Participant in Dambuster Raids Shares Experiences

The Dambuster raids of World War II were aptly named. These missions, more formally referred to as Operation Chastise, involved the destruction of three German dams in 1943. George Johnson was a bomb aimer at the time, and he may be the only man hailing from Great Britain to survive the famous missions of Ruhr Valley. Johnson, who takes pride only in the fact that he did as he was ordered, has decided to share his experiences in the Dambuster raids with the rest of the world.

Johnson’s task aboard his aircraft was to take aim at the dams they were to bomb, and he was successful as the Sorpe Dam did not stand long against his crew. Between his crew as well as others in their squad, the valley was quickly flooded and the Dambuster raids were declared a success. Unfortunately, the victory was not flawless; Squad 617 would be on the receiving end of heavy return fire, and many would not return from Operation Chastise alive.

There had been eight planes in all which were involved in the bombings. Three were ripped from the air by gunfire, and three were caused to run away. Johnson’s flight was one of only two to truly succeed on their mission. While the Dambuster raids were a technical success, the loss of over one third of the men involved was hardly a cause for celebration. The only morale boost which arose from the success of the mission stemmed from the knowledge that Germany’s morale had been somewhat injured by the attacks.

There were also some spirits boosted over the fact that a relatively small squad of Allies had destroyed massive German landmarks where equipment was being produced. It seemed as if the Allies could accomplish anything if they could carry out an underdog mission such as the Dambuster raids. The decision to bring some of this optimism back around to modern times was a helping factor in Johnson’s decision to put his experiences down in an autobiography, The Telegraph reports.

The raids are detailed in The Last British Dambuster, Johnson’s book which is already available for purchase. Despite the title, Johnson still does not consider himself to be heroic. He considers himself to be one of many men who did their jobs that day, and believes the recognition should go to those that did not make it back home. Hopefully his book on the Dambuster raids will give these men the praise they deserve.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE