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The Bomber Mafia

The Bomber Mafia

A Dream, A Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War

Book - 2021
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"Malcolm Gladwell weaves together the stories of a Dutch genius and his homemade computer, a band of brothers in central Alabama, a British psychopath, and pyromaniacal chemists at Harvard to examine one of the greatest moral challenges in modern American history. Most military thinkers in the years leading up to World War II saw the airplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists had a different view. This 'Bomber Mafia' asked: What if precision bombing could, just by taking out critical choke points -- industrial or transportation hubs -- cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal? In his podcast, Revisionist History, Gladwell re-examines moments from the past and asks whether we got it right the first time. In The Bomber Mafia, he steps back from the bombing of Tokyo, the deadliest night of the war, and asks, "Was it worth it?" The attack was the brainchild of General Curtis LeMay, whose brutal pragmatism and scorched-earth tactics in Japan cost thousands of civilian lives, but may have spared more by averting a planned US invasion. Things might have gone differently had LeMay's predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. As a key member of the Bomber Mafia, Haywood's theories of precision bombing had been foiled by bad weather, enemy jet fighters, and human error. When he and Curtis LeMay squared off for a leadership handover in the jungles of Guam, LeMay emerged victorious, leading to the darkest night of World War II. The Bomber Mafia is a riveting tale of persistence, innovation, and the incalculable wages of war." -- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2021.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780316296618
Branch Call Number: 940.5449 GLADWELL 2021
Characteristics: xiv, 240 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 21 cm


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🏝You can read this in an afternoon, but beware of Gladwell's mistakes and inaccuracies. As an example, he says, mistakenly, that bombers on Tinian had to wait for tailwinds to take off. In fact, airplanes always, always, take off into the wind. This may seem counterintuitive, but it is a fact.
I don't know where he got his information about the weather in the Marianas, which he says is always awful, but Saipan is now a popular tropical resort destination for the Japanese. It has white sand beaches, palm trees, and casinos.

Jun 02, 2021

This book totally obliterated my long held perceptions of the war in the Pacific. I would have preferred to listen to the book as it was originally a podcast. Since my library only had the book version, I decided to jump on the hold list and consume the information in that format. From the very beginning, Gladwell sets up the contrast between Haywood Hansell and Curtis LeMay. Both were generals and helped develop our Air Force from the ground up. They had a vision for using air power to shorten wars and reduce collateral damage. Their story and the decisions they made had a direct impact on WW II and on warfare going forward. Fascinating and engrossing with Gladwell's signature style. Highly recommended!

May 24, 2021

I had high hopes for this book, but was disappointed. Pass.

May 23, 2021

These reviews say that the book is really really bad.

"And then there are books whose fusion of factual inaccuracy and moral sophistry is so total that they can only be written by Malcolm Gladwell. His latest piece of narrative napalm, The Bomber Mafia, is an attempt to retcon the history of American aerial warfare by arguing that developing the capacity to explode anything, anywhere in the world has made America and, indeed, the rest of the globe, unequivocally safer."

May 11, 2021

This is a very different Gladwell book - a key reason why so many readers have been disappointed. This is a good story worth telling. It almost feels like a summary of detailed book. It is a very short book and can be read in a single setting.

May 10, 2021

We are all familiar with Malcolm Gladwell's writing and have grown to expect well-researched writing. "The Bomber Mafia" is no exception. This is a story set in WW II and the moral dilemma that the Air Pilots face. Should you bomb out the whole area below you or should you bomb precisely. Each has its own set of problems and the science involved is quite elaborate. Both the bombing of Germany and Japan are involved and Gladwell has explained exactly how the pilots went about them and what led to Japan surrendering in the aftermath of Napalm bombing and Atomic Bombing. The ethical questions raised are riveting and the book is gripping.


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