London — The last surviving crew member of a British Royal Air Force squadron that targeted Nazi Germany’s industrial heartland in World War II has died aged 101, media said Thursday.
George “Johnny” Johnson died peacefully at a care home near Bristol, western England, on Wednesday evening, surrounded by his family.
Johnson was a bomb aimer with RAF 617 Squadron and took part in the “Dambusters” raid targeting heavily fortified German dams with specially developed “bouncing bombs”.
Two of the three dams targeted in the May 16-17, 1943 raid were destroyed, causing catastrophic flooding in the Ruhr valley and destroying power stations and factories.
Johnson, who retired from the RAF as a squadron leader, collected an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 2017 after 235,000 people signed a petition calling for his wartime service to be recognised.
The RAF said it was “saddened” to hear of his death, signing off its tribute with its motto “Per Ardua Ad Astra” (“through adversity to the stars”).
John Nicol, a former RAF navigator who was held hostage by Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War and was part of the drive to have Johnson recognised, called him “a true hero”.
“Blue skies Sir,” he added.
Johnson had been the last surviving member of 617 Squadron that took part in “Operation Chastise” since the death of his colleague Fred Sutherland in January 2019.
Fifty-three of the 133 Allied air crew from Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand that left on the raid on board 19 Lancaster bombers were killed and three were captured.