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NOVA: Bombing Hitler’s Dams

Airs Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Blowing the dam at a test site in Canada, from NOVA's "Bombing Hitler's Dams."

In 1943 a squadron of Lancaster bombers staged one of the most audacious raids in history — destroying two gigantic dams in Germany’s industrial heartland and cutting the water supply to arms factories — with a revolutionary bouncing bomb invented by British engineer Barnes Wallis. Wallis and the pilots of 617 Squadron dealt a mighty blow to the German war machine.

The Buffalo Airways DC4 waits on the tarmac ahead of the raid.
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Above: The Buffalo Airways DC4 waits on the tarmac ahead of the raid.

Nazis and the Bomb

How close was Hitler to developing a nuclear weapon? Read the article by Mark Walker.

In "Bombing Hitler's Dams," NOVA re-creates the extreme engineering challenges faced by Wallis and the pilots with the aid of six spectacular experiments. Each represents a technical challenge that the “Dambusters” had to solve to make their mission a success.

A team of experts — from dam engineers to explosives specialists — steps into the shoes of the Dambusters.

They will adapt a vintage World War II DC4 to carry a bomb the size of an oil drum; train to drop it from a dangerously low altitude in pitch darkness; get it to bounce over obstacles and onto the target; and finally, at a test site in Canada with a 1:6 scale model of one of the German dams, try to repeat history.

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Preview: NOVA: Bombing Hitler's Dams

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Avatar for user 'TomRose'

TomRose | January 11, 2012 at 7:50 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

While I did fairly enjoy the story and the filming of it, I was struck by what an utter waste of time this was. Unlike recreating ancient weaponry or bringing Leonardo's inventions to life, what is the point of trying to figure out the secrets of haphazard bombing in the age of pinpoint weaponry? What's the benefit?

I'd have to say that it was only for the enrichment of the various people involved. I also learned that plenty of brave men died in the original attempt, which did little to end the war. So it was just as big a waste of time then, with tragic losses on both sides

I can honestly say I've never felt regret for watching NOVA before. But this was two hours of my life I can never get back. That was a first.

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Avatar for user 'TexPhoto'

TexPhoto | February 12, 2012 at 10:20 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Have to agree with TomRose. And what about the huge environmental cost of this.

A seemingly pristine lake in Canada was dug up and bombed to prove what exactly? That this thing that was done 60 years ago with slide rules and pencils could be done with computers? Seriously?

And this is NOVA!!???

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