skills it did. I am amazed at the risks taken by these space pioneers. Also, I really enjoyed listening to Alexei’s interviews (interpreted) in this one. It was fascinating how he didn’t realize how much of an impact he was making on the world. To him it was just his job. 

Episode 6: The Battle of Cable Street: 4 stars

“Sometimes you have to do the wrong thing to get the right thing done.” – Ubby Cowen

The Battle of Cable Street took place on Cable Street and Whitechapel in the East End of London on October 4, 1936. This was a clash between the Metropolitan Police, British Union Fascists lead by Oswald Mosley, and various anti-fascist demonstrators, including Jewish and communist, and socialist groups. 

I had never heard of this protest before listening to this episode. It was fascinating, especially listening to the interview parts with Ubby Cowen, one of the few living veterans of this event. This event really shows that it is important to stand up for what is right, even if it is against the law. This episode feels even more relevant this year because of all the BLM protests that have been happening. 

Episode 7; The Buddhas of Bamiyan: 4 stars 

On March 1, 2001 the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, destroyed the two giant Buddhas of Bamiyan. This episode includes interviews with foriegn correspondent, Kate Clark, who was reporting these events from Afghanistan and interviews with a local man who was detained by the Taliban and witnessed the destruction. 

I remember the destruction of these buddhas. I didn’t realize the significance at the time but I knew it was a cultural blow to the people of Afghanistan. Now that I know the reasoning behind their destruction it makes the loss of them even more heartbreaking. I would have loved to have seen these buddhas before they were destroyed. I do think that the local man’s idea of rebuilding one and leaving the other is a good idea because it shows both sides of the story. 

Episode 8: Chernobyl: 5 stars

On April 26, 1986 the nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant occurred. This disaster led to the release of 400x more radioactive materials than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. 

There was a lot about this nuclear disaster that I didn’t know about. This disaster started as an experiment to see how long a turbine would supply power to the reactor in the vent of power being lost. Unfortunately, they shut off all safety procedures before the test because this had hindered previous tests for the same thing. I didn’t realize that this disaster started as an experiment that went wrong. 

I think one of things that surprises me the most about this disaster was that the local town of Pripyat, or the world, was not notified about the disaster. They didn’t even evacuate the town until the next day. The world didn’t know anything until April 28th when the radiation cloud was noticed by Sweden. I can’t believe a country wouldn’t notify its people about such a deadly disaster. 

This episode interviews Lyubov Kovalevskaya, who was a journalist. She uncovered dangerous design flaws at Chernobyl and published about them in early 1986 but was ignored. She gives her account (translated) of what happened that day in Pripyat, and what happened afterwards. She even went back after being evacuated to collect accounts from others about the events that happened and any other evidence she could find. She had to send scans of the documents to anti-nuclear movements in Germany and sympathetic magazines in France just to get some of the truth out. 

Lyubov’s account of what happened to her and her family is heartbreaking. She talks about her daughter, who suffered greatly from radiation, and how she can’t take care of herself. What is even worse is that she put her health at risk to gather evidence against nuclear power and it is still being used today. You can just hear the heartbreak in her voice because this will probably happen again. 

Episode 9: Rivonia Trial:  4 stars

The Rivonia Trial took place between October 6, 1963 and June 12, 1964.11 people of the African National Congress (ANC) stood on trial, including Nelson Mandela, for counts of sabotage, furthering communism and aiding foreign powers. On April 20, 1964, Nelson Mandela gave a three hour speech pointing out the injustices of South African society and its legal system, ending in the famous like “I am prepared to die.” 

This was a fascinating episode because while I know Nelson Mandela’s name and I know he was imprisoned for years, I did not know the specifics. I was a young child when he was elected president so this was before my time. The interviews with defendant Denis Goldberg (accused No. 3) and defense lawyer Joel Joffe were very interesting to listen to. Goldberg’s dedication to seeing this trial through, even if it meant his death, was very powerful. 

Episode 10: The Miss World Protest: 3 stars 

On November 20, 1970, members of the Women’s Liberation Movement protested against the Miss World competition, which was broadcast on live TV. Jenny Fortune and Sue Finch tell their side of the story and how it changed them. 

This was very interesting because I have never heard of this protest for women’s rights. Jenny and Sue accounts of the protest were emotional and moving. They set out to protest an event, expecting only a few people to participate, yet a lot more showed up. It is sad hearing them discuss the lack of changes that have happened since then and the reversal of changes that are now occurring. Progress is slow but hopefully the world will change soon. 

Episode 11: Deep Blue: 3 stars

On February 10, 1996 Deep Blue, a chess playing computer, beat chess world champion Gary Kasparov. This win was a significant step forward in the progress of Artificial Intelligence. Joel Benjamin, the chess Grandmaster who trained Deep Blue discusses his time working with the Deep Blue computer.

So the topic isn’t in my normal interest but I still found it interesting. I vaguely remember this being mentioned when I was a kid but didn’t understand its importance for AI’s.I found Gary Kasparov’s reaction to being beat by a computer very interesting. His negativity at being beaten by a computer really put a damper on this breakthrough. Overall, this one was interesting but I don’t want to know more, unlike other episodes in this series. 


Goodreads / Audible



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