Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

After the Dambusters Raid

Yesterday, May 16, 2013, was the 70th anniversary of the 1943 Dambusters Raid on the dams of the Ruhr.

One thing has always puzzled me about this raid, the lack of any follow-up activity by Allied bombers.

While there has been debate about the effectiveness of the raid itself, I’ve yet to come across anything similar about the aftermath.

Why didn’t the Allies send in bomber afterwards?

With the areas already in ruins, and resources being diverted to make good the damage done by the Dambusters, the effect could have been multiplied by continuing to harass the repair work through conventional bombing raids on the thousands of workers sent to make good the damage.

One thing may have held the Allies’ hand on this option – the fact that much of labour would have been supplied by slaves, captured enemies of the Nazis used as forced labour.

There can be little doubt that many of these labourers would have died in such raids, as there would have been little protection or shelter for them, and their masters would not have deemed them worthy of air raid shelter. Their forced labour was already an effective death sentence, and they would just have shipped more in to replace the losses.

As it was, the raid saw the Möhne and Eder reservoirs pour some 330 million tons of water into the western Ruhr valley. Flood waters spread for about 50 miles (80 km) from the source. On the ground, around 1,300 people were killed, including 749 Ukrainian prisoners of war based in a camp just below the Eder dam.

History also tells us that when the Allies did carry out raids where locals were killed as a consequence of targeting information passed on by the Resistance, then further information was no longer provided. I forget the name of the exact incident that comes to mind, but am sure it involved attacks on one of the V-weapons facilities.

The Möhne Dam

Four hours after the Dambusters Raid, this was the Möhne Dam:

Mohne plus 4

Later still, the damage caused by the bouncing bomb could be seen more clearly:

Mohne later

Albert Speer, by then Hitler’s Armaments Minister, had to summarise the damage, and reported his findings to the Führer. Speer was also puzzled about the lack of further attacks:

On April 11, 1943, I proposed to Hitler that a committee of industrial specialists be set to determining the crucial targets in Soviet power production.
Four weeks later, however, the first attempt was made — not by us but by the British air force — to influence the course of the war by destroying a single nerve center of the war economy.

The principle followed was to paralyse a cross section, as it were – just as a motor can be made useless by the removal of the ignition.

On May 17, 1943, a mere nineteen bombers of the RAF tried to strike at our whole armaments industry by destroying the hydroelectric plants of the Ruhr.

The report that reached me in the early hours of the morning was most alarming. The largest of the dams, the Mohne dam, had been shattered and the reservoir emptied. As yet there were no reports on the three other dams.

At dawn we landed at Werl Aireld, having first surveyed the scene of devastation from above. The power plant at the foot of the shattered dam looked as if it had been erased, along with its heavy turbines.

A torrent of water had flooded the Ruhr Valley. That had the seemingly insignificant but grave consequence that the electrical installations at the pumping stations were soaked and muddied, so that industry was brought to a standstill and the water supply of the population imperiled.

My report on the situation, which I soon afterward delivered at the Fuehrer’s headquarters, made “a deep impression on the Fuehrer. He kept the documents with him.”’

The British had not succeeded, however, in destroying the three other reservoirs. Had they done so, the Ruhr Valley would have been almost completely deprived of water in the coming summer months.

At the largest of the reservoirs, the Sorpe Valley reservoir, they did achieve a direct hit on the centre of the dam. I inspected it that same day. Fortunately the bomb hole was slightly higher than the water level. Just a few inches lower — and a small brook would have been transformed into a raging river which would have swept away the stone and earthen dam.

That night, employing just a few bombers, the British came close to a success which would have been greater than anything they had achieved hitherto with a commitment of thousands of bombers. But they made a single mistake which puzzles me to this clay: They divided their forces and that same night destroyed the Eder Valley dam, although it had nothing whatsoever to do with the supply of water to the Ruhr.

A few days after this attack seven thousand men, whom I had ordered shifted from the Atlantic Wall to the Mohne and Eder areas, were hard at work repairing the dams.

On September 23, 1943, in the nick of time before the beginning of the rains, the breach in the Mohne dam was closed.

We were thus able to collect the precipitation of the late autumn and winter of 1943 for the needs of the following summer. While we were engaged in rebuilding, the British air force missed its second chance. A few bombs would have produced cave-ins at the exposed building sites, and a few more bombs could have set the wooden scaffolding blazing.

Excerpt from, Albert Speer: INSIDE THE THIRD REICH

…  is not only the most significant personal German account to come out of the war but the most revealing document on the Hitler phenomenon yet written. It takes the reader inside Nazi Germany on four different levels: Hitler’s inner circle, National Socialism as a whole, the area of wartime production and the inner struggle of Albert Speer. The author does not try to make excuses, even by implication, and is unrelenting toward himself and his associates… Speer’s full-length portrait of Hitler has unnerving reality. The Führer emerges as neither an incompetent nor a carpet-gnawing madman but as an evil genius of warped conceits endowed with an ineffable personal magic.

New York Times review


May 17, 2013 - Posted by | World War II | , , , , ,

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