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Dambusters: A Landmark Oral History

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  127 ratings  ·  14 reviews
On the night of 16-17 May 1943, nineteen Lancaster bombers from 617 Squadron headed for Germany. Their mission, for which they had been trained under a cloak of absolute secrecy, was to destroy the dams of the Ruhr Valley and in doing so cripple the Nazi industrial war effort. It was to become one of the most famous raids of WW2.

For the first time, acclaimed oral historian
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 7th 2009 by Virgin Books (first published October 2nd 2008)
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Pete daPixie
In just the last decade there has been no shortage of books published covering the Dambusters raid of 16-17 May 1943. Not surprising considering the technical wizardry alone. A six ton bomb, shaped like an oil drum, set to be spun up at 500rpm (anticlockwise) before dropping a precise distance from the walls of the dams, from a height of just 60 feet, above water, at night, at a speed of some 230mph from a specially modified Lancaster bomber, so the bomb would skip like a stone across the water, ...more
Tin Wee
This is an example of how oral histories should be compiled. Various sources are interviewed and their excerpts are arranged chronologically to present the story of the famous raid on the Mohner and Eder Dams which powered the German Ruhr industrial area. Various phases are covered from the conceptualization, recruitment, execution, and aftermath of the raid. Interestingly, also includes interviews with German victims of the raids to show the impact of the raid. Recommended.
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am quite a fan of books on World War II but I have never read anything quite like this. I've read the 6 volumes of Churchill's The Second World War book series with much of the writing from one persons point of view. This work is completely unlike that.

Firstly, and most importantly this is an oral history with both German and Allied voices. To me this makes it one of the most interesting books on a single event I've read. We hear voices from both sides.

Next, this is an oral history and does
Susan Paxton
Arthur's oral histories are always well worth reading; in the case of 617 Squadron he's done what few others have and sought out material from the ground crews and other nonflying personnel (and the comparison of their reactions to the horrific losses of the Dams raid and those of the flying personnel are a little off-putting; the ground crews, WAAFs, and Barnes Wallis were weeping, the air crew who'd made it back were celebrating). One thing that would have made the book a bit more useful would ...more
Thomas Fenske
Jul 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Squadron 617 has been heralded since WWII for their mission against the Ruhr Valley dams. The mission included cutting edge technology, great planning, flawless timing, and bravery of the highest sort. Many participants died.
What Max Arthur has done is cobble together accounts of the mission, from the pilots and air crews, the ground crews, various support staff, planners, scientists, and even German military and civilians who were the victims of the attack.
Like some oral histories, especially
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am really interested in anything to do with WWII era Britain and Germany (and Cold War-era Berlin) and so I had to pick this book up when I saw it for sale in a local shop. This is quite unlike anything else I've ever read, in that the author is mainly hands-off in the re-telling of the events of the Dam raids in Germany. Instead, he leaves it to the crews of the Lancasters to tell their stories. There are also stories from some of the German people involved, (such as rectors, artists and even ...more
Dan Ward
Feb 13, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe I paid money for this book. It is utterly unreadable. It is composed in little paragraphs of oral interviews. The story of the raid is not told just little bits of memories, bouncing from person to person without any real continuity. The raid itself is an incredible story but the only incredible thing about this book is that it was published.

I suppose this is a good add on to other books if you want deeper information on the bombing mission but don't purchase this book as a first
Mark Barnes
A great book that weaves together the recollections of many of those involved in the Dambusters' raid. There's no attempt to editorialise, or to smooth over differences in recollections, and the book is better for that. It probably ought not be the only book you read on the raid, but it's certainly a fascinating account.
Alan Wilson
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was great and was different from anything I had read before. To hear from so many different people who were involved in the build up and how they felt after was fascinating. It also had the added extra of hearing about the attack from the other side which is rare.
Kent Archie
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have liked some more technical details, but there are other book for this.
Hearing the story as told by the bomber crews and the people living below the dams was fascinating and terrifying. I was impressed by how the crews pushed on after seeing about half the planes not making it back.
Donald L McGill
Feb 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

One of the best wartime books I've had the pleasure to read..You are there, being shot at, wondering if you will make it back alive...If you like war stories you will love this book, Get your copy today
Brian Grinter
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read, written oral history from the aircrew and ground crew of 617 Squadron RAF, the "Dambusters".
Didi Mack
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing bombing story

The development of bombs capable of breaking dams and being delivered by planes, is amazing. The men and the missions are riveting.
Chaplain Stanley Chapin

A bit disconcerting with the going from one person to another and not always on the same item, but interesting and informative
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Max Arthur is an author who specialises in first-hand recollections of historical events. He has worked closely with the Imperial War Museum to bring together two books in the Forgotten Voices series, Forgotten Voices of the Great War and Forgotten Voices of the Second World War. Prior to becoming a writer, he served with the Royal Air Force and for some years was an actor.