Malcolm Gladwell’s extraordinary new book, “The Bomber Mafia,” tells the story of a group of pilots who met on a muggy airbase in central Alabama and hatched a plan to revolutionize warfare. This was in the 1930s, the era of the bomber, a new breed of aircraft that could supposedly drop a bomb from six miles up and land it in a pickle barrel. If you could do that, you wouldn’t have to level cities, rack up casualties, or send a single soldier onto the battlefield. Planes could win wars all by themselves. Or so the young pilots thought.
“The Bomber Mafia” is about how that dream unraveled in World War II, but because this is a Malcolm Gladwell book, it’s about a lot of other things, too, like a Dutch computer genius, a British psychopath, and pyromaniacal chemists at Harvard. It also dares to ask a vexing moral question: what happens when a piece of technology that heralds positive change is driven off course?
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