The Dam Buster Raid - A reappraisal 70 years on, Alan W. Cooper

The Dam Buster Raid - A reappraisal 70 years on, Alan W. Cooper

617 Squadron's attack on the Ruhr dams is perhaps the most famous single bombing raid in British history, famous at the time and later immortalised in one of the best British war movies. As a result it has been the subject of a huge number of books (Amazon returns over 600 results for 'Dam busters', including books, models and music).

The chapters on the period before the attack aren't terribly well organised. As an example the chapter entitled 'The Dams' doesn't actually include the detailed descriptions of the dams - that comes in the next chapter - 'The Target - Upkeep', which covers both the dams and a brief description of the bouncing bomb. 'The Dams' actually looks at the efforts to develop a weapon capable of destroying the dams, Things improve in the chapter on the formation of 617 Squadron, which looks at the pilots and their crews - their background and experience (or in one or two cases lack of experience). 

The best section are the chapters on the raid itself and those that look at the post-raid and post-war lives of the participants. The raids are largely described from the point of views of the aircrew (and to a less extent the Germans at the dams), a successful approach. The cost of the raid is recognised by dedicating an entire chapter to those crews who failed to return, tracing the fate of each aircraft in turn. I thought this was a very effective approach, far better than leaving those details scattered amongst the main text (although aircraft losses are also noted in their correct place there). This method reminds us just how high the loses were on this raid. The same is true of the 'post-raid' chapter, which makes it clear just how many of the surviving 'dam busters' were killed later in the war (Paul Brickhill's famous book on 617 Squadron also discusses high losses in 617 Squadron in later raids, but doesn't make it quite as clear how many of the original crew members were lost).

I wouldn't classify this as a re-appraisal of the raid, but more as a re-telling with useful material on the losses in the raid and on the post-raid fates of the survivors.

1 - The Dams
2 - The Target - Upkeep
3 - The Preparation
4 - X/ 617 Squadron is formed
5 - Training
6 - The Briefing
7 - Target One - The Mohne
8 - Target Nos 2 and 3 - The Eder and The Sorpe
9 - The Results
10 - Failed to Return
11 - Post Dams
12 - Post-War
13 - Was it a Success?
Appendix 1 - Aircraft used on the Dams operation
Appendix 2 - Awards for the Dams operation

Author: Alan W. Cooper
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 208
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2013

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