- Taschenbuch: 352 Seiten
- Verlag: Vintage (5. November 2013)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0307743632
- ISBN-13: 978-0307743633
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13,2 x 2,3 x 20,3 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: Schreiben Sie die erste Bewertung
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Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare Warfare (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 5. November 2013
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Praise for Stephen Budiansky's Blackett's War
Recommended Reading, Scientific American
“A fascinating portrayal of how science contributed to winning the war in Europe.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“A terrific story, exciting, illuminating, well told.”
—Dallas Morning News
“Lively and enlightening. . . . Budiansky knowingly and entertainingly re-creates the almost constant struggle between hidebound military traditionalists and the clever civilians who saved them.”
—The Washington Post
“Engaging. . . . A finely wrought and well-sourced social history of elite science’s wartime mobilization. . . . A wonderful revisionist history of how intelligence derived from Bletchley Park’s breakthroughs combined with Blackett’s operational research to bypass and destroy the Nazi Wolfpacks.”
“Budiansky has mastered the difficulties of the story, making it very readable and compelling . . . an important work.”
—New York Journal of Books
“A fascinating and skilful blend of naval warfare, science, and British social history with a richly diverse cast of characters.”
—World War II Magazine
“Little-known story of the Allied scientists whose unconventional thinking helped thwart the Nazi U-boats in World War II . . . An excellent, well-researched account . . . an engrossing work rich in insights and anecdotes.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“The little known history of a linchpin in the Allies’ victory over the Nazis: Patrick Blackett. . . . For military history and science fans alike.”
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
Stephen Budiansky is the author of seventeen books about military history, intelligence and espionage, science, the natural world, and other subjects. His most recent books are Code Warriors: NSA’s Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union and Mad Music: Charles Ives, the Nostalgic Rebel.
Budiansky's writing has appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times magazine and op-ed pages, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, The Economist, and many other publications. He is a member of the editorial board of Cryptologia, the scholarly journal of cryptology and intelligence history, and is on the American Heritage Dictionary’s Usage Panel. He lives on a small farm in Loudoun County, Virginia.
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The focus is primarily on the people, personalities, and organizational debates and infighting that interfered with the deployment of these systems. There's a lot of interesting information to be found on that topic, some of it new, much of it covered in earlier books. Those looking for detailed understanding of how science and scientists worked with the military to defeat Doenitz' U-Boat fleet may want to look elsewhere, however.
There are a tremendous number of books available covering the role of technology in World War II, and the submarine war in particular, going back to James R Newman's 1956 The World of Mathematics, which contains chapters on operations research and submarine hunting. R. V. Jones' 1978 Wizard War is an excellent history of the role of technology in air defense and submarine warfare in depth as well as the roles of many of those mentioned in Blackett's War, and has the advantage of being written by someone who was actually part of the research. Between those two books there is a tremendous amount of information on the actual science and technology of the antisubmarine war.
I looked forward to reading Blackett's War based on the reviews and publisher's description, but I was somewhat disappointed, as I was looking for a moreup to date description of the actual science and technology than can be found in R. V. Jone's earlier book . Those looking for more of social history of the scientists who contributed to the antisubmarine effort should find this book to their liking.
The author makes a compelling argument to the effect that during World War II, Allied civilian intellectuals -- scientists and other professionals such as physicists, chemists, biologists, actuaries, and mathematicians -- made remarkable contributions to winning the war in Europe. For example, they developed a new discipline, Operations Research (OR), as well as microwave (10-centmeter/3-gigahertz) radar and other breakthroughs that are still in use today.
These civilians applied scientific thinking to battlefield situations -- teaching Allied military leaders to use their resources in as optimum a fashion as possible. They asked penetrating questions that challenged accepted naval and air-force thinking. In so doing, they revolutionized anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and made a significant contribution to winning the Battle of the Atlantic -- the linchpin for the winning of the war.
Real heroes abound. To begin there is Winston Churchill, who in the mid-1930s was a powerless Parliament backbencher. Churchill, a first Lord of the Admiralty in World War I, was a skeptic of military ways and means as well as a firm believer in scientific methods. He made the acquaintance of the Oxford University physicist F.A. Lindemann. "Lindeman became my chief adviser on the scientific aspects of modern war," said Churchill. He lectured Churchill on ways science might help protect Britain against aerial bombardment. Churchill then pressed the government to bring in scientific advisers on military affairs as early as 1934. This led to the formation of the Air Ministry Committee for the Scientific Survey of Air Defence.
The formation of the committee opened the way for the civilians. Henry Tizard, a physical chemist at Oxford, chaired the committee that included H. E. Wimperis, the Air Ministry's director of scientific research, and his assistant A. P. Rowe, A. V. Hill, a biologist at University College, and Patrick Blackett, a future Nobel Prize-winning physicist, who was a Naval Officer during World War I and went on to prove himself to be one of the best scientific leaders of the day via his work at Cambridge under Ernest Rutherford . Much to the discomfort of many line officers, hundreds more civilian intellectuals followed in their footsteps.
The scientists were meant not so much to invent new devices as to improve the way war was waged with weapons and procedures already at hand . This was a tough assignment requiring relationship skills, because it involved telling generals and admirals how to better do their jobs. Churchill, who became prime minister in May 1940, provided strong support so that the civilians could embed themselves in military units to study real operational problems. The scientists were not very well received at the Admiralty. The civilians needed to keep a low profile. The job as Blackett would say after the war, "is to improve matters if he can, and if he cannot, to say nothing." But invent things they did.
In 1935, a group of these civilian experts began exploring the embryonic concept of "a new and potent means of detecting the approach of hostile aircraft, one which will be independent of mist, cloud, fog, or nightfall." The outcome of their efforts became known as radar--radio detecting and ranging. Churchill and the Air Ministry saw to it that England's south coast was lined with tracking stations by the time Great Britain and Germany went to war in September 1939. The Royal Navy's tradition and inbred conservatism made it uninterested in radar that was one of the keys to winning the Battle of Britain--an attitude that would deprive it of a potential early advantage against the German Navy.
Churchill's excitement over technical ideas would often get the better of him. Motivated by Lindemann, he insisted that the scientists pursue a rash of worthless, time-consuming ideas such as aerial mines that could intercept bombers and a device to create an updraft that would flip an attacking airplane upside-down.
The author rightfully claims that the scientists' greatest contribution to the war effort was forcing the military to make decisions based on data instead of tradition and intuition. Nowhere was this more important than in the Battle of the Atlantic, where German U-boats were waging a devastating war on merchant shipping - threatening the lifeline to England and the build-up for D-Day.
U-boats often operated on the surface, and were frequently spotted at close range by Royal Navy ships escorting convoys. The escorts were trained to drop depth charges 250 feet apart and set to explode 100 to 150 feet underwater and were having negligible success against the subs. Blackett, then working for the Navy's Coastal Command, asked a physicist named E.J. Williams to take on the issue. Williams showed mathematically why an escort ship following the Navy's instructions was unlikely ever to hit a U-boat. He recommended that the defenders ignore any U-boat that had been beneath the surface for more than 15 seconds. But U-boats that had just dived were to be attacked immediately with closely spaced depth charges set to explode at only 25 feet. The kill rate rose by a factor of 10.
The Coastal Command tracked the estimated location of every U-boat believed to be in the Atlantic and used a fleet of patrol planes to search for them. Knowing that U-boats usually traveled on the surface, Blackett calculated the number of sightings the planes should report. The actual number was far less, because U-boats were spotting the planes and diving before being seen. Blackett determined that the Coastal aircraft were black -- having been shifted from night bomber duty to ocean patrol. Painting the undersides of the wings reflective white made the planes harder to see, and the rate of U-boat sightings doubled.
Some of the contributions the author recounts are well known, notably the cracking of the German army Enigma codes and the more complex naval Enigma codes. It began with the help of discoveries made by three code breakers in the Polish army's cipher bureau who turned over the results of their work -- including a reverse-engineered army version of the Enigma coding machine -- to their British counterparts in Warsaw just prior to the Nazi invasion. Code breaking was an ongoing task that allowed the Coastal Command to site and map U-boat deployments, including wolf-pack formations, and so re-direct convoys out of harms' way. For good measure, the convoys were optimally designed via OR re: size and escort configuration.
The author helps the reader understand how and why OR developed as a scientific enterprise. Blackett and his fellow British scientists, and, from 1940, their American counterparts under the National Defense Research Committee headed by Vannevar Bush, showed how careful quantitative analysis could provide far better guidance for decision makers than tradition, prejudice, and gut feeling. Concepts such as probability and optimization, honed in studies analyzing the placement of antiaircraft batteries and the flight patterns of planes on patrol at sea, eventually made their way into business operations.
Finally, the civilian heroes of World War II are seen by the author as having "an abiding faith in rationality, a basic confidence in the enduring power of arithmetic and simple probability, and a determination to vanquish an evil that they took to heart as a personal duty."