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Joseph Charles McCarthy
Royal Air Force Bomber Command, 1942-1945. CH9925.jpg
Nickname "Big Joe"
Born (1919-08-31)31 August 1919
Died 6 September 1998(1998-09-06) (aged 79)
Place of birth St James, Long Island
Place of death Virginia Beach
Allegiance Flag of Canada.svg Canada
Service/branch Air Force Ensign of Canada.svg Royal Canadian Air Force
Rank Wing Commander
Unit No. 617 Squadron RAF

Joseph Charles "Big Joe" McCarthy DSO DFC RCAF (31 August 1919 - 6 September 1998) was an American-Canadian Royal Canadian Air Force RAF Bomber Command aviator in World War II.[1][2][3] He was born on Long Island 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.

McCarthy was most known for flying with No. 617 Squadron RAF, including Operation Chastise (the Dams Raid) of 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 from the 2nd wave to attack a target - the Sorpe Dam, which had to be attacked with an Upkeep bomb directly without it bouncing. Despite hitting the target, the dam was not breached.

He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross 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) and his crew of No. 617 Squadron (The Dambusters) at RAF Scampton, 22 July 1943. TR1128

The crew of Lancaster ED285/`AJ-T' sitting on the grass, posed under stormy clouds. Left to right: Sergeant G Johnson; Pilot Officer D A MacLean, navigator; Flight Lieutenant J C McCarthy, pilot; Sergeant L Eaton, gunner. In the rear are Sergeant R Batson, gunner; and Sergeant W G Ratcliffe, engineer.

He was mentioned but not portrayed in the 1955 film The Dam Busters, which focuses mostly on the 1st wave that breached the Moehne and Eder dams.


  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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