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Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Dam Busters

I've heard the story for years and I knew about the giant spinning bomb, but I had never seen the movie until this week. As a movie it was so-so. The special effects were not exactly cheesy, but they were nothing to write home about either. Of course, it is an old movie, 1955 to be exact, and there were no computers, much less any CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), but the clips of the bomb being dropped on the test runs were really something! No special effects there, that was the real deal. It is surprising to see this big, heavy bomb bounce off the water, not just once, but several times. Like Art Arfons says: at 60 MPH water is as hard as concrete. When Wallis (the bomb's inventor) is asked where he got the idea he responds with "Nelson", and something about how he liked to bounce the cannonballs off the water (a "Yorker") on their way to the enemy as a method of insuring maximum damage, or some such (just after the 1:01:15 mark on Netflix). Lucky Jack Aubrey (the hero of Patrick O'Brian's sea stories) was always talking about Nelson, and forever reminiscing about the time Nelson asked him to "pass the butter" at a dinner they both attended. Here it is, 150 years later, and they are still talking about him. As long as there is an England they will no doubt continue to talk about him.

For those of you who don't know the story: During WWII the British sent a squadron of 19 Lancaster bombers, each equipped with one 10 ton bomb, to attack three German dams. The whole mission was done at tree-top level. They were so low that two planes were lost when they collided with electrical power lines. A total of eight planes were lost. Two of the dams were breached which caused extensive flooding and damage. Failure to follow up on these raids meant that Germany suffered only a temporary setback. The raid's biggest success was its' moral boost for the British.

When I watch Science Fiction movies that include space ships I am often bothered by the obviously bogus equipment employed in these ships. Come back to the present. This movie had enough alien equipment in it to qualify it as Science Fiction, and it is only 50 years and a few thousand miles removed from my present location. The English really do have a peculiar way of making things.

One highlight of the movie was the squadron commander's dog, a black dog by the name of Nigger. I couldn't believe it when I first heard it, after all, you just can't say that word anymore. Evidently it was a fairly common name for a black dog back then, in England at any rate, much like Blacky would be for a dog now, or can you even call a dog Blacky anymore?


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