- 25,99 €
One of the most lauded historians of our time returns to the Second World War in this magnificent retelling of the awe-inspiring raid on German dams conducted by the Royal Army Force’s 617 Squadron.
The attack on Nazi Germany’s dams on May 17, 1943, was one of the most remarkable feats in military history. The absurdly young men of the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron set forth in cold blood and darkness, without benefit of electronic aids, to fly lumbering heavy bombers straight and level towards a target at a height above the water less than the length of a bowling alley. Yet this story—and the later wartime experience of the 617 Squadron—has never been told in full.
Max Hastings takes us back to the May 1943 raid to reveal how the truth of that night is considerably different from the popularized account most people know. The RAF had identified the Ruhr dams as strategic objectives as far back as 1938; in those five years Wing Commander Guy Gibson formed and trained the 617 Squadron. Hastings observes that while the dropping of Wallis’s mines provided the dramatic climax, only two of the eight aircraft lost came down over the dams—the rest were shot down on the flight to, or back from, the mission. And while the 617 Squadron’s valor is indisputable, the ultimate industrial damage caused by the dam raid was actually rather modest.
In 1943, these brave men caught the imagination of the world and uplifted the weary spirits of the British people. Their achievement unnerved the Nazi high command, and caused them to expend large resources on dam defenses—making the mission a success. An example of Churchill’s “military theatre” at its best, what 617 Squadron did was an extraordinary and heroic achievement, and a triumph of British ingenuity and technology—a story to be told for generations to come.
Operation Chastise includes three 8-page black-and-white photo inserts and 6 maps.
Hastings (Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945 1975) recounts the May 1943 British bombing raid that breached the M hne and Eder dams in Germany's R hr Valley, knocking out power stations and unleashing deadly floods, in this thorough, character-driven history. Though Royal Air Force officials recognized the vulnerability and strategic value of Germany's water supply as early as 1937, Hastings writes, they lacked the firepower to destroy such massive structures. Civilian aircraft engineer Barnes Wallis learned that a relatively small charge could achieve the desired result if it were detonated underwater and close to the target. After experimenting with marbles skipped across the surface of a washtub, he developed "bouncing bombs" that, if released from a low height, could breach the German dams. Nineteen bombers were modified for the mission, and Hastings details the experiences of crewmembers including squadron commander Guy Gibson, whose memoir is one of the book's key sources. (Only 32 of Operation Chastise's 130 airmen survived the war.) Hastings skillfully describes the hazards of flying at low altitudes through enemy territory and solemnly accounts for the loss of life caused by the flooding: nearly 2,000 people many of them female forced laborers from Poland, Russia, and Ukraine died. Though technical details occasionally slow the narrative's momentum, military history buffs will prize this definitive account of the RAF mission.