The whole of this great arsenal of war factories in the Ruhr depends for its
water on three enormous dams. The Moehne. The Eder. And, the Sorpe.....
When those are full they hold four hundred *million* tons of water. Just think
of the chaos if we could break those walls down.
The film falls into two distinct halves. First, Wallis struggles to develop a means of attacking Germany's dams, in the hope of crippling German heavy industry. Working for the Ministry of Aircraft Production, as well as doing his own job at Vickers, he works feverishly to make practical his theory of a bouncing bomb which would skip over the water to avoid protective torpdeo nets. When it came into contact with the dam, it would sink before exploding, making it much more destructive. Wallis calculates that the aircraft will have to fly extremely low (60 feet) in order for the bombs to skip over the water correctly. But when he takes his conclusions to the Ministry, he is told that lack of production capacity means they cannot go ahead with his proposals.
Angry and frustrated, Wallis secures an interview with Sir Arthur Bomber Harris, the head of Bomber Command, who at first is reluctant to take the idea seriously. But he is eventually convinced and takes the idea to the Prime Minister, who authorises the project.
Bomber Command forms a special squadron of Lancaster bombers - 617 squadron- to be commanded by Wing Commander Guy Gibson. He recruits experienced crews, especially those with low-altitude-flight experience. Whilst they train for the mission, Wallis continues his development of the bomb, but experiences problems. With only a few weeks to go, he succeeds in fixing them and the mission can go ahead.
The bombers attack the dams. Several Lancasters and their crews are lost, but the overall mission succeeds and two dams are breached.
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