Cover Image: The Bomber Mafia

The Bomber Mafia

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This is a Gladwell I didn't know. He writes from a historical perspective exploring a topic – warfare – that has been a personal interest of his for many years, apparently. It is a fascinating and well-illustrated narrative about the role of aircraft in war and in particular, precision bombing. With the usual Gladwell eye for detail and hidden threads, this reads in places more like the yarn one might find in a novel. 

When we gat past the propaganda, we all know that the machinery of war can be misguided and yet develop its own momentum until it becomes unstoppable. In this case, what started out as a plausible idea (even though the technology hadn't been invented at that time) eventually produced some of the worst atrocities ever perpetrated against civilians. The irony here is that the original vision was strategic and targeted bombing would save lives! 

Nerd that he is, he analyses without allowing his opinions to cloud the evidence, but as an indictment of those who would say that war can have any useful end, the book is all the more powerful for that.
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I'm a confirmed fan of Malcolm Gladwell, his books and his podcasts.  He finds connections and hidden threads in much the same way as James Burke used to do.

This apparently started as an audiobook and was then transformed into a paper book. And it shows. It's very short and doesn't really give Gladwell a chance to dive deep into the subject.  For that, Overy's The Bombing War is a much more detailed book.  But the bombing itself isn't the main message of this book.  Instead, it's about holding true to your ideals in the face of challenges, refusing to give in to the dark side.

I'm not sure whether Gladwell makes his case here - others have pointed out the contradictions - but it's great fun listening to him try.

I received an ARC of this book - a bit strange when the book has been out for quite a while now!
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Gladwell tells the story of the development of bomber aircraft, from the early days of World War I to the present day. He profiles the pioneers of bomber aviation, and tells the story of the bombers that were used in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Gladwell argues that the bomber has been the "perfect weapon" because it is the only type of aircraft that can be used to attack a target from a distance. He also argues that the bomber has been the "reckoning" for the United States because it has been responsible for the deaths of millions of people. The Bomber Mafia is a well-researched and well-written book. Gladwell has preconceived "big ideas" that he aims to present, but these are not as distracting as in some of his previous books.
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The author goes through a lot of effort at providing context for rise of the Air Force, it's importance, and the role it played in ending World War 2.

The book suffers from a lot of editorial errors and fact checking mistakes which can cause some readers to be wary about the contents of this book. 
Example: The book states Little Boy and Fat Man were dropped from Enola Gay.
This is incorrect, as only the former was dropped from Enola Gay. The latter was dropped from Bockscar.

It pushes folks to read up on the firebombing events in Japan, and asks the readers to question the veracity of the claims made in the book.
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Malcolm Gladwell here brings his forensic analysis to the Bomber Mafia, the group of dedicated men who gave themselves over to working out the complicated forensics of accurate bombing.  The subject matter may be known to some but this book brings it to a wider audience, which is no bad thing.  A complicated story made easier to understand by Gladwell’s engaging writing style.
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An interesting and informative book that provides a lot of detail on the characters and decisions made during WWII with little to no opinionating from the Author. Well written and I found it to be well worth taing thie time to understand more about how and why the decisions were made about the bombing raids of the war.
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An unusual book as the print version is perhaps the secondary format but still a fascinating and informative read and written in a gripping and easy to grasp style as you would expect from Malcolm Gladwell. Well worth a read.
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Interesting, intriguing and thought provoking. A book that i suspect could cause a lot of varying opinions, and discussion. I would happily recommend it.
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This is likely to be something of a Marmite book, taking as it does something of a revisionist approach to the bombing campaigns of the Second World War. The author’s premise is that the ambitious claims of precision bombing advocates were abandoned in favour of indiscriminate and even terror bombing. He sets out the history of the technical advances that enabled bombing from the likely height flown by bombers to have a reasonable chance of getting a proportion of bombs near the aiming point but points out that the conditions encountered in real life rarely permitted the theoretical accuracy being achieved. His selective use of quotations to suggest that a continued prosecution of precision bombing of critical vulnerabilities within enemy arms manufacturing centres could have been sufficiently successful to bring an end to the war. This ignores the well-documented dispersal of German war related industries and the use of underground manufacturing facilities and the continued increase in arms manufacture almost to the end of the war. 

Gladwell  appears to reserve his harshest criticism for the American firebombing campaign of Japanese cities, and the appalling casualties among Japanese civilians, without looking at the wider moral issues that would have been involved if the war had continued, as would have been necessitated in the absence of the bombing campaign, through to a land invasion of the Japanese home islands. For this reader, the issues are much more complex than the author suggests, especially in respect of the anticipated casualties among Japanese civilians, members of the defending forces and the invading Allied forces. War is indeed hell; alternatives to war should be urgently sought. But to do as many did once the war was won and to shuffle away from what was a necessary element of the Allied effort and consign those who flew in RAF Bomber  Command to the equivalent of the family’s embarrassing relative whom we don’t talk about was and is shameful.
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Malcolm Gladwell puts together an interesting book where he weaves the story with his own insights in addition to original interviews about The Bomber Mafia -  a group of idealists who believed that the wars could be less lethal through precision bombing. I read the book along with the audiobook which was so interesting with sound bites from the original interviewees. Definitely an interesting read for people who enjoy history and technology, I would definitely recommend the audiobook along with the ebook! 

Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced reader's copy.
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Gladwell brings history to life with his entertaining and digestible style. The tales he weaves are full of his own passion for this particular slice of history, and his clear fascination makes it all the more intriguing for us. 
Definitely recommended.
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Malcom Gladwell is an excellent popularizer and I was hooked even if I'm not very interested in the topic.
His style of writing and his ability of connecting facts and number kept me hooked and reading.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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I absolutely love Malcolm Gladwell and this book was no different. After reading Talking to Strangers when it came out, I went back through the Gladwell releases, reading all of his previous books. When the opportunity to review The Bomber Mafia came along, I was ready to read!

The Bomber Mafia is Gladwell doing what he does best. Making seemingly random facts and anecdotes into compelling and interesting stories and theories. 

Great book, would recommend to everyone.
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As always Gladwell manages to intrigue.

Rather than his usual social commentary, this book looks at the personalities that shaped the way airplanes in war have been used.  For a topic I'm not overly interested in I was hooked.
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Malcolm Gladwell is an entertaining and stylish writer and in this, provides a fascinating study of the innovations of warfare. It was not all my usual thing but was surpisingly engaging. Thank you to the publishers and to Netgalley for an arc.
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As someone with little interest in the Second World War, I was drawn to this book because of the author. Having previously read Outliers, listened to podcasts, watched Ted Talks, and even seen Malcolm Gladwell live, I knew that he was someone who could spin a good story. With The Bomber Mafia I wasn’t disappointed.

Initially focused on the invention of bomb sights to aid accuracy during air bombing raids, the story soon moves on to America’s involvement in the Second World War and ultimately the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Told mainly through the viewpoints of two contrasting Air Force leaders there are plenty of little anecdotes and personal insights to stop this becoming a few hundred pages of dates and statistics.

The explanations are clear enough for someone without any existing knowledge of war planes or bombs, and the science bits are pitched just right so that you’re not left scratching your head.

I appreciate that this is a big story to be told in just a couple of hundred pages and for the purists out there there’s plenty of room for further analysis and debate, never mind any kind of exploration into the politics, ethics and morality behind what was being inflicted on innocent people, but I don’t think the book really claims to be anything more than the inside story of a group of men who have a vision for the future of warfare.

Even if you only have a passing interest in history there’s something to enjoy in this book, and one I would definitely recommend,

I received an ARC from NetGalley / Penguin in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved this book. At first I didn't know what to expect of this, but I was hooked from the first pages of the book. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in WWII. It's not the usual book from Malcolm Gladwell but it's really good and really well written.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing this book in exchange of an honest review.
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The Second World War was just that, fought across the globe and in different arenas.  Enterprising militaries thought that fighting the war completely from the air was a way to save lives and conclude war quickly and so they envisioned accurate and devastating bombing.  How this came about and how it still didn't stop massive loss is a moral tale for today
I am a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell and was excited to read this short but very entertaining book.  As ever the research is top notch and the philosophical approach really work here where the discussion turns on life and death.
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Gladwell is a marvellous writer. In The Bomber Mafia, he explores how ethics and principles affect our decisions. There is smooth almost conversational assuredness about the way he writes. It is like listening to your smartest most eloquent friend tell you about something interesting he has just discovered.

The Bomber Mafia story is not one I had heard of before. It is a wide-ranging one that covers battlefield ethics, technological innovation, politics, and culture. 

One of the key takeaways for me is how people identify and solve problems based on their personalities. We are introduced to some great characters in the Bomber Mafia from the genius inventor of a bombsight to two airmen who have vastly different approaches on how to defeat the enemy.

The other takeaway is that we need to be careful about thinking that technology will save us, that we just need that one key invention to solve our problems. It doesn’t it, and in some ways it never has. What we choose to do with innovations and how we approach the inevitable moral quandaries they pose is something we all have to wrestle with. 

As with all Gladwell’s work, he occasionally takes leaps logic of that are not necessarily justified by the facts or goes off in tangents that are perplexing.

On the whole as a history of the American airforces contribution to WW2 and the lasting legacy that has had on all future military engagements The Bomber Mafia is enlightening and engrossing. As a study of what humans do under immense pressure it is thought-provoking.
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The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell is a nonfiction book that explores the methods and morality of aerial warfare. The book explores the development of technology and progress after the First World War following the men and pilots serving in the The Bomber Mafia which eventually became the United States Air Force. It also explores the two perspectives that emerged after the war from generalised aerial bombardments of large cities to precision bombing of specific targets using the newly developed Norden bombsight with the belief that it could minimise loss of life and shorten the timespan of war. The book details the failures and successes of such visions for aerial warfare supported by historical events in the air war in Europe and the Pacific. Gladwell depicts two figures, Haywood Hansell and Curtis LeMay who were two complex characters with juxtaposing positions on the methods and morality of aerial missions - it was LeMay who employed Napalm and commanded his B-29 bombers to reach Japan on an untested flight path. The book is fascinating and absorbing but I wish it had widened its scope and presented more detail on how The Bomber Mafia was crucial in changing the very fabric of modern aerial warfare. The book was originally conceived as an audiobook and I feel this is reflected in the style of the writing which is accessible and fast paced. Overall an interesting book and I would definitely read more from this author.
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