The Exploits of World War II's Most Daring Flyers After the Flood
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From breaching German dams to targeting U-boat pens with “Grand Slams,” the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron receives fresh recognition for crippling the Nazi war machine.

Not everyone was eager to sing the praises of the Dambusters, a highly effective and deadly squadron, after their initial destruction of the Möhne and Eder dams on May 16, 1943. In this history of the squadron, complete with personal accounts of the pilots involved, journalist and former Royal Air Force pilot Nichol (co-author: The Last Escape: The Untold Story of Allied Prisoners of War in Europe 1944-45, 2003, etc.) looks frankly at the terrible cost in terms of lives lost over the course of the squadron’s deadly, strategic missions, as well as those of the enemy, especially among civilians, weighed against the exigencies of a terrible total war. British engineer Barnes Wallis had created the “bouncing bomb” that would be so effective against the German dams, dropped surgically by a well-trained, all-volunteer crew of the RAF Bomber Command, 617 Squadron, piloting powerful Lancasters under the initial fierce leadership of Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson. Following a disastrous attack on the Dortmund-Ems Canal in September, low-level flying was out, with new bombs and more accurate bombsights employed, leading to runs on German-reinforced underground sites at Pas-de-Calais, France, where Hitler’s new “V-weapons” were being assembled by an army of slave laborers. These “Death or Glory” commands—e.g., the bombing of the Michelin rubber factory in March 1944 and the German army camp at Mailly-le-Camp—were successful lead-ups to the Allied D-Day invasion. Subsequent "Tallboy” (Wallis’ new bombs that could penetrate 15 feet of reinforced concrete) raids wreaked havoc on German construction and naval sites. There was no feeling rueful about the destruction until after the war, as many of the personal stories reveal here.

A straightforward account considers all sides to these precise missions.

Pub Date: April 19th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4683-1274-4
Page count: 392pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2016


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