Books·Canadian

Bomber Mafia

A book by Malcolm Gladwell.

Malcolm Gladwell

In The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War, Malcolm Gladwell, author of New York Times bestsellers including Talking to Strangers and host of the podcast Revisionist History, 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 had a different view. This "Bomber Mafia" 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 his podcast, Revisionist History, Gladwell re-examines moments from the past and asks whether we got it right the first time. In TheBomber Mafia, he steps back from the bombing of Tokyo, the deadliest night of the war, and asks, "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, but may have spared 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, enemy jet fighters, 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. (From Little, Brown & Company)

Interviews with Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is known for turning assumptions on their head, and looking at situations from a different point of view. In this chat recorded before COVID-19, the journalist and podcaster speaks to Anna Maria Tremonti about the importance of changing our minds. The good news is he’s hopeful about our ability to do so. In fact, Gladwell believes closed-minded dogmatists are the real outliers. “Most people are actually open to new interpretations — surprisingly so.” In a season finale that goes down many rabbit holes, Gladwell reveals why he’s rapidly losing interest in print; where he gets his best ideas; why overconfident people may be more dangerous than ignorant ones; and why people reacting with a “huh” is the ultimate compliment. 1:04:03
Author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell says he has faith in our scientists to find a way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he worries about how politicians or even the general public will apply those solutions. 12:39

Other books by Malcolm Gladwell

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