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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 f 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. 


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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 f 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. 

30 review for Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare

  1. 4 out of 5

    Igor Ljubuncic

    As usual, Stephen does a stellar job of translating a historical telling into a remarkable thriller full of personal spins and anecdotes. The things that happened are interspersed with rich detail about the people who participated in the war effort, their little egomaniacal decisions, their idiosyncrasies, the bickering, the bureaucracy. It's amazing. I have not found another author that does such a mesmerizing work with non-fiction. Anyhow, this book, alongside his enigma work, air power, and th As usual, Stephen does a stellar job of translating a historical telling into a remarkable thriller full of personal spins and anecdotes. The things that happened are interspersed with rich detail about the people who participated in the war effort, their little egomaniacal decisions, their idiosyncrasies, the bickering, the bureaucracy. It's amazing. I have not found another author that does such a mesmerizing work with non-fiction. Anyhow, this book, alongside his enigma work, air power, and the American Civil War story are a must for any fan of serious history, especially of they love the mathematical concepts behind theories and ideas, lots of technical data, as well as all the raw, gritty stuff that make us so selfishly human even in the middle of some of the goriest wars in our history. 6.0/5.0. Recommended like mad. Igor

  2. 5 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Outstanding read. Patrick Blackett’s career is used as a metaphor for an examination of the role played by scientists in defeating the Nazis during WW II. Budiansky begins by discussing the profound effect WW I had on scientists, many of whom had served in the war and returned with deep-seated antipathy to war in general. Many turned to pacifism and Marxism as a perceived alternative, but the ill-considered racist actions of the Hitler regime against Jewish intellectuals and scientists, many of Outstanding read. Patrick Blackett’s career is used as a metaphor for an examination of the role played by scientists in defeating the Nazis during WW II. Budiansky begins by discussing the profound effect WW I had on scientists, many of whom had served in the war and returned with deep-seated antipathy to war in general. Many turned to pacifism and Marxism as a perceived alternative, but the ill-considered racist actions of the Hitler regime against Jewish intellectuals and scientists, many of whom fled the country and were instrumental in the Allied war effort, coupled with Nazi militarism pushed them in the opposite direction. Budiansky argues successfully that it wasn’t just new weapons and countermeasures developed by the scientists, it was also a new way of doing business for the military. They questioned the traditional ways of doing things in favor of a reliance on quantitative analysis. Focus on operational aspects often produced startling results. By looking at the statistical results of aircraft operations against U-boats depth settings were changed on depth charges and bombers were repainted white instead of black to make them less visible from the sea. These small changes resulted in the likelihood of air attack success from less than one percent to over ten percent. In another very prosaic example, a scientist noted that long lines formed at the sinks after eating as soldiers washed their kits. Ana analysis showed it took much more time to wash the plates in the first sink than to rinse them in the second sink. Instead of having an equal number of sinks for both rinsing and washing, two thirds of the sinks were devoted to washing and that totally eliminated the lines. Some of the conclusions reminded me of James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of Crowds ( see my review at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) who postulated that the best decisions were made by groups made up of differing experiences and points of view, especially naysayers. I tried to utilize this concept as head of IT at the college. When we were doing strategic planning I always tried to include faculty from the anti-tech crowd and they often made very significant contributions that we, as IT types would never have thought of. Blackett insisted similarly in his operational activities, trying to include scientists who had no obvious experience in the area under discussion. Mathematicians were obviously extremely important in dealing with ciphers, but their experience with probability was crucial to many important operational changes in the conduct of the war. But sailors had their own operational experience to share. Generally the word among convoy sailors was that if you were on a ship with a heavy cargo, like iron ore, you slept in your clothes on deck because, if torpedoed, it would sink like a stone. In a ship lightly cargoed, you slept in your clothes below decks, and slept lightly so you could rush on deck if hit. The only sailors getting a good night’s sleep unclothed were those in tankers. If they got torpedoed you went up in a flaming cloud so it didn't matter where you slept. Similarly, it was rapidly learned ships in convoy never stopped to retrieve survivors. Any ship that stopped became a perfect target for the U-boat and it was better not to lose another ship. Sometimes the results of the analysis was not welcome. Blackett’s group discovered that only an estimated 400 Germans were being killed in bombing raids per month while 400 airmen were killed during the same period, hardly a fortuitous ratio. (After the war when more accurate data was available, it was learned the number of Germans killed was only about 200 per month.) They also discovered that production was more influenced by holidays rather than bombing. They recommended putting more resources into the naval battle and protecting ships that were in convoys delivering much needed goods and military supplies, i.e., the war against U-boats. That was not a message the RAF wanted to hear. They were basically told to back off and the RAF changed the justification for their bombing to the importance of “dehousing” the population. Note that the fire bombings of Hamburg, Dresden, Pforzheim and Tokyo produced substantially different results. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilia...)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Brown

    This was a fascinating book. When you think about science and world war 2 I always think of the effort invested in nuclear power and atomic weapons. If I were pressed to name another aspect, I would have said the process to create a useable radar or possibly the cryptographic success of breaking the Enigma code machine. What I would have never come up with is analysis of wartime things, like the difference in effectiveness of different colored planes, or the effectiveness of different settings f This was a fascinating book. When you think about science and world war 2 I always think of the effort invested in nuclear power and atomic weapons. If I were pressed to name another aspect, I would have said the process to create a useable radar or possibly the cryptographic success of breaking the Enigma code machine. What I would have never come up with is analysis of wartime things, like the difference in effectiveness of different colored planes, or the effectiveness of different settings for depth charge attacks on submarines. But some scientists did think of those things. And because of that there is a credible argument that they greatly effected the course of the war. Germanys plan was to prevent the resupply of Great Brittan by extensive use of submarine warfare. Not only would that starve the British out of the war, but it would prevent the United States from being able to participate in a build up necessary to invade the European mainland. The first two years they were highly successful sinking thousands of tons of shipping, including passenger ships as well as cargo and oil tankers. It became clear to many in the English military that they were going to lose the war unless this was changed. Fortunately, there were quite a few highly skilled scientists and mathematicians who were interested in stopping Hitlers war machine available. They were able to slowly form connections to political and military leaders and finally were in a position to gain access to military strategy and after action reports. They decided to call their analysis of these things Operational Research. The classic example of operations research is an observer seeing a long line of soldiers waiting to wash their mess kits after eating. There were two basins for washing, and two basins for rinsing the mess kits. The observer noted that the line was only for the washing basins since the rinsing took much less time to complete. The observer had them change the setup to have three washing basins and one rinsing one and the line all but disappeared. This is the simple example of what these scientists began doing for the war effort. I was astounded by how many Nobel Prize winners participated in this effort. Although the book is titled for Patrick Blackett, the stories of dozens of scientists are included both British and American. Their analyses likely allowed the eventual Allied victory primarily by their efforts to organize and make effective the Anti Submarine warfare (ASW) effort. Dozens of small changes were required to make ASW effective. For example, they demonstrated that if a plane that visually sighted a U-boat if that plane could not execute an attack on the boat within a quarter of a second it was not worth attacking at all. Or an analysis that compared the effectiveness of surface searching for U-boats vs. air searches. And how that effectiveness changed with the use of airborne radar. Eventually the ASW efforts became so effective that the Nazis were forced to withdraw their U-boats from the North Atlantic Sea in 1943, allowing the Allies to resupply England and build up a concentration of forces sufficient to cross the channel and begin a ground offensive against the Nazis. All in all it's a fascinating book. It is somewhat dense to get through, the author doesn't tell many stories as much as present a bunch of events in order. That makes the scientists seem aloof and distant even though it's clear that many of them were dynamic and interesting people who probably had lots of stories. The glimpses into pre-war America was also fascinating to me. I recommend this book to anyone with historical interests.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Donald Luther

    When I was in grad school, the most significant development in the historiography of Modern Britain (aside from the whole New Social History stuff that was going on in the 70s) was the revelation about Ultra. Winterbotham's 'The Ultra Secret' came out in 1974, just as I was moving into the Ph.D. program and, as my mentor said, it would require all of World War II history to be re-written. It did. I've been able to keep up with a lot of that rewriting, and when I was teaching Combined Studies, I go When I was in grad school, the most significant development in the historiography of Modern Britain (aside from the whole New Social History stuff that was going on in the 70s) was the revelation about Ultra. Winterbotham's 'The Ultra Secret' came out in 1974, just as I was moving into the Ph.D. program and, as my mentor said, it would require all of World War II history to be re-written. It did. I've been able to keep up with a lot of that rewriting, and when I was teaching Combined Studies, I got to do a lecture on 'The Secret War: How Smart People Won World War II'. I focused mainly on the campaigns in Africa and the Battle of Britain, Operation Bodyguard and so forth, and one area that I needed more reading in has always been the Battle of the Atlantic. 'Blackett's War' fills in a lot of that gap, but it does even more, some it crucially important. When I read those early books on Ultra and Hut 6 and so on, there is left an impression that the scientific community simply slid comfortably into place alongside everyone else who was fighting the war. This book makes it clear that that wasn't the case. In my reading about the war, there have been a few people I have consistently found to be in the wrong place at that time. This book seems to confirm my suspicions about them, about the fact that they seemed to be more interested in their own reputations, their own narrow interests (service-related and otherwise), and their own positions. Now this excludes obvious villains like Doenitz and Raeder on the German side, whose concerns were obviously opposed to the Allies. The first was 'Bomber' Harris, who seemed most concerned about knocking down buildings in Germany, to leave no two stones standing together. His refusal, in the first instance, to support Air Marshall Dowding during the Battle of Britain is followed up by his refusal to provide long-range aircraft to support the anti-submarine campaign of the Battle of the Atlantic. Then there is Lord Cherwell. I first ran into him in 'The Mare's Nest' by David Irving (1964, well before the 'Hitler's War' David Irving) when Cherwell in presented as the man who most resisted evidence of the existence of the V-weapon projects late in the war. Here Cherwell is the nemesis of Blackett and his allies, who are seeking to properly use the information coming from Ultra intercepts in the anti-submarine campaign, and whose main goal seems to be nothing more than to maintain his position as Churchill's pet scientist. Finally, Admiral Ernest King, who consistently resisted the use of aircraft and large surface ships to hunt the submarines in the Atlantic. The point is clearly made that these men were not evil or even bad. They were simply selfish, or closed-minded, or merely narrow in their views of the problems they were dealing with. 'Blackett's War' is a book that needs to be read in order to understand the fundamental problems of getting military services, in wartime, to work with the most undisciplined minds conceivable. How do you get those two differently motivated and organised people to work together? How do you get them to deal with, first of all, the simple problems that throwing them together in a life-or-death situation raises?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    The Nazi U-boats devastated Allied shipping during the war. It took a combined effort of convoys, air patrols, statistical analysis, scientific theory and military application to win the war of the Atlantic. Budiansky examines the key personalities and persistent challenges of this Allied effort. Why I started this book: I'm on an audio roll and so I downloaded a title from my vast professional reading list. Why I finished it: Fascinating look at the profitability of probability in real life situa The Nazi U-boats devastated Allied shipping during the war. It took a combined effort of convoys, air patrols, statistical analysis, scientific theory and military application to win the war of the Atlantic. Budiansky examines the key personalities and persistent challenges of this Allied effort. Why I started this book: I'm on an audio roll and so I downloaded a title from my vast professional reading list. Why I finished it: Fascinating look at the profitability of probability in real life situations. I wish that my statistics teacher had known about this... I might have cared more about the class.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Pribus

    A very interesting read, especially after reading THE MATHEWS MEN which described the submarine/convoy war from the POV of American submariners. (See my review of that.) This is the story of scientists pulled into scientific analysis and code-breaking for the best ways to defeat the U-boats which caused devastating such losses of critical supplies, especially in the early days of the Battle of the Atlantic. Overlying these efforts were military squabbles over political territory, the American res A very interesting read, especially after reading THE MATHEWS MEN which described the submarine/convoy war from the POV of American submariners. (See my review of that.) This is the story of scientists pulled into scientific analysis and code-breaking for the best ways to defeat the U-boats which caused devastating such losses of critical supplies, especially in the early days of the Battle of the Atlantic. Overlying these efforts were military squabbles over political territory, the American resistance to any joint ops that would put U.S. forces under U.K. command and other narrow-sighted behaviors that probably prolonged the war in the end. VERY thoroughly researched with a bibliography of more than 10 small-print pages. I confess I skimmed some of the political portions which reading the portions about Enigma and other codebreaking, as well as analyses of how many merchant and military ships comprised the optimum convoy and that sort of thing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Peter Moy

    If You Think You Know Your World War II History and Have Not Read This Book Then You Probably Have Large Gaps in Your Knowledge . This is one of the books published recently and based on restricted World War II archive information only recently declassified and made available to the public. This information has substantially rewritten the history of this period of history. I believe the author has done a masterful job of interweaving a number of narratives into an absorbing story of how the skilf If You Think You Know Your World War II History and Have Not Read This Book Then You Probably Have Large Gaps in Your Knowledge . This is one of the books published recently and based on restricted World War II archive information only recently declassified and made available to the public. This information has substantially rewritten the history of this period of history. I believe the author has done a masterful job of interweaving a number of narratives into an absorbing story of how the skilful of use of analytical minds Britain’s scientists tilted the odds of victory in the country's favour. Plus, the book is filled with interesting facts and analysis as to how and why some of the key decisions that set the course of the war were made and the consequences of those decisions. There is significant book with a lot of information packed into its short 261 pages. The book contains a biography of Nobel Prize winning physicist, Patrick Blackett. This man has been largely written out of history. However, he championed the application of scientific analysis to military strategies and tactics. In doing so, he founded the discipline of ‘Operations Research’. (Today, a core component of any business degree and the nemesis of many students who are mathematically challenged.) His key message to those in power was that “Britain didn’t need fancier and more expensive, complex weapons”. It just needed to efficiently use what it already had. His focus on making decisions based on facts did not always go down well with a military hierarchy who made decisions based of gut feel and did not appreciate feed back on areas where they needed to improve. The British Air Force’s fighter command were the initial adopters of the use of civilian scientists to investigate their operation problems. I did not realise, as the author points out with a quote from Harold MacMillan: ‘During the 1930s, Harold Macmillan would recall many years later, “we though of air warfare…rather as people think of nuclear warfare today”. This attitude was based on the theory expounded Italian Giulio Douhet that “Nothing man can do on the surface of the earth can interfere with a plane in flight, moving in the third dimension.” Blackett and his colleagues did not accept this defeatist attitude. Once invited by Fighter Command to look at the issue, they came up with radar and more importantly developed the procedures and processes to use it as a force multiplier for Britain’s meagre fleet of fighters. In the Battle of Britain for control of the air over the country, the system worked well and the German bombers found they consistently encountering things the “interfered with a plane in flight”. It was the first time anyone had effectively opposed a German bomber force and caused them to lose this vital conflict. The key focus of the book is the “Battle of the North Atlantic” where German U-boats commanded by the fanatical NAZI Admiral Karl Donitz came very close to cutting the vital sea lines to North America by sinking massive tonnages of British shipping. Thus winning the war. Following on from the experience of their Fighter colleagues, Coastal Command were keen to use scientific analysis in this conflict. It quickly became apparent that air patrols were the key to eliminating the U-boat threat. What I find interesting is that because all the physicists were working on radar and the like, the scientists used by Coastal Command where odds and sods such as biologists and psychologists. Never the less, they made game changing contributions to the battle. For example, a biologist looked at maintenance procedures that were restricting flights by anti-submarine patrol planes. The air force had a practice of standing down a squadron which had less than 70% of its planes available for combat. The antisubmarine squadrons where often in this situation when 30% or more of their planes had been involved in protecting a large convoy returned to base, (Despite the fact that the majority of the planes in the squadron were still available to fly.) This practice made sense for fighter squadrons where the fighters attacked enemy bombers as a massed force but not for patrol aircraft which operated alone. Removing this restriction for the patrol squadrons doubled the available of anti-submarine patrol aircraft and had a dramatic effect on reducing the effectiveness of the German U-boats. Another narrative is the role of civilian mathematicians as code breakers. Before the war scientists and mathematicians were not used in this role. The code breakers were a cosy collection of old boys from Oxford with classic degrees. The change to a scientific approach to decrypting the German messages did not happen easily. The resulting success of the mathematical code breakers at Bletchley Park in breaking the German ENIGMA code is widely known. However, I did not know until reading the book that because of slack radio procedures by the naval radio operators, the Germans had successfully broken the British and US naval codes and could read every radio transmission for large periods during the war. It was not until scientific analysis of German actions in the last year of the war showed that chance alone could not account for their successes, that the US and British Navies were persuaded to change their procedures and increase the security of their crypts. Yet a further interesting narrative is the conflict between the British scientific establishment and Winston Churchill and his scatterbrained tame scientist Fredrich Lindemann. (Lindemann was given the title “Lord Cherwell” by Churchill. However, the author makes his opinion on Lindemann quite plain by never refer to him by his title.) Lindemann never let the facts stand in the way of any scatter brain scheme that he and Churchill dreamed up. Blackett and fellow scientists needed to constantly battle to prevent scarce resources being wasted on these follies. Part of the book devoted to the case for strategic bombing This is one argument the facts presented by the British scientific establishment never really won over the proponents for this wasteful and largely ineffective activity. The hubris about winning the war by bombing Germany into defeat remained dominant right through to the end of the war. Air Vice Marshall Harris and his colleagues at Bomber Command were strong adherents to Douhet’s misguided writings on the use of bombing of civilians to cause panic and destroy a country’s will to fight. However, a team of scientist analysed German bombing of the cities of Hull and Birmingham. According to J.D. Bernal one of the scientists in question, they covered everything down to “the number of pints drunk and aspirins bought”. What they found was: “In neither town was there any panic. Nor had worker productivity suffered. The only reduction in industrial production that occurred was the direct result of physical damages to plants. Moreover, the actual number of casualties inflicted remarkably small given the 717 tons of bombs, the Germans dropped on the two towns during the period examined.” In another study using monkeys to test the effectiveness of bombs, the scientists found the poor design made the British bombs only half as damaging as the equivalent German bombs. In 1942, the scientists reviewed photographs of the results of bombing raids and calculated that the 2000 tons of bombs that Bomber Command had dropped over German had killed approximately 400 German civilians. This was almost the same number of air crew killed in the 728 bombers shot down for the month. Despite this evidence of the ineffectiveness of their area bombing strategy, the Bomber Barons did not change their bombing practices throughout the war. The author highlights the most tragic result from this misallocation of resources. This was the failure to allocate long range four engine bombers to anti-submarine patrols over the North Atlantic. This resulted in a gap in the middle of the Atlantic where the U-boats could operate unhindered. Analysis by the scientists showed that 300 long range bombers would be required to close this gap. (Less that a couple of weeks losses over Germany by Bomber Command!) The issue was not addressed until May 1943 when the army demanded that something must be done about shipping losses otherwise the D Day landings would need to be abandoned. Once planes were allocated and the gap closed, the amount of shipping lost in the North Atlantic dropped to almost nothing. The Battle of the North Atlantic had been won. The statistics quoted by the author on the impact this had on the German U-boat crews are appalling: “Over the course of the war 830 U-boats took part in operations; 784 of them –94 percent – were lost. Of the 40,000 men who served on U-boats, 26,000 were killed and 5,000 taken prisoner.” Despite, his role in winning the Battle of the North Atlantic, the author states that Blackett felt personally responsible for not pushing harder and influencing the decision makers earlier to allocate long range bomber to close the gap much earlier. He believed that the war could have been shorted by at least six months is the North Atlantic air patrol gap had been closed a year earlier. The book concludes with the fact that after the war the scientists largely went back to their classrooms and their labs. Attempts to use their expertise in the post war reconstruction did not work well as they were not equipped to handle the randomness of peace time democratic society. However, one legacy remains, Operation Research practices are now a standard part of every business’s toolkit.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jock Mcclees

    The book starts with a history of submarines. Then gets into how science has been used in war. Two other books I have read tie into this one beautifully. One is Tuxedo Park about Alfred Loomis and the effort to create effective radar, the Manhattan project and a variety of other devices. It expands on some of the areas covered in this book. The other is To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918. It goes into the idiocy of the British and French Commanders and how they were fig The book starts with a history of submarines. Then gets into how science has been used in war. Two other books I have read tie into this one beautifully. One is Tuxedo Park about Alfred Loomis and the effort to create effective radar, the Manhattan project and a variety of other devices. It expands on some of the areas covered in this book. The other is To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918. It goes into the idiocy of the British and French Commanders and how they were fighting the last war which this book touches on. But it also goes into the Socialism movement and Communist movement during the war and how that affected what was going on. In this book it talks about how many of the scientists that helped in WWI and WWII were liberal or socialist and a few communist. Yet, they were crucial to winning or shortening the war. The first submarine to sink a ship was the Hunley. It was built by the south during the Civil War. In the late 1800s people were intrigued by flight and submarines. It talks about some that were steam powered that weren't very successful but better than the hand cranked ones previously. John Holland created the first viable submarine. The only group he could get to fund him was a bunch of Irish looking for independence. There were issues with that but the US Navy realized he had a working prototype and hired him to build submarines for them. There had been problems, no only with propulsion but also with stability. Holland solved those with his design and to this day, all submarines are based on his design. He used diesel and then added batteries for running underwater. This was just before and after 1900. I hadn't realized how effective submarines were for the Germans in WWI. I thought they were more of a WWII event. They took out a lot of commercial shipping and crippled England which is so dependent on shipping. I hadn't realized that England made sure that their navy had as many ships as the next 2 largest navies combined. Last of the Empire. Don't think that was still true in WWII. The Brits were very concerned until a US Naval officer suggested using convoys which the Brits had rejected for various poor reasons. Almost immediately, the sinkings by the German submarines dropped significantly. Blackett of the book's title was an officer during WWI. He then went and got a PhD in physics and he earned a Nobel in 1948. According to the To End All Wars book, Germany surrendered before much if any of the fighting occurred in Germany. So the soldiers were aware of the horrors of modern war but the population wasn't which made them more open to going to war again. What this book points out is that the preparation started way earlier than I imagined. It says that in 1921 and 1922 the Germans were already breaking the terms of the peace treaty and starting to re-arm. Before WWII many of the scientists were liberal to socialist and were all for disarmament. Apparently it was a widespread notion in the population in general to have all nations disarm. Ultimately when they saw what Germany was doing they came around. Blackett, having been in the military and some of the other scientists felt it was important to have scientists helping improve the results. A group of scientists were told that they would be asked for help if war was imminent. Of course, nothing happened. However, one of the group met a publisher and they wrote a short book or pamphlet on why help from scientists was needed in modern warfare. It was published anonymously and made quite a stir. At the same time, Churchill became prime minister and he was much more open to this. Tizzard took the lead on the committee and they started working on different projects. There was one, Lindemann, who was friends with Churchill and he and Churchill kept coming up with crackpot ideas which delayed some of the other projects. Although, some of the things Churchill pushed for turned out to be good. One was a way to degauss ships so mines would not detonate. One of the first things they helped with was helping set up and improving the string of antennae along the coast for radar so they knew when German planes were coming. They also figured out how to make the anti aircraft guns more effective. And another helped improve the sinking of submarines by airplanes dropping depth charges. The planes had been targeting the average of what the subs did. But the average was almost never where they were. They changed the depth and targeting of the drops to make them much more effective. Also, after investigation, they realized the planes needed to be painted in camouflage so the subs couldn't spot them and dive as quickly. The kill rate dramatically increased. This started the whole area of operations research. Sometimes it was coming up with new technologies, but to a large extent it was figuring out how to use current technology better and more efficiently. Even simple things like the lines to clean mess plates after meals. They had 2 buckets for rinsing and 2 for washing. But washing took 3 times as long as rinsing so the scientists changed it to 1 tub for rinsing and 3 for washing. The lines disappeared. Simple example, but they were looking for bottlenecks and ways to improve things. As one person said, they only seemed simple in hindsight. Tizzard had a falling out with Churchill and Lindemann and ended up being sent to the United States to work with the scientists there. He brought something the British invented called a cavitron which made radar much better and decreased the size of the equipment making it possible to add into planes for the first time. Tizzard in the US is covered in more detail in Tuxedo Park. A lot of the book deals with how difficult it was to get the military leaders to listen to them. After the war and being able to look at the data, it turned out that if the military leaders hadn't been so egotistical and hardheaded (and perhaps understood science, statistics and probability better) hundreds of ships would not have been lost and tens of thousands of lives would not have been lost. You could almost say they should have been tried for war crimes. (My comment, not the book's.) Two of the worst offenders were General Harris, head of the Army Air Corp, and Admiral King, who was Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet. King among other things did not like and distrusted the British and refused to have an Brit in charge of any joint operation and generally was against joint operations. Both King and Harris would not listen to what the scientists had found out about the most effective way to fight the submarines and in particular how to use air power to help with this. They wouldn't at first listen that larger convoys were better than smaller ones. The Navy men felt by gut that smaller was better. But, submarines could only sink so many at one time so more got through with a larger convoy. Plus the radius increased far less than the area within a convoy so not that many more ships were needed to protect a larger convoy, freeing up ships for other convoys or other duty. Harris felt that bombing the civilian population of Germany would win the war. The scientists, based on the poorly trained crews and looking at the photos realized that not much was getting hit and that not much damage was being done. It made more sense to focus on military targets and to divert some of the planes to protecting convoys and killing submarines. Harris instead kept sending aviators to their deaths for what was shown after the war to have been for the most part a fruitless effort. Harris spent the war fire bombing German cities because he felt that alone would win the war and not even require the D Day invasion. He also insisted on using the new centimeter wavelength radar in the bombers even though it had been shown that it did little to help accuracy. It helped tremendously in hunting U boats. So one of Harris's planes got shot down and the Germans found the new device and started working on ways to counteract its effectiveness. Churchill and Lindemann (became Lord Cherwell partway through the war) continued to be both good and bad. It was good that Churchill liked scientists and helped push what they were doing, but he listened too much to Lindemann and never had a good grasp of naval and antisubmarine tactics. One question by Lindemann was helpful. It got the scientists doing evaluations which led to more questions and ended up with them figuring out how large convoys should be and how many ships were needed to effectively protect them. There was also idiocy about bombing the submarine shelters along the French coast at St.-Nazaire and other French ports. This was done even though the leaders had been told the concrete was too thick. The few times there was a direct hit, it left little pockmarks on the top and was useless. All the subs had to transit the Bay of Biscay. Finally the scientists got the proper flights and ships to scan for them and the submarine kills went up dramatically. Also, because they had to spend more time submerged and effort evading the Allies, it meant less time they could spend out in the Atlantic hunting Allied shipping. Mixed into the story was also info about the code breaking efforts that went on and the Enigma machine etc. A great book that goes into great and fascinating detail on this is Code Girls. (Many of the code breakers were women) Another good book is The Woman Who Smashed Codes. The Americans were behind in this area and because J Edgar Hoover and others liked publicity and had had some screw ups, the Brits were leary of sharing any information with them about code breaking, especially Enigma and Alan Turing's work. This changed as the war went on and there was great collaboration by the end. There were lengthy parts in the book about the code breaking which was interesting but adding details wouldn't add much to this review. The book pointed out that the German's never used scientists the way the Allies did (even though the Allies fought the scientists recommendations in many cases.) If the Germans had done this from the start of the war, the war might have turned out differently or lasted much longer. At the end of the book, it pointed out that what was so revolutionary during WWII, the creation of Operations Research and using science and statistics to solve problems is now so common place in the military and in business the nobody pays it much attention.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    September 1, 2014 will mark the 75th anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the start of WWII. One of the least considered, but most critical, aspects of the War was the contest for control of the sea. The pervasive conflict, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called “the Battle of the Atlantic”. Germany dominated early fighting in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Battle of the Atlantic, in its scope and significance, the sea was vast. It covered more area and lasted longer, 1939-19 September 1, 2014 will mark the 75th anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the start of WWII. One of the least considered, but most critical, aspects of the War was the contest for control of the sea. The pervasive conflict, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called “the Battle of the Atlantic”. Germany dominated early fighting in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Battle of the Atlantic, in its scope and significance, the sea was vast. It covered more area and lasted longer, 1939-1945, than any land campaign. More than 70,000 allied naval personnel and merchant seaman lost their lives with German Unterseeboots (U-boats) sinking more than 3,500 commercial vessels and 175 warships. The Kriegsmarine had a 75 percent casualty rate. Stephen Budiansky has focused the book on battle science. From 1941 to 1943 a small group of British and American Scientist, most without military experience or knowledge revolutionized the way wars are run and won. Blackett’s men taught allied military leaders to use their resources effectively and asked hard question to challenge established wisdom. In the process they created a new discipline, operation research, which plays a vital role today. Blackett emphasized more efficient and effective use of existing systems rather than costly development of new weapons. Blackett’s group focused mainly on the war against the U-boats. They developed a radar guidance system that greatly improved the accuracy of anti-aircraft guns. They advocated the installation of radar in British warship and patrol air-crate to locate U-boats. They developed tactics for aircraft depth charge attacks to increase kills by a factor of ten. The Group suggested new aircraft camouflage to avoid early detection by U-boat lookouts. The scientist also coordinated with British code-breakers to facilitate U-boat location. Blackett proved that large convoys were safer than the smaller groups the Admiralty championed. The real hero of the story is Winston Churchill who was in charge of the British Navy in WWI and later minister of munitions. In the 1930s Churchill was a back beach warmer of Parliament. Churchill pressed the government to bring scientific advisors into military affairs as early as 1934. The government did so and this group in 1935 developed Radar. By 1939 the British coast was lined with tracking stations, which was vital to the battle of Britain. But the British navy was resistant to Radar which deprived the British Navy of a potential early advantage against the German fleet. Blackett received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1948 for his work on cosmic rays, high energy sub-atomic particles, many other in the group also went on to receive the Nobel Prize. The book is well-written, contains suspenseful and lots of personal and organizational conflicts that can make the stories so colorful. I have only highlighted a few of the interesting stories and accomplishments in this book. This book is not intended for the casual reader. The subject matter is often quite technical. If you are interested in math and science or WWII history you will enjoy this book. I read this as an audio book downloaded from Audible. The golden voice of John Lee helped bring the scientist stories to life.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Blackett's War is a very interesting and informative book about the men who brought science to bear on the U-Boat problem during the Second World War. Blackett's group had to overcome the military's distrust of outsiders telling them how to proceed with operations during the war. This story is about both British and American scientists who were involved in presenting statistical analysis and truly inspirational ideas to both countries militaries and getting them to follow through. As the autho Blackett's War is a very interesting and informative book about the men who brought science to bear on the U-Boat problem during the Second World War. Blackett's group had to overcome the military's distrust of outsiders telling them how to proceed with operations during the war. This story is about both British and American scientists who were involved in presenting statistical analysis and truly inspirational ideas to both countries militaries and getting them to follow through. As the author notes these men "brought a fresh eye to problems that had often been dealt with only by tradition, prejudice, or gut feeling." This book is very readable and the author does a great job making the science easy to understand and how it would apply to the problems the group were trying to solve Highly recommended.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bob Mobley

    Stephen Budiansky has written one of the best studies I have read about the men working together during World War II who defeated the Nazi U-Boats. In writing this compelling story, Budiansky has opened the door and cast an important "light" upon the role of Science in successfully contributing to military victory. Using as his core theme the career of Patrick Blackett, Budiansky has written a fascinating Biorgaphy, and in doing so has created a book about leaders and their leadership. What stan Stephen Budiansky has written one of the best studies I have read about the men working together during World War II who defeated the Nazi U-Boats. In writing this compelling story, Budiansky has opened the door and cast an important "light" upon the role of Science in successfully contributing to military victory. Using as his core theme the career of Patrick Blackett, Budiansky has written a fascinating Biorgaphy, and in doing so has created a book about leaders and their leadership. What stands out in this fine study is the importance of creative problem solving; how the Allies not only outfought the Germans at sea, but most of all, how they outwitted them using the full resources of creative thinkers with the courage to ask the difficult question.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

    If you like this book, read Kennedy's "Engineers of Victory" (not quite as good). If you like this book, read Kennedy's "Engineers of Victory" (not quite as good).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marc Donner

    The 1939-1946 war, which I call "the Hitler War" instead of the more conventional "World War II," is particularly characterized by the importance of scientific and engineering contributions. Sonar, radar, cryptography, computers, and nuclear weapons all come immediately to mind when considering the impact of the scientific community on the war effort. For students of the role of science in the Hitler War this book belongs with "The Wizard War" (original British title, "Most Secret War: British Sc The 1939-1946 war, which I call "the Hitler War" instead of the more conventional "World War II," is particularly characterized by the importance of scientific and engineering contributions. Sonar, radar, cryptography, computers, and nuclear weapons all come immediately to mind when considering the impact of the scientific community on the war effort. For students of the role of science in the Hitler War this book belongs with "The Wizard War" (original British title, "Most Secret War: British Scientific Intelligence, 1939-1945"). This is a profile of Patrick Blackett and his colleagues who brought powerful analytic tools to the prosecution of the war against the Nazi U-Boats, in the process creating the field we today call Operations Research. Unlike the Jones book, this was not written by one of the participants but rather by a professional historian. This gives the book a more comprehensive context than the Jones book, but at the same time less emotional immediacy. Moreover, Budiansky, with the perspective that comes from writing seventy years after the events, avoids the hagiographic treatment of people like Churchill and Lindemann that characterize far too much of what was written shortly after the war.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    This text covers the use of Operations Research (OR) to change the Battle of the Atlantic. Operations Research is a familiar term, yet my understanding was still off the mark. Blackett's War shed some light for me. Blackett's War illustrated the need: catastrophic losses to German U-Boats. There was no single organization conducting research into the losses, the use of technology to mitigate the U-Boat threat, taking a look at counter U-Boat operations, and many other aspects of the Allied respo This text covers the use of Operations Research (OR) to change the Battle of the Atlantic. Operations Research is a familiar term, yet my understanding was still off the mark. Blackett's War shed some light for me. Blackett's War illustrated the need: catastrophic losses to German U-Boats. There was no single organization conducting research into the losses, the use of technology to mitigate the U-Boat threat, taking a look at counter U-Boat operations, and many other aspects of the Allied response. A hodge-podge of physicists, botanists, chemists, engineers, and anyone who could crunch numbers was rapidly collected to do just that. Men of science were now helping direct the men of war. Synthesis of intel, combat patrols, use of radar, even settings of depth charges and their patterns were studied and altered. The result, massive increases in ships getting safely across the Atlantic and neutralization of U-Boats as a weapon. I highly recommend you read some other Battle of the Atlantic or U-Boat books prior to tackling this one. I highly recommend this book as a great addition to anyone's search for an understanding of the Battle of the Atlantic.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    Submarines are a fascinating technology, and a much older one than I had realized. I knew about the Confederate's Civil War era Hunley, but it was not the first. It was World War I that really cemented the role of submarines as a weapons platform, but it was World War II where their menace was most effective, especially around the English isles where shipping was the lifeline for civilians and military alike. German submarines even harassed shipping along the east coast of America. In the hiatus Submarines are a fascinating technology, and a much older one than I had realized. I knew about the Confederate's Civil War era Hunley, but it was not the first. It was World War I that really cemented the role of submarines as a weapons platform, but it was World War II where their menace was most effective, especially around the English isles where shipping was the lifeline for civilians and military alike. German submarines even harassed shipping along the east coast of America. In the hiatus between the world wars, Germany made strides in the effectiveness of their underwater boat, or U-boat. By the outbreak of WWII, Nazi subs were more sophisticated than those of the Allies. To counteract the German submarines, the British needed something different. They hired Patrick Blackett, a physicist, to look at the U-boat problem through new eyes. He used mathematics and probability theory to predict U-boat success and to find things the British navy could do differently to reduce the amount of ships sunk by the Germans. Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare (2013) is the story of Allied anti-submarine warfare told from perspectives of the British scientific and military communities, Germany submarine commanders, and the few Americans who were involved. Stephen Budiansky, the author, successfully pulls together a cogent story based on available records, news accounts, and some diaries. It was an engaging, thorough, and informative read, and I enjoyed it a lot.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mich

    How the field of Operational/Operations Research originated in the efforts of Nobel prize winning scientists and mathematicians recruited to defeat the Nazis and their deadly effective U-boat program against both military and civilian targets is expertly recounted in Blackett's War. It is astonishing how many strategical and tactical blunders were made by both sides. As one side invented scientific based methods, e.g., Radar and Enigma, the other found ways to counter. While Churchill, as head o How the field of Operational/Operations Research originated in the efforts of Nobel prize winning scientists and mathematicians recruited to defeat the Nazis and their deadly effective U-boat program against both military and civilian targets is expertly recounted in Blackett's War. It is astonishing how many strategical and tactical blunders were made by both sides. As one side invented scientific based methods, e.g., Radar and Enigma, the other found ways to counter. While Churchill, as head of the Admiralty, was a great proponent of using scientists, he latched on to a couple who were poor scientists who advanced absurd theories such that many thousands of lives were wasted until he could be convinced that they were wrong. The idea of whether merchant ships, so essential to Britain's ability to get through the war, should proceed individually or as part of a large protected convoy was debated and experimented. This book is a wonderful read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    D.R. Oestreicher

    Blackett's War by Stephen Budiansky is a World War II history from the perspective of submarine warfare and the evolving discipline of operations research (OR). Patrick Blackett plays a role on the British side, but many others contributed to OR and the fight against the German U-Boats. OR is based on the idea that scientists collecting and analyzing data can make contributions in any and every field. The book contains many examples applied the antisubmarine warfare (ASW), such as convoy size, u Blackett's War by Stephen Budiansky is a World War II history from the perspective of submarine warfare and the evolving discipline of operations research (OR). Patrick Blackett plays a role on the British side, but many others contributed to OR and the fight against the German U-Boats. OR is based on the idea that scientists collecting and analyzing data can make contributions in any and every field. The book contains many examples applied the antisubmarine warfare (ASW), such as convoy size, use of aircraft, and depth charge tactics. If you are interested in WWII history or scientists making fun and fools of military bureaucrats, you’ll enjoy this book. For my detailed report: http://1book42day.blogspot.com/2018/0... Check out https://amazon.com/shop/influencer-20... for book recommendations.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Without men like Blackett, the results of WW II might have been very different. Churchill realized the Battle of the Atlantic was for Britain's supply lifeline. Had losses to U-Boats continued at 750,000 tons per month, Britain would surely have succumbed and Hitler could have migrated resources elsewhere, say, Russia. While some other genius may have come up with effective strategies in Blackett's absence, I wonder how many additional lives would be lost without his detailed mathematical analys Without men like Blackett, the results of WW II might have been very different. Churchill realized the Battle of the Atlantic was for Britain's supply lifeline. Had losses to U-Boats continued at 750,000 tons per month, Britain would surely have succumbed and Hitler could have migrated resources elsewhere, say, Russia. While some other genius may have come up with effective strategies in Blackett's absence, I wonder how many additional lives would be lost without his detailed mathematical analysis of military strategy effectiveness. Coincidentally, I finished this just after reading PKD's "The Man in the High Castle". I'm glad that novel is only a "what if..."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    A great read on how technology was used during world war II to defeat the German submarines menace. I highly recommend this for anyone who becomes interested and how science has become a tool of the modern military. Facebook also highlights a little known chapter and the war history. to be honest, a new science was a part of the war effort but this book was into how much it impacted The soldiers as well as our lives today.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael Havers

    Science Conquers the Nazi Beast The Battle of the Atlantic was, by its nature, a hidden war. This excellent book reveals, with clarity, how that battle was won by a group of brilliant scientists, using mathematics, physics and other sciences to give the Royal Navy and, later, the US Navy the critical data and tools that turned the tide of the war.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pete Zilla

    I'd highly recommend this book to intel analysts and commanders who are lucky enough to have an Operations Research/System Analysts (ORSA) assigned to them. Blackett's War describes the first real emergence of the ORSA in war and provides insight into how to be incorporate them into your decision-making and analysis. It's also a great story about the Allied efforts against the U-Boats. I'd highly recommend this book to intel analysts and commanders who are lucky enough to have an Operations Research/System Analysts (ORSA) assigned to them. Blackett's War describes the first real emergence of the ORSA in war and provides insight into how to be incorporate them into your decision-making and analysis. It's also a great story about the Allied efforts against the U-Boats.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anna Ciddor

    Listened on audio. Intriguing, thought provoking, discusses scientific aspects of war I had never considered, eg how scientists used statistics to work out whether better to have large or small convoy of ships to avoid attack by u-boats.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Peggy B

    It was an excellent read! Well written and documented - the history of how British and American scientists came to work with British and American military and how their working together helped to win WWII. Documentation and bib. list are impressive! I thoroughly enjoyed it!!!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Winn

    Good historical summary of the role of operations analysis, decision sciences in World War II with specific emphasis on anti-submarine tactics.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rich Graves

    civilian scientists and intellectuals tasked with review and modification of military operational processes may not sound like a good read, but it is a fascinating book. Spoiler, Nazi's lose. civilian scientists and intellectuals tasked with review and modification of military operational processes may not sound like a good read, but it is a fascinating book. Spoiler, Nazi's lose.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mark Bates

    The creation of Operational Research in World War 2. The battle against subs and bombers.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nishant Pappireddi

    Excellent book about how operational research was used to win the Battle of the Atlantic.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Charles W. Clark

    Gripping I had minimal understanding of the role of operational research during WWII, even less about the vivid personalities involved in it. I learned much from this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bob Morgan

    Blackett! This could have been a good book. Only about one fifth of the content has to do with him, and very little about his research. Very disappointing!

  30. 4 out of 5

    William

    How Patrick and other scientists helped the allies defeat the U-Boats; sometimes in spite of the British and U.S. Naval bureaucracies.

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