Aero Club members hear about Dambusters mission

Retired USAF Colonel Jim Evans described the World War II Dambusters mission that breached two German dams during a presentation to the Sun Lakes Aero Club April 15. (Photo by Gary Vacin)

Gary Vacin

A group of Sun Lakes Aero Club members and guests heard how a squadron of World War II Royal Air Force bombers breached two strategically-located dams in Germany in a raid known as the “Dambusters” during the club’s gathering April 15.

Retired USAF Colonel and noted WWII historian Jim Evans described the mission with a PowerPoint presentation that included a number of photos taken before, during and after the raid. The mission was carried out by a squadron of 19 Lancaster bombers using purpose-built bouncing bombs designed to spin and bounce several times in the water before striking the dams, then submerging to an optimum depth before detonating. The bombs resembled huge barrels so large that they had to be suspended beneath the aircraft because they wouldn’t fit in the bomb bay. The bombers flew low, at about 100 feet altitude, to avoid radar detection. One of the Lancasters flew too low and struck the sea, losing its bomb in the water, but recovered and returned to base. Another hit electricity posts and crashed. Only 11 of the bombers returned safely to their base. Fifty-three airmen lost their lives.

Evans said two dams – the Mohne and Edersee – were breached, causing catastrophic flooding in the Ruhr Valley and of villages in the Eder Valley. Two hydro-electric stations were destroyed and several more damaged. Factories and mines also were damaged or destroyed. An estimated 1,600 civilians – about 600 Germans and 1,000 mainly Soviet forced laborers – died. Despite repairs by the Germans, production did not return to normal until several months later.

Evans’ presentation was the last in a series of six aviation-related topics discussed at monthly Aero Club gatherings November through April. The gatherings, open to the public, will continue November 18, 2020, with a presentation by club member Gary Vacin, who will discuss his experiences building and flying aircraft known as powered parachutes. For more information, contact Vacin at 480-298-7017.