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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 [Hardcover]

Professor of Employment Law James Holland
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Nov 2013
The night of 16 May, 1943. Nineteen specially adapted Lancaster bombers take off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, each with a huge 9000lb 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 sixty 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 ten weeks. When visionary aviation engineer Barnes Wallis's 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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Product details

  • Hardcover: 437 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press (21 Nov 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802121691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802121691
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 465,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About 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 national newspapers and magazines and appears on national radio. His many books include Fortress Malta, Italy's Sorrow, The Battle of Britain and his fictional WW2 series featuring Sergeant Jack Tanner.

His interviews with veterans of the Second World War are available at the Imperial War Museum and are also archived on www.secondworldwarforum.com. He lives near Salisbury with his wife, son and daughter.

Product Description


""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 l

Book Description

The dramatic retelling of one of the most daring, extraordinary and outrageous raids of WW2 by one of the UK's most talented young historians --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you only want one book about the Raid..... 16 May 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
...then this may well be the book for you. As the previous reviewer has stated, there's nothing new covered in this book and to be fair to Mr. Holland, he doesn't claim that there is.
He does attempt to tell the full story in a slightly different way, offering a readable narrative while also setting the Raid in perspective with the bombing campaign and the wider war.In trying to cover the story of 'Highball'/618 Squadron as well I felt that the author may have bitten off more than he could chew; I almost lost track once or twice. But as the focus narrows to 'Chastise' itself, the reader is treated to a very exciting description of the attack on the Dams.
The author does put the case very well that many of the crews were far from being hand-picked or highly-experienced, and training for the Raid was not as comprehensive as previously made out ; which makes their achievement all the more remarkable. To Mr Holland's great credit, he doesn't take pot-shots at previous authors in the field and blends much of the most recent research into this book.
A good, readable account for the more general reader - maybe not one for the 'Dambuster anorak'.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Firstly let me say that this is a very readable, in depth look at the famous dambuster raid. It has a generous section on Barnes Wallis and his invention of the bouncing bomb, and also looks at the lives of the many protagonists who took part. It has quite a bit on the technicalities of the equipment and the raid itself so all in all it is quite a complete package. However it does seem to suggest overkill on this subject. It is yet another BBC tie in so between the various other TV documentaries, books and articles on the subject, anyone with an interest will find little in here that is new.
I suppose this is a bit like a new recording of a Mozart symphony. The notes are still the same but a new conductor and orchestra can bring something new to the piece. Mr Holland just about does this I suppose but my frustration is perhaps that his considerable talents could have been put to better use on a lesser known aspect of the war rather than something that has been done many times before.
Having said all that if you aren't familiar with the dambusters this book comes highly recommended
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another James Holland winner 29 May 2012
By Teemacs TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was surprised (as was James Holland) to find how few books have been written on Operation Chastise. The best known is Paul Brickhill's "The Dam Busters", on which the celebrated film was based. But Brickhill's book was written in the 1950s, when much was still secret (he didn't even know what the bomb looked like). Everything was published after 30 years, and James Holland has made excellent use of it. He describes well the feverish preparation (less than 10 weeks from the idea to the attack), and how the crews went into action when only one live bomb had been tested and most of them had not even dropped a dummy bomb - and it all had to be done 60 feet above the water surface in pitch darkness. In the case of the Eder Dam, it involved an astounding bit of flying - the pilot of a light plane with Mr. Holland as a passenger found the turn on to the target difficult at 150 feet in broad daylight and wondered how on earth fully-laden Lancasters managed it at 60 feet at night. Mr. Holland also corrects the impression that the raid squandered the lives of aircrews for little return. To repair the Möhne in time for the September rains, Albert Speer had to take workers from the building of the Atlantic Wall. The lost factories, mines and communications also hit Germany hard at the point where it was about to launch Operation Citadel at Kursk, the German defeat at which was the start of the long retreat that ended at Berlin.

One of the great ironies (of which I wasn't aware) was the fact that the whole thing owed a lot to the British Admiralty, which was enthusiastic about a smaller version for RAF Coastal Command as an anti-shipping weapon (with "Tirpitz" particularly in mind). The smaller bomb was never used operationally.

Best of all, Mr. Holland fleshes out the characters.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and informative 15 Aug 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
James Holland's book goes far beyond the limitations of the cult 1955 film 'The Dam Busters' and brings together a substantial amount of information on the events leading up to the attack on Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams on the night of 17 May 1943.

When presented with the initial concept of attacking the dams with a bouncing bomb the first reaction of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris (C-in-C of Bomber Command) was that 'this is tripe of the wildest description ... there is not the smallest chance of it working.' But, after a discussion with Air Chief Marshal Lord Portal, Chief of the Air Staff, Harris changed his mind and did everything possible to make the project a success.

This fascinating insight into the command structure of the RAF (and the various Ministries and industrial companies involved in the project) is supplemented by personal profiles of many of the men, several from various countries of the then-Empire, who'd make the attack. They were generally very young - Gibson was 25 and had already completed 154 operational sorties; his two flight commanders were 21 and 22.

The project was approved against an impossibly short, three-month, timescale. In that time they had to assemble a force of 19 specially adapted Lancasters and train 133 aircrew whilst, as Holland emphasises, the design of the actual bomb was still far from complete. Earlier tests on a small prototype had simply demonstrated the concept.

Everyone was also well aware that low level night attacks by heavy bombers over heavily defended areas of Germany were close to suicidal. The Lancaster was a large aircraft with a wingspan of 102 feet and, including the bomb, would weigh 30 tons.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading
Most people in Britain will know the basic story of the "dam busters" probably from seeing the classic film. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr Gordon Davidson
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, especially if you've only seen the film
I read the Paul Brickhill book many years ago & thoroughly enjoyed it. After many years now reading this account fills in a number of gaps, particularly on the German side & the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by M J Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner
OK - I admit it: I love Holland's work. Every book I read is full of things I didn't know on subjects I thought I knew about. Read more
Published 5 months ago by tommyr
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dam Busters
This is an excellent read. Full of back ground information. The work that Barnes Wallis and is team under took to convince the powers to be, including Bomber Harris, that this was... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Charliedog
5.0 out of 5 stars Dam busters
Bought this book as a stocking filler for a military son. Very well received and said to be interesting and informative.
Published 6 months ago by mkb
5.0 out of 5 stars More insight for this well know story
The new information available has made this story much more interesting. Barnes Wallis' struggle to bring this amazing bomb to be used to great effect is well emphasized. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Doug Waring
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and comprehensive review of the famous event, with lots of...
This book gives a fresh and unbiased review of the famous dams raid, with lots of background and interesting detail of the events leading up to the raid. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Andrew Falconer
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book ever!
Killed so much time with this book :) - a really gripping story of the dam busters raid and the people behind it.
Published 6 months ago by Jagger
5.0 out of 5 stars Dam Busters
A fantastic read. Well researched and the detail is very good. I would recommend it thoroughly. Go out and buy it.
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Contains factual inaccuracies
I've read this, and a lot of others on the Dambusters as part of research into the 3 who ended up at POWs on or just after 17 May 1943. Read more
Published 7 months ago by CorinneDS
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