The night of 16 May, 1943: Nineteen specially adapted Lancaster bombers take off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, each with a huge 9000-lb cylindrical bomb strapped underneath it. Their mission: to destroy three dams deep within the German heartland, which provide the lifeblood to the industries supplying the Third Reich's war machine.
From the outset it was an almost impossible task, a suicide mission: to fly low and at night in formation over many miles of enemy-occupied territory at the very limit of the Lancasters' capacity, and drop a new weapon that had never been tried operationally before from a precise height of just 60 feet from the water at some of the most heavily defended targets in Germany.
More than that, the entire operation had to be put together in less than 10 weeks. When visionary aviation engineer Barnes Wallis' concept of the bouncing bomb was green lighted, he hadn't even drawn up his plans for the weapon that was to smash the dams. What followed was an incredible race against time, which, despite numerous setbacks and against huge odds, became one of the most successful and game-changing bombing raids of all time.
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A must for anyone interested in Air Warfare
Everyone likely to read this review has heard of the Dambusters and seen the movie.
This book takes you behind the scenes from the conception of the weapon through the decision to proceed with the technical development, through the testing, through the formation of 617 squadron, the training of the squadron, the execution of the mission , and the mission's aftermath.
The author provides a lot of personal detail on all the key players, enough to give one a real picture of these individuals as ordinary humans who on this one night rose to become extraordinary heroes.
The production quality and narration are both first rate. This book itself and the narration are NOT dry recitations of facts.
The author and reader really convey the feelings and emotions of the people involved.
Years ago I was a navigator in an airplane called the F-111 from RAF Upper Heyford in England. The F-111 is a supersonic military airplane specifically designed to fly exactly the kind of low level attack mission that 617 Squadron performed that night.
The F-111 had four high performance radars, two terrain following autopilots, a complex weapons delivery computer, and a high precision internal navigation system.
617 didn't have anything like what we had. They flew a night low level into a very capable air defense network.
They had a large high altitude bomber. They had only the most primitive navigation technology, and really nothing but the pilot's eyes to keep the huge Lancaster bomber out of the trees and power lines.
The book goes in to a lot of detail about the ingress and egress phases of the mission. To me, as a former navigator, they were nail biting.
The Dambuster's mission would have been a real challenge to pull off in an F-111. How these crews every managed to do it with Lancasters is beyond me.
- Jim In Texas!
More Than Just a War Story
The great advantage of the print version is maps and diagrams.
I found the book interesting in its revealing study of the political machinations of the various entities and people involved. It was a group of wars within a war. RAF vs. RN, Bomber Command vs. Everybody, Bomber Harris vs. God, business infighting, and more. The presentation of the personalities involved--the people-- brings it alive. Great listen and very well narrated.
- Bowen Florsheim