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The Bomber Mafia : a dream, a temptation, and the longest night of the second World War / Malcolm Gladwell.

Available copies

  • 2 of 2 copies available at Town of Orford Libraries.

Current holds

0 current holds with 2 total copies.

Location Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status Due Date
Orford Free Library A 940 GLA 34446000086665 New adult items Available -
Orford Social Library 940.54/4973 34190000109933 New items Available -

Record details

  • ISBN: 9780316296618 :
  • ISBN: 0316296619 :
  • Physical Description: xiv, 240 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
  • Edition: First edition.
  • Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2021.

Content descriptions

Bibliography, etc. Note:
Includes bibliographical references (pages 211-231) and index.
Summary, etc.:
"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 strategists, 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"-- Provided by publisher.
Subject: World War, 1939-1945 > Aerial operations, American.
World War, 1939-1945 > Japan > Aerial operations, American.
Bombing, Aerial > Japan > History > 20th century.
Aeronautics, Military > History.
Precision bombing > History.

Syndetic Solutions - Kirkus Review for ISBN Number 9780316296618
The Bomber Mafia : A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War
The Bomber Mafia : A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War
by Gladwell, Malcolm
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Kirkus Review

The Bomber Mafia : A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War

Kirkus Reviews


Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Another Gladwell everything-you-thought-you-knew-was-wrong page-turner, this one addressing a historical question that still provokes controversy. During the unprecedented slaughter of World War I, bombers played a trivial role. However, by the 1930s, many military thinkers concluded that they were the weapon of the future. Were they right? Gladwell concentrates on the careers of Gens. Curtis LeMay and Haywood Hansell, but the author includes several of his characteristic educative, entertaining detours--e.g., histories of napalm and the Norden bombsight. Between the wars, all rising American Air Corps officers attended the Air Corps Tactical School in Alabama. A small part of the faculty, the Bomber Mafia, taught that high-altitude, daylight, precision-bombing would win wars. During World War II, Mafia stalwart Hansell sent fleets of bombers to destroy German and Japanese industrial targets. Unfortunately, due to weather, enemy resistance, and failure of the overhyped Norden bombsight, the bombs mostly missed. Gladwell delivers a fairly flattering portrait of LeMay, who "had a mind that moved only forward, never side-ways…[and] was rational and imperturbable and incapable of self-doubt." Heading the 21st Bomber Command in the Pacific in the fall of 1944, Hansell was conducting high-altitude precision daylight bombing of Japan, with the usual poor results. Replacing him in January 1945, LeMay did no better--until he changed tactics, sending missions at night, at low level, loaded with firebombs. His first round of bombing created a firestorm that killed an estimated 100,000 Tokyo civilians. LeMay's bombers went on to devastate 67 Japanese cities, and the raids continued until the day of surrender. In his opinion, the atomic bombs were superfluous; the real work had already been done. Some historians call this a humanitarian crime that failed to shorten the war. Evenhanded as usual, Gladwell does not take sides, but he quotes a Japanese historian who disagreed: "if they don't surrender, the Soviets invade, and then the Americans invade, and Japan gets carved up, just as Germany and the Korean peninsula eventually were." Excellent revisionist history. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Syndetic Solutions - Publishers Weekly Review for ISBN Number 9780316296618
The Bomber Mafia : A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War
The Bomber Mafia : A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War
by Gladwell, Malcolm
Rate this title:
vote data
Click an element below to view details:

Publishers Weekly Review

The Bomber Mafia : A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War

Publishers Weekly


(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Gladwell (Talking to Strangers) delivers a ruminative, anecdotal account of what led up to the deadliest air raid of WWII: the firebombing of Tokyo by U.S. forces in March 1945. Expanding on a recent multiepisode arc of his Revisionist History podcast, Gladwell begins with the development in the 1920s of the Norden bombsight, which gave pilots the ability to aim at specific targets, rather than drop their bombs indiscriminately. A group of young U.S. Army Air Corps pilots including Haywood Hansell enthusiastically endorsed the bombsight and other new aviation technologies and their potential for reducing casualties. Hansell eventually took charge of U.S. bomber units in England during WWII, and used "precision bombing" techniques to target German factories and supply lines. But when he arrived on the Mariana Islands to command the U.S. air attack on Japan in 1944, bad weather and the jet stream near Tokyo made precision bombing impossible. After refusing to launch a full-scale napalm attack, Hansell was replaced by Gen. Curtis LeMay, who directed the raid on Tokyo that killed an estimated 100,000 people. Gladwell provides plenty of colorful details and poses intriguing questions about the morality of warfare, but this history feels more tossed off than fully fledged. Still, Gladwell's fans will savor the insights into "how technology slips away from its intended path." (Apr.)


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