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Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfareby Stephen Budiansky
Synopses & Reviews
The exciting history of a small group of British and American scientists who, during World War II, developed the new field of operational research to turn back the tide of German submarines—revolutionizing the way wars are waged and won.
In March 1941, after a year of unbroken and devastating U-boat onslaughts, the British War Cabinet decided to try a new strategy in the foundering naval campaign. To do so, they hired an intensely private, bohemian physicist who was also an ardent socialist. Patrick Blackett was a former navy officer and future winner of the Nobel Prize; he is little remembered today, but he and his fellow scientists did as much to win the war against Nazi Germany as almost anyone else. As director of the World War II antisubmarine effort, Blackett used little more than simple mathematics and probability theory—and a steadfast belief in the utility of science—to save the campaign against the U-boat. Employing these insights in unconventional ways, from the washing of mess hall dishes to the color of bomber wings, the Allies went on to win essential victories against Hitler’s Germany.
Here is the story of these civilian intellectuals who helped to change the nature of twentieth-century warfare. Throughout, Stephen Budiansky describes how scientists became intimately involved with what had once been the distinct province of military commanders—convincing disbelieving military brass to trust the solutions suggested by their analysis. Budiansky shows that these men above all retained the belief that operational research, and a scientific mentality, could change the world. It’s a belief that has come to fruition with the spread of their tenets to the business and military worlds, and it started in the Battle of the Atlantic, in an attempt to outfight the Germans, but most of all to outwit them.
"Historian and journalist Budiansky's newest (after Perilous Fight) is the little known history of a linchpin in the Allies' victory over the Nazis: Patrick Blackett. At the outset of WWI, the submarine was a marginalized resource, yet it would soon prove a harbinger of the unprecedented technological developments that would characterize the efficient lethality of modern warfare. Budiansky demonstrates that at the time, the Royal Navy was less a training center for elite combatants than it was 'a vocation for the sons of gentleman.' Yet Blackett, who got his first taste of battle as a teen in 1916, was the exception among the navy's well-heeled students. Between the World Wars, he studied at Cambridge, where he developed into a brilliant physicist and became enduringly committed to left-wing politics. During WWII, he applied pragmatism and scientific acumen to the relatively new field of 'operational research,' which favored data (e.g., radar) and improvisation over 'tradition, prejudice, or gut feeling.' Described by a contemporary as 'straightforward, leftish, Bohemian and unconventional,' Blackett had his fair share of old guard naysayers, yet in the struggle against German U-boats, the efficacy of his tactics spoke for themselves. For military history and science fans alike. Agent: Katinka Matson, Brockman Inc." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The exciting, little-known story of the small group of British and American scientists who, during the years of 1941 to 1943 and almost entirely without military experience, revolutionized the way wars are waged and won.
Here are the civilian intellectuals — the kind that many military men viewed with contempt--who helped to change the nature of twentieth-century warfare. Foremost among them was Patrick Blackett, British physicist, ex-naval officer, future Nobel winner, ardent socialist, who, though little remembered today, did more to win the war against Nazi Germany than almost anyone else. Budiansky makes clear how, as director of the World War II anti-submarine effort for Britain's air force and navy, Blackett founded a new science of operational research. We see how, using little more than simple mathematics and probability theory--and a steadfast belief in the utility of science--Blackett and his colleagues demonstrated to disbelieving military brass ways in which they could save the faltering campaign against the U-boat. Employing their unconventional insights, the Allies went on to win essential victories against Hitler's Germany, in one of the great untold stories of the Second World War.
About the Author
Stephen Budiansky is a journalist and military historian. His previous books include Air Power, Battle of Wits, The Bloody Shirt, Her Majesty's Spymaster, and Perilous Fight.
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History and Social Science » Military » Naval History