The bombing of Tokyo in March of 1945 was one of the deadliest nights in human history. Malcolm Gladwell’s new book engagingly covers the many technological advances that made it possible, the mindset of the leadership that ordered it, and the moral questions that remain unanswered. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Malcolm Gladwell's exploration of how technology and best intentions collide in the heat of war.
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, 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 TheBomber 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.
"A ruminative, anecdotal account of what led up to the deadliest air raid of WWII....Gladwell provides plenty of colorful details....fans will savor the insights into 'how technology slips away from its intended path.'" Publishers Weekly
"Excellent revisionist history...another Gladwell everything-you-thought-you-knew-was-wrong page-turner." Kirkus (Starred Review)
About the Author
Malcolm Gladwell is the author of six New York Times bestsellers including Talking to Strangers, David and Goliath, Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point. He is the cofounder and president of Pushkin Industries, an audiobook and podcast production company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History; Broken Record, a music interview show; and Solvable, in which Gladwell interviews innovative thinkers with solutions to some of the world's biggest problems.