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The Dambusters Raid DVD

26 July 2013

The Dambusters Raid

The Dambusters Raid, 1998, produced by INCA, DVD 48 minutes

The Dambusters Raid, 1998, produced by INCA, DVD 48 minutes

The Dambusters Raid, 1998, produced by INCA, DVD 48 minutes

This is an excellent reference, as well as wonderful DVD to view, with regard to the dam busting raid by the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron during World War II. The narrative is objective, pulling no punches, with interviews of people on both sides of the raid — both military as well as civilian. A fabulous amount of film footage is contained within the DVD showing the low flying specially modified Lancasters, the dams (before and after), Barnes Wallis (England’s inventor of the bomb/mine as well as the Wellington bomber) and much more.

The trials Wallis persevered to bring the Upkeep mine (the backspinning weapon used against the dams) are well told as is the story of the airmen who volunteered for a mission without knowing the targets (not until days before). It is amazing to hear mission survivors talking about their day-to-day training days, witnessing their mates getting shot down, what the flying was like that historic night as well as what the mission meant to them.

There is controversy regarding the effectiveness of the mission. Did it accomplish a strategic reduction of industry in the Ruhr Valley? That answer is that it did not — but that is not the end of it. Strategically, the daring mission kept Britain in the war as one of the controlling Allied nations as well as keeping Russia in the war against Hitler (Stalin had been threatening to sign a separate peace treaty to take them out of the war, releasing German troops away from the Eastern Front). Equally influential, thousands upon thousands of laborers were taken away from construction of the building the Atlantic Wall at a critical time with regard to D-Day and the Normandy Invasion. There was also an immense boost to Britain’s civilian morale and buoyed Churchill’s subsequent visit to the U.S. which helped to gain more goodwill as well as support from the U.S.

The story of how Upkeep and Highball (the version of Upkeep intend for use against Japanese shipping) were further developed is quite interesting to see. Also, and not often addressed in other references, is how quickly the Germans reverse engineered an Upkeep (found at the crash site of one of 617’s Lancasters) and had its range extended by use of a rocket — the film of Kurt being tested is spectacular to watch. The civilian cost in slave laborers, PoWs and Germans is thoroughly discussed and with footage which is difficult (though necessary) to view.

The argument that Air Marshal “Bomber” Harris against the 617 Squadron is addressed. His thoughts were that anything taking heavy bombers away from pulverizing cities would be in error. Harris also, somewhat confusingly, did not allow follow-up raids to hinder reconstruction efforts. The narration opines that Harris knew that less than 10% of the RAF’s heavy bombers had their bombs fall within 5 miles of their targets so it is implied that Harris did not pursue follow-up missions so as not to undermine his saturation bombing strategy — which had the second highest casualty rate during World War II (exceeded only by German U-boat crews).

This is a somewhat early product compared to recent publications (posts on these can be found using the search window) but this DVD should be the first, of the many references, reviewed for its comprehensive and cogent objective coverage of this extraordinary feat of airmanship that so affected the war effort — as well as the plentiful historical film footage.

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