The Bomber Mafia, by Malcolm Gladwell – A Book Review

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
How big of bombs, and how many of them are necessary to win a war? Will Bombing civilian populations lead to the capitulation of an enemy and end a war sooner than targeted bombing? These are some of the questions this historical book: “The Bomber Mafia” brings to light.

Author Gladwell has taken a single theme, the Norden Bomb Site, and given us an excellent set of historical data that show us how far our technology has advanced since WW2 to give accuracy in bombing runs and instances when we would like to have pinpoint accuracy for the delivery of an explosive device that can take out anywhere from a single person ot a factory to a city to a sip on the high seas. All these things which we can do today, almost with impunity, were impossible during the second world war. The bomb site gave the American Air Corps the false illusion, for a period of time on both the Eastern and Western Fronts of the war, that pinpoint accuracy during daylight bombing raids could be achieved, and thus be more effective in knocking out the enemy’s ability to wage war. In the end on both fronts, the delusion had to be overcome by hard headed pragmatism of what our early air corps was capable of acheiving. In many ways the author tries to show how the idealists who wished to lower the collateral damage on civilians and the loss of innocent lives, finally lost out to the need to do broadcast bombing and the creation of firestorms, starvation and famine within opposing nations to achieve a victory in a major world conflict. it brings to light some discussion questions which still exist today and have not been answered, including the question of: How can we contain war to keep it small enough so that a victory can be acheived and the war doesn’t blow up into a world wide conflict that will kill hundreds of millions of people. Is it possible, or are we just postponing the inevitable which may be more deadly in the future than if we went all out in the present. Perhaps there is no “right” anwer.

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