tHIS REMEMBRANCE DAY offers the opportunity to recall one of the most heroic, yet overlooked, Canadian Second World War successes. On May 16 and 17, 1943, 19 crews of 133 Allied airmen – including Canadians – flew Lancaster bombers at treetop level into the heart of Nazi Germany where they dropped specially designed bombs on to the Ruhr Valley dams, wiping out the power source for German weapons productions. Fourteen Canadians were counted among the 53 Allied men killed during the raid.
“This extraordinary operation … took place when the Allies had no victories to their credit [and] turned the tide to a certain extent in the war because this was a victory to breach those dams,” Canadian journalist and historian Ted Barris notes. “Water flooded down the river … destroying those munitions plants and airfields and all the Nazi build-up for 100 miles. And nobody realizes this is a Canadian op.”
Barris adds that, aside from the Canadian airmen involved in the attack, “all of the training of air crew, bomber crews, fighter crews, ground crews, transport crews, coastal command, everybody was trained in Canada … so it’s a Canadian story from its roots to its treetops.”
The 69-year-old award-winning military historian chronicles the entire operation in his 18th bestselling non-fiction book Dam Busters: Canadian Airmen and the Secret
Raid Against Nazi Germany –a harrowing tale 75 years in the making that includes the first-hand account of Canada’s last surviving dam buster, Fred Sutherland.
Meanwhile, 2018 marks the conclusion of Canadian actor R.H. Thomson’s five-year project, The World Remembers, which began in 2014 and projects the names of soldiers killed in the First World War onto public and government buildings in North America and Europe in the weeks and months leading up to Nov. 11. This year, the names of the more than one million soldiers from 16 participating nations killed in 1918 will be projected, marking the centennial milestone of the Great War.
“War is about the individual: they fought it, they paid for it, they were killed in it, and they are who we should remember,” Thomson told Zoomer. “All those lives were equal and all those deaths were equal.”