Dam Busters: The True Story of the Inventors and Airmen Who Led the Devastating Raid to Smash the German Dams in 1943

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Overview


The night of May 16, 1943. Nineteen specially adapted Lancaster bombers take off from an RAF airfield in Lincolnshire, England, each with a huge nine-thousand-pound cylindrical bomb strapped underneath it. Their mission: to head deep into the German heartland and destroy three hydroelectric dams that power the Third Reich's war machine.

From the outset it was an almost impossible task, a suicide mission. First the men had to fly extremely low, at night, and in tight formation ...

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Dam Busters: The True Story of the Inventors and Airmen Who Led the Devastating Raid to Smash the German Dams in 1943

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Overview


The night of May 16, 1943. Nineteen specially adapted Lancaster bombers take off from an RAF airfield in Lincolnshire, England, each with a huge nine-thousand-pound cylindrical bomb strapped underneath it. Their mission: to head deep into the German heartland and destroy three hydroelectric dams that power the Third Reich's war machine.

From the outset it was an almost impossible task, a suicide mission. First the men had to fly extremely low, at night, and in tight formation over miles of enemy-occupied territory. Then, just sixty feet above the water and at some of the most heavily defended targets in Germany, they had to drop with pinpoint precision a complicated spinning cylindrical bomb that had never before been used operationally.

More than that, the entire operation had to be put together in less than ten weeks, while the water levels in the dams were still high enough for the bombs to be effective. When the visionary aviation engineer Barnes Wallis's concept of the bouncing bomb was green-lighted, he hadn't even drawn up the plans for the weapon that was to smash the dams. What followed was an incredible race against time that, despite numerous setbacks and against huge odds, became one of the most successful and game-changing bombing raids of all time. James Holland's Dam Busters is meticulously researched and brilliantly told, sure to be the definitive history of this incredible raid.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/26/2013
Decisive military missions are sometimes the brainchilds of scientists and engineers instead of generals. The destruction of Germany’s hydroelectric dams by the Royal Air Force in 1943 was one such decisive mission. Veteran military historian Holland (The Battle of Britain) has composed an impeccably researched work in the style of a fast-paced techno-thriller. Part one centers on the campaign of British aircraft designer Barnes Wallis to bring to the attention of military planners his ideas regarding bombing of German dams, despite the furious opposition of Air Marshal Arthur Harris, leader of Britain’s Bomber Command. When the plan was finally approved, the various players had only eight weeks to produce the necessary new equipment, train, and execute the mission. This process is the subject of part two of Holland’s book. The third part follows the 19 RAF bombers on their dangerous low-altitude night mission against the dams—a mission many didn’t not survive. Holland offers an authoritative account of a brilliant military operation conceived by a creative civilian; an excellent read for those with an interest in military and aviation history. (Nov.)
Library Journal
★ 10/15/2013
The daring night raid of May 16, 1943 (Operation Chastise), by RAF Squadron 617 breached two large hydroelectric dams and damaged another in Germany's industrial heart. When Paul Brickhill wrote his well-known The Dam Busters (1951), much information about this mission was still classified. Holland relies upon the archival details made available since. He describes British engineer Barnes Wallis's ingenious "bouncing bomb" design for the mission, the opposing views on its use, and the extreme dangers of the mission, flying at night only 60 feet above its targets. Holland also provides much detail on the differing personalities who argued over the mission, potentially hindering the operation. By contrast to some historical opinions that the raid was an interesting failure, he argues that it was a success, given the destruction with the loss of relatively few planes, while forcing minister of armaments and war production Albert Speer to divert work from other Nazi initiatives to repair the vital dams and factories. VERDICT This is a well-written study of engineering and invention operating under great pressure and the actions and sacrifices on both sides. For all World War II history buffs.—Daniel Blewett (DB), Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-01
In May 1943, 19 British heavy bombers flew a dangerous, nighttime mission at treetop level to attack three German dams. It succeeded, and British historian Holland (The Battle of Britain: Five Months that Changed History, 2011) delivers an extremely detailed but never dull account of its tortuous history. Few military missions stem from the idea of a single man, and a civilian at that, but that's the case with Barnes Wallis (1887–1979), the assistant chief designer at Vickers Aviation during World War II and a prolific inventor. In 1942, he conceived of a huge bomb dropped from a plane that would skip across the water, over a torpedo net, and strike a heavy target such as a ship or dam. In the book's first section, Holland recounts Wallis' efforts to win over military and civilian leaders. In the second section, the author describes a frantic three months of planning, training and construction of the bomb and the plane modifications necessary to deliver it. The raid itself was definitely not anticlimactic. Bombs destroyed two dams, producing disastrous floods over a huge area. Eight bombers were lost; the remaining crew returned as heroes, and the mission remains an icon in British memories of World War II. While the 1955 movie, starring Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave, ended in triumph, the reality was less dramatic. Damage was enormous, although most of the dead were forced laborers and POWs. Conventional bombing would have hindered Germany's massive repair effort, but none took place, and the dams were operating by September. Few historians deny that the destruction of the dams gave an immense boost to British morale and inflicted costly damage to the Nazis, and Holland offers a definitive, nuts-and-bolts history.
From the Publisher

Dam Busters describes the maneuvering that went on behind the scenes before one of Britain’s most important efforts to cripple the Nazi war machine. . . . Holland is good at making complex matters clear . . . [and] good at writing action sequences.”—Wall Street Journal

“Dramatically details the circumstances of this terrifying, improbably successful military operation. . . . Holland’s Dam Busters, thrilling, authoritative and containing astonishing photos, is a military history ‘must read.’ It is also a shining tribute to those intrepid young airmen.”—Tampa Bay Times

“Veteran military historian Holland has composed an impeccably researched work in the style of a fast-paced techno-thriller. . . . Holland offers an authoritative account of a brilliant military operation conceived by a creative civilian; an excellent read for those with an interest in military and aviation history.”—Publishers Weekly

“A well-written study of engineering and invention operating under great pressure. . . . For all World War II history buffs.”—Library Journal (starred review)

"Extremely detailed but never dull . . . Holland offers a definitive, nuts-and-bolts history."—Kirkus Reviews

"James Holland has achieved a near impossible feat. He has taken a tale we all thought we knew, told us we didn't know much until now and made it come alive." —Charles Glass, author of The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II and Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation

“The Dambusters Raid was a one-of-a-kind attack, totally unlike anything that had gone before, and it finds a brilliant chronicler in James Holland, whose scholarship and erudition vividly brings that extraordinary event to life seven decades later.” —Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War, Masters and Commanders, and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900

“An expertly researched and engaging read, Dam Busters sheds new light on the remarkable story of the men of 617 Squadron who led the raid to destroy Germany’s key hydroelectric dams. It also tells the lesser-known tale of the innovative scientists who developed the technology. James Holland vividly brings to life not only the main characters, but the entire incredible era as well."——Patrick K. O’Donnell, bestselling author of Dog Company

“It took a remarkable combination of strategic ideas, skills, actions, and people to win the war for freedom in WWII. James Holland offers a thoroughly researched and highly descriptive narrative of how ingenious engineering and breathtaking courage accomplished an almost impossible task. Recommended for fans of military nonfiction everywhere.”—Marcus Brotherton, author of A Company of Heroes and Shifty’s War

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802121691
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/4/2013
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 260,615
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

James Holland was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and studied history at Durham University. A member of the British Commission for Military History and the Guild of Battlefield Guides, he also regularly contributes reviews and articles in newspapers and magazines and appears on radio. His books include Fortress Malta, Italy's Sorrow, The Battle of Britain and his fictional World War II series featuring Sergeant Jack Tanner. He lives near Salisbury with his wife, son and daughter.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 29, 2013

    I really enjoyed this book. It reads like a novel. But it's all

    I really enjoyed this book. It reads like a novel. But it's all true. The most interesting thing to me was the tracing of concept to execution of the raid in less than two months. All this with no computers or simulators. Just pencils, paper, brainpower and slide rules to design the bombs and plan the mission. Not to mention the guts to pull it off.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2014

    Very good, lots of new (to me)facts

    New facts, I did not know about. Good research. Plane crews names and what happen to them. Different story lines about others; not just about Gibson.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2013

    Good read if you hadn't heard about it.

    Rather slow paced but much better than the plodding movie. The Germans managed to restore the dams and their electrical output in a very short period of time. So, was it worth the lives of all those British aircrews?
    Sadly this entire mission is lost in the history of WW II.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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