The night of 16 May, 1943. Nineteen specially adapted Lancaster bombers take off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, each with a huge 9000lb cylindrical bomb strapped underneath it. Their mission: to destroy three dams deep within the German heartland, which provide the lifeblood to the industries supplying the Third Reich''s war machine.
From the outset it was an almost impossible task, a suicide mission: to fly low and at night in formation over many miles of enemy-occupied territory at the very limit of the Lancasters'' capacity, and drop a new weapon that had never been tried operationally before from a precise height of just sixty feet from the water at some of the most heavily defended targets in Germany.
More than that, the entire operation had to be put together in less than ten weeks. When visionary aviation engineer Barnes Wallis''s concept of the bouncing bomb was green lighted, he hadn''t even drawn up his plans for the weapon that was to smash the dams. What followed was an incredible race against time, which, despite numerous setbacks and against huge odds, became one of the most successful and game-changing bombing raids of all time.
Decisive military missions are sometimes the brainchilds of scientists and engineers instead of generals. The destruction of Germany''s hydroelectric dams by the Royal Air Force in 1943 was one such decisive mission. Veteran military historian Holland (The Battle of Britain) has composed an impeccably researched work in the style of a fast-paced techno-thriller. Part one centers on the campaign of British aircraft designer Barnes Wallis to bring to the attention of military planners his ideas regarding bombing of German dams, despite the furious opposition of Air Marshal Arthur Harris, leader of Britain''s Bomber Command. When the plan was finally approved, the various players had only eight weeks to produce the necessary new equipment, train, and execute the mission. This process is the subject of part two of Holland''s book. The third part follows the 19 RAF bombers on their dangerous low-altitude night mission against the dams—a mission many didn''t not survive. Holland offers an authoritative account of a brilliant military operation conceived by a creative civilian; an excellent read for those with an interest in military and aviation history. (Nov.)
A sensational air raid of WWII was a British attack on German dams. Ever since, it has inspired histories, the still-popular movie The Dam Busters, and a yet-to-be released remake by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. Holland’s title comprehensively spans the story, from the genesis of the idea to the postraid fates of the participants. The brainchild of a British engineer, the intention was to hamper German war production by skipping mines across reservoirs into hydroelectric dams. It may sound simple but was not because the plan involved releasing the weapons from low-flying Lancaster airplanes at night. The technical intricacies command much of Holland’s attention. He explains the mechanical experiments conducted by Barnes Wallis, the engineer, and the training of the raiding squadron, led by Guy Gibson. After detailing how the raid was approved within the RAF, Holland releases the main act, a white-knuckle, minute-by-minute account of the raid. Opinions vary about the attack’s effectiveness but not about the air crews’ courageous heroism, Holland’s evocation of which WWII readers will appreciate. --Gilbert Taylor
Dam Busters describes the maneuvering that went on behind the scenes before one of Britain’s most important efforts to cripple the Nazi war machine. . . . Holland is good at making complex matters clear . . . [and] good at writing action sequences.”
Wall Street Journal
Dramatically details the circumstances of this terrifying, improbably successful military operation. . . . Holland’s
Dam Busters, thrilling, authoritative and containing astonishing photos, is a military history must read.’ It is also a shining tribute to those intrepid young airmen.”
Tampa Bay Times
Veteran military historian Holland has composed an impeccably researched work in the style of a fast-paced techno-thriller. . . . Holland offers an authoritative account of a brilliant military operation conceived by a creative civilian; an excellent read for those with an interest in military and aviation history.”
A well-written study of engineering and invention operating under great pressure. . . . For all World War II history buffs.”
Library Journal (starred review)
"Extremely detailed but never dull . . . Holland offers a definitive, nuts-and-bolts history."
"James Holland has achieved a near impossible feat. He has taken a tale we all thought we knew, told us we didn''t know much until now and made it come alive." Charles Glass, author of
The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II and
Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation
Painstakingly researched and splendidly told. . . . Holland skillfully interweaves interesting anecdotes and previously unrevealed details. . . . This is the definitive book on the subject, deserving a place in the library of any student of the famous raid.”—
The Dambusters Raid was a one-of-a-kind attack, totally unlike anything that had gone before, and it finds a brilliant chronicler in James Holland, whose scholarship and erudition vividly brings that extraordinary event to life seven decades later.”Andrew Roberts, author of
The Storm of War,
Masters and Commanders, and
A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900
An expertly researched and engaging read,
Dam Busters sheds new light on the remarkable story of the men of 617 Squadron who led the raid to destroy Germany’s key hydroelectric dams. It also tells the lesser-known tale of the innovative scientists who developed the technology. James Holland vividly brings to life not only the main characters, but the entire incredible era as well."—Patrick K. O’Donnell, bestselling author of
It took a remarkable combination of strategic ideas, skills, actions, and people to win the war for freedom in WWII. James Holland offers a thoroughly researched and highly descriptive narrative of how ingenious engineering and breathtaking courage accomplished an almost impossible task. Recommended for fans of military nonfiction everywhere.”Marcus Brotherton, author of
A Company of Heroes and
James Holland was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and studied history at Durham University. A member of the British Commission for Military History and the Guild of Battlefield Guides, he also regularly contributes reviews and articles in newspapers and magazines and appears on radio. His books include
The Battle of Britain and his fictional World War II series featuring Sergeant Jack Tanner. He lives near Salisbury with his wife, son and daughter.