Why Did Bomber Command not Follow up on the Dambusters Raid?

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by rosstcorbett, May 24, 2013.

  1. rosstcorbett

    rosstcorbett Member

    The Dambusters raid needs no introduction.

    It was a tactical success that cost the German war effort precious money, materials and man power.

    The water in the Dams were vital for the surrounding War factories and the Germans were in a race against time to repair them as it would have been an absolute catastrophe if they had not been rebuilt in time for the Autumn rains and the on set of winter.

    So why did Bomber Command not follow it up with more raids to disrupt the repair work on the Dams?

    I would love to know your thoughts on this.

  2. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    There are several reasons for that. First of all Air Marshall Arthur Harris commander of RAF Strategic Bomber Command never believed attacks on German industry or specific targets would work in first place. He was eventually convinced that from the beginning that area bombing , mass night bombing and massive fire bombing attacks would defeat Germany in the first place. He dismissed the attacks on crucial targets on German industry , transportation or oil industry or ball bearings convinced they were waste of his resouces. He was eventually ordered by War Cabinet to share his resources for supporting D-Day operations because he believed opening up a Second Front was "unnecessary" Harris was a difficult man. He almost created his own myth , cult and empire (Bomber Harris or Bomber Baron some called him) in Bomber Command. He didn't believe Operation Chastie would work and after the operation , its prestige gained and losses evaluated he decided focusing on German dams would not worth it.

    Then After Operation Chastie Germans of course got strengthened their defences on their remaining hydro electric plants. Number of Luftwaffe AA guns and other defences multplied around dams.
    Fred Wilson likes this.
  3. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    The other day when I was writing about the propaganda that followed the Dambusters raid, there was something mentioned in one of the leaflet newspapers that I thought interesting.

    The line was:

    Even if these dams could be repaired in a few months - which is hardly probable - the flow of the rivers would not be sufficient to make them even partly fit for use by Spring 1944. In fact, two years were necessary to fill the Sorpe reservoir, after its construction.

    If that is what the strategists actually believed then there wouldn't be much justification for follow up attacks, especially if it meant a second low-level dropping of Upkeep with undoubtedly even worse casualties.

  4. Little Friend

    Little Friend Senior Member

    Surely regular ''Nuisance'' raids, by Mosquitos, on the re-building would have prevented the need for any future low-level dropping of Upkeep mines. I've often had similar thoughts about other targets that Bomber Command have paid dearly to attack. After the reconnaisance photographs were evident, why not go back during re-construction and destroy that everytime it started.
  5. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    LF, a few thoughts on your question:

    1. Mosquitos could not carry 'upkeep' - it was too heavy.

    2. 'why not go back during re-construction' much more efficient to wait until reconstruction is complete and then knock it down again.

    3. Repeating a 'one off' raid like Chastise is not very effective. Better to divert enemy rescources for defence IN CASE it is repeated but use your own rescources to better effect on other targets.
  6. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Follow up raids were out of the question as there was to be only one bite of the cherry at a prime target such as strategic dams.After the dams raid the Germans intensified dam defences with improved Ack Ack ......for raids which never materialised.

    There was the account of the local defence commander of the Mohne continually complaining that the air defences were inadequate but to no avail.It was only after the raid and restoration of the damaged works that this was done.The Mohne power plant which was immediately below the dam wall was relocated to a safe distance well away from the wall at the side of the dam discharge lake.

    The element of surprise was no longer with the Allied Air Forces and I would think that any dam targets considered vulnerable would have had their defences uprated. Having said that it is difficult to ascertain if any similar targets were available which would give a return for the resources likely to be committed.

    There was some talk of using a suitable Upkeep weapon delivered by Mosquito against the Tirpitz but in the end conventional bombing put paid to the battleship.

    There was a newsreel showing Mosquito trials using a smaller Upkeep attacking a stationary shipping target
  7. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Just remembered the name of the Mosquito weapon for attacking surface shipping.....it was coded Highball.....same principle as Upkeep but smaller to enable the Mosquito to carry it.
  8. rosstcorbett

    rosstcorbett Member

    I have to agree with 'Little Friend'

    Follow up attacks would not have had to be precision strikes on the Dams with the upkeep, the aim would have been to disrupt the reconstruction of the Dams and regular nuisance attacks on the area by fast flying Mosquito bombers could have done that very effectively.

    This could have cost the Germans more precious materials, time, men and money.

    Having said all of that, as Lee pointed out further up, if the strategists did not believe the Dam could be rebuilt so quickly and could possibly take years for the Dams to refill, then it is very understandable why more attacks did not follow.
  9. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    Come to think of it there was a later follow up attack on the Sorpe with Tallboys was there not?
    Breaching the Sorpe would have been more important than nuisance raids by Mosquitos or Spits on Mohne and Eder.

    Did the Mosquito even have adequate range to get to the Ruhr and back with any worthwhile payload?
  10. Little Friend

    Little Friend Senior Member

    I never suggested using upkeep by Mosquitos, I'm well aware of Highball (Got a video of it) nuisance raids being strafing attacks (Rhubarbs)* against the re-build. Far better to do this than wait for the finished job complete with reinforced defences. * Rodeos being the American term.
  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    I have posted on another thread on this. John Terraine was very critical of the planning for the raid in his history of the RAF in WW2. The raid might have had a strategic impact if they could have knocked out the Sorpe Dam and the Mohne Dam. The Eder Dam had no impact in steel production. But the Sorpe dam was an earth not a masonry dam and not likelyt to be damaged by Upkeep. The Sorpe Dam needed a different type of bomb, one that could penetrate deep into the earth before detonating - like the Earthquake bomb, deigned by Barnes Wallis but not built until 1944. .
  12. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    It was recognised that the Sorpe Dam was a earth dam and so did not have the inherent characteristic, completely different from a "brittle" concrete constructed dam of being vulnerable to a pressure wave.(The main target was the Mohne,GG records 80 tons of water required to manufacture one ton of steel while a documentary records 100 tons/ton of steel). This being so. all aircraft carried the Upkeep to ensure that there was not the possibility of running out of weapons with the Mohne intact.It was the intention of No 5 Group HQ that they would use Ground to Air communication to coordinate the bombing operations as the situation demanded.As it was,GG's coordination via his Air to Air communications,his demand that F.C TR 1143 radio be fitted to all aircraft with two sets, main and standby TR 1143s to be fitted to his and his Flight Commanders, was granted and paid dividends.

    The correct solution for the Sorpe,would be to deliver a large bomb sufficient in weight to penetrate the subsoil adjacent to the dam,anticipating that the subsequent explosion would disrupt the foundations and lead to failure.The crews were instructed to bomb the Sorpe axially,ie in parallel with the dam wall.As stated there was not a large bomb suitable at the time for penetration,the maximum being a 8000lb blast type which in reality was two cookies with the casings welded together...no penetration profile at all.It was not until the attack on the Saumur tunnel after D Day by No 617 Squadron was the Tallboy available and together with the Grand Slam later to be used,that there was a special penetrating bomb available.

    As regards continual focusing on the dams to prevent their use...only one bite of the cherry holds.In February 1943,Bomber Command were planning what was to become the "Battle of the Ruhr".Then the Casablanca Directive was raised,the USAAF from that,raised their Pointblank policy which focused air operations on what were thought better returns.

    The Directive issued to Allied Air Forces and to which Harris and the USAAF complied with, was..."The primary objective will be the progressive destruction of Germany's industrial and economic system and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their resistance is fatally weakened".

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