Bombing Nazi Dams

Full Episode

Video for this episode is currently unavailable. Sorry for the inconvenience.

In the spring of 1943, nearly 150 highly decorated pilots were ordered to report to a Royal Air Force base in England to begin preparations for a top secret Allied raid. In complete secrecy, the team trained to master the dangerous art of high speed, low altitude night flying. On May 16th, 133 of the airmen boarded 19 modified Lancaster bombers. Each aircraft carried a top-secret weapon — a newly-invented bouncing bomb — designed to shatter Germany’s major dams, stem the flow of water to the Ruhr valley’s steel factories, and, ultimately, undermine the enemy’s ability to produce weapons. In a matter of hours, four of the targeted dams were hit and two destroyed, more than 1,000 Germans killed on the ground, and countless factories and homes left in shambles. The raid took its toll on the airmen — 53 men were lost. Nevertheless, the mission was deemed a success and boosted morale throughout the Allied forces. The mysterious bouncing bombs were the brainchild of Allied aircraft designer Barnes Wallis. How did Wallis come up with this unlikely weapon? How did losing his marbles make it all work? What did he go through to make it functional, and how did the elite airmen ensure its successful deployment?