This is the part of The Dambusters’ Raid that we all know.
In 1943 the British mounted an attack on three German Dams.
These dams supplied much of the hydro electricity for the German war machine.
The dams couldn’t be breached by high level bombing.
They couldn’t be breached by low level bombing.
They couldn’t even be breached by torpedo attack.
(They had anti-torpedo nets protecting the dams.)
But eventually the inventor Barnes Wallis found a way.
He invented a bouncing bomb.
This would spin as it was dropped.
The way a pebble can be skimmed across water.
So it would bounce several times across the surface of the lake.
And it would bounce over the anti-torpedo nets.
It would hit the dam and sink to the bottom.
Where it would explode, with the effect of a bomb many times larger.
This was a very complicated proposition.
It involved flying a four-engine, 30-ton aircraft.
At 250 mph.
60 feet above the ground.
For 8 hours.
The modern equivalent would be flying a jumbo jet, non-stop from London to Chicago, at the height of your house.
In fact 8 of the 19 planes were destroyed.
Several by hitting power lines before they even got there.
And that was the easy part.
That was just getting there and back.
Actually delivering the bombs was infinitely more difficult.
But, as we know, it got done.
Two of the three dams were destroyed.
German production was disrupted and the war was shortened.
So the raid was a huge success.
Well, yes and no.
Here’s the bit we don’t usually hear.
German hydro-electricity was back to normal within two weeks.
So was German war production.
Barely a hiccup.
So why was the raid hailed as such a success?
Why was the leader of the raid feted as a hero?
Why did he go on a speechmaking tour of the USA?
Well actually, Winston Churchill had a much bigger purpose for the raid than just the dams.
Churchill was in charge of a small country sitting between two massive superpowers.
Russia and America.
How were these giants supposed to take tiny little Britain seriously?
The Red Army alone put over six million soldiers in the field.
The fighting on the eastern Front left thirty million dead.
Why would Stalin and Roosevelt bother to discuss their war aims with Churchill?
What could a pygmy nation like his bring to the party?
And this is where Churchill found the strategic use for RAF Bomber Command.
With only 50,000 men, Churchill could say that Britain was doing what the USSR couldn’t do.
They were taking the war to the heart of Germany.
They were destroying the homes and factories of the Wehrmacht.
Opening up a second front to divert valuable war resources away from the Eastern Front.
And, at the same time, Churchill could impress the USA with Britain’s aggression in taking out targets they thought were invincible.
Thereby persuading the Americans that we were holding up our end of the war.
Doing our share of the fighting and killing and dying.
Not leaving it all down to them.
Convincing the Americans and Russians that we were valuable allies.
And deserved a place alongside them in planning the war.
And planning the post-war world.
That’s the part we never hear about the Dambusters’ Raid.
The far, far bigger strategic effect.
To put it in our terms, Churchill was in marketing.
RAF Bomber Command was in advertising.
Advertising is the most visible part of marketing.
But it isn’t always the whole job.
Often, there’s a lot going on that we don’t see.