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

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

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

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.

Title:The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780316296618
Format Type:

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

  • Paul

    (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. Han...

  • Nate

    Got an advance copy of Bomber Mafia through a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you, Goodreads!I'll be thinking about this book for a while. It was a very different type of Malcolm Gladwell book, yet it is pe...

  • Christopher Wallace

    I listened to the audiobook. It was an excellent use of the medium with interview audio clips and sound effects. Not the authors most compelling work, but very good compared to most military history b...

  • Peter

    Malcolm Gladwell mines academic research on technology, social sciences and crunches it to bring a rendition to the public eye. Among his popular early books are The Tipping Point (2000), Blink (2005)...

  • Steven Z.

    For the last few years, the historiography of allied bombing during World War II has undergone much greater scrutiny. The death and destruction of civilians and their property has been labeled as unet...

  • Krista

    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 ...

  • Ben

    Meh. This should have been a podcast episode, or a *short* New Yorker story. Gladwell blows it up into a short book by adding a little filler material, and a lot of excess verbosity. It is a good stor...

  • Brendan Monroe

    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. Mayb...

  • Blair

    The Bomber Mafia, as the subtitle explains, is truly a book about “A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War”. It’s also a book about two competing versions of the wor...

  • Cgallozzi

    Listened via Audible.comVery interesting take on aspects of WW II history - and the development of the 'Strategic Bomber' Doctrine - early in WW II - which (paraphrased) states that Air Power "will al...