Johnny Johnson Cause of Death – The last surviving Dambuster died at the age of 101.
George Leonard ‘Johnny’ Johnson was a key figure in the historic raid of 1943.
He died peacefully at his care home in Westbury on Trym, Bristol, surrounded by his family.
During WWII, the retired Royal Air Force officer worked as a bomb aimer during Operation Chastise, which was tasked with attacking German dams.
Mr Johnson was only 22 when he took part in the raid as a member of the RAF’s 617 Squadron.
The bouncing bomb attacks released thousands of tonnes of water into areas of the Ruhr Valley that were critical to Germany’s war effort.
Mr Johnson’s job was to hit the Sorpe Dam, and he demanded nine dummy runs to ensure he did.
The operation is remembered as one of the most successful aerial assaults of World War II.
In June 1940, Mr Johnson enlisted in the Royal Air Force. He met his wife, Gwynn, before the Dambusters raid, who died in 2005.
Mr Johnson’s first mission was in August 1942, and he completed bomb aimer training in November of that year.
He completed a tour with 97 Squadron and then transferred to 617 Squadron for the highly-secret Operation Chastise, which took place on the night of May 16-17 in 1943.
Drawing on hand-picked crews from Britain, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, the squadron’s mission was to damage several dams that provided a vital source of power to Germany’s industrial region
The bouncing bombs themselves were developed by aircraft engineer Barnes Wallis.
The Dambusters had to fly at a height of 60ft in order for the specially-adapted mines they were carrying, codenamed Upkeep, to bounce over the water before hitting the dam walls and sinking 30ft.
The mines would then explode, breaching the dam walls and dumping millions of tonnes of water into the valleys below.
The Dambusters got their practice in by flying over the Derwent reservoir and a dam in the Lake District.
On the night of May 16, 1943, 19 Lancaster bombers piloted by Wing Commander Guy Gibson took off for Germany with the goal of destroying the dams at Mohne, Eder, and Sorpe.
Each bomb weighed four tonnes.
Their mission was hailed a success after two of the dams, the Eder and the Mohne, were breached, releasing 300 million tonnes of water.
With the Sorpe dam, it was decided because of the way it had been built that it needed to be targeted directly, rather than with bouncing bombs.
Mr Johnson’s team were given no time to practice but he still had to hit the dam’s wall. Much to his crew’s annoyance, he insisted that they fly over the dam nine times before dropping the bomb on the tenth run.
The team did hit the dam, but it wasn’t breached. However, the water released by the two breached dams damaged 92 Nazi factories and destroyed a further 12.
Overall, 133 Allied aircrew took part – 90 from the RAF, 29 from the Royal Canadian Air Force, 12 from the Royal Australian Air Force and two from the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
A total of 53 servicemen lost their lives and another three were taken captive.
The squadron’s bravery earned it 33 decorations, including the Victoria Cross for Wing Commander Gibson.
It was also credited with providing a major boost for the morale of troops, and in 1955 led to the film The Dam Busters, starring Sir Michael Redgrave.
Following the mission, Mr Johnson flew 18 more missions with 617 Squadron until April 1944, when his commanding officer, Flight Lieutenant Joe McCarthy, discovered Mr Johnson’s wife was pregnant and ordered him to stand down.
Mr Johnson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal at Buckingham Palace and spent the remainder of the war in training roles.
He then became a navigator and served in the Royal Air Force until 1962, when he retired as a Squadron Leader.
Mr Johnson retrained as a teacher and worked in primary schools before moving on to adult education.
He was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2017 after a long-running campaign backed by TV presenter Carol Vorderman.
Mr Johnson had three children – son Morgan and daughters Susan and Jenny.
His death comes after Squadron Leader Lawrence ‘Benny’ Goodman’, the last surviving pilot from the Dambusters squadron, died in July last year.