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The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and…
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The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the… (edition 2021)

by Malcolm Gladwell (Author), Malcolm Gladwell (Narrator), Pushkin Industries (Publisher)

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4582844,179 (3.78)19
"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." --… (more)
Member:jeff.coatsworth
Title:The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War
Authors:Malcolm Gladwell (Author)
Other authors:Malcolm Gladwell (Narrator), Pushkin Industries (Publisher)
Info:Pushkin Industries (2021)
Collections:Your library
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Tags:2022-05 #19

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The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell (Author)

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» See also 19 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
I'd like to think this a book my dad would have loved. He was a big military buff (see my first name?) whose childhood dream was to fly military planes.

I went into this book blind. I just had the title. Bomber Mafia (I didn't see the rest of the title) What is that? Book on suicidal bombers? But saw Malcolm Gladwell's name as author so I just got it any way. At first look, it's a book about the evolution in thinking for using aircraft in war.

But it's more than that. It's a story of who history labels a hero. It's a discussion on humanitarian ways to wage war. After finishing this book, I feel a little wiser, a lot entertained and grateful Malcolm Gladwell is still writing books.



( )
  wellington299 | Feb 19, 2022 |
Malcolm Gladwell moves away from social psychology and his emphasis on social cognition in this analysis of the theories and associated methods that guided actions of the U. S. Army Air Corps in WW II.

Bomber Mafia is the misnomer applied to the group of officers who argued that the mass killing of people in war is unnecessary and inefficient. The target should be strategic facilities, the loss of which would cripple the enemy’s ability to wage war. In Europe, destroying the ball-bearing plants clustered in Schweinfurt, Germany would halt the German war machine. They should target the Kawasaki aircraft manufacturing facility in Japan, which was critical to the Japanese ability to continue fighting.

General Curtis LeMay expressed the opposing view that the humane approach to war was to strike as forcefully and ruthlessly as possible. Kill as many of the enemy as quickly as you can to force them to surrender. Although that sounds inhumane, LeMay argued his approach resulted in fewer deaths and injuries and less human suffering than a more prolonged war.

The development of the Norden bombsight was critical to the success of the Army Air Corps in achieving the Bomber Mafia’s goal. Unfortunately, the bombsight was not as effective as expected. Despite using thousands of bombers to drop tons of bombs, the war production of ball bearings was only minimally affected. In hindsight, it is apparent that the problem was not with the theory but with the current state of technology. The accuracy needed was not achievable at that time.

LeMay’s approach led to the massive firebombing of 67 Japanese cities, some of which had no strategically important industry.

I was not aware of the philosophical debate described in The Bomber Mafia, and it places the related military actions in WW II in a different light. Argument and angst have focused on using the atomic bomb, and LeMay’s contention that the massive killing of the enemy was the most humane approach is at the heart of this discussion. But the firebombing of cities by Germany and the Allies has been muted in comparison. However, it is worth noting that the United States and 114 other nations have signed a United Nations protocol outlawing the use of incendiary weapons.

The Bomber Mafia is well worth reading. Gladwell makes a few missteps—the effort to draw biblical comparisons, for example—but the brief account is a lively and informative read. ( )
  Tatoosh | Feb 17, 2022 |
Gladwell is a must-read author for me. A book about World War II bomber planes wouldn’t necessarily grab my attention, but like all of his books, the topic delves far beyond the surface subject and explores the sociological implications of some critical inventions. I was completely enthralled the entire time. It was designed as an audiobook, so I highly recommend reading it and that format. ( )
  bookworm12 | Feb 13, 2022 |
Can't listen to faster than 1.6 and even that is too much for archival recordings used in audiobook. A very cool addition for authenticity but helps to know going in. I liked the facts better than the commentary. ( )
  MadTattler | Jan 24, 2022 |
World War I unleashed many technological advances into warfare. These mainly brought about more advanced ways to kill more and more humans. After the war, a group of American military thinkers nicknamed the “Bomber Mafia” developed a theory about airplanes and the ability to undertake precision bombing. They thought that wars could be won in a more humane manner by targeting critical industries through carefully crafted bombing routines. These could cut down on land casualties at the front and avoid civilian casualties through area bombing.

However, this plan seemed to fail when World War II erupted, both in the European theater and in the Pacific theater. Eventually, on both fronts, area bombing became the modus operandi and produced massive casualties. Ironically, most leaders at the time and most historians today credit these area bombing campaigns with ultimately shortening the war. By their demoralizing civilian impact, a wholesale (and costly) land invasion of Japan was averted.

In recent American military campaigns (both Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, and Kosovo), precision bombing has avoided massive civilian casualties and produced quick victories. However, confidence in the ease of these techniques only encourage more violence, not less, and over-reliance on them can potentially make costly mistakes more common.

In journalistic fashion, Gladwell originally produced this work for presentation as an audiobook. This format makes listening to the book far more interesting than expected. On top of that, the tale’s novelty entices. World War II has been exhaustively examined by historians, but through thorough investigation of US military records and access to Air Force leadership, Gladwell was able to unearth an untold story. Then he engages the public’s imagination to produce a winning feat. I can find no holes in his execution in telling this well-researched narrative. Kudos for this great presentation! ( )
  scottjpearson | Jan 20, 2022 |
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Gladwell, MalcolmAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gladwell, MalcolmNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neugarten, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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." --

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