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on 8 July 2012
For those who think the film told the whole story, just try this
It is fully researched with commentary from both British and German witnesses
It shows how well the film was made by including all the essentials of what happened in a movie, yet the book adds so much to the depth of the real truth of what happened, those involved and, above all, how fast the designers and engineers did the massive amount of work that was needed
And how much the actual guys that flew were prepared to lay their lives on the line. And just how many didn't return
The hard back edition has great line drawings of the Lancaster bomber and photos from the raids
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on 10 May 2017
Fascinating that this is only the second book about the raids. The other is Paul Brickhill's, published prior to release of classified information. The book provides great insight into the challenges faced by Barnes Wallis as he sought to convince the Air Force hierarchy of the weapon's efficacy and also significant detail regarding the fate of each aircraft and its crew. The post raid effects are well analysed and argued.
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on 2 April 2017
Brilliant detail and excellent background information
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on 26 April 2017
It was a present for a feiend
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on 28 August 2013
There have been several books about Operation Chastise but this has additional information that has not seen the light of day until fairly recently. Not yet started it but a quick skim shows it should be a good read.
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VINE VOICEon 15 August 2012
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. In order to avoid German radar and night fighters 617 Squadron would cross the North Sea at around 200 feet and then, over the target, drop to 60 feet. The correct 'bounce' required that the three-ton bomb - spinning at 500 rpm and code-named Upkeep - be dropped at a precise distance from the dam from an aircraft flying at 220 mph.

Eight of the 19 aircraft, each with a crew of seven, failed to return from the mission.

Despite these losses - and earlier analyses - James Holland's research shows that the raid was a success. The knock-on effect on the production of German munitions, weapons and aircraft was significant whilst German prestige and the war effort demanded that the Mohne and the Eder dams be rebuilt and fully functioning by the autumn, some five months away. It required moving 70,000 workers into the area and confiscating essential machinery, no matter the consequences, from wherever they could be found. At today's prices the reconstruction work cost the Nazis close to £6 billion pounds.

Part of this operation - it was completed on time and, strangely enough, without further attacks by the RAF - also involved the withdrawal of 7,000 labourers from construction work on the Atlantic Wall. This shift in resources resulted in Rommel's planned defences against the Allied invasion on 6 June 1944 being significantly weakened.

It's interesting to note that a smaller version of the bomb, code-named Highball, was proposed for use by RAF Mosquitoes against German shipping and the Nazi's remaining capital ships. Highball was never used and Upkeep was only used once, on the attack on the dams on the night of Monday, 17 May 1943.

In September 1944 Gibson flew a Mosquito on a mission over Germany but, on the return leg, the aircraft crashed in Holland, killing both Gibson and his navigator. Whilst the formal RAF report assumed he either ran out of fuel or was hit by enemy ground fire recently released evidence suggests that a Lancaster bomber, returning from a separate raid over Germany, mistook the Mosquito for a Junker 88 (both are twin engined aircraft with a single rudder) and opened fire, destroying the Mosquito.

'Dam Busters' is an excellent and informative book - a first-class companion to Target Tirpitz - The Epic Quest to Destroy Hitler's Mightiest Warship - and thoroughly worth reading.
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on 9 June 2013
he had a much bigger role in the film.

This is an excellent book covering both the development of the bomb as well as the raid itself. It's astonishing to realise how under prepared the crews when you see how quickly the project was put together.

An excellent tribute to the brave men of 617 squadron and indeed all the brave men of Bomber Command.
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on 2 March 2017
Very well written and researched. Easy to read and interesting.
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on 15 June 2017
better than the film
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on 16 May 2012
...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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