Posted by: SJS | September 5, 2021

The Dam Busters

Max Hastings’ latest book

In May of 1943, Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) 617 Squadron carried out a daring raid on dams in Germany that supplied hydroelectric power for the Nazi war machine. Almost half of the 130 airmen who flew in the crews of the British Lancaster Bombers as part of the mission codenamed “Operation Chastise” were lost over the course of the raid. The mission was carried out at night with the bombers flying at extremely low altitude to avoid detection by German radar. Everything about the mission required pinpoint precision, tight coordination, and a level of daring that is hard to imagine.

The RAF mission to destroy the dams was led by Guy Gibson, the twenty-four-year-old wing commander who was already a seasoned veteran of aerial combat when he was selected to lead Operation Chastise in 1943. His leadership skills had been honed in some of the most harrowing missions undertaken by the RAF up to that point. The success of the dam busting operation resulted largely from the discipline, intensity, and rigorous preparation supplied by Gibson.

Every story like this one gives me a deeper understanding of the enormity of courage and sacrifice that was required by the Allied forces to defeat the determined efforts of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to remake the world in their evil image. To better understand the conflict in which my father so bravely served, I love learning about the contributions of America’s allies–especially the English and Canadian and French forces that stood shoulder to shoulder with the Americans.

Over the past few years, I’ve become a real fan of the British historian, Max Hastings. His book, Inferno, has become one of the classic texts on WWII. I am looking forward to reading his book, Vietnam. Hastings is a master storyteller who writes with clarity, insight, and vivid descriptions. I can’t recommend his work highly enough.

Crew leaders of RAF Squadron 617 pose in front of a Lancaster Bomber

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