SOCIAL SCIENCES

Operation Chastise: The RAF’s Most Brilliant Attack of World War II

Harper: HarperCollins. Feb. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9780062953636. $35. HIST
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Hastings (Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945–1975) gives new consideration to Operation Chastise, an attack on German dams by the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron in May 1943. This particular attack, a legendary effort aimed at destroying dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, is considered to be a significant step toward the Allies winning the War. Hastings introduces the primary figures involved in the development and implementation of the attack, such as Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, who are as varied and intriguing as any characters in a historical fiction novel. The author creates a slow buildup to the attack and its aftermath, lauding the heroes involved while dispelling myths about the operation and shedding new insight on the preparation, including the fact that the Royal Air Force identified dams as strategic objects long before 1943.
VERDICT Readers of military history will find much to enjoy in this brisk, propulsive read that keeps the pages turning without sacrificing detail.

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