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Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare
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Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  180 ratings  ·  35 reviews
The exciting history of a small group of British and American scientists who, during World War II, developed the new field of operational research to turn back the tide of German submarines—revolutionizing the way wars are waged and won.

In March 1941, after a year of unbroken and devastating U-boat onslaughts, the British War Cabinet decided to try a new strategy in the f
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ebook, 336 pages
Published February 19th 2013 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2013)
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Igor Ljubuncic
As usual, Stephen does a stellar job of translating a historical telling into a remarkable thriller full of personal spins and anecdotes. The things that happened are interspersed with rich detail about the people who participated in the war effort, their little egomaniacal decisions, their idiosyncrasies, the bickering, the bureaucracy. It's amazing. I have not found another author that does such a mesmerizing work with non-fiction.

Anyhow, this book, alongside his enigma work, air power, and th
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Jean Poulos
September 1, 2014 will mark the 75th anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the start of WWII. One of the least considered, but most critical, aspects of the War was the contest for control of the sea. The pervasive conflict, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called “the Battle of the Atlantic”. Germany dominated early fighting in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Battle of the Atlantic, in its scope and significance, the sea was vast. It covered more area and lasted longer, 1939-19 ...more
Jeff
Blackett's War is a very interesting and informative book about the men who brought science to bear on the U-Boat problem during the Second World War. Blackett's group had to overcome the military's distrust of outsiders telling them how to proceed with operations during the war.
This story is about both British and American scientists who were involved in presenting statistical analysis and truly inspirational ideas to both countries militaries and getting them to follow through. As the autho
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Bob Mobley
Stephen Budiansky has written one of the best studies I have read about the men working together during World War II who defeated the Nazi U-Boats. In writing this compelling story, Budiansky has opened the door and cast an important "light" upon the role of Science in successfully contributing to military victory. Using as his core theme the career of Patrick Blackett, Budiansky has written a fascinating Biorgaphy, and in doing so has created a book about leaders and their leadership. What stan ...more
Jim
Mar 25, 2015 Jim rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: World War II and history buffs and to readers of science books.
Recommended to Jim by: King County Library
As a World War II buff, I was thrilled to "discover" BLACKETT'S WAR (ISBN 978-0307743633, trade paperback, $16.95) by STEPHEN BUDIANSKY. The first half of the book introduces the cast of characters, all of whom were real scientists. It also sets the background for why these men were approached by, or volunteered their services to, the British and American military forces. Patrick Blackett was a Nobel Prize winning physicist for his discovery (1932) of the positron. He received the Nobel prize in ...more
Donald Luther
When I was in grad school, the most significant development in the historiography of Modern Britain (aside from the whole New Social History stuff that was going on in the 70s) was the revelation about Ultra.

Winterbotham's 'The Ultra Secret' came out in 1974, just as I was moving into the Ph.D. program and, as my mentor said, it would require all of World War II history to be re-written. It did.

I've been able to keep up with a lot of that rewriting, and when I was teaching Combined Studies, I go
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Mac McCormick III
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Blackett’s War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare by Stephen Budiansky. If you’re expecting a history of the Manhattan Project or the story of scientists developing weapons systems, you’re in for a surprise. It is a very different history of World War II than many you’ll read; it concentrates on the science and scientists that changed how militaries looked at things during the war and changed military thought and science ...more
Ilya
During World War II several British scientists including Patrick Blackett, a World War I naval officer turned physicist, invented operations research: making military decisions based on statistical data as opposed to the highest ranking officer's opinion. Combined with the breaking of the German naval code, this caused Britain and the United States to win the war against German U-boats, which allowed Britain to import enough food and fuel to survive the war, the United States to transport enough ...more
Desiree
this is my first foray into WWII Naval history and I haven't been able to stop talking about this book. Besides the author's uncanny ability to keep you interested through long bouts of mathematical and scientific explanations, the warfare and political biases, the details and history leading up to WWII, he brings it all together in a fascinating and revealing way. I liked best how the author captured how difficult it was for scientists of the era to show they could not only be helpful, but migh ...more
Iain
A well written account of the impact a group of scientists and like minded professionals had on military operations in WWII. The author ranges far-and-wide at times but keeps the account interesting. Action focuses on the Battle for the Atlantic in WWII but includes discussion of WWI at sea as well as the strategic bombing war in WWII.

Readers interested in the Battle for the Atlantic, naval ASW, code breaking/intelligence, and sciences application to "real world" problems should consider this bo
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Dennis
Although the writing style was a bit dry, the material was so fascinating and well researched that I kept reading. I didn't really know what the title meant about bringing "science to the art of warfare" but the book laid out the clear and, in some cases, amazing examples of how that happened. The book is actually about a lot more than just the war against the Nazi U-Boats so give this one a try. I think you'll be fascinated.
Fiona Hodgkin
I bought the hardcover edition of 'Blackett's War' on impulse at the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore. While the main title suggests that the British physicist Patrick Blackett (who won the Nobel Prize in physics) is the main character, Blackett actually is only one of the many scientific characters in this book. (I'm suspect the publisher picked a title that it thought would be more marketable than, say, the more accurate: 'Operational Research in Anti-Submarine Warfare in the Battle of the North Atla ...more
Denise
I knew about operations research because I dated an industrial engineering grad student in college, but I had never heard the story about the scientists who applied it to submarine warfare during WWII. Budiansky is a highly entertaining historian who brings the characters and the time period to vivid life. I'll have to check out his other books.
Bill
A fascinating glimpse into the men and methods behind the winning of the Battle of the Atlantic during WWII. The author also covers details of the air war and other theaters of operation during the WWII and the interaction between leaders, scientists and the military.
Many people are familiar with the work of Alan Turing and others involved in the efforts to break the Enigma and other codes as well as the Manhattan Project but this book covers the less well known arena of operational research and
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Daleaz
Good book about WW II and the German U boats and how their defeat was accomplished with scientific help.
Richard
Some managers "know" what is "right" regardless of the math.
Harry
I chose an engineering discipline that had little use for "operations research". I remember it was an integral part of the Industrial Engineering department at the University of Florida during my undergraduate days in the late '60's. It's my understanding that it has morphed into several different disciplines since then and may have lost much of its luster. This book kept me interested throughout. My only complaint is that I wish the author could have provided more details, the actual mechanics ...more
Tom
Superb insight into how prepared the German navy was for U-Boat wolf packs and strategies to throttle England. However, with Churchill's boot on the bottom of "old navy" thinking, a small cluster of math and science whizz quickly ran stats to radically alter that strategy. Of course, the same resistance held US anti-sub efforts until Churchill thrust their success on reluctant Americans, who with Brits and Canadians, blocked then decimated the U-Boat fleet, it's best captains one by one sunk.
Ron
The title is a good summarization of the book. The author looks at specifically those scientists of all specializations who helped develop the code machines, analyzed data so that significant statistics became apparent, etc. As the author pointed out, what worked in wartime, was not easily translated into peacetime development, although the concepts are not part of the modern mindset. It is always good to remember those who made our world possible. Not a bad read.
Ross
Interesting account of the contributions to the WWII war effort from scientists who applied the tools of scientific analysis to improve the effectiveness of military operations. The title of the book is a misnomer, however, since Professor Blackett was only a very small part of the effort. The book is quite technical and will probably only interest those with a substantial interest in science or the so-called "Battle of the Atlantic" which most of the book is about.
Kevin
Fascinating and never-boring history of how scintists -- mostly very famous people in England -- worked on military problems and helped win WWII. Invented "operations research". What is the best size of a convoy to avoid submarines? When you find them, are boats or planes better to kill them? Much real historical drama pitting Allies against German Navy, inventing tactics and changing tides of war.
Alexmacensky
An interesting examination of the of the application scientific knowledge/advances in mid-war. Another account of the two-edged sword that was Winston Churchill and his 'enthusiasms'. Also of interest were the civilian-military conflicts within the Imperial war machine and how the same battles had to be refought after American entry into the Atlantic campaign in 1942.
David Einav
As someone who once seriously dreamed to change the world by math, the origins of the idea (Operational Research in WW2 England, and Operations Research in US) make this book a great read. Even though the sophistication of analysis never went far from back of envelope type, the fact that analysis was done at all was significant. The book claims it changed the war.
Joe
Scientists helped the Allies win the war with technology and hardware but also with the use of probability theory and other, more squishy topics that were nonetheless critical. This book covers how Blackett and fellow scientists used probability theory to help turn the tide as they fought uboats in the Atlantic. Great book.
Chad
Examined the role of operations research in World War Two, essentially among the first use of Big Data, but these scientists did it without computers and spreadsheets. Enjoyed the mix of historical information with personal information on the key players. Second book I have read and enjoyed by Stephen Budiansky.
Lyn Elliott
A fascinating history of the role of scientists, principally in Britain but also the US, in winning the battle against German u-boats in the Atlantic during WWII.
If you're interested in the history of warfare or of science, this is a must.
Derek
I liked the history, I liked the perspective on Roosevelt and Churchill especially after reading the other Churchill book this year. I felt like the book really wasn't about Blackett. Blackett was a key, but not the prominent, player in the book.
Michael Kotsarinis
Despite the title the book is not entirely focused on a man. It is rather an account of the Atlantic U-boat war from the Operational Research perspective and the way this field of science found its way into military practice.
Sam Cox
I enjoyed it and passed it on to Patrick Brockett, who is a Fellow of the Operations Research Society. I wish it had sad more about the roles of actuaries in the application of mathematics to military operations and strategy.
Bill Brinkley
The book is very engaging and a great story. It was a little slow at the first but as I read further it became a very engaging story. It's amazing how much can be done by just asking the question what if?
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Historian and journalist STEPHEN BUDIANSKY is the author of twelve books about military history, science, and nature.

His latest book is THE BLOODY SHIRT: TERROR AFTER APPOMATTOX, which chronicles the struggles of five courageous men in the post-Civil War South as they battled a rising tide of terrorist violence aimed at usurping the newly won rights of the freedmen.
More about Stephen Budiansky...
Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II The Character of Cats: The Origins, Intelligence, Behavior, and Stratagems of Felis silvestris catus Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815

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