Apocalypse Now and The Dambusters

What connects the movies Apocalypse Now and The Dambusters? Yes they’re both war films and yes they feature highly in ‘most popular movie’ lists but there is another link, provided by music.

The raid on the Ruhr dams in the Second World War took place on 16/17 May 1943. The RAF’s squadron commander was Guy Gibson, who survived (unlike half his crews) and became a well-known figure, after being awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts.

He was later invited onto a BBC radio programme called Desert Island Discs. One of his musical pieces chosen was “Ride of the Valkyries”, composed by that favourite of Adolf Hitler: Wagner. (Nowadays this choice might be deemed inappropriate, but in those days of war against fascism they had much bigger things to worry about).

Gibson said of the piece: “It reminds me of a bombing raid. Though I don’t say it’s like one.” He died in 1944.

This piece of music was of course central to a memorable scene in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now, used in another aerial attack scene, this one featuring not Lancaster bombers but US army helicopters in a fictional assault on a village.