T for Tommy attacking the Sorpe Dam
So near and yet so far. My tribute to Squadron Leader George Leonard "Johnny" Johnson, MBE, DFM, RAF (retired), on the occasion of his 100th birthday on 25 November 2021.
Early on 17 May 1943, specially adapted 617 Squadron Lancaster ED825/G AJ-T, "T for Tommy", leaps upwards after finally releasing its 4-ton 'Upkeep' depth charge on the massive concrete and earth Sorpe Dam in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The bomb rolled down the stone face of the dam and detonated 30ft under water. A huge water spout rose over the moonlit scene. The dam cracked but was not destroyed.
The pilot, "Big Joe" McCarthy, an American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force, has made nine previous circuits of the target but either he or Johnson, the bombardier, were not satisfied they had got the right line of attack. The dam was undefended but had higher ground on both sides. Unlike the attacks that night on the Möhne and Eder dams, this had to be approached along the dam wall rather than at right angles, because of its different construction; the bomb was not spinning and did not bounce. They lined up the port outer engine over the roadway on top of the dam and got down to an estimated 30 feet (9m) before both were satisfied and Johnson got the store away, much to the relief of the whole crew.