A good historian is a capable researcher who can explore past events, synthesize what he (or she) discovers and then present both the events and the synthesis in a coherent way. A great historian can do all of those things and tell a damn good story while doing it. Based on Dambusters: The Forging of a Legend (Pen & Sword Books, 2009; 298 pages), Chris Ward and his colleagues, Andy Lee and Andreas Wachtel, are great historians. Dambusters: The Forging of a Legend is both wonderfully engaging and marvelously well researched. As most serious students of the Second World War already know, the Dambusters were the RAF's 617 Squadron. They were a daring small force who accomplished a large number of successful - and difficult - bombing missions during the final two years of the war. From their first mission, bombing several damns in the Ruhr valley in 1943 and through to the end of the war, the Dambusters were thrown at the precision targets that the RAF had to successfully attack. Rarely did 617 Squadron fail. Over the course of the war, their many targets included bridges, U-Boat pens, superguns and, perhaps most notably, the battleship Tirpitz. The Dambusters were led by dynamic men whose leadership was above the bar at a time when leadership was most in need. Their weapons represented state of the art advances in bomb development. They brought "Shock and Awe" before the soldiers of a later war had even coined the phrase. Ward and his team of historians have presented a book that will be hard to put down for anyone who has even the slightest interest in the Second World War, air warfare or dynamic soldiers. In Dambusters: The Forging of a Legend, they explore every mission given to 617 Squadron. Where possible, they tracked down eyewitnesses who gave them first hand observations of the raids. They explore both the English perspective on the actions of the Dambusters and the German perspective on their efforts, including a study of the courts martial that were held following the Dambusters successful destruction of the Tirpitz. Dambusters: The Forging of a Legend would make an outstanding film. Indeed, in reading it, one finds it difficult not to see the exploits of 617 Squadron play through one's mind. If this book is not yet on your Christmas list, you need to add it now.