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Chastise: The Dambusters Story 1943

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  477 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Operation Chastise, the destruction of the Mohne and Eder dams in north-west Germany by the RAF’s 617 Squadron on the night of 16/17 May 1943, was an epic that has passed into Britain’s national legend.

Max Hastings grew up embracing the story, the classic 1955 movie and the memory of Guy Gibson, the 24-year-old wing-commander who led the raid. In the 21st Century, however,
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published September 19th 2019 by William Collins (first published September 5th 2019)
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Susan Paxton
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is the first "overall" history of Chastise since James Holland's book six years ago, and as such Sir Max Hastings has the benefit of the ongoing research into this operation, in particular using to good effect Richard Morris' for his upcoming new biography of Sir Barnes Wallis, and last year's The Complete Dambusters, Charles Foster's book that not only included biographies of each man who participated in the raid, but also re-analyzed the formation and training of 617 Squadron (full disclo ...more
Mal Warwick
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The strategic bombing of German cities remains to this day one of the most controversial aspects of World War II. Relentless, round-the-clock assaults on the German people resulted in the deaths of between 350,000 and 500,000, among them huge numbers of POWs and imported slave workers. The firebombing of Dresden and Hamburg and the reduction of Berlin to rubble are the best-known examples of this misbegotten campaign, but dozens of other German cities suffered equally. And, though the strategy w ...more
Rob Twinem
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I was a child I was thrilled to read the wonderful WW2 adventure stories by Scottish author Alistair Maclean. I mention this because The Dam Busters, on first blush, reads like a thriller, a boys own yarn, from the aforementioned author. However, as we know, the story of the Dam Busters is not an imaginary tale but rather an audacious attack right into the heart of Nazi Germany.

It was a time of world war, stagnation, constant heavy “carpet” bombing missions under the leadership of the somew
Gerard Ilott
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Max Hastings provides a rather dry read, but an important one. I found it useful to remove the fallacy from the story, because the bravery of the people involved shines through even more. There is also due respect given to those who suffered as a result of the flooding—civilians and forced labourers.

I would have liked more on the reasons for not bombing the reconstruction efforts, as this must surely have been an almost criminal waste of the raid's achievements.
David Wasley
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
A chronological account of the famous dam busters' mission and its significance within the Allied bombing war. As an Australian reader I was surprised to learn how many Australian pilots and air crew were involved. It is fashionable these days to disparage the effectiveness of the bombing war. Max Hastings sets out a balanced view that is based upon what was known at the time. Without the bombing war it would not have been possible to provide the Soviet Union with a second front.
Eric Grounds
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
The pilots and their crews were very brave young men, of that there is no doubt. But this book shows all too clearly how the leaders (Portal and Harris) under-performed. The failure to capitalise on the destruction of the dams was a very poor strategic and operational mistake. Max Hastings has produced an immensely readable account.
Steven Z.
During World War II a debate raged among allied strategists as to how much civilians should be targeted to defeat the Nazis. As the Germans wreaked havoc on civilian populations throughout Europe and the United Kingdom the defeat of Hitler’s henchmen was deemed a necessity no matter the cost. Max Hastings, a British journalist and historian, the author of numerous volumes ranging from World War I, the Battle of Britain, World War II, Winston Churchill and Vietnam tackles the issue of civilian ca ...more
May 27, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, war, history, nonfiction
Too many details and should-we-have-done-its for this generalist reader. Interested in WWII but clearly not enough to really appreciate this account.
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A superb and balanced account of a famously heroic raid. Hastings is excellent at reporting the bigger picture and bringing in thoughts and factors that other writers miss. At the same time he adds personal details that bring the narrative alive and bring it back down to a human level. Chastise explains how the concept of such a daring raid arose, the constraints and trials that had to be overcome to make it happen, how it was executed and, finally, it’s legacy. Thoroughly recommended.
Vicki Caton
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Another great book by Max Hastings it was good to see how the mission came about, who was involve and how many brave and young airmen who passed away.
John Farrell
May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dam busters

Excellent retelling of the story of the 1943 raid on the dams. Moves along at a very quick pace-full of great anecdotes and insights
Larry Roberts
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding in every regard!
Jason Wilson
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Via Audible.

Solid account of the Dambusters which lays some myths to rest. The raids were , partly due to ineffective British follow up, not the detriment to the nazis that they could have been, though it counted well enough.
Though we like films about Individuas vs faceless beaurocracy ( eg the dam-busters film and the Turing biopic recently ) that wasn’t quite the case here. The immediate victims were civilians , POWs and foreign workers. Gibson was a complex troubled man who made free with ot
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just when you thought that all that could have been written about the raid on the Ruhr dams, along comes Max Hastings to prove otherwise. His book tells not only the history of the technical challenges, and how the attraction of the targets was foreseen by both British and German air ministries before the war, but also of the makeup of 617 squadron, and how that wasn’t as well planned as has been told countless times.

While the bravery of those took part is fully recognised, some of the individua
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Between 1942 and 1945, the civilian population of Hitler’s cities was the target of most British bombing.”

“Horace Walpole wrote in the mid-eighteenth century: ‘No great country was ever saved by good men, because good men will not go to the lengths that may be necessary.’”

“But what realistic prospect could there be of such an operation’s success? Throughout the wars of the twentieth century, again and again it was shown that strategy must follow technology, and also required mass, whether in th
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I couldn’t put this down, which is rare for me with non fiction. The chronological order helps place the action & the operation itself is written in such a way that you have to keep reading. There is enough scientific content to give context but doesn’t make the topic difficult to comprehend. It’s also refreshing to hear about the after effects in Germany. My one complaint is with the giving out of awards after the raid, but that has nothing to do with the book. ...more
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From One of the Best of the British WW II Historians

Max Hastings is one of six British historians of World War II who, in my opinion, are among the very best, combining engaging writing with thorough research and insightful analysis. Three of these, Hastings along with Antony Beevor and Ian Kershaw, were all born shortly after the war ended. Three were born shortly before the war — Alistair Horne, Martin Middlebrook, and John Keegan, of whom only Middlebrook is still with us.

Hastings’ book, Oper
George Siehl
This is a very thorough and quite readable account of one aspect of WW II efforts to hinder Germany's industrial productive capacity. This particular effort involved the Royal Air Force bombing major dams in the Ruhr Valley. To do so required the development of a new type of bomb, modifying Lancaster bombers to carry the device, and training bomber crews to strike the target with the new weapon. The successful mission earned the crews the title of "Dam Busters,"
as in the movie of the same name.

Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: World War II history readers
Outstanding even by Max Hastings's standards. Guy Gibson and Barnes Wallis lead the way both heroes but with a large support cast many tragically who do not return. Bomber Harris emerges with little credit and though he desperately climbed on board once it was seen as a success he deserves the scathing appraisal. Hastings as always is great on anecdotes one with regard to Harris is priceless. Harris having been divorced in 1934 -- he erased his wife and three children from his biography as ruthl ...more
Barry Davidoff
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fabulous book by the dean of military historians.

Max Hastings makes it clear from the beginning that he is writing his account of the Dam Busters from the perspective of 75 years after the event. He therefore is able to place the raid in a very broad perspective. Hastings also has the advantage that he personally interviewed many of the leaders of the RAF 40 years ago for his work Bomber Command.

The raid was brilliant. The bravery of Guy Gibson and all the dam busters was incredible.They were
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As my father served with the RAAF as a ground engineer on the Lancaster (out of Binbrook rather than the home of 617 squadron at Scampton) this
is a plane that has always filled my heart with emotion. A beautiful vehicle that brings tears to my eyes when I see it fly. A symbol of the victory of good over the evil of Nazi rule. But one can never forget also a bringer of death and destruction.

Chastise is truly and utterly magnificent book about one of WW2’s most famous events. But this is not the
Jeff Francis
My reading Max Hastings’ “Operation Chastise: The RAF’s Most Brilliant Attack of World War II” may have been overkill: Several months ago I read James Holland’s “Dam Busters,” and then saw the 1955 film, twice.

So, yes, the timing was perhaps imperfect, but I couldn’t resist a new book about the Dambuster raids—that particular part of World War II lore that has stoked countless imaginations for 75+ years.

No point in rehashing the story, but suffice it to say that Hastings’ book is a worthy addi
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a much younger person many decades ago I remember watching the 1955 movie The Dam Busters and being impressed with the daring raid to breech several German dams during World War II with the intent to cripple the Nazi war effort. Fast forward to my reading Operation Chastise: The RAF's Most Brilliant Attack of World War II by Max Hastings and realizing that the movie was based on facts and involved the development of special ball-shaped explosives to overcome difficulties with striking dams in ...more
Matt Raubenheimer
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Dam Busters story is legendary, and like many my main point of reference to this story is the 1950s film. I did also read the Paul Brickhill book when I was in high school, and I read Guy Gibson’s Enemy Coast Ahead a few years ago but Chastise by Max Hastings is the first modern retelling of the story that I have read, so I can’t compare it to any other contemporary books. However what I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed Hastings’s work and it expanded my understanding of the context in w ...more
Christopher Dove
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book. As usual, Max Hastings produces a clear and honest narrative of the Dambusters raid. This is well known story because of the classic British war film but Hastings also provides some surprises. For instance, I always believed that the whole of 617 Squadron was a set of experienced fliers handpicked for the job. While several of the pilots were chosen for their particular skills, this was not true of everyone. One of the pilots had only flown on five previous missions. S ...more
Good modern look at the 'Dam Busters' mission of WWII movie fame. There is still a lot we will never know about the details of that raid and Hastings points those areas out. Such key items as exactly which of the bombs breached the dams can't be pinned down. The last third of the book focuses on the flooding and deaths caused by the breaches and the lack of any follow-up missions that might have truly crippled the Nazi war machine. There were over 1000 lives lost in the floods and the majority w ...more
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very solid and thorough overview of the British led operation during WWII to breach 2 large dams in the Ruhr valley in NW Germany. It covers the cast of characters involved in the mission, from the military leadership to the engineers who retrofitted existing bombers and munitions to carry out the attack, to the actually airmen who carried it out. The actual description of the bombing run is handled with a bit of suspense. The author then spends two chapters at the end both describing conditions ...more
Peter Timson
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite criticism by some of the 1955 film, this book seems to follow it pretty closely and thus the film, given the liberties a film must take to portray a longer story in a few hours, seems to be valid.

The book shows that Gibson was not perhaps as affable as Richard Todd and that things were not quite as chummy. It also fills in the gaps, particularly what happened to the crew who were lost as well as those who had to turn back.

Hastings does point out that judgements of past behaviour must be
Ian Rees
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Revealing account of the planning and execution of one of the war's most famous (for Brits at least) missions. Technologically it was brilliant, and required immense courage and skill on the part of the crews who took part, but from a strategic point of view it was little more than a huge publicity coup. What damage it did was limited and not followed up as it should have been, and it had the tragic effect of killing more civilians and prisoners than causing damage to the Nazi war machine. A ver ...more
Edward Swinden
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
To the best of my knowledge this is the first book by Hastings I have read but I am well aware of his standing and reputation.
This is a very comprehensive and analytical look at ‘Operation Chastise’ which debunks many of the myths around the ‘Dambusters’.
The pace is excellent while being sufficiently detailed to satisfy the student of WW2.
There are plenty of direct quotes and anecdotes that bring the various key characters to life.
I came away with the impression that this operation achieved mo
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Sir Max Hugh Macdonald Hastings, FRSL, FRHistS is a British journalist, editor, historian and author. His parents were Macdonald Hastings, a journalist and war correspondent, and Anne Scott-James, sometime editor of Harper's Bazaar.

Hastings was educated at Charterhouse School and University College, Oxford, which he left after a year.After leaving Oxford University, Max Hastings became a foreign c

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