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

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A “truly compelling” (Good Morning America) New York Times bestseller that explores how technology and best intentions collide in the heat of war—from the creator and host of the podcast Revisionist History.

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.

ISBN-13: 9780316296816

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Little Brown and Company

Publication Date: 06-07-2022

Pages: 256

Product Dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.65(d)

Malcom Gladwell is the author of seven New York Times bestsellers: The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, David and Goliath, Talking to Strangers, and The Bomber Mafia. He is also the cofounder of Pushkin Industries, an audiobook and podcast production company. He was born in England, grew up in rural Ontario, and now lives in New York.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xiv

Introduction: "This isn't working. You're out." 3

Part 1 The Dream

Chapter 1 "Mr. Norden was content to pass his time in the shop." 13

Chapter 2 "We make progress unhindered by custom." 30

Chapter 3 "He was tacking in the bond of human sympathy." 53

Chapter 4 "The truest of the true believers." 76

Chapter 5 "General Hansell was aghast." 96

Part 2 The Temptation

Author's Note 119

Chapter 6 "It would be suicide, boys, suicide." 123

Chapter 7 "If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." 146

Chapter 8 "It's all ashes - all that and that and that." 168

Chapter 8 "Improvised destruction." 187

Conclusion: "All of a sudden, the Air House would be gone, Poof." 202

Acknowledgments 207

Notes 209

Index 230