On March 13, Ted Barris will address the Speakers Series at the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies about Dam Busters: Canadian Airmen and the Secret Raid against Nazi Germany, his latest book published by HarperCollins.
It was a night that changed the Second World War. The secret air raid against the hydroelectric dams of Germany’s Ruhr River took years to plan, involved an untried bomb, and included the best aircrewmen RAF Bomber Command could muster – many of them Canadian. The attack marked the first time the Allies tactically took the war inside Nazi Germany.
On May 16, 1943, 133 airmen took off in 19 Lancaster bombers on a night sortie, code-named Operation Chastise. Hand-picked and specially trained, the Lancaster crews flew at treetop level to the industrial heartland of the Third Reich and their targets – the Ruhr River dams – whose massive water reservoirs powered Nazi Germany’s military industrial complex.
Every one of the 133 airmen on the raid understood the odds of survival were low. Of the 19 bombers outbound, eight did not return. Operation Chastise cost the lives of 53 airmen, including 14 Canadians. Of the 16 RCAF men who survived, seven received military decorations. Dam Busters recounts the dramatic story of these Commonwealth bomber crews tasked with a high-risk mission against an enemy prepared to defend the Fatherland to the death.