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Malcolm Gladwell: ‘Remember lessens from World War II’

Malcolm Gladwell: ‘Remember lessens from World War II’

Posted May. 23, 2022 08:02,   

Updated May. 23, 2022 08:02


“The completely different choices by Brigadier General Haywood Hansell, who resorted to precision airstrikes to minimize civilian casualties when the U.S. Army aviation unit launched strikes on Tokyo, Japan in 1945, and Major General Curtis LeMay, who opted for unconditional strikes, changed the conclusion of the war.”

This is what Malcolm Gladwell (59), the U.S. journalist who recently published ‘The Bomber Mafia,’ had to say in a written interview with The Dong-A Ilbo. “The U.S. military respected LeMay’s choice, and nearly 1 million Japanese civilians died during the Second World War. Hundreds of thousands of civilians also died during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq War.” The author, who has been contributing to The Washington Post and The New Yorker, is better known for his bestseller ‘Outlier (2009),’ which introduces the ‘principle of 10,000 hours.’

The new book starts with the scene where the U.S. military occupies the Mariana Islands including Guam and Saipan in West Pacific in 1944 when the Second World War was nearing its end. The Mariana Islands, which had been controlled by the Japanese military, transformed into a beachhead for the U.S. military to stage campaigns against the Japanese mainland. General Hansell, who commanded the U.S. troops early on, ordered a precision strike, saying that this will minimize civilian massacres and bring the war to a close appropriately. However, his operation ended up in failure, and he was replaced as commander with LeMay. LeMay used napalm bombs to bring the war to an end. The use of this weapon is currently banned by an international treaty. “While Brigadier General Hansell was a romanticist who gave serious thought about ethics of war, Curtis LeMay was a ruthless, clever tactician,” Gladwell said.

“As shown by the examples from the World War Second, the military starts with the best intention, but good intention tend not to last,” the author said. “Unlike in the past, today the military can hit just the target almost completely accurately. We have fewer reasons to attack civilians during a war.”