Joe McCarthy (RCAF officer)

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Joseph Charles McCarthy
Royal Air Force Bomber Command, 1942-1945. CH9925.jpg
Joe McCarthy (left) with King George VI and Wing Commander Guy Gibson
Nickname(s)"Big Joe"
Born(1919-08-31)31 August 1919
St. James, New York
Died6 September 1998(1998-09-06) (aged 79)
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Service/branchRoyal Canadian Air Force
Years of service1941–c.1968
RankWing Commander
UnitNo. 617 Squadron RAF
Commands held407 Maritime Patrol Squadron
RCAF Test and Development Establishment
Battles/warsSecond World War
AwardsDistinguished Service Order
Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar
Canadian Forces Decoration

Joseph Charles "Big Joe" McCarthy, DSO, DFC & Bar, CD (31 August 1919 – 6 September 1998) was an American aviator who served with the Royal Canadian Air Force in Bomber Command during World War II.[1][2][3] He is best known as the commander and pilot of Lancaster AJ-T ("T-Tommy") in Operation Chastise, the "Dambuster" raid of 1943.

Early life[edit]

McCarthy was born in St. James, New York, a town on Long Island east of New York City, and grew up in Brooklyn. As a teenager, he worked as a lifeguard at Coney Island and learned to fly. In May 1941, months before the United States would enter the war, McCarthy joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.

World War II[edit]

McCarthy was most known for flying with No. 617 Squadron RAF, including the Dams Raid in 1943. By the time of the raid he had already taken part in thirty bombing sorties over Germany, including three over Berlin. McCarthy and his crew flew with the second wave of Lancasters, but he had to take a spare aircraft after his failed. T-Tommy was the only aircraft of the second wave to attack a target – the Sorpe Dam, which had to be attacked with an Upkeep bomb directly without it bouncing. Despite the bomb hitting the target, the dam was not breached.

He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1943 for service with No. 97 Squadron RAF, a Distinguished Service Order in the same year for the dams raid, and a Bar to the DFC in 1944.

Flight Lieutenant Joe McCarthy (fourth from left) with his crew from Lancaster ED285/'AJ-T' at RAF Scampton, 22 July 1943.

He was mentioned but not portrayed in the 1955 film The Dam Busters, which focuses mostly on the first wave that breached the Möhne and Eder dams.

McCarthy is also fondly mentioned throughout Johnny Johnson's autobiography The Last Dambuster.


  1. ^ Birrell, Dave. Big Joe Mccarthy: The RCAF's American Dambuster.
  2. ^ Humphrey Wynn (1998-10-12). "Obituary: Wing Cdr Joe McCarthy". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  3. ^ Robert McG. Thomas Jr. (1998-10-05). "Joseph C. McCarthy, Pilot in '43 Dam Buster Raid, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-25.

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