617 Squadron was a special duties squadron of the RAF, formed in 1942 with a view to high-accuracy use of experimental weapons, such as Barnes Wallis's bouncing bomb. 617 were in 5 bomber group, under the command of 'Bomber' Harris and Lord Beaverbrook.
Their first ever mission is without a doubt their most famous, despite being a pyrrhic victory: out of 21 aircraft (each of which carried seven crew), only nine returned. However, with their sacrifice, they were able to destroy both the Mohne and Eder dams of the highly industrialised Ruhr Valley, although failing to destroy the Sorpe.
Yet this is not their only battle honour, and they deserve to be equally remembered for their other achievements. They were instrumental in the battle for naval supremacy, using Wallis's 'tallboy' 6 ton bomb to pierce the concrete U-boat pens that proliferated along the north coast of Europe. Moreover, they, still using the tallboy and the SABS bomb sight, sunk the Tirpitz, Germany's last 'pocket battleship'.
They also played a crucial role in the D-Day landings. Flying at low altitude in tight formation to within three seconds of their E.T.A., they dropped bundles of 'window', sheets of metal, designed to fool radar. It worked. The Germans believed that the main invasion force was heading to the other side of the Cap D'Antifer.
They were also to be part of Tiger Force, the combined British-American invasion force of Japan, scheduled for 1946. However, President Truman's decision to drop the bomb made this unnecessary, and the squadron were stood down from their battle ready state. Their last ever mission was to bomb Hitler's country home, the 'Eagle's Nest'. Although he was not at home, several units of his personal guard were, and various buildings were destroyed with a selection of 1000-pounders, 2000 and 4000 lb bombs.
The squadron, over their history, won more Victoria Crosses (VC) than any other single unit in history.