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The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the…

– tekijä: Malcolm Gladwell

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2111199,238 (3.88)3
Viimeisimmät tallentajatyksityinen kirjasto, lauryndilena, cataloga, StAlbansFree, etxgardener, bharbaugh, lamour

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In the 1930's, American military planners knew they should prepare their country to fight a war they saw looming on the horizon. The Norden Bombsight had been developed and they enthusiastically used its development to plan to bomb exact targets and avoid killing many civilians.

However, flying a bomber at 30,000 feet with high winds, smoke on the ground, antiaircraft artillery and fighter planes shooting at you made hitting anything on the ground you aimed at virtually impossible. The British abandon this idea early in the war and just dropped their bombs all over the target hoping to disrupt civilian life as well as maybe doing some damage to the target.

When the Americans developed the B-29 which could cross the great distances to Japan, their commander on the scene, Curtis LeMay knew what damage napalm could do to Japanese houses and he decided to burn Japanese cities to the ground. His first city was Tokyo and he created a fire storm the killed thousands of people trapped in its narrow streets with no way to escape which became known as the "longest night of the second world war". He felt dropping the Atomic Bomb was unnecessary as the Japanese would have soon surrendered after he had destroyed all their cities.

This is another Gladwell effort that is full of trivia on the main theme and short biographies of the characters he finds were involved. Very informative and interesting. ( )
  lamour | Jul 31, 2021 |
History is written by the winners and for a lot of RAF generals and USAF Gen. Curtis LeMay that’s a very good thing because all things being equal, they should have been tried for war crimes in promoting saturation bombing during World War II. Gladwell’s band of flying brothers stationed in central Alabama promoted daytime strategic bombing that concentrated on precisely targeting military and industrial targets with far fewer civilian casualties that the saturation bombing advocated by the RAF. American General Heywood Hansell, a proponent of strategic bombing appeared to be winning the argument, but when he squared off with Curtis LeMay in Guam, he lost both the argument and his command and the rest is history This is a fascinating look at what might have been. ( )
  etxgardener | Jul 28, 2021 |
More of an extended essay than a history book, I found the premise puzzling. By reducing the story to essentially a contest between two rival theories of bombing, represented by two particular American generals, it becomes almost a work of philosophy rather a history. Is it OK to run a war with the aim of killing as few innocent people as possible, or is it better to go all out and kill indiscriminately with the goal of saving more lives in the long run? How did this contest lead to the creation of napalm, which apart from the A-bomb is possibly the most destructive weapon eve developed? And how did the jetstream contribute to the decision to stop precision-bombing Japanese factories and instead use napalm to burn hundreds of thousands to death? Its an interesting and thought-provoking book, but left me curiously unsatisfied. Still well worth reading though. ( )
  drmaf | Jul 27, 2021 |
The book follows the Bomber Mafia, especially Major General Haywood S. Hansell, and the development of a high-altitude precision aerial bombardment strategy in World War II as a means to limit casualties. After difficulties in real-world applications with the Bomber Mafia's strategy, Major General Hansell was replaced by Major General Curtis LeMay, who utilized tactical changes such as attacking Japanese population centers with napalm to ensure a Japanese surrender. ( )
  MasseyLibrary | Jul 22, 2021 |
Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the longest night of the Second World War, Maxwell Gladwell, author and narrator
During World War II, it was imperative for the Americans to have a place from which to stage their aircraft in order to attack Japan. The Mariana Islands enabled our bombers to reach their targets. Once capturing them and achieving a staging area, America was faced with a bigger problem. Now that they could reach Japan, how could they make their bombers more accurate? Haphazard bombing produced ineffective results and wasted the time and lives of the soldiers. The planes and bombs were costly, and they and soldiers were often unnecessarily sacrificed because they were unable to be used strategically. Not only did the pilots need to be more accurate, but they had to be used more effectively. They had to be able to fly in all types of weather and at all times of the day and night. Although the technique of precision bombing wasn’t perfected until after WWII, their efforts to develop more effective weapons turned the tide of the war. The unsung heroes of the Bomber Mafia designed and developed these more advanced tools of war which ultimately brought about its end.
In this brief book, two generals are largely featured as integral parts of the war effort. One is Major General Haywood S. Hansell Jr. and the other is General Curtis LeMay. One was fired for not accomplishing the goal of winning the war and the other was hired and did successfully bring about its end. One considered all consequences and casualties on the road to victory, resulting in catastrophic failure, and the other was headstrong and focused first and foremost on the ultimate goal of winning without regard to the loss of innocent lives.
Citing many examples, complete with quotes, sound effects and audio commentary from the actual persons involved , Gladwell explains how the idea of precision bombing came about and explores the types of men and methods involved in developing it. A group of forward-thinking men who were not afraid to think outside of the box, became the “Bomber Mafia. In spite of opposition in favor of carpet bombing, rather than precision bombing, eventually this group helped to bring about an end to the terrible war, though history has shown that they did not get appropriate credit for it and remained largely unacknowledged.
Without their creative ideas, coupled with their courage to persevere and develop them, the war would probably have continued far longer and accrued many more American casualties and fatalities. Their technology somewhat improved the accuracy of the bombers, but their ultimate achievement was the development of Napalm. Previously, bombings were haphazard, with bombs randomly dropping in approximate areas, sometimes missing the mark altogether. With their bomb sights, a more precise target could be chosen and struck more effectively. That technology, however, was not advanced enough, at that time, to end the war. The terrible incendiary devices were more effective and far more destructive of property and human life. As the author notes, in hindsight it is easy to judge the violence and destruction more harshly, but as one is experiencing the theater of war, one thinks only of inflicting harm on the enemy to bring about its end without our continued loss of life. The Bomber Mafia were at odds with the prevailing judgment of military men, but ultimately, they paved the way for the more precise war efforts of today.
Maxwell Gladwell narrates his book very well, with just the right emotional stress coupled with an intellectual approach. He treats each word as if seeing it for the first time and as is if he is being enlightened with the facts along with the listener. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Jul 3, 2021 |
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