Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Gibson, Guy Penrose (1918–1944)

British air force officer and commander of Number 617 Squadron, the "Dam Busters." Born on 12 August 1918 in Simla, India, Guy Gibson traveled to England at age six for schooling and later entered St. Edward's, Oxford. He left school early and joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) in November 1936. Promoted to acting pilot officer in January 1937, Gibson joined Bomber Command Number 83 Squadron. He took part in the July 1940 strike against the Kiel Canal. He went on to fly 172 sorties and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Following the 1940 Battle of Britain, Gibson transferred to Fighter Command as a night-fighter pilot. He flew 99 missions and was credited with 6 enemy aircraft downed. In 1943, Gibson was selected to train a new unit for "special duties." The unit became Number 617 Squadron, popularized as the "Dam Busters" and formed to drop Sir Barnes Wallis's skip-bombs on the Möhne, Eder, Schwelme, and Sorps dams in Germany. On 16 May 1943, Gibson personally led the first squadron of 19 Lancaster aircraft in five attempts to breach the Möhne River dam. He made his bomb run first and then descended low, circling to draw German antiaircraft fire. Only 11 of the bombers survived this mission and another mission the following day, and only 2 of the dams were destroyed, but Gibson became an international celebrity and was awarded the Victoria Cross. Beginning in August 1943, he promoted the British war effort in a four-month publicity tour of the United States. Gibson returned to Number 5 Bomber Group, Bomber Command in June 1944. On 19 September 1944, Gibson was piloting a de Haviland Mosquito on a pathfinding mission when he was shot down and killed in action near Bergen-op-Zoom, the Netherlands.

Enemy Coast Ahead, Gibson's account of the Dam Busters, was published in 1946 and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. That book and the 1954 motion picture The Dam Busters, based on the book by Paul Brickhill, further enhanced Gibson's reputation as an effective and resourceful leader.

Gary Kerley


Further Reading
Brickhill, Paul. The Dam Busters. London: Evans Brothers, 1951.; Cooper, Alan. Born Leader: The Story of Guy Gibson, Dambuster. London: Independent Books, 1993.; Gibson, Guy. Enemy Coast Ahead. London: M. Joseph, 1946.; Morris, Richard. Guy Gibson. London: Viking, 1994.
 

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