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  • Lex’s Favorite War Movies VII: The Dam Busters

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on April 20th, 2008 (All posts by )

    The Dam Busters is one of those classics I never got around to seeing. I finally saw it today, and it immediately gets classed as a favorite.

    I was familiar with the story, from reading David Jablonski’s two volume Air War; when I was, I am guessing, twelve years old. I have sitting on my shelf Paul Brickhill’s book, entitled the Dam Busters. I have not read it yet, but back in my teen years I read his excellent books, The Great Escape, which the movie was based on, and his Reach for the Sky, the story of the legless Spitfire pilot, Douglas Bader.

    There is a good synopsis of the movie on Wikipedia. The essence of the story is this. It is during the dark hours of World War II. that British inventor Barnes Wallis has figured out a way to destroy certain dams in Germany that provide water and hydroelectric power to the Ruhr, by “skipping” bombs off the water like you skip stones across a pond.. Wallis has to convince the government to let him do it. Then, a squadron has to be assembled, the men gathered and trained, the specially modified aircraft supplied. Then, the raid has to be carried out, successfully but at great cost. The squadron commander Guy Gibson was played by Richard Todd. Todd was a good actor, who according to the Wikipedia article, was Ian Fleming’s first pick to play James Bond. Michael Redgrave gave a solid, understated performance as Barnes Wallis.

    The whole thing is done in a very straightforward style, without a lot of unnecessary emoting. This is pre-Diana Britain, thank Heavens.

    The actual attack was damaging to the Germans, but not as devastating as hoped, which is almost the entire Allied bomber offensive in a nutshell.

    The theme music became an instant classic, and can be heard on this clip.

    (Links to earlier war movies posts here.)


    14 Responses to “Lex’s Favorite War Movies VII: The Dam Busters”

    1. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Great flick. It was a frequent appearance on late night TV in the 1950s when I was a kid.

      Can you imagine Hollywood making anything like that now?

    2. Jonathan Says:

      Can you imagine Hollywood making anything like that now?

      “The Ball Busters” (2009) – Christian terrorists initiate WMD attacks against Planned Parenthood clinics in eighty American cities. US President Harriet Clanton and trusted advisor Blumenthal “Blumie” Wallace devise a daring plan to retaliate by suing the Christianists for hate speech in European courts. However, at the last minute Justice Department operatives discover that the main Internet tube to Europe has been sabotaged by enemy bloggers. President Clanton calls for volunteers and a crack female SEAL team is dispatched to deliver the documents to the anti-Christian resistance in Europe. The team must navigate its Gulfstream jet to meet resistance couriers at precisely the right moment – too late and the documents will arrive after the filing deadline, too early and the enemy will have time to prepare counterclaims. Thanks to new geo-tracking technology developed at the secret Google works in the pastoral Silicon Valley countryside, the SEALs deliver their docs with seconds to spare, the Christianists get tied up in litigation and become militarily impotent, and President Clanton successfully spearheads an initiative to amend the US Constitution to give UN and EU resolutions authority superseding US law. The film ends as SEAL team commander Scarlett Johansson marries Gulfstream pilot Rosie O’Donnell in a televised ceremony attended by President Clanton and all major political and media figures.

    3. Ralf Goergens Says:

      The actual attack was damaging to the Germans, but not as devastating as hoped

      Of course it wasn’t. We can swim.

    4. Ralf Goergens Says:

      Unlike Englishmen, I should add. I’ll give Americans the benefit of the doubt, for politeness sake.

    5. Ralf Goergens Says:

      an initiative to amend the US Constitution to give UN and EU resolutions authority superseding US law

      I’m pretty sure that this already happened.

    6. Jay Manifold Says:

      “The Ball Busters” (2009)

      You, sir, are on a roll. Must be the season … why is this comment different from all other comments? ;^)

      Speaking of politically incorrect, I proceeded more or less directly from The Dam Busters to Northwest Frontier, which I dimly recall seeing at least part of some years ago on TV. A remake (or reissue) of that one would have the usual suspects screeching at the top of their lungs.

    7. Jonathan Says:

      Ha! Thanks.

      BTW, did you know that SEAL is an acronym that stands for SEa Air Law teams?

    8. Ralf Goergens Says:

      BTW, did you know that SEAL is an acronym that stands for SEa Air Law teams?

      Yes, I heard of the SEa Air Law teams (not to be confused with SEa Air Land teams). Gangs of lawyers roaming the Earth, looking for little old ladies who just have spilled hot coffee on themselves.

    9. Anonymous Says:

      The attack was planned with the aid of a mechanical analog computer (differential analyzer) that was constructed partly out of Meccano parts. The machine was later moved to New Zealand, where it was used to help design the Benmore Hydro Dam and the analyze the growth of rabbit populations:

    10. Lexington Green Says:

      Thanks for the great link, Anonymous.

    11. david foster Says:

      Anonymous, above, was me….sometimes the identification information is pre-filled-in and sometimes not…why, I can’t imagine…so I guess I assumed it was there and it wasn’t.

    12. George Says:

      I have Brickhill’s book on my shelf, too. Read it!

      The last half of the book telling what happened after the dams raid is just as interesting. It is the story the development of night precision bombing with 12,000 pound deep penetration bombs that took out bridges, V-weapons sites, the battleship Tirpitz, and submarine pens with 16 or so feet of reinforced concrete overhead. The war ended with 22,000 pound bombs being used.

      The US recently announced a 30,000 pound deep penetration bomb. You can guess who that might be intended to impress.

    13. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Jonathan: There is medicine for your condition. Please go see a doctor.

    14. George Says:


      Here are some pictures from the 65th anniversary of the dams raid: