May 16/17, 1943 - Flying at treetop level, bombers of No. 617 Squadron of the RAF strike German dams at Möhne and Eder. Led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the raiders flew specially modified Avro Lancaster bombers (right) equipped with Upkeep bouncing bombs. These weapons, invented by Barnes Wallis, were designed to skip over the water and detonate against the side of the dam. After extensive training in using this unique weapon, nineteen Lancasters took off on the night of May 16/17 and successfully breached the dams, flooding large areas of the Ruhr Valley. During the raid eight aircraft were downed, with a loss of 53 men.
Codenamed Operation Chastise, the goal of the raid was to diminish the amount of hydroelectric power and water available to the factories and cities of the industrial Ruhr Valley. While water levels and power were reduced following the dams' destruction, they were restored in a few months. A more lasting effect of the raid was the ruin of thousands of acres of valuable farmland that was inundated by flood waters. In 1954, the attacks were commemorated in the film The Dam Busters starring Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd.
Photograph Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org