Join us for a virtual Live Talks Los Angeles event: Sunday, April 25, 2021
in conversation with Walter Isaacson
discussing his book,
The Bomber Mafia: A Dream,
a Temptation, & the Longest Night of the Second World War
Malcolm Gladwell's exploration of how technology & best intentions collide in the heat of war.
Malcolm Gladwell is the author of six New York Times bestsellers including Talking to Strangers, David & Goliath, Outliers, Blink, & The Tipping Point. He is the cofounder & president of Pushkin Industries, an audiobook & podcast production company which produces the podcasts Revisionist History; Broken Record, a music interview show; & Solvable, in which Gladwell interviews innovative thinkers with solutions to some of the world's biggest problems. The Bomber Mafia began as episodes Revisionist History, & the production team behind that show also produced the audiobook edition. Gladwell appeared at Live Talks Los Angeles for Talking to Strangers (video) & David & Goliath, & previously also interviewed Michael Lewis (video) on our stage.
Walter Isaacson, a professor of history at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair of CNN, & editor of Time. He is the author of The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, & the Future of the Human Race; Leonardo da Vinci; The Innovators; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life & Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; & Kissinger: A Biography, & the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends & the World They Made. He previously appeared at Live Talks Los Angeles in conversation with Michael Lewis for his book on da Vinci (video).
In The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, & the Longest Night of the Second World War, Malcolm Gladwell weaves together the stories of a Dutch genius & his homemade computer, a band of brothers in central Alabama, a British psychopath, & 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 & make war far less lethal?
In Revisionist History, Gladwell re-examines moments from the past & asks whether we got it right the first time. In The Bomber Mafia, he steps back from the bombing of Tokyo, the deadliest night of the war, & asks, Was it worth it? The attack was the brainchild of General Curtis LeMay, whose brutal pragmatism & 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, Haywood's theories of precision bombing had been foiled by bad weather, enemy jet fighters, & human error. When he & 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, & the incalculable wages of war.