Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

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

Rate this book
An exploration of how technology and best intentions collide in the heat of war

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

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.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published April 27, 2021

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Malcolm Gladwell

117 books33.5k followers
Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers—The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath. He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musicians across a wide range of genres. Gladwell has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy's Top Global Thinkers.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
12,867 (31%)
4 stars
18,377 (44%)
3 stars
8,087 (19%)
2 stars
1,281 (3%)
1 star
309 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,289 reviews
Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews2,847 followers
April 28, 2021
Malcolm Gladwell has a brand new book, and it’s different than his previous ones. You can easily tell this by its vibrant ocean-blue cover, which is quite a departure from the text-on-white-background style used on all his others.

I have a love/indifference thing going with Gladwell. If he writes something, I’m going to listen to the audiobook of it, no question. Yet I end up rating each one 3 stars. The pattern seems to be that he spends an entire book telling and showing me what his thesis is, and inevitably at its end I think, “So what was the point of all that?” (Notable exception here is Outliers. Read that one if you haven’t.)

In The Bomber Mafia, he hones in on a specific period of history. In the wake of millions of casualties from ground warfare in World War I, a group of US military men focused on creating a bombing system that would be so accurate that it could take out very specific targets that would cripple enemies while minimizing human loss. The system was then implemented in World War II to varying results.

Because I was able to focus on the book as a historical text, I had much more success following along. The audiobook is an experience in itself, complete with sound effects, music, and old interviews from the men he profiles (and even some of their bombings’ survivors). This is a case where the audiobook surely trumps the print version. In fact, Gladwell points out that the audio format is the original text, and the hardback is the secondary product.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Bomber Mafia to anyone with even a remote interest in the history of warfare. The audiobook is currently available on the Hoopla library app for immediate download.

Blog: www.confettibookshelf.com
IG: @confettibookshelf
Profile Image for Paul H. .
801 reviews265 followers
May 3, 2021
(3.5 stars.) Probably Gladwell's weakest book -- the narrative itself is engaging, but the themes/ideas are confused and muddled, as ultimately the two schools of thought (LeMay the pragmatist vs. Hansell the idealist) are both true and also both in agreement. Gladwell's critique of Hansell's targeted attack on Germany's ball-bearing factories is in fact incorrect (Speer noted that the U.S. could have ended the war if they'd just done a couple more bombing runs, and the failure of the operation was due to a logistical error), and Hansell ultimately agreed with LeMay's firebombing of Japan but just didn't personally have the stomach for it (understandably). Bomber Mafia's melodramatic portrayal of Hansell as a saintly Don Quixote tragically clinging to his false faith in strategic strikes is . . . curious, to say the least. There are also random too-long tangents that are never really incorporated into the main narrative (the Norden bombsight, napalm, etc.), where it became clear that he was trying to pad the thinly-researched material of the podcast episode in order to sell it as a book.

Gladwell's usual "pulling interesting insights out of the obvious," in this case, ends with just "the obvious": (1) in war, it's morally good to keep civilian deaths to a minimum and do targeted, strategic strikes instead of wide-scale firebombing, but (2) if you're unable to do strategic strikes in, say, Japan in 1945 due to various technological shortcomings and problems with weather/terrain, and yet want to prevent millions of deaths that would occur in a protracted conflict, then maybe it's arguably okay to firebomb Japanese cities in order to prevent such deaths. (As Gladwell points out, the Japanese government awarded LeMay its highest honor in 1964 and thanked him for firebombing their own citizens, as this ended the war in August 1945 and prevented the deaths of millions of Japanese from starvation in the winter of 1945-1946.)

The obvious truth of both (1) and (2) -- a truth which was quite clear to both LeMay and Hansell (if not to some of their predecessors), and is in fact clear to anyone who has ever learned the basic facts about WW2 in high school -- makes me wonder why Gladwell wrote an entire book pretending that there was some sort of deep philosophical divide here . . .? Still, certainly a riveting narrative and the character sketches are quite good.
Profile Image for Liong.
120 reviews64 followers
February 24, 2023
I read a few books by Malcolm Gladwell.

He always tells stories behind a story, the real meaning of the story.

Bombsight? What is that?

I really don't know what is Bombsight and it relates to the military. Something new to me.

A Dutch-American Engineer, Carl Norden invented the Bombsight. It is an analog computer to drop a bomb accurately on a target from a plane at 30,000 feet.

This book explained how the US airplanes bombed Germany and Japan in world war II.

By making bombing accuracy better, the war could save more lives. The armies tried not to kill the civilians.

I recommend reading this book if you like history and the military.
Profile Image for Kay ☼.
1,927 reviews634 followers
May 20, 2021
This is my first Malcolm Gladwell book. Are all his audiobook this good? I mean WOW! I'm very impressed with the production; soundtrack, sound effects, radio clips, and interviews, I thought the TV was on in another room.

This is a brief history of WWII aerial bombing campaign with focus on precision bombing to reduce civilian casualties. I've read different opinions on its accuracy, which I'm not even getting into since I'm not an expert or have read that many WWII history books. Still, this is an interesting subject.

Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
469 reviews219 followers
March 7, 2023
مافیای بمب افکن نوشته مالکوم گلدول را می توان تقابل دو نوع نگاه و اندیشه دانست ، کرتیس له می و هیوود هنسل نماینده این دو نوع تفکرو بازیگران اصلی کتاب مافیای بمب افکن هستند . له می معتقد به راه انداختن جنگی تمام عیار و هدف قرار دادن شهرها و خانه ها برای نابود کردن ماشین جنگی دشمن در سریع ترین زمان ممکن و هنسل معتقد به اجتناب از بمباران مناطق مسکونی و به جای آن هدف قرار دادن مواضع صنعتی و کارخانه ها .
داستان مافیای بمب افکن را باید داستان لحظه جانشینی له می با کرتیس دانست ، لحظه ای که در اصل یک تفکر بر تفکر دیگر پیروز شده ، همین لحظه بهانه ای به گلدول داده تا روایت های قبل و پس از آن را هم شرح دهد . هنسل را می توان نماد فردی مدرن دانست که اعتقاد دارد استفاده بهینه از تکنولوژی می تواند شکل جدیدی به جنگ دهد و دیگر نیازی به تلفات میلیونی نیست . تکنولوژی که هنسل قصد استفاده از آن را داشت دستگاه نشانه گیری بمب بود که با آن و طبق ادعای سازنده آن می توان یک بمب را از ارتفاع نه کیلومتری به داخل دبه ترشی انداخت . اما له می اما اعتقادی به دستگاه ندارد ، او طرفدار بمباران منطقه ای یا فرشی و نابودی خانه ها و مناطق مسکونی ایست ، هیتلر شهرهای انگلستان را در ابتدای جنگ این گونه بمباران کرده بود و حالا هم با برعکس شدن جریان جنگ انگلیس ها شهرهای آلمان را این گونه بمباران می کردند .هدف این بمباران تخریب خانه ها و شهرها و پایین آوردن روحیه دشمن بود تا این گونه اراده جنگیدن را از دست بدهند . گلدول شرح داده که افرادی وجود داشته اند که روان بیمارخود را پشت دلیل و استدلال برای انجام بمباران فرشی پنهان می کردند . برخی از آنان مانند آرتور هریس یا هریس قصاب بمباران ها را مانند انتقام و یا به گونه ای جنگ مذهبی می دیدند : نازی ها باد کاشتند و حالا باید طوفان درو کنند .
له می اما یک سادیستی دگر آزار نبود ، او فردی فاقد جذابیت و روشن فکری بود که اهل عمل بود ، زمانی که در آن لحظه تاریخی به او اختیار و آزادی عمل داده شد فاجعه رقم خورد ، فاجعه ای که به مرگ صدها هزار نفر منجر شد . در نقطه مقابل اما هنسل و دیگر افراد مافیای بمب افکن نماینده نمادی بودند که خود را پایبند به اخلاق جنگی و خط قرمز می دانستند و خط قرمز آنان بمباران غیر نظامی ها و کشتن آنان بود .
گلدول روایتگر جدال و برخورد استدلال های این دو گروه شده است ، هنسل که بدی را همانند امانوئل کانت امری مطلق می داند ، از نگاه او هرگز نباید برای دستیابی به خیر احتمالی بدی کرد و له می که ترجیح می دهد 500 هزار نفر کشته شوند تا 2 میلیون نفر زنده بمانند تا کشتار به حداقل برسد .
له می در نبرد به کرسی نشاندن حرف خود پیروز شد ، او توکیو را با ناپالم بمباران کرد و صد هزار نفر را سوزاند و از این روش موفق در بمباران دیگر شهرهای ژاپن هم استفاده کرد . او برنده جنگ و جوایز آن شد و تا سال های بعد نقش کلیدی در نیروی هوایی آمریکا داشت اما هنسل با وجود تصویر رمانتیک و آرمان گرایانه و عملکرد دن کیشوت وار خود پایه گذار الگویی از معنای اخلاق مداری در دنیای مدرن شد . هنر او و مافیای بمب افکن تنها در بیان این که مجبور نیستیم برای رسیدن به اهداف نظامی ، بی گناهان را سلاخی کنیم و بسوزانیم نبود ، آنها راه حلی گرچه مقدماتی برای حل این مشکل پیدا کردند و بر اصول و مواضع خود ایستادگی کردند .
درپایان کتاب گلدول له می را برنده نبرد و هنسل را برنده کل جنگ می داند ، نگاهی که شاید امروز خوش بینانه به نظر برسد .
Profile Image for Richard.
1,764 reviews146 followers
April 15, 2021
I chose this book (an advance reading copy), from NetGalley believing it was a fictional thriller set in the Pacific theatre of World War II.

How wrong was I, but in a blink of an eye I had a book I couldn’t put down. This is an account of a group of senior minds in the USA airforce who became fixated on precision bombing to reduce innocent civilian casualties and hasten the end of conflict by strategically bombing factories and war production vital for your enemy’s ability to continue to fight on.

This was a group of obsessive but influential men who wanted to avoid the British approach at all costs as their aircrews were trained with computer like bombsights, and needed to raid in clear skies from high attitude.
I did know that the British bombed at night while the Americans seemed to have the more dangerous daytime raids over Germany. But I didn’t know why - this book simply explains why this was the status quo.

I was also aware of Bomber Harris who led the fire bombing on Germany, and I have read about how this impacted cities like Dresden. This book again casts a more discerning eye on this situation and outcome.

I knew the Americans dropped two atomic weapons to shorten the war and bring Japan to its knees and accept surrender to save countless lives needed to invade those islands.

This book is so much more; not just filling a few gaps in my knowledge but informing me, just how little I knew about the changing role of the airforce. This development of how warplanes were deployed is quite fascinating. The simple geography of how Japan was simply outside the range of bombers.

The most compelling account is the clash of ideas and the pragmatic solutions sought to wage war on a distant enemy. That Japanese cities were bombed beyond those I knew about, in a fashion I scarcely want to image.

The further we get from these events the less we seem to appreciate it was a different time and lacking much of the technology we now take for granted. Block buster films have made World War II seem more real and technically adept in all things military but this book was needed for me to grasp the significance of warfare in the 1940s.

It also explains the genesis of ideas and responses to events. Why Vietnam was fought by the Americans in certain ways and how the immediacy and public opinion can stifle democracies engaging in a clean fight and fair contest.

I found his book totally absorbing, history made alive and although non-fiction, it did read like a wartime thriller.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,248 reviews486 followers
June 2, 2021
This book totally obliterated my long held perceptions of the war in the Pacific. I would have preferred to listen to the book as it was originally a podcast. Since my library only had the book version, I decided to jump on the hold list and consume the information in that format. From the very beginning, Gladwell sets up the contrast between Haywood Hansell and Curtis LeMay. Both were generals and helped develop our Air Force from the ground up. They had a vision for using air power to shorten wars and reduce collateral damage. Their story and the decisions they made had a direct impact on WW II and on warfare going forward. Fascinating and engrossing with Gladwell's signature style. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,693 reviews14.1k followers
June 8, 2021
The deadliest raid of WWII, what led up to it and who was involved. This was a stunning but entertaining audio books, one I probably wouldn't have picked up if it wasn't written by Gladwell. Just not a subject I seem out, nor do I think I would have liked it as much had I read. The Audio features music, sound effects, spoken archival interviews, even one by Ronald Reagan and Gladwell's voice was perfect for the narration.

Norden, LeMay, the Air force, DuPont, a full range of characters that invented ways to make war more effective, with the hope that this war would be the last. Highlights how technological advances are often used in ways they were not meant. Limited in scope, short in play time, I found this thought provoking.
Profile Image for Leftbanker.
782 reviews290 followers
June 3, 2021
For the love of Mohamed, Jesus, and Rabbi Bernstein, why doesn’t this guy just write a history book and leave out his outlandishly stupid theories? He’s a talented writer, but why does he go outside his area of expertise?

Builder argued that you cannot understand how the three main branches of the American military behave and make decisions unless you understand how different their cultures are. And to prove this point, Builder said, just look at the chapels on each of the service academy campuses.

Gladwell never bothers to ask why a military academy in a secular nation needs to build a house of worship in the first place. If you are a cadet and feel the need to pray, go off-post and find your church. This isn't the job of the U.S. government.

Gladwell praises the Air Force for its forward-thinking because its chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs can’t keep the rain out. He paints this as some sort of futuristic genius on the part of the architect who couldn’t foresee the bad weather and wind on the high plains in Colorado. Evidently, Gladwell has never heard of the B1 bomber and what a complete and total piece of shit this sink-hole of money has been over decades while showcasing some of the USAFs dreadful "forward thinking" over the years.

Instead of looking at this chapel as a complete failure in engineering as he should (he calls it a “radical new mind-set”), Gladwell laughs it off, basically saying that the USAF is too forward-thinking and futuristic to keep the rain out today.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,821 reviews499 followers
May 21, 2022
Can you have a more moral war? After the carnage of WWI, some people believed that the use of precision bombing (the destruction of specific military targets, munitions factories, etc.) could limit the deaths of both soldiers and civilians and shorten WWII. This book explores the scientists and flyers who tried (and failed) to successfully employ precision bombing and the men who believed that blanket bombing, such as that used in the London Blitz, the bombing of Dresden and the napalm bombing of Japan, would ultimately shorten the war. The technology was just not advanced enough at that time to make precision bombing feasible. This book was fascinating and thought provoking. It had scientific breakthroughs, military strategy, clashing personalities, a possibly-sadistic political adviser, suicide missions and a huge ethical debate.

This audiobook is more like a podcast than a book. It includes historical and recent interviews, sound effects and music. A listener’s guide including pictures can be downloaded from the publisher’s website, but I didn’t do that. I hate sound effects, but once I accepted that this wasn’t an ordinary audiobook I found them tolerable here. It was interesting hearing the voices of the actual participants or people who worked with them. 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Brendan Monroe.
569 reviews149 followers
May 6, 2021
I've enjoyed all the Malcolm Gladwell books I've ever read ... until now. Maybe because this isn't really a book at all — it's a glorified podcast.

"The Bomber Mafia" just failed to interest me. Maybe it's because this is very much focused on a particular episode of military history, and I've never really been a military history kind of guy, or maybe it's because this is just really, really dry until around the final 30 minutes or so.

I was advised to get the audio version of this, and I'm sure glad I did. As much as I didn't care for the book itself, I don't think I would have even finished the print version. That's because Gladwell has loaded this thing chock-a-block full of audio interviews, radio clips, sound effects, and more. Even then, Gladwell — who narrates this, as he does all his audiobooks — isn't reading the book on audio, he's performing aloud as he would in his podcast "Revisionist History."

I can only imagine reading the print edition would be a somewhat frustrating experience if it reads anything like how the audiobook sounds. When you're making something for audio, like a podcast, the words you say, the structure of your sentences, the general tone, are just going to be different than they would if you were putting them down to be published in a physical book.

Why this isn't just a podcast is beyond me. First of all, this is only five hours and a bit, far too short for a book if you ask me, and again, probably a fifth of that is recorded interviews. Would you really want to read a book in which 20% consists of just transcripts of interviews and audio clips?

That said, it's a pretty cool listening experience — because it was designed for audio. It was the content that left me wanting.

Despite its short length, there is just so much build-up here for what serves to be the book's climax — the firebombing of Tokyo.

The two main players here are General Curtis LeMay and the man he'd replace as commander of bomber command in the Pacific Theater in the Second World War, General Haywood Hansell.

Hansell was a supporter of precision bombing campaigns, while LeMay was an advocate of what we might literally refer to as scorched earth tactics.

Bomb everything, indiscriminately. Men, women, and children. Armed combatants andcivilians.

Hence the firebombing of Tokyo and dozens of other Japanese cities.

LeMay comes off as a John Wayne figure of sorts. A cocksure gunslinger who takes the law into his own hands and guns down the bad guys — and their children.

Hansell is LeMay's contemplative counterpart, endlessly debating the moral quandaries of an issue. Because he lacks LeMay's flashiness and chutzpah he's overshadowed by the latter and pushed into the shadows even though his influence and advocacy for precision bombing and fewer civilian casualties obviously won him the future.

Near the end, "The Bomber Mafia" poses its central question — is Curtis LeMay, the general who believed that the most humane response to war was to be as brutal as possible in the belief that such brutality would bring an earlier end to war, thus saving more lives, a war hero or a war criminal?

Whether in an effort to maintain his neutrality or because he's genuinely unsure, Gladwell vacillates on the issue. He references a Japanese historian who states, quite interestingly, that were it not for LeMay, the Soviet Union would have invaded Japan followed by the US, leading to a Japan divided between American and Soviet control, much like Germany was for the second half of the century. In this historian's mind, LeMay was responsible for ending the war earlier than it otherwise would have ended, sparing both American and Japanese lives.


I have no reason to doubt that this would have been the outcome. The problem is in then absolving LeMay for the death of so many hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of Japanese civilians. The accounts of the firebombings across Japan that Gladwell includes here are terrifying ... and morally grotesque.

Couldn't any war criminal justify their brutality in this way? Couldn't the Nazis have waved away their atrocities in much the same way?

If LeMay is a hero, where does the line between heroism and barbarism lie?

"The Bomber Mafia" would have made for a good podcast if it were around a third of the length. As it stands, it's all far too much preamble leading up to one very interesting question.
124 reviews2 followers
May 2, 2021
I have in the past read and thoroughly enjoyed pieces by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker, I have listened to and enjoyed his podcasts and I pre-ordered this book with great anticipation thinking that I would learn a different side to a subject I have read much about. I have never been so disappointed in the purchase of a book.

This book centers on the Bomber Mafia, a group of aviators who developed a theory, widely shared, that war could be conducted by way air combat with little need for the widespread bloody trench warfare and death of emblematic of WW I. To the extent that there can be hope for a civilized war, these folks had it. And it was shared by all of the allies prior to and at the outset of WWII. Civillians should not and would not be warred upon unless they were actually combatants or working in war related industries. Wars would be brief as the winner would be the one to first stop the enemy's capacity to make war by eliminating a needed resource. The British tried it, so did the Americans and the conclusion drawn by the war's leaders was that it did not work. The shift was made from bombing the producers of resources to bombing the populations of the countries themselves.

This story has been told very well in a number of books and documentaries. Bombing Germany a documentary shown frequently on PBS comes to mind. Most of the many books on the Eight Airforce also do. Most recently, Twighlight of the Gods by Ian Tolland did a masterful job in recounting the same events at the center of this book.

Gladwell's effort looks and reads like a paper typed at the last minute by a highschool student . The book is slim, the type looks like it was set for someone with impaired vision. Large numbers of long quotes from very few sources predominate. Professor Tami Biddle is cited 8 times in the index and most of those represent paragraphs in a book which is 206 pages long. I honestly think she should be listed as co-author.

Last but not least, Gladwell comes to a simplistic conclusion about a complex subject still argued about today. Do not buy this book.
Profile Image for Girish.
831 reviews202 followers
March 30, 2021
"Without persistence, principles are meaningless. Because one day your dream may come true. And if you cannot keep that dream alive in teh interim, then who are you?"

War stories are a new genre for those used to Macolm Gladwell's unique brand of nonfiction. And yet, this book is something that keeps you invested as it is presented as a bit more than a piece of history.

Curtis Lemay and Haywood Hansell are opposite ends of a spectrum in the high adrenaline combat Air Force. While one is a celebrated hero, the other was an idealist whose principles allowed him to be sidelined in the annals of history.

The book starts with a very real problem. People growing up on cartoons and movies see planes dropping bombs/shooting targets as if done through cross hairs. But the problem the Bomber Mafia was trying to solve has both physics and moral angles.

With battles in the air having the power to win you the war, can we do precision bombing to help reduce the casualties of war? If you have ever tried to throw a can from a moving car into a thrash can - you would understand the math/physics behind it. Just that, with bomber B29s the problem is infinitely more complex with visibility, weather conditions and anti-aircraft guns to combat with.

The annals of WW-II is replete with cities razed to ground across all countries (though advertised, thanks to popular media/winning side account, only the Allied cities). Kurt Vonnegut's seminal book Slaughterhouse five took the allied bombing (pointless) of Dresden through the POV of Prisioners of war. This was not a standalone incident.

The mushroom cloud of atomic bombs downplays the role of air strikes which annihilated the cities with a view to break the morale of the forces. The book in that backdrop is a story of idealism.

The Bomber mafia under Hansell are out to minimize the destruction and focused on throwing a spanner in the works of war. Their promise, their journey gets delivered a bit too late for it to have any significant bearing on the war. But the story deserves to be told.

What I enjoyed in addition was the narrative consistency that made facts being the backdrop of a compelling story.

Loved it and I would recommend it to history buffs!

Note: I would like to thank Penguin Press UK (Sarah Wright) and the Netgalley for providing the ARC of the book. The book is getting released on 27th April.
Profile Image for David C Ward.
1,418 reviews21 followers
February 17, 2022
A glib and anecdotal gesture at understanding the practical and moral issues of aerial bombing, especially against civilian targets. There are many better and deeper studies of both issues. It doesn’t give a cogent summary of air force tactics (on all sides) in WWII including the basic fact that the British turned to night, area bombing because daytime precision bombing was too inaccurate and dangerous. Gladwell to the contrary, Churchill’s pal Prof. Lindemann had little to do with it - he was an interfering crank and busybody who, like his boss, was enthralled with sideshows and gimmicks - as both the British (and the USA) started planning in the 1930s to bomb civilians. The book has no sense of the dynamic of the war as it progressed. For one thing, the allies had to bomb Germany as much as they could to keep Stalin on side before DDay. The bloody slog of island hopping in the pacific against obdurate Japanese opposition ratcheted up the desperation to defeat Japan from the air, etc.etc.

Also: since I don’t really trust Gladwell, I would like an independent source that the aviators in Alabama in the 1930s, coming up with a precision bombing doctrine, actually called themselves a “Mafia.”
And: B29 Enola Gay did not drop both atomic bombs - Bock’s Car dropped the Nagasaki bomb.
And one more thing: evidence out of the air war in Afghanistan suggests we should be sceptical of the triumphalism that ends the book that smart bombs and cruise missiles can now deliver “pin point” accuracy.
Profile Image for Z. Aroosha Dehghan.
186 reviews15 followers
September 24, 2022
با اتفاقاتی که در جریانه دیگه حس و حال ریویو نوشتن هم ندارم. فعلا کل توانم رو‌ توییتره.
در همین حد بگم که کتاب خوبی بود. ارزش خواندن داره.
Profile Image for Truman32.
340 reviews97 followers
May 31, 2021
Malcolm Gladwell goes all historical in his newest book, The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, a Cheese Sandwich Left Uneaten, and the Longest Night of the Second World War. During this global skirmish, airplane technology advanced dramatically, and many idealistic military thinkers believed that the ability to do precision bombing would make warfare much less lethal. As many would say, the newfangled bombsite now equipped in the basic package of all U.S bombers would enable “a bombardier to drop a bomb into a pickle barrel from six miles up.” Honestly, this confused me. Why would we go to war against pickles? Sure, they might be dangerous if stuffed into our naughty orifices while we are sleeping. But offhand I can think of so many other foods we should bomb first. Take those in the dangerous category such as the spikey pineapple or a horned melon. Those suckers can really do some damage if you catch one in the kisser. The imposter foods should also be moved up on the bomb list. Take capers—these are definitely not peas. Why must they act like peas? Blow them up for lying to us!!! While we are at it, I feel that nobody sane would really mind if a barrel of olive loaf, or green bean casserole catches a bomb or two.

Sadly, precision bombing is really tough (particularly in the 1940’s with no radar) and is quickly swapped out with a new idea—napalming civilians in Japan. Sigh.

The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, an Ice cream Sundae with Sprinkles and Gummy Worms, and the Longest Night of the Second World War is extremely interesting and full of many shades of grey. There are no easy answers. Since precision bombing is now our de facto military action these days, this book gives an introduction of how far we have come. Just leave the pickles alone.
Profile Image for Chris.
Author 35 books11.1k followers
June 2, 2021
I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was a fantastic experience: so much archival audio, so many interesting sound effects. Like much of Malcolm Gladwell's work, this is a book about unintended consequences: how a bombsight, clouds, and the Jet Stream, (among other factors) turned the idea of using bombers to MINIMIZE civilian casualties in World War Two to one of using bombers to MAXIMIZE civilian casualties. The story is riveting and horrifying at once. And Gladwell's analysis, as always, will leave you pondering so many "what if's?"
Profile Image for Rossdavidh.
507 reviews141 followers
July 18, 2021
I have the impression that it is somewhat gauche to say that Malcolm Gladwell's new book is really good. It is more impressive for a person who is reviewing a book to tell you that some author you've never heard of, or who is not widely read, has written a really good new book. Malcolm Gladwell is way too successful to give one any hipster satisfaction when saying it is really good. But, you know, it's really good.

Gladwell has said in interviews that he doesn't think a book is usually going to change what a person thinks about an issue, but it can help to cause the reader to think about an issue. He is not the type to try to stoke the fires of emotion on a topic; rather, in this one respect similar to Jon Ronson, he is amazingly able to maintain a thoughtful and empathetic interest in an emotional topic, without becoming a zealot. Here, he brings this to bear on the rather emotional topic of whether or not the U.S. was guilty of crimes against humanity in Japan towards the end of World War 2.

He does not put the matter so bluntly, of course. He is, though, looking into the very awkward fact that in 1945, even before the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. had used tactics (including napalm) to bring about a firestorm in Tokyo that caused at least half a million deaths, almost all of them civilian. It was targeted on the lower-class parts of the city, because they had less stone and steel, and more wood, and thus would burn better.

It is also the story of the beginning of a long, half-century struggle to figure out how to use air power to win wars. Not to support the ground troops as they won wars, but to win wars directly with air power. The "Bomber Mafia" of the title, were a group of officers in the fledgeling Air Force (then the Army Air Corps) that was trying to figure out the best ways to use bombs, dropped from the air, to bring a war to a swift conclusion by knocking out the opponent's means of production.

This was, in a way, the natural flip-side of the struggle during World War One, by an entire generation of military officers, as they came to grips with the fact that the courage of their troops would matter less than the efficiency of their factories in determining victory or defeat. It was not a truth that they had any wish to learn, and that made it very difficult to do so. But by the time World War Two started, it was apparent that the side which could produce the most tanks, trucks, firearms, artillery, and airplanes (along with the fuel and ammunition they required) would be the side that won on the battlefield. Once this is so, it becomes the case that killing your enemy's factories is more important than killing their soldiers.

The "villain" here, Curtis LeMay, the architect of the "screw it, let's just kill a lot of people" approach that resulted in the firebombing of Tokyo, went on to a very high-profile role after World War 2. He coordinated the Berlin Airlift, which prevented West Berlin from being starved into submission by the Soviet Union. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he advocated a hawkish approach, saying anything else was like the appeasement of Hitler at Munich. He was in favor of bombing of North Vietnam on a massive scale. In 1968 he ran as the Vice Presidential candidate for segregationist candidate George Wallace, although he was less interested in opposing integration than he was in advocating for greater willingness to use atomic weapons. He is, Gladwell admits, a hard character to sympathize with.

The "hero" here, doomed to lose this debate (we are told in the very first chapter, so this is not a spoiler), is Haywood Hansell. He was one of the "Bomber Mafia", the group of military thinkers who were trying to figure out how to use bombers, the high-tech weapon of their day, to remove the enemy's ability to fight. Somewhere today, there are doubtless military thinkers discussing how one could use drones to take out the opponent's drone-making facilities.

The problem for the Bomber Mafia, in their internal debates with others such as Curtis LeMay and Winston Churchill, was twofold:

1) when the enemy has bombed your cities, there is a very great emotional desire to hit their cities as hard as possible
2) the attempts to cripple either Germany's or Japan's industrial military complex, always failed to produce any apparent results

Gladwell takes us through the years prior to and during World War 2, doing what he has an almost unparalleled ability to do as a writer, which is to make complex intellectual debates, exciting. This is why he can tell you, near the very beginning of the book, how it "ends", and yet keep your eager interest throughout all that follows; it is not the decision, but the intellectual and moral and emotional wrestling with the topic which is engaging. The people having to decide on questions like, "shall we use napalm on the Japanese, or should we instead risk prolonging the war by another year?", not only have to weigh very heavy moral issues; they have to do so in an atmosphere of great uncertainty. Would napalm (or the firebombing of Japanese cities generally) actually shorten the war? Or would it, like the bombing of London by Germany earlier, accomplish nothing but deepening the enemy's hatred and willingness to fight? Hansell thought one way, LeMay thought differently. Historians today still debate how and why Japan finally surrendered, and whether it was the firebombing or the use of atomic bombs that finally convinced them, sparing the U.S. the necessity of a costly invasion.

In the end, by the way, I believe it was neither. I believe Japan surrendered because the Soviet Union had just declared war on Japan, and begun to conquer islands in the north. They surrendered in order to avoid the partition of their country, as had just happened to Germany, and as later happened to Korea and Vietnam. Life under U.S. occupation was not as honorable to the Japanese ruling class as it had been, but life under Soviet rule would likely have been quite short.

But, that is not the topic, or the debate, that Gladwell addresses here. The one which he does take us through is complex, morally significant, and still with us today (although superior accuracy has changed the equation a great deal). The next time we face these issues, it will be drone strikes and cyberattacks, and we may be on the receiving end. It is just as well to learn all that we can about the successes and failures of a previous generation that wrestled with such a quandary, and especially when it is written by an author as routinely excellent as this one.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,349 reviews512 followers
April 29, 2021
Because airpower was young, the faculty of the Tactical School was young — in their twenties and thirties, full of the ambition of youth. They got drunk on the weekends, flew warplanes for fun, and raced each other in their cars. Their motto was: Proficimus more irretenti: “We make progress unhindered by custom.” The leaders of the Air Corps Tactical School were labeled “the Bomber Mafia.” It was not intended as a compliment — these were the days of Al Capone and Lucky Luciano and shoot-outs on the streets. But the Air Corps faculty thought the outcast label quite suited them. And it stuck.

The Bomber Mafia is a different kind of book from the magpie mind of Malcolm Gladwell: Although there are several fascinating digressions*, this is primarily the straightforward story of the birth of the US Air Force in the aftermath of WWI, how they strove to perfect precision bombing before the American entry into WWII, and how the realities of battle can trump philosophical best intentions. I’m no aficionado of WWII trivia and there were many stories here I hadn’t heard before; much was fascinating. Still, this felt a little light for Gladwell; his conclusions a little pat. He explains in the intro that he has had a lifelong obsession with war histories (and with bombers in particular), so it might just be that Gladwell is too close-up with this material to see a bigger picture? And I see from other reviews that this was originally an audiobook (with audio clips of interviews, music, and sound effects), so that might be the better format in which to experience this? But at any rate, I was not disappointed overall: Gladwell cracks open some interesting nuts of history here and I was happy to squirrel it all away in my own generalist’s mind. (Note: I read an ARC through NetGalley and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.)

The Bomber Mafia is a case study in how dreams go awry. And how, when some new, shiny idea drops down from the heavens, it does not land, softly, in our laps. It lands hard, on the ground, and shatters. The story I’m about to tell is not really a war story. Although it mostly takes place in wartime. It is the story of a Dutch genius and his homemade computer. A band of brothers in central Alabama. A British psychopath. Pyromaniacal chemists in a basement lab at Harvard. It’s a story about the messiness of our intentions, because we always forget the mess when we look back. And at the heart of it all are Haywood Hansell and Curtis LeMay, who squared off in the jungles of Guam. One was sent home. One stayed on, with a result that would lead to the darkest night of the Second World War. Consider their story and ask yourself — What would I have done? Which side would I have been on?

Gladwell starts with the birth of the US Air Force at the Air Corps Tactical School in Montgomery, Alabama (the aviation version of the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, or the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.) In the wake of WWI’s devastation for infantrymen, these early dreamers, the “Bomber Mafia”, conceived of a world in which airplanes could replace soldiers on the ground, flying into the heart of enemy territory and disabling “chokepoints” of war manufactury. There’s interesting bits about Carl Norden and his invention of the first bombsights that would allow for precision bombing (the legend goes that with a Norden bombsight, you could drop a bomb into a pickle barrel from six miles up), and what Gladwell stresses most of all, is that the founding philosophy of the US Air Force was that precision bombing would reduce the deaths of soldiers and civilians by solely targeting munitions factories and refineries and the like.

Action moves to WWII, and in the European theatre, Churchill expects the USAF to join the RAF in their “morale bombing” operations (targeting Dresden and Münster to force German surrender despite the Blitz on London having not broken English resolve), and when the story moves to the Marianas islands in the Pacific, the real heart of the Air Force’s philosophical dilemma is reached: Japan must be defeated at any cost, and when General Haywood Hansell’s precision bombing runs prove to be costly and ineffective, he will be replaced by General Curtis LeMay; a commander unafraid to fill his men’s bombers with weaponised napalm and burn Japan to the ground.

The full attack lasted almost three hours; 1,665 tons of napalm were dropped. LeMay’s planners had worked out in advance that this many firebombs, dropped in such tight proximity, would create a firestorm — a conflagration of such intensity that it would create and sustain its own wind system. They were correct. Everything burned for sixteen square miles. Buildings burst into flame before the fire ever reached them. Mothers ran from the fire with their babies strapped to their backs only to discover — when they stopped to rest — that their babies were on fire. People jumped into the canals off the Sumida River, only to drown when the tide came in or when hundreds of others jumped on top of them. People tried to hang on to steel bridges until the metal grew too hot to the touch, and then they fell to their deaths.

General LeMay would say after the war that the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been superfluous; the real work had already been done to force Japan’s surrender. And in a fascinating twist, the Japanese government would eventually bestow on LeMay their highest honor for a foreigner — the First-Class Order of Merit of the Grand Cordon of the Rising Sun — in appreciation for his help in rebuilding the Japanese Air Force. A Japanese historian is quoted as saying that he wanted to thank the Americans for the firebombing and the atomic bombs; if the Japanese government hadn’t been forced to surrender, there would have been a devastating land invasion, the Soviets would have carved the country up, and there would have been mass starvation in the winter of 1945 if General MacArthur hadn’t mobilised massive amounts of food aid. Despite it being concluded of the first night of firebombing that “Probably more persons lost their lives by fire at Tokyo in a six-hour period than at any time in the history of man”, the point can be made that this subversion of the precision-bombing-to-avoid-deaths philosophy went on to save countless more lives. So, as Gladwell asks in the beginning, put in the position of General Hansell (morally opposed to firebombing) or LeMay (reluctantly accepting of), what would you do?

There is a lot to fascinate in this narrative — Gladwell pulls threads from many directions to weave a unified whole — but it’s not a very long read and didn’t grip me with the moral quandary at its heart. A little slight, a little pat, but definitely interesting while it lasted. Rounding up to four stars.

*Digressions of note: The stunning architecture of the Air Force Academy Chapel that reinforces that branch of the military’s commitment to the unconventional; the western approach to bombing Japan started from India and travelled over the Himalayas (a route known as the “Hump” or “the aluminum trail” for the scattered debris from hundreds of airplane crashes); although the jet stream over Tokyo was unknown to American pilots in 1945, it had been discovered in the ‘20s by Japanese scientist Wasaburo Ooishi, but he only published his findings in Esperanto (ha!).
Profile Image for Nicola Bramwell.
42 reviews8 followers
March 29, 2022
[ Cross-posted to the Nicola Bramwell Blog ]

I don’t read much in the way of military history, but I saw this book floating around on Goodreads and Twitter, so I decided to borrow it from the library when I spotted it on the new nonfiction shelf. I only have rudimentary knowledge about the military strategies and campaigns of World War II, so I went into this book with few preconceived notions about the history of air combat and bombings.

Overall, I found this book pretty informative. It’s not a very long book, but it covers all the essential tidbits regarding the development of air bombing and the various bombing strategies attempted by the Allies throughout WWII. It introduces the people who were key to the different bombing strategies tried in Europe and Japan, the successes and the failures, and the technology (or lack thereof) that determined which strategies ultimately worked best to shorten the war, particularly the Pacific theater.

That said, I think the author put a little too much of himself in the book. I would’ve preferred for him to step back and introduce more academic information about the bombing missions so that the reader could ponder which actions were morally right or wrong, and why. The way the author inserted his opinions into the story was a little heavy-handed and rather oversimplified what could’ve been and, in my opinion, should’ve been an interesting thought exercise on morality versus practicality.

Thus, while I did learn a lot of historical information about WWII, and while the book wasn’t overly long or dry, I think a few elements of the book could’ve been revised to reduce the amount of “hand-holding” and make it more compelling.
Profile Image for Lou (nonfiction fiend).
2,771 reviews1,616 followers
April 27, 2021
The Bomber Mafia is an exploration of how technology and best intentions collide in the heat of war in which bestselling history writer Malcolm Gladwell uses original interviews, archival footage, and his trademark insight to weave 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 aeroplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists, The Bomber Mafia, had a different view. They asked: What if precision bombing could, just by taking out critical choke points - industrial or transportation hubs - cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal? In Revisionist History, Gladwell re-examines moments from the past and asks whether we got it right the first time. In The Bomber Mafia, he employs all the production techniques that make Revisionist History so engaging, stepping back from the bombing of Tokyo, the deadliest night of the war, and asking, “Was it worth it?” The attack was the brainchild of General Curtis LeMay, whose brutal pragmatism and scorched-earth tactics in Japan cost thousands of civilian lives.

However, he may have spared even more by averting a planned US invasion. Things might have gone differently had LeMay’s predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. As a key member of the Bomber Mafia, Hansell’s theories of precision bombing had been foiled by bad weather and human error. 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. This is a compelling, enthralling and intensely captivating piece of history writing and has a richly described and information-packed nonfiction narrative. It's plain for all to see that it is extensively researched and penned by a passionate history connoisseur and lover of World War II stories. It's thoroughly engrossing and at many points reads like a thriller or espionage novel in the sense that unexpected events occur, atrocities happen and the writing flows seamlessly allowing it to read all the more easily. A scintillating, palpably tense and eminently readable book from start to conclusion and a no-brainer for those into history books written by experts in their field. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Otis Chandler.
386 reviews113k followers
May 30, 2022
Very interesting, light fun and quick read about WWII with a focus on bomber technology and how it affected the war. I hadn't realized what an interesting innovation the Norden bombsight was, how complicated it was, and how it's promise to "Be able to hit a pickle barrel from 10,000 feet" went so largely unfilled. Also fascinating that Napalm was invented in WWII and used extensively in Japan to win the war, before the nuclear bombs.
Profile Image for Walter Ullon.
227 reviews98 followers
February 24, 2022
This book gets a solid "Meh" from me.

Mainly, I had some issues with his thesis which starts out with a group of idealists termed the "Bomber Mafia" who sought to use technology such as the novel bomb-sights, to carry out precision bombing while minimizing innocent loss of life.

This, of course, was in direct opposition to the bombing philosophy of Curtis Lemay, who believed in area bombing and the destruction of civilian targets in order to obliterate the enemy's morale. He was the brain behind the firebombing of Tokyo, which killed thousands indiscriminately.

Now, if you name the book after the "good-guys" i.e. the precision bombing crews, you'd expect them to get the upper hand at some point. Nope. The book pretty much confirms that, given the time period and the technology available, the quickest way to end the war was to carpet bomb everything to hell. Lemay was right. The end.

It's a muddled and confused book, It's like starting your argument claiming you're about to prove the existence of God, but you conclude turning into an atheist... But Gladwell is a gifted storyteller and it did keep me engaged throughout and at least I learned something.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kyle Erickson.
341 reviews144 followers
December 13, 2022
This is basically a long episode of his podcast. Which, fine, but it shouldn't have been a book. It doesn't *feel* like a Gladwell book- it feels like an episode of Revisionist History. And a third of the book being clips did not work for me - the audio quality is usually poor so I would rather the author just read the quote in most cases. I think Gladwell got a little too into using direct clips in the podcast and is blurring the lines too much here - a book should have a lot more from the author themself. This book honestly just felt like a cash grab, my least favorite of Gladwell's stuff by a large margin.
Profile Image for Leah.
631 reviews85 followers
June 21, 2021
This is not the typical psychological deep dive as all of Malcolm's previous books. It was more like a
neat project that he was always interested in so he researched it and decided to share it.

If you are interested in the World Wars, Planes, Bomber planes, precision bombing, strategic initiatives, progress, then this book is for you. The book does provide some thought provoking topics that make you think psychologically, philosophically, and morally.

I think the most interesting thing for me was how difficult it was to bomb precisely if at all. There were so many factors like weather, speed of the plan, altitude, the tilt and spin of the earth lol
Profile Image for Jim.
1,102 reviews64 followers
August 11, 2021
I'll give this one by Malcolm Gladwell 4 stars, but it's actually 3.5. His book is about the US bomber campaigns in WWII, a topic I have some interest in, having read a lot about WWII, both fiction and non-fiction. He posits a conflict between idealistic strategists he calls "the Bomber Mafia" and the "brutal pragmatism" as represented by Gen. Curtis LeMay. The leader of the "idealists" was Gen. Haywood Hansell, whom Gladwell describes as a Don Quixote-type figure. Hansell wanted to use precision bombing to minimize civilian casualties while crippling enemy industry and believed that using the Norden bombsight would enable him to do that. Gladwell points out that was a failure as shown by the raids on Schweinfurt to knock out the ball-bearing factories. But, as Gladwell himself points out in a footnote and as I remember from my own reading, German Minister of Armaments and War Production Albert Speer said that, "Had they continued the attacks...with the same energy, we would have been at our last gasp."
"The Longest Night" in the subtitle refers to the March 9, 1945 fire-bombing of Tokyo by LeMay, when, according to the US Strategic Bombing Survey, "Probably more persons lost their lives by fire at Tokyo in a six-hour period than any time in the history of man." It's estimated that 100,000 people died that night. The strategy seemed to be to kill as many "Japs" as possible. LeMay's Bomber Command destroyed 67 Japanese cities in all, with losses of up to a million deaths. Even after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, LeMay kept going. As LeMay said, the atomic bombs were superfluous. He was destroying Japan with his fire-bombing campaign.The only way I can conclude is by repeating what General William T. Sherman said,"War is hell."
I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book but opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Amy J.
101 reviews49 followers
December 5, 2021
Malcolm Gladwell deviates a bit from his usual social psychology book to get a bit more historical. The book focuses on several inventions in the early 1900s that were intended to be used for good, but in the face of war, there were unintended uses of each of them. The focus of the book is the debate over precision bombing, which at the time of WWII, had not yet been perfected. Could the bombing of specific targets be just as harmful if not more than carpet bombing, which was more prominent at the time.

I listened to this on audiobook with Gladwell himself narrating. The book was an interesting look at several unknown inventors and their place in history.
Profile Image for Sherry.
607 reviews62 followers
March 21, 2022
Closer to 3.5. This was interesting and painted a broader picture of the problems, strategies and solutions to bombing warfare in Germany and Japan during the Second World War. He begins with a thought experiment by a group of men nicknamed the Bomber mafia who theorized that if you could bomb crucial choke points it would incapacitate your enemy’s ability to wage war on you, such as specific factories making necessary parts that were vital to building engines. You would then reduce casualties to your men and to civilians, something that had taken such a huge toll during the First World War. Apparently Hansell tried this approach but did not have the success needed and so was replaced with a general who had a more scorched earth policy. Decidedly not a strategy the bomber mafia would have subscribed to. And this is where the book loses me. Because it appears that LeMay’s approach of bombing the shit out of anything and everything in Japan was very instrumental in leading to Japan’s surrender. So why then name your book after the men not instrumental in ending the war? It was interesting material, it just didn’t quite make sense to me in light of all the detail about the bomber mafia. It just didn’t quite connect. Also, I’m not completely sold on some of the conclusions he comes to and some of the info seems glossed over at times. But overall, still an engaging and thought provoking book with an excellent audio experience.
Profile Image for Jim.
181 reviews34 followers
May 28, 2021
A deep dive into a forgotten issue from WWII through the eyes of two men - Haywood Hansell and Curtis LaMay. The question - do you save lives by shrinking war, or by expanding it?

As always with Gladwell the best parts are the fascinating nuggets he digs up during his extensive research - the history of the Norden bomb site, the 1936 flood in Pittsburgh that started a domino effect halting airplane production and launching the “chokepoint” theory, the Americans discovering the existence of the Jet Stream at the exact worst time, the air route over the Himalayas known as “The Hump” or “The Aluminum Trail” because of all the planes that crashed.
Profile Image for Bill Kupersmith.
Author 1 book196 followers
May 17, 2021
I'm not sure what lessons we can learn today for the story of the visionaries in the US Army Air Corps (as it then was) of the 1930s who were trying to divise techniques to win a war with a minimum of unnecessary suffering and bloodshed. The idea was to attack the enemy's warmaking capacity by striking critical targets, factories making essential components such as ball bearings. Which required optical/mechanical devices to enable an aircraft 30,000 feet flying at 300 mph to deliver a bomb into an area, if not quite a pickle barrel, at least as small as a school car park. Which proved costly against Germany and impossible against Japan. The hero of this book is Haywood Hansell and though his successor in the air offensive against Japsn Curtis LeMay is not exactly the villain, the firebombing campaign LeMay initiated was totally opposite everything Hansell and the "Bomber Mafia" envisioned, causing more than 100,000 deaths of innocent civilians. And that was before the two atomic bombs were dropped.

Since the Second World War microchips and lasers have made possible precision beyond the dreams of those visionaries, but in the past seventy-five years there have fortunately been no serious armed conflicts between industrialized nations. The role of bombers in World War II is still debated. by military historians. Ironically, neither Germany nor Japan had a strategic bomber force even though they gave us the Blitz and the Pearl Harbor attack. It was the British and Americans who conducted the bomber offensive against German and Japanese cities. Some think it was simply a war crime, others that it provided ancillary support in shortening the war but never lived up to the predictions of its enthusiasts. Neither Korea or Vietnam, nor the Middle East, have provided the kind of targets that strategic bombing was expected to destroy. Air Power has been employed almost entirely in tactical combat roles, often against irregular forces. Looking towards East Asia, however, one can see ominous possibilites once again for large-scale precision weapons, probably launched at huge distances from ships and land installations.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,289 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.