Thursday, 13 September 2012


The new World War II section of the BBC’s “On This Day” website offers examples of present time reporting for significant news events of the past.  For the date of 17 May, the site chronicles the famed 617 Squadron, and its legendary raid on three dams situated in the heartland of industrial Germany. 

On the evening before 17 May 1943, specially modified Lancaster Bombers began Operation Chastise.  Their target was three key German dams serving the Ruhr Valley on the rivers Mohne, Sorpe and Eder.   The aim was to cut off hydro-electric power and incapacitate the manufacturing of munitions in the area.  

The problem was that the defensive positions of the dams made the use of conventional bombing ineffective.  To solve this problem Dr. Barnes Wallis, the designer of the Wellington Bomber, created barrel shaped bombs that would essentially skip past German defenses.  To deliver Wallis’ ingenious bombs, the crews of 617 Squadron had to fly their Lancaster bombers less than 100 feet above water.  

As the BBC reports, “eight of the original 19 Lancaster Bombers were damaged or shot down, and of the 133 aircrew 53 were killed and 3 captured.”  Thirty of the 133 aircrew were Canadian and fifty percent of these did not return from the raid.  The BBC goes on to report that along with boosting allied morale, Eber damn sustained two major breaches and the Mohne power station was entirely swept away. 

The mission that Adolph Hitler believed could never be undertaken became known to history as “The Dambusters Raid.”

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