Dam Busters: The Lancasters

February 19, 2012  •  Leave a Comment



 















May 16, 1943; evening came as the men  of the 617 Squadron loaded 19 Lancasters in preparation to fly over the North Sea.These were young  brave pilots and gunners on a mission fraught with danger;  their destination: The Möhne Dam : an important water reservoir providing flood control , drinking water and electric power to many of Germany's war factories.This date was chosen because it was a full moon night for the pilots to be able to see their targets and also because the dam would be at its full capacity around this time.
The idea to achieve this attack came from an Assistant Chief Designer named Barnes Wallis who designed and tested a cylindrical shape  bomb made to bounce off the water; when dropped from a height of 60 feet, at an angle of 7 degrees  at an air speed of about 220 miles per hour and with a counter clock spinning rotation, this bomb would bounce off the water, touch the dam and gently sink to the base of the structure where it would explode causing maximum damage. The Lancs were  fitted with special equipment to carry this  bomb, spinning at 700RPM, under its belly. This was quite a feat of engineering for the 40's decade without all the modern computer technology, but Human ingenuity prevailed.
Three days before the air raid, the Lancs conducted tests, but one of them flew so low that the splash from the bomb hitting the water, damaged its tail so bad that it could not take part of the planned raid.
Five planes were lost over the North Sea due to heavy enemy fire before they reached their destination; the first 4 bombers missed their target, the fifth hit it head on. Of the 133 men who took part of this operation, 53 lost their lives and 3 were captured. This was a high price to pay, but the mission was a success; Möhne Dam was breached; reconnaissance Spitfires reported flooding of  the valley below  creating disruption for Hitler's army machine.
This heroic feat captivated the nation: the King of England, The prime Minister and  the Air Staff joined in congratulations to the 617 Squadron and were decorated for their part in the raids.

 



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