After rendezvousing with other first wave aircraft, Gibson manoeuvred into position and announced, “I am going in to attack.” His navigator, Terry Taerum, took his position on the starboard side of the cockpit and turned on the altitude-measuring lights. Fred Spafford, the bomb aimer, prepared to release the weapon and John Pulford, the flight engineer monitored the speed. As the Lancaster hurtled towards the dam at 230 miles per hour the lights made the huge aircraft an easy target and it came under fire from enemy guns in the sluice towers on the sides of the dam.
Gibson’s bouncing bomb was delivered slightly short of the target. It exploded creating a huge tower of water and spray. After the mist subsided Hopwood attacked. His Lancaster came under heavy fire as it approached the dam, any element of surprise having been lost. The bomb bounced over the dam and destroyed the power station. The aircraft struggled to gain altitude and two of the crew were able to escape, but it then exploded.
“Stand by chaps. I’m going to look the place over.”
– W/C Gibson
“Get out you bloody fool. If only I had another 300 feet -I can’t get any more height.”
– F/L Hopgood
As Gibson flew beside him to draw some of the enemy’s fire, F/L Martin released his weapon but it veered off course. However the Lancasters piloted by S/L H.M. Young and F/L David Maltby placed their bouncing bombs perfectly and the dam crumbled. W/C Gibson then led the remaining aircraft to the Eder Dam.
“I’ll fly across the dam as you make your run and try and draw the flak off you.”
– W/C Gibson
“The crown of the wall was already crumbling. . .there was a breach in the centre.”
– F/L Maltby
“Our load sent up water and mud to a height of a thousand feet. The spout of water was silhouetted against the moon. It rose with tremendous speed and then gently fell back.”
– F/L Maltby
“I have vivid memories of seeing a huge sheet of water as the dam gave way.”
– F/Sgt. Tom Simpson (S/L Young’s rear gunner)
“Again the lake quaked and a gigantic wave came over the wall. The wall had been breached and relentlessly the water began to run into the valley. The planes banked away.”
– Karl Schutte (German anti-aircraft gunner)
“I came (to the Mohne Dam) from Balve five hours after the raid. . .I stopped the car and realized there was no water. I realized that something terrible must have happened . . .There was a big hole in the wall.”
– Hans Werner Konig (Head of the Association of Ruhr Reservoirs)