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The Bomber Mafia

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Member Reviews

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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Although I love history, I do not generally seek books about military subjects. However, having enjoyed several of Malcolm Gladwell’s works, I seized the opportunity of reading his latest publication.  The Bomber Mafia is, to be honest, quite an uncharacteristic book for Gladwell.  He is best known for his works of sociology/social psychology such as The Tipping Point and Outliers, but The Bomber Mafia is a book about military history. 

Gladwell gives us an account of the group of aviators and military strategists who, in the years between the wars, changed the way the US Air Force – and bomber divisions in particular – were perceived.  The air force was originally considered an adjunct of the army, a mere support for traditional army invasions.  But the pioneers of military aviation realised that war could be fought differently through attacks from the air.  There was a philosophical – and, one could say, moral – underpinning to this.  Strategists such as Haywood Hansell believed that through techniques of precision bombing, the infrastructure of a hostile country could be brought to its knees without unnecessary loss of human life.  A key tool in this innovative vision was the “Norden bombsight”, a top-secret piece of equipment which would purportedly allow US bombers to “drop a bomb into a pickle barrel from thirty thousand feet”.  We hardly need reminding that this dream was not realised during the Second World War – General Curtis LeMay’s scorched earth firebombing tactics against Japan were the antithesis of Hansell’s approach.  Gladwell tells the intriguing story of how this happened and considers whether and how the views of Hansell and like-minded military leaders still have an important legacy.  It makes for some edge-of-the-seat reading and the “interview” approach (the book started off as a podcast) suits it particularly well.

In his book, Gladwell does not stick to bare facts, but often adopts a psychological approach, delving into a psychological analysis of his larger-than-life cast of characters.    It is impressive and rather frightening to think that certain decisions having a world-changing impact sometimes depend on the psychological make-up of the individuals involved. This might be The Bomber Mafia’s strongest point.
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This book did give me a bit of an insight into military aviation this book is not for me and to be fair i struggled with it although i dont doubt it is a fab read for someone who is into the subject sadly it was just not for me.
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As someone who loves the book of Malcolm Gladwell, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to read his latest work.  A beautifully written book, this tells the story of the different approaches used to bomb targets during WW2.  It centres on the inevitable meeting of new technology and tried and tested techniques of bombing.  Gladwell’s attention to detail and story-telling prowess are perfectly matched to the content.  Highly recommended.
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I enjoyed this book and it gives a good historical account of the Pacific war from the perspective of the Generals who ran the air war.
It was interesting to note the history of napalm and the origins of it with the aim of burning down Japans cities.
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More often known for his popular science books in this book Malcolm Gladwell instead presents a potted guide to American bomber hardware and strategies during World War two.

The playful and interrogative aspects are still front and centre of course (the answer to the question "What were the top three project expenditures by America during this time" will both surprise you and, I imagine, pop up in pub quizzes) but this history focusses more on the people, their strengths and weaknesses, and the sometimes horrifying outcomes of those.

If you have any interest in large projects, the military or just a good story well told this will be just your thing.
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Malcolm Gladwell could make any topic interesting. This is a story about two warring philosophies. One wants to win a war with the minimal amount of casualties while the other wants to "bomb their enemy back to the Stone Age."  The Bomber Mafia shows how, sadly, Bomber Harris and Curtis LeMay had the right strategy for winning the war.
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This book is narrower and more focused than other Malcolm Gladwell books, but equally engrossing.

Really interesting look at a specific period in history, and superbly written as per usual with the author. Short, and perhaps not what you expect, but still very much worth it!
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‘The Bomber Mafia’ is certainly not a fictionalised account of real events but it is constructed in such a way that elements of biography, history and current affairs are drawn together and presented to tell a story in a form that has the pace and readability of a novel.  In addition, due to the slightness of the book (which is no reflection on the quality of research that has gone into this work) it becomes a very accessible information book about a very specific period and specific events, much of which most non-experts will only be vaguely aware.

From what I have read, I believe ‘The Bomber Mafia’ started life as a podcast and is available also as a form of audiobook which includes recordings contemporary to the events in the book and excerpts of recordings of interviews contained in the published book.  My review is specific to the print version but my feeling is the best way to come to this work may be via the audio version.

As much as I enjoyed ‘The Bomber Mafia’ and was genuinely educated by it, there are a few points that I would dispute with the author’s take on these events.  There is a little too much hyperbole at certain points, which although propelling the narrative can introduce a little doubt in the accuracy of the book.  
An example of this was the effective stating that the targeted attack was the invention of the group of individuals that formed the Bomber Mafia.  Trench warfare may have been the ‘usual’ form of war in the very early 20th century and the technology to allow precision in bombing for this purpose may not have been available previously, but to assert that prior to the Bomber Mafia’s inception targeted attacks had never been considered is at the very least questionable or possibly just wrong.

A similar example expressing a surprising lack of understanding is the questioning or possibly misunderstanding of Britain’s (and the allies’) reticence of using the Bomb Sight (at that point, not fully tested apparatus developed to allow precise aim for bombing raids) to replace broad area bombing.  This is to entirely ignore the horrific bombing attacks on virtually every major British city in 1940-41, during the period of the ‘Blitz’, undertaken by Nazi Germany, two years before the events in Bomber Mafia.  When considering the million homes damaged or destroyed and the innumerable injured to say nothing of the tens of thousands of lives lost, the feeling of requirement for retribution for this action must be understood, even if not concurred with or condoned.  This is to some extent rectified toward the end of the book, but here, narrative and pace takes precedence over accuracy.

But these are relatively minor points that are based on the author’s take on actions and how they should be portrayed to advance the story.  They are subjective and possibly may inspire debate, which along with uncovering little-known history, is of course part of the purpose of the book.

Ultimately, I found ‘The Bomber Mafia’ to be a fascinating book that leaves the reader equal parts intrigued, informed, educated, and entertained, all without having to wade through a doorstop tome.  What more could you want?
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As always, Malcolm Gladwell hits it out of the park with his latest book. "The Bomber Mafia" is a fascinating study on innovation, the risks and costs of battle, and the morality of it all. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, thanks for the ARC.
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An interesting read, and different than the other Malcolm Gladwell books I have read. I enjoyed this very much.
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I found this a truly fascinating exploration of the actions of the US Air Force in WWII, and the evolution of precision bombing. The general idea was that the more precise the bombing, such tragic widespread slaughter that had occurred in WWI could be avoided, and more lives could be saved. It was a revolutionary idea at the time, not least because the technology was new and untried, and the strategy in its infancy. The so-called Bomber Mafia thought that their approach was somehow more “moral” – but warfare and morality make for unlikely bedfellows, of course. It’s a short but intriguing read – and a very accessible one. I would not normally read a book about warfare but this one raises such complex and thought-provoking questions, and puts a human face to many of the names that I have merely heard mentioned before this, that I found myself reading the book in one sitting. For the non-specialist this is a very good book indeed. I learnt a lot about aerial warfare, a subject I have never pursued before. However, I see that there are many negative reviews, criticising Gladwell’s knowledge of the subject, and perhaps they have a point. I can’t judge. But from a personal point of view this was a really interesting read from which I gained a great deal.
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