One of the Famous Dambusters’ Pilots Was An American

One American Pilot in the RAF Squadron that Bombed Ruhr Dams. they became known as the “Dambuster Squadron”

 

“…chisel-jawed American pilot Joe McCarthy circled over the heart of Nazi Germany’s industrial machine.” (photo taken 1944 courtesy of Joe McCarthy, Jr.)

comment on his American pilot from interview with John “Johnny” Johnson, last survivor of the famous Dambusters from the Bristol Post of 13 May 2013

Photograph of the breached Möhne Dam taken by Flying Officer Jerry Fray of No. 542 Squadron from his Spitfire PR IX, six Barrage balloons are above the dam
Flying Officer Jerry Fray RAF – Chris Staerck (editor), Allied Photo Reconnaissance of World War II (1998)

 

 

Joe McCarthy (right) with his good friend Don Curtin two days after Don had been awarded the DFC in the fall of 1942. Sadly, F/L Donald Joe Curtin DFC and Bar was lost on a raid to Nuremberg on 25 February 1943.

 

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Dambusters American pilot Joe McCarthy

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Then Flight Lieutenant RAF, American Joseph Charles “Joe” McCarthy DSO DFC and BAR, being introduced by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC to His Majesty King George VI after the Dambusters’ Raid.

Comments Charles McCain: “Joe McCarthy had made his way to Canada before the USA became a belligerent in World War Two and joined the Royal Canadian Air force. Many RAF bomber crews were comprised of men from different parts of the empire including the Royal Australia Air Force, Royal New Zealand, etc. So McCarthy was officially in the Royal Canadian Air Force but the only way to know that would have been a small patch on the standard RAF uniform which said, “Canada”.

Also, after they completed training and were dispatched to the manning depots, the men self-selected into their bomber crews. On a specific day, the command would put all the different men in their different specialties in one large hanger and they would mill about until they had found a crew they liked. The higher-ups never got involved.”

Harlo ‘Terry’ Taerum (left), Guy Gibson (centre-front) and Joe McCarthy (right).

As the war went on, however, the Canadian Government insisted that squadrons be formed in which the bombers had all Canadian crews. (All Canadian in armed forces in WW Two were volunteers). Of course, the British complied.

Unlike the other self-governing Dominions of the British Empire, the Canadians didn’t want to mix in their men in either Bomber Command or the Royal Navy. They created their own navy, the Royal Canadian Navy. Unfortunately, without the presence of the highly skilled and trained Royal Navy or Royal Navy Reserve or experienced Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve officers, their navy took several critical years to achieve even the lowest level of competence.

After the war, Joe McCarthy became a Canadian citizen and enjoyed a successful career in the Royal Canadian Air Force. You can read more about him here:

http://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/s,joemccarthy.html

 

LEST WE FORGET

133 RAF aircrew participated in the Dambusters attack. Of those, 53 lost their lives–a casualty rate of almost 40 percent. The dead were all young men in the prime of their lives. 

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

From the poem

Here Dead We Lie

by A.E. Housman

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copyright (c) 2018 by Charles McCain. Posted by writer Charles McCain, author of the World War Two naval epic:

An Honorable German.

SAYS NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR NELSON DeMILLE

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Lancaster Best RAF Strategic Bomber World War Two

Lancaster Best RAF Strategic Bomber World War Two. It was the addition of the “Lanc” to RAF Bomber command which gave the command such hitting power.

 

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AVRO Lancaster

the photo above from the official  Royal Air Force history site which you can below.

https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/

“Born out of the failure that was the Manchester, the Lancaster has become the one bomber most associated with the RAF night offensive over Germany.” RAF

 

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Avro Lancasters of No. 50 Squadron (No. 5 Group), based at Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire, UK. These wartime aircraft carry the exhaust shrouds intended to conceal the exhaust flames from night fighters

Lancaster B Mark Is of No 50 Squadron, Royal Air Force, based at Skellingthorpe, flying in a spread formation. The two aircraft beyond the wing tip are ‘VN-D’ and ‘VN-J’ the former, serial number JA899, was missing on the night of 24 – 25 June 1944 with Pilot Officer L G Peters and crew.

Official RAF photo Imperial War Museum

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A Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster I (s/n NG128, coded “SR-B”) of No. 101 Sqn out of Ludford Magna and flown by Fg Off R.B. Tibbs as part of a thousand-bomber raid, dropping its load over Duisburg, Germany, on 14-15 October 1944.

Note the large aerials on top of the Lancaster’s fuselage, indicating that the aircraft is carrying ‘Airborne Cigar’ (ABC), a jamming device which disrupted enemy radiotelephone channels. Over 2,000 sorties were dispatched to the city of Duisburg during 14-15 October 1944, in order to demonstrate the RAF Bomber Command’s overwhelming superiority in German skies (“Operation Hurricane”).

Left image: the Lancaster releases bundles of ‘Window’ over the target during a special daylight raid on Duisburg. Right image: a fraction of a second later, the aircraft releases the main part of its load, a 4000lb HC “cookie” and 108 30lb “J” incendiaries. Official RAF Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum.

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Sergeant H H Turkentine, the bomb aimer on board an Avro Lancaster B Mark I of No. 57 Squadron RAF, at his position in the nose of the aircraft. Sergeant Turkentine were killed with the rest of the crew of Lancaster R5894 ‘ DX-T’ (“T for Tommy”) when it collided with high tension cables near Scampton upon returning from a raid on Berlin in the early morning of 2 March 1943.  Official RAF Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum

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Flight -Sergeant J Morgan, the rear gunner of an Avro Lancaster of No 630 Squadron RAF at East Kirkby, Lincolnshire, checks his guns in the Nash & Thompson FN120 tail turret before taking off on a night raid on the marshaling yards at Juvisy-sur-Orge, France.

Official RAF Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum

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The bomb load used for industrial demolition (Bomber Command executive codeword ‘Abnormal’), loaded in the bomb-bay of an Avro Lancaster of No. 9 Squadron RAF at Bardney, Lincolnshire, before a night raid on Stettin, Germany. ‘Abnormal’ consisted of 14 x 1,000-lb MC high-explosive bombs.

Official RAF Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum

From the official history site of the Royal Air Force:

“When it became clear to Avro’s Chief Designer, Roy Chadwick, in 1938 that the new Rolls Royce Vulture engines intended for the Manchester were suffering from a lack of development, the company set about revising the design to include an additional pair of engines, preferably the well-proven Merlin. As a matter of fact, so dire was the Manchester situation that the Ministry of Aircraft production seriously considered scrapping the production line at the Avro factory at Newton Heath in Manchester after its contract for 200 Manchesters had been completed, and switch to the rival Handley Page design, the Halifax.

 

Lancaster in flight RAF history

Lancasters in flight

Fortunately, the plan never came to fruition and Avro was allowed to continue development of the Manchester III (the name Lancaster had not yet been chosen).

In September 1940, a contract was signed with Avro for two prototype aircraft, the first of which was to fly within four months. To do this, Avro was to use as many existing Manchester components as possible to reduce cost and the timescale. Within a month, Avro had prepared the requisite technical drawings for the Lancaster and things progressed smoothly with the first flight being made on 9 January 1941.

 

Lancaster_B_MkI_44_Sqn_RAF_in_flight_1942

Three Avro Lancaster B.Is of No. 44 Squadron, Royal Air Force, based at Waddington, Lincolnshire (UK), flying above the clouds.

The first aircraft was very much a hybrid design, and a more representative aircraft followed in May 1941. The second prototype had larger tail fins, a new undercarriage and improved Merlin engines and the true potential of the aircraft could now be tested. Test flying continued throughout the summer and the first production Lancaster I was flown on the last day of October 1941.

 

The first Lancaster squadron was No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron, based at Waddington and commanded by Wing Commander RAB Learoyd VC and deliveries commenced on Christmas Eve 1941. Shortly after, No 97 Squadron traded in its Hampdens for Lancasters and both units commenced their operational work-up. By May 1942, No 44 Squadron was ready for operations and during the night of 10th/11th March 1942, a number of its aircraft took part in a raid on Essen.

Barely a month later, Lancasters from both Nos 44 and 97 Squadrons, had carried out a daring, low-level daylight attack on the MAN diesel engine factory at Augsburg, deep in Germany. A number of diversionary raids in northern France partially failed to draw enemy fighters away from the Lancaster’s route further south and as result four aircraft from the twelve involved were shot down before reaching the target.

The remaining aircraft successfully attacked, with a number of direct hits being achieved, but three further aircraft failed to return. Only one aircraft of the six despatched from No 44 Squadron survived – that of Squadron Leader JD Nettleton, the squadron commander. For his leadership, Nettleton was awarded the Victoria Cross.

 

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Flying Officer J B Burnside, the flight engineer on board an Avro Lancaster B Mark III of No. 619 Squadron RAF based at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, checks settings on the control panel from his seat in the cockpit. Official RAF Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum

Throughout the remainder of 1942, the transition to Lancasters in Bomber Command was relatively slow, but the increase in the total tonnage of bombs in operations was increasing rapidly because of the ability of the Lancaster to carry bombs greater than the 4,000lb High Capacity (the only aircraft that could do so)…

Elsewhere in Bomber Command, the Lancaster continued on more mundane duties (including minelaying). The Battles of the Hamburg, the Ruhr, and Berlin in 1943 and early 1944, the famous attack on the V1 establishment at Peenemünde in August 1943 were some of the high points of the Lancaster’s service.

At the other end of the scale, over 60 Lancasters alone were lost during the raid on Nuremberg in March 1944. Almost half of all Lancasters delivered during the war (3,345 out of 7,373) were lost on operations with the loss of over 21,000 crew members.

The basic Lancaster, the B.I was such an excellent airframe, that few changes were made to improve it. The B.II was a Bristol Hercules-powered variant built to counter possible supply problems with the Merlins; the B.III was powered by improved Merlins and, along with the B.I, the standard mount of many Lancaster squadrons. The final version built in significant numbers was the Mark X which was built under license in Canada.

Of those 7,000+ aircraft built, only two airworthy examples exist as a tribute to the many thousands who lost their lives in Bomber Command; one with the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the second based in Canada.”

 

 

US Bomber Emerging From Smoke After Raid

B-24 Liberator “the Sandman” Emerging From Smoke During raid On Ploesti Oil Field in Romania; THEN ALLIED TO NAZI GERMANY.
THIS FIELD SUPPLIED IMMENSE AMOUNTS OF PETROLEUM PRODUCTS TO WEHRMACHT 

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Aug. 1, 1943. The Sandman,  a US Army Air Force B-24 Liberator from the 98th Bomb Group of the 9th Air Force, piloted by Major Robert Sternfels, shown emerging from a cloud of smoke as it barely clears the stacks of the Astra Romana refinery during the disastrous American raid on the Romania oil fields at Ploesti.

(caption and photo courtesy of the National Museum of the US Air Force. The photo was taken by Jerry J. Joswick, the only survivor of the 16 cameramen of the operation)

 

Unfortunately, Not the Most Successful Action of the War

Since US Army Air Force doctrine stipulated high-altitude precision bombing, pilots had little experience in low-level missions. And this was a low-level mission.  Several months prior to the attack, aircrews and aircraft were sent to Libya and trained day after day in flying fifty feet off the ground or lower while in formation.

Coming in at low altitude was the key tactical element in the plan of attack on the refineries and associated facilities at the oil fields in Ploesti, Romania. These oil fields were Nazi Germany’s main source of oil, supplying almost 40% of the total. As such, Ploesti was the most heavily defended target against air attack in the entire Nazi empire. (Romania was a staunch ally of Nazi Germany).

The USAAF suffered terrible losses. Of the 177 B-24s on the raid, 53 were lost, most on the raid, some of which crashed and a handful interned in neutral Turkey. Official US Air Force casualty figures are as follows:  310 aircrewmen were killed, 108 were captured by the Axis, and 78 were interned in Turkey.

 

Despite the extreme heroism of the airmen and their determination to press the mission home, the results… were less than expected…. the attack temporarily eliminated about 3,925,000 tons (of petroleum production), roughly 46 percent of total annual production at Ploesti.

Unfortunately…these losses were temporary and much less than the planners had hoped for. The Germans proved capable of repairing damage and restoring production quickly, and they had been operating the refineries at less than full capacity, anyway.

Ploesti thus had the ability to recover rapidly. The largest and most important target, Astro Romana, was back to full production within a few months…”

 

Source: Fact sheet on low level bombing of Ploesti August 1943, US Air Force Historical Office. You can find the entire fact sheet here:

http://www.afhso.af.mil/topics/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=17993

Coastal Command Maintains Constant Vigilance

Royal Air Force 1939-1945- Coastal Command

A Mosquito of the Banff Strike Wing in action in the Kattegat on 5 April 1945.

A Mosquito of the Banff Strike Wing in action in the Kattegat on 5 April 1945. There the Mosquitos discovered a convoy of seven ships evacuating Germans troops back to the Fatherland. In the ensuing attack a flak ship and a trawler were sunk, but one No 235 Squadron Mosquito struck a mast and spun into the sea, killing its crew. Losses among the embarked German troops were heavy. (photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

 

 

ROYAL AIR FORCE COASTAL COMMAND, 1939-1945. (CH 314) Two Lockheed Hudson Mark Is of No. 206 Squadron RAF based at Bircham Newton, Norfolk, flying at low-level over the North Sea during a reconnaissance sortie by five aircraft of the Squadron to observe the movements of German warships in the Heligoland Bight area. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205190911

 

RAF Coastal Command was known as the “Cinderella Service” since they received nothing but hand me down aircraft from Bomber Command and anyone else they could find to scrouge aircraft. The planes pictured above are Lockheed Hudson’s orignally built for the Royal Air Force.

ROYAL AIR FORCE COASTAL COMMAND, 1939-1945. (CH 282) Lockheed Hudson Mark I, P5120 ‘VX-C’, of No 206 Squadron RAF based at Bircham Newton, Norfolk, on a patrol over the North Sea. This aircraft was written off in a landing accident at Bircham Newton on 20 June 1940. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205190910

 

While useful, the planes were slow, 246 mph or 397 km/h, and range limited, 1,960 miles or 3,150 km. Keep in mind these specifications are for a properly maintained aircraft operating under good conditions. In operational service, I presume they were marked down for a range of 1600 miles. That would be 800 miles out over the ocean and 800 miles back. Even then, in bad weather, that would be pushing it.

 

ROYAL AIR FORCE COASTAL COMMAND, 1939-1945. (CH 339) The wireless operator/air gunner of a Lockheed Hudson Mark I of No. 206 Squadron RAF based at Bircham Newton, Norfolk, signals with an Aldis lamp to four other aircraft of the Squadron to ‘close formation’ while returning from a reconnaissance sortie in the Heligoland Bight area. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205208466

Communications were problematic. Given the crewman isn’t on oxygen and is wearing a short sleeve shirt, the plane must be flying low and it must be summer.

ROYAL AIR FORCE COASTAL COMMAND, 1939-1945. (CH 296) The interior of a Lockheed Hudson Mk I of No. 206 Squadron RAF, June 1940. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205208462

 

In the first years of the war the main task of Coastal Command was maritime patrol and reconnasiance of the seas surrounding Great Britain.  This task included attacking U-Boats, protecting Channel convoys, protecting Atlantic convoys, and occasional search and rescue.

 

ROYAL AIR FORCE COASTAL COMMAND, 1939-1945. (C 3691) An airborne lifeboat is parachuted by a Lockheed Hudson of No. 279 Squadron RAF to the crew of a USAAF Boeing B-17 who had difficulty in getting into their dinghy after making a forced landing in the North Sea. 279 Squadron were based at Bircham Newton, Norfolk, at this time. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205023209

 

ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: COASTAL COMMAND (CH 7501) Sunderland II W3984/RB-S of No 10 Squadron RAAF, October 1942. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205218958

 

The demands placed on Coastal Command were far beyond its capabilities as the pilots lacked training and the entire command suffered from a lack of aircraft and ground support. Finally, Coastal Command was placed under the tactical command of the Royal Navy in late 1940 and slow improvement began. But it took a long time.

 

THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC 1939 – 1945 (CH 7504) Allied Aircraft: A Short Sunderland Mk II flying boat of 10 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, used for reconnaissance and anti-U-boat duties Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194548

One of the mainstays of Coastal Command in the early years was the Short Sunderland flying boat. (The plane was built by Short Brothers, Ltd. ‘Short’ is not a reference to the size of the plane)

The pilots and air crew performed a monotonous mission well. There were many crews who flew thousands of hours of reconnaisance patrols and never saw anything during the entire war. The ocean is a big place.

ROYAL AIR FORCE COASTAL COMMAND, 1939-1945. (CH 413) The two side-gunners in a Short Sunderland Mark I of No. 10 Squadron RAAF, mount watch from their positions by the open dorsal hatches mid-way along the fuselage, during a flight. Two .303 Vickers K-type gas-operated guns were usually fitted in these positions during operations Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205208474
THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC 1939-1945 (CH 13997) Anti-Submarine Weapons: Leigh Light used for spotting U-boats on the surface at night fitted to a Liberator aircraft of Royal Air Force Coastal Command. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194543

 

From the website historyofwar.org:  “The Leigh Light was developed to solve a problem with anti-submarine radar during the Second World War. By 1941 the British had developed radar systems capable of detecting a surfaced U-boat, but interference from the surface of the sea meant that the radar signal would be lost during the final attack run.

The solution to this problem was to fit a bright light to the attacking aircraft. [A design] … by Squadron Leader Humphrey de Verd Leigh, used a controllable spotlight suspended below the belly of the aircraft….”

The blinding white Leigh light was often the last thing a UBoat kommandant saw before depth charges were dropped on top of him.

THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC 1939-1945 (CH 14001) Anti-Submarine Weapons: A Royal Air Force Liberator illuminated by a Leigh Light on the airfield at St Eval. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194544