The exciting history of a small group of British and American scientists who, during World War II, developed the new field of operational research to turn back the tide of German submarines—revolutionizing the way wars are waged and won.
In March 1941, after a year of unbroken and devastating U-boat onslaughts, the British War Cabinet decided to try a new strategy in the foundering naval campaign. To do so, they hired an intensely private, bohemian physicist who was also an ardent socialist. Patrick Blackett was a former navy officer and future winner of the Nobel Prize; he is little remembered today, but he and his fellow scientists did as much to win the war against Nazi Germany as almost anyone else. As director of the World War II antisubmarine effort, Blackett used little more than simple mathematics and probability theory—and a steadfast belief in the utility of science—to save the campaign against the U-boat. Employing these insights in unconventional ways, from the washing of mess hall dishes to the color of bomber wings, the Allies went on to win essential victories against Hitler’s Germany.
Here is the story of these civilian intellectuals who helped to change the nature of twentieth-century warfare. Throughout, Stephen Budiansky describes how scientists became intimately involved with what had once been the distinct province of military commanders—convincing disbelieving military brass to trust the solutions suggested by their analysis. Budiansky shows that these men above all retained the belief that operational research, and a scientific mentality, could change the world. It’s a belief that has come to fruition with the spread of their tenets to the business and military worlds, and it started in the Battle of the Atlantic, in an attempt to outfight the Germans, but most of all to outwit them.
Le informazioni nella sezione "Riassunto" possono far riferimento a edizioni diverse di questo titolo.
Stephen Budiansky is a journalist and military historian. His previous books include Air Power, Battle of Wits, The Bloody Shirt, Her Majesty's Spymaster, and Perilous Fight.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
From 1941 to 1943, a small group of British and American scientists, almost entirely without military experience or knowledge, revolutionized the way wars are run and won.
Applying the basic tools of their trade—a thoroughly scientific mind--set backed by little more than simple mathematics and probability theory—they repeatedly demonstrated to disbelieving admirals and generals ways to double or triple the effectiveness of the faltering Allied campaign against the German U--boats. In the grim fight for control of the Atlantic during those years of uncertainty, the scientists’ unconventional insights achieved the near--miraculous in a battle crucial to the larger struggle to defeat Hitler’s Germany.
The scientists who beat the U--boats never numbered more than a hundred in all, a fraction of the thousands who worked to achieve the two far better known triumphs of science in the war: the breaking of the German Enigma cipher and the making of the atomic bomb. Yet they were a collection of scientific talent the likes of which probably has never been seen before or since, certainly the oddest such collection ever assembled in one place: among them were physicists, chemists, botanists, physiologists, geneticists, insurance actuaries, economists, mathematicians, and astronomers. Six would win the Nobel Prize, in physics, chemistry, or medicine. Most were far to the left in their politics: some of the best were out-and-out Marxists, and more than a few had been committed pacifists who had come to see the defeat of the Nazis as a cause that overrode their abhorrence of war. Many were almost caricatures of the sort of unmilitary, awkward, overly intellectual civilians that military men routinely viewed with undisguised contempt.
That they were there when they were so desperately needed was the extraordinary result of a confluence of events and circumstances that I have set out to describe in the following pages: the onrush of devastating reality after decades of complacency toward the submarine menace, a political awakening of scientists brought about by the Great Depression and the rise of fascism, struggles within the militaries of Britain and the United States that pitted tradition against technical innovation and social change, and the appearance in the right place of a few unconventional political and military leaders who respected science—-and of a few phenomenally accomplished scientists of great moral courage and unshakable intellectual integrity.
Patrick Blackett, a British physicist, ex–naval officer, future Nobel winner, and ardent socialist, stood at the forefront of those scientists of penetrating insight and courage. It is no exaggeration to say that few men did more to win the war against Nazi Germany than Patrick Blackett. Certainly, few who did as much as he did have been so little remembered. Partly that is because he was a difficult, private, and inner--directed man whose political views and personality did not age well in the postwar world. Most people today—-myself included—-will find his uncritical admiration for Stalin’s Soviet Union and his doctrinaire social Marxism painfully naive, at best. But it is worth remembering that that same naïveté was the source of an idealism that we can only wish there was more of today: whatever else, Patrick Blackett was fired by a sense of justice, righteousness, and self--sacrificing courage that drove him to serve his country, and the cause of civilization itself, at the time of their utmost need.
As director of the antisubmarine analysis effort for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy during World War II, Blackett not only helped win that battle, and the war, but in so doing founded the new science of operational research; it has been an indispensable part of military training and planning ever since, a revolution in the application of science to the art of warfare.
It is far from clear that he or any of his colleagues from those perilous and heroic days of the scientific war against the U--boats would have the chance to make such an original contribution today. The bureaucratic machinery of war has become too vast and cumbersome to leave room for the gifted improvisation and iconoclastic thinking that Blackett and his colleagues brought to bear; today’s routine incorporation of science in military affairs, which they themselves helped to bring about, has ironically sharpened the lines between military and civilian expertise; and science itself has become ever more narrow, specialized, and competitive, to the point that few scientists with the intensity to achieve discoveries worthy of a Nobel Prize have time left to think about much else.
Which is our loss, and which makes their story all the more worth telling.
An Unconventional Weapon
On the evening of november 19, 1918, eight days after the armistice that ended the war to end all wars, a train from London pulled into the depot at Parkeston Quay, just outside the East Anglia port town of Harwich, and a mob of reporters, photographers, and newsreel cameramen spilled out onto the platform. Harwich had seen its ups and downs as a small North Sea port. In the Middle Ages the town prospered shipping bales of wool to the continent and importing French wines. In the seventeenth century, its dockyards served as an important supply and refitting base for the Royal Navy during the Dutch Wars; Samuel Pepys, the secretary to the Board of the Admiralty and keeper of the vain and ingenuous diaries that remain the most revealing account of life in Restoration England, represented the town in Parliament; and Harwich’s thriving private shipyards may, or may not, have built the merchant ship Mayflower, which carried the Pilgrim Fathers to America.
A slow decline in the nineteenth century—-the royal dockyards closed in 1829—-was abruptly reversed in the 1880s when the Great Eastern Railway Company developed a large new port on reclaimed land a mile up the River Stour from the town center. The railway was rerouted to a new station from which passengers could transfer directly to ferries that took them on to Gothenburg, Hamburg, and the Hook of Holland; there were freight yards, a hotel, and rows of terraced housing for workers. With the coming of war in 1914 the Royal Navy requisitioned the entire port—-quays, hotel, workshops, and all—-and a force of destroyers and light cruisers and the 8th and 9th Submarine Flotillas moved in to guard the northern approaches to the English Channel.
And so Harwich, with its men who knew submarines and its facilities for handling them and its proximity to Germany’s North Sea naval bases, was chosen as the place where an unprecedented event in the history of naval warfare was to take place on the morning of November 20, 1918. The terms of capitulation the German government had agreed to were extraordinary and humiliating, a measure of the desperation that the swift collapse of Germany’s military situation had left her leaders facing. Fourteen articles of the Armistice dealt with the German navy. In addition to disarming all her warships and agreeing to have 10 battleships, 6 battle cruisers, 8 light cruisers, and 50 destroyers “of the most modern type” interned in neutral or Allied ports, Germany was to surrender outright “all submarines at present in existence . . . with armament and equipment complete.” Article 22 continued:
"Those that cannot put to sea shall be deprived of armament and equipment and shall remain under the supervision of the Allies and the United States. Submarines ready to put to sea shall be prepared to leave German ports immediately on receipt of wireless order to sail to the port of surrender, the remainder to follow as early as possible. The conditions of this Article shall be completed within fourteen days of the signing of the Armistice."
Along with the horde of reporters, British submarine officers and men had been summoned from every port to be on hand to take charge of the enemy boats as they arrived. Accommodations at Parkeston, which included three moored depot ships, were packed far beyond capacity that evening of the 19th. The one “lady reporter” in the group was chivalrously offered the hotel billiard table as a bed for the night.
A heavy fog shrouded the harbor the next morning as the destroyers Melampus and Firedrake, carrying the boarding parties and their attendant pack of press hounds, got under way at 7 a.m. heading for the point where the surrender was to take place; it was the southern end of the shipping channel known as the Sledway, about eight miles east--northeast of Harwich. A British airship droned out of the mist and passed to the north, quickly vanishing again in the fog. Then a few minutes before 10 a.m. a British light cruiser suddenly came into sight in the distance, then two German transports flanked by more British warships.
And then there they were: a line of unmistakable, long thin hulls breaking the dark surface of the water, topped by domed conning towers, proceeding in straggling order. Two airships and three flying boats kept a continuous watch over the procession, passing and repassing low over the enemy boats as they came on slowly toward the rendezvous point. Lieutenant Stephen King--Hall, a British submarine torpedo officer, groped to find words to capture the incredulity he felt as he witnessed the scene from aboard the Firedrake: the dangerous and reclusive predator he and his comrades had hunted and feared and loathed, now meekly chivvied along like a few tame sheep. “Try and imagine what you would feel like,” he wrote, “if you were told to go to Piccadilly at 10 a.m. and see twenty man--eating tigers walk up from Hyde Park Corner and lie down in front of the Ritz to let you cut their tails off and put their leads on—-and it was really so.”
A signal was given to the t...
Le informazioni nella sezione "Su questo libro" possono far riferimento a edizioni diverse di questo titolo.
Descrizione libro Knopf, 2013. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria DADAX030759596X
Descrizione libro Knopf 2013-02-19, 2013. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. 1st Printing. 030759596X We guarantee all of our items - customer service and satisfaction are our top priorities. Please allow 4 - 14 business days for Standard shipping, within the US. Codice libro della libreria TM-030759596X
Descrizione libro Knopf, 2013. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. book. Codice libro della libreria 030759596X
Descrizione libro Knopf, 2013. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria P11030759596X
Descrizione libro Knopf, 2013. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Condizione sovraccoperta: New. 1st Edition... NEW YORK: Knopf (2013). First edition. First printing. Hardbound. New/New. A pristine unread copy. SIGNED BY AUTHOR on title page. Smoke-free shop. Shipped in well padded box. This book has no defects (bruises, clips, marks, etc). Purchased new and opened only for the author to sign. SIGNED BY AUTHOR on the title page. Signed by Author(s). Codice libro della libreria 02-2013-03
Descrizione libro Knopf. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. 030759596X New Condition. Codice libro della libreria NEW6.1784086