The Bomber Mafia A dream, a temptation, and the longest night of the second World War
eAudio - 2021
An exploration of how technology and best intentions collide in the heat of war In The Bomber Mafia, 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 stra...tegists, the "Bomber Mafia," asked: What if precision bombing could cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal? In contrast, the bombing of Tokyo on the deadliest night of the war 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 even more by averting a planned US invasion. In The Bomber Mafia, Gladwell asks, "Was it worth it?" Things might have gone differently had LeMay's predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. Hansell believed in precision bombing, but 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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Gladwell, who co-founded Pushkin Industries in 2018 with journalist Jacob Weisberg, rolls out that company's intriguing fourth title after Kurt Andersen's Hasta La Vista, America (2021), a would-be Trump combo farewell and 2021 State of the Union address voiced by Alec Baldwin. Here Gladwell relates a heretofore little-known turf battle within the U.S. military over which of two philosophies would prevail in America's aerial conduct of WWII. The first tactic would pinpoint critical enemy "chokepoints"—for instance, essential ball-bearing factories in Germany—to severely hinder its ability to fight a war, resulting in fewer casualties. The alternate would be a more conventional tactic, supported by the British, of widespread bombing of the enemy's territory, causing vastly more casualties over a longer period of time in the hope of demoralizing the enemy to the point of surrender. The second tactic, personified by General Curtis LeMay's calamitous fire-bombing of Tokyo, would tragically win out over the pinpointing strategy, which, also tragically, would never prove that effective during the war. A better writer than a polished speaker, Gladwell still lays out this consequential story in meticulous detail, bolstered by archival interviews, news clips, sound effects, and even a musical score. The multimedia format might occasionally jar those listeners new to it, but it still succeeds. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.
In The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War, Malcolm Gladwell, author of New York Times bestsellers including Talking to Strangers and host of the podcast Revisionist History, uses original interviews, archival footage and his trademark insight to weave 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. As listeners hear these stories unfurl, Gladwell examines 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 Revisionist History, Gladwell re-examines moments from the past and asks whether we got it right the first time. In The Bomber Mafia, he employs all the production techniques that make Revisionist History so engaging, stepping back from the bombing of Tokyo, the deadliest night of the war, and asking, “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.