I just finished this audiobook, and really enjoyed it. One of the first models I remember building was a Dam Busters variant of an RAF Lancaster, so I knew the story, but I knew very little as far as details about how it happened. The book provides a great deal of useful background on the plan to destroy the dams using specially designed bombs, but the audiobook format suffers from not being able to provide illustrations that you need to understand the aircraft, the bomb, and the dams.
Still, the book provides a fascinating story about the development of the idea to attack the dams and the reasons behind it, the development of the bomb itself, and pays a great deal of attention to the formation and training of the squadron which would mount the attack. The story of the actual raid is similarly fascinating because it reveals that there had apparently been no training on how the squadron would actually mount the raid as a unit, and it was only the initiative of the squadron commander in making repeated dummy runs on the dam as his other planes attacked to draw fire that allowed the attack to succeed.
The author takes issue with the conventional wisdom that the raid was not successful because the dams were repaired relatively quickly, noting that the enormous effort necessary to do so due to the crucial importance of the dams to Germany’s war economy paid dividends in the coming months, specifically with respect to Germany’s ability to field the necessary tanks for the Kursk offensive. At the very least, the author makes the point that unlike the majority of the RAF’s bomber operations, which arguably contributed little to the war effort by simply bombing German cities without a corresponding decrease in German war production or morale, this pinpoint attack using a strategically insignificant amount of men and materiel resulted in an enormous amount of damage to the German war effort. Certainly it is difficult to overstate the return that Great Britain saw on the losses it incurred in the raid.
The book got me interested in Bomber Command and the raid, and the boys and I watched a recent documentary about the attack which included a re-creation of the bomb and the attack in Canada, using a scaled-down free production of the dam and the bomb. I have also started listening to another audiobook on British bomber activity during the war. Unfortunately, so far it is even more depressing than listening to a summary of the American bomber war on Germany. But maybe it will get better.