New HBO Mini-Series: Peter Jackson to Bring Dambusters to the Screen

 
©cobbphoto.com
©cobbphoto.com
 
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Since the operation undoubtedly makes for a good story, it should be no surprise that the Dambusters exploits were made into a movie in 1955.

On May 16, 1943, British forces staged a raid on the Ruhr region of Germany. The area was an industrial center for Adolf Hitler’s war machine — building aircraft, tanks, and ammunition for the Nazi forces.

British bombers had been laying waste to as much of the area as they could, taking down factories, warehouses, and residential neighborhoods alike. This raid, however, was not like the others.

Photograph of the breached Möhne Dam taken by Flying Officer Jerry Fray of No. 542 Squadron from his Spitfire PR IX, six Barrage balloons are above the dam
Photograph of the breached Möhne Dam taken by Flying Officer Jerry Fray of No. 542 Squadron from his Spitfire PR IX, six Barrage balloons are above the dam

Instead of being a broad, blunt attack taking out whatever it could, this attack was carefully designed to take out a choke point in Hitler’s chain of production, making it the forerunner of modern surgical strikes.

The Visit of Hm King George Vi To No 617 Squadron (the Dambusters), Royal Air Force, Scampton, Lincolnshire, 27 May 1943
The Visit of Hm King George Vi To No 617 Squadron (the Dambusters), Royal Air Force, Scampton, Lincolnshire, 27 May 1943

The action was called Operation Chastise, and its goal was to destroy a series of dams, wreaking havoc on the area’s water supply. Its official name might have been Chastise, but history has come to remember it as the Dambusters Raid.

 

There were three dams that were targeted in the operation, and all were heavily protected, according to the Imperial War Museum. Anti-torpedo nets were employed to guard against attacks from the water and anti-aircraft measures protected against attacks from the sky. All the same, the 617 Squadron, which was carrying out the raid, had a secret weapon – bouncing bombs.

A Bouncing Bomb, Duxford UK
A Bouncing Bomb, Duxford UK

The drum-shaped bombs worked a little bit like the way a stone is skipped across the water: if they were dropped from a very precise height at an equally specific rate of speed, they could spin backward across the surface of the water and be driven down the dam’s wall before finally exploding.

 

The operation involved 19 Lancasters that went in three waves, attacking the dams one after another. The planes had to come in low since the bombs needed to be dropped from only about 60 feet above the water. It took five of the aircraft dropping their loads before the first dam fell, but they managed to destroy it.

Those planes which still had bombs attacked the second dam. An hour and a half after the first one collapsed, the second dam was also destroyed. Aircraft from the second and third waves targeted the third and final dam, but they were unsuccessful.

Of the 133 military personnel from five different countries who were involved in the mission, 53 met their end and three more were taken as prisoners of war. Even though the damage to Hitler’s production chain wasn’t as extensive as the Allies had hoped, the mission’s success still gave the British forces a serious boost in morale.

617 Squadron (dambusters) at Scampton, Lincolnshire, 22 July 1943
617 Squadron (dambusters) at Scampton, Lincolnshire, 22 July 1943

The crew members who had been involved in the raid were deemed heroes and given celebrity status for the sheer derring-do of Operation Chastise.

Since the operation undoubtedly makes for a good story, it should be no surprise that the Dambusters exploits were made into a movie in 1955, and then a television movie remake was produced in 2003.

Now, Peter Jackson wants to try his hand at telling the story.

Peter Jackson on the set of the Hobbit
Peter Jackson on the set of the Hobbit

The man behind The Hobbit and The Mortal Engines movies has actually been trying to get the project off the ground for around a decade, but other projects kept getting in the way, according to the Independent.

Christian Rivers, who directed Jackson’s production of The Mortal Instruments and is set to direct The Dam Busters, says that they are trying to convince Jackson to produce the piece as a ten-part mini-series rather than in a straight movie format.

Sir Petere Jackson
Sir Petere Jackson

Rivers believes that the depth of the characters is such that each should be given the opportunity to have their own story, and the 10-episode format is much more common now, thanks to the original-content series being produced by HBO or some of the streaming services.

Jackson believes that the versions of the raid that have been previously produced give an overly romanticized version of what actually happened. Furthermore, the 1955 movie, in particular, had to leave out some things that were still covered under the Official Secrets Act.

Lancaster bomber over Cowes in May 2013
Lancaster bomber over Cowes in May 2013

Read another story from us: “Dambusters” Squadron Member & His Wife Are Given a Full-Blown RAF Send-Off

He also said he believes it was a great story back then but an even greater story now, since that secrecy limitation no longer applies. He gave the example of how, in the original movie, they couldn’t show the way the bomb’s backspin would make it skip over the water because it was still a state secret.

It will be very interesting to see if Jackson can pull off his vision of showing viewers a complex picture of politics, danger, and ingenuity as well as the operation’s flair and boldness.

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