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ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In 1943, the Royal Air Force attacked a set of dams in Germany's Ruhr valley which were considered indestructible. Flying low and at night, the crews used special bouncing bombs to bring down two of their targets. The Dambusters mission was a huge propaganda success for Britain and later inspired a famous film. In 2013, Simon Watts talked to Johnny Johnson, one of the few survivors of the raid.
PHOTO: Johnny Johnson (far left) with members of his crew, part of 617 squadron (DAMBUSTERS) at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, 22 JULY 1943 (Imperial War Museum).
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TRANSCRIPT

00:00:00welcome to witness from the BBC world service where history is told by those who with that because from the BBC world service are supported by advertising hello and thank you for downloading the witness pulled cost from the BBC world service with me son wants today we go back
00:00:18to nineteen forty three and one of the most famous British attacks on Germany during World War two the Dambusters raid in twenty thirteen I spoke to one of the few survivors of the mission it's may the seventeenth nineteen forty three a news comes through of a spectacular raid
00:00:37by the Royal Air Force in Germany's rule of valley this is London the administration of justice to the following command again in the early hours of this morning also Blanco's does on mama come on led by wind come on the GP gives the SO DSC attacked with mines
00:00:55the dams of the manna and saw about reservoir the Dambusters attack was a huge propaganda success because of its unique mixture of inventiveness bravery and eccentricity the targets were the strategically vital men there in Seoul but dams which supplied water and electricity to Hitler's main arms factories I
00:01:16don't think we realized how special the target on until we saw the papers Christ what did we do that former bomb aimer Johnnie Johnson was in a group of planes which raced at low level to will to the soul but damn semi hidden in a steep valley he
00:01:33was absolutely exhilarating on flight line down most comfortable position there Crawford caution salon just washing the ground wishing constantly if you want to play experience ready watch apple's difficulty finding this all but stopped mistress we get into thinking up quite a bit we eventually found it and for
00:01:52some unknown reason the dam itself brilliant online absolutely clear we're supposed to fly as I said that they put out your engine over the dam and aimed to release the bombs near as possible to the center much easier just to get into if I wasn't satisfied Michael dummy
00:02:11around I discovered how to become the most unpopular member of crew in double quick time harsher the sixth or seventh Styrum force from the rear charge as well somebody get out by model here the raid was one of the most difficult ever flown the dams on the rule
00:02:28but conceded indestructible but an engineer coupons Wallace came up with an ingenious idea drop huge poems on the reservoirs in front of the dams and design them specially to bounce along the water towards the target like skimming stones now in order to make these bombs bass you had
00:02:47to make the thing spin and yes it makes a marvelous difference if you give it a very high degree of banks being a you can make it travel over the surface of water two or three miles and not only did the mission the innovative engineering in needed brilliant
00:03:06following the damn bus to cruise trained for months in specially adapted Lancaster bombers roaring over the English countryside at low level at night and at high speed amid great secrecy they've been specially recruited by RIF ace guide Gibson Trotman vastly higher than I do strict security model we
00:03:29went out to talk to anybody and there's an instance on an evening meeting when Gibson hold a junior Canadian part of the radio over the coals because he got his girlfriend in Lincoln the night before just sorry he couldn't make it we've got something on he was also
00:03:45quite eccentric he had this dog would go everywhere with Gibson hills having around yes black Labrador love it all he was one of his antics which drinking a pint of beer in the offices rash on the phone eleven o'clock just wanna Gibson took personal command of the Dambusters
00:04:03raid he led the first wave of planes to the biggest of the root dams the Myrna fellow pilot Mickey mountain was close behind and described the experience to the BBC in the nineteen sixties get thrown straight in to attack a shot across the the wall the damn the
00:04:20bomb detonated under tremendous fountain of water rose limited cleared we could see that the devil was so still visible and hadn't broken on the next aircraft was ordered to attack this was hop Gordon gain he swung round to the east but unfortunately justly approach to them some flak
00:04:37hit him with a night out around and dropped our %HESITATION with them all right but I'm not a fortune to five hit out started waiting for the next two aircraft tact and as the final weapon went down but by Moby once all the the whole thing go Gibson
00:04:57radioed base with his dog's name the code word for success but over the Zorba Johnny Johnson's crew was still having problems hitting that target because this time had a different structure Deoria plan to drop huge poems right on top of the dam wool rather than using the pouncing
00:05:15technique none of the other planes in Johnny's group had made it so eventually he and his pilot Joe McCarthy decided their only option was to fly even lower than planned cherry actually dropped from thirty feet and maybe this was right we should but not much of course surging
00:05:32dramas with straight up shot between the hills on the other side I didn't see what was happening days did in the rhetoric and he estimated the spot of water went up to about a thousand feet and Dave went on to say in the downs down flow shown that
00:05:49came into the chart so I thought I was a bit but he drowned as well as not drop by your law Jewish bit punch drunk about how good is it gonna use crack our us about it so much so that David Richards said well why don't you get
00:06:02down decided that if I just pick it up at anytime if you think you destroyed the dam that we we circled and we could see that all this happened which crumbled the question are you disappointed you haven't breached your damn spend much there but at least we've done
00:06:18the best record Tony's crew headed for home on the way back he flew over the remains of the minute down eight just a pregnancy and if you have children of the damned this sort of in Pennsylvania offer them a been preached wonderful site from our point of view
00:06:37at least we have the satisfaction of seeing at least that's been extremely successful destruction of the moon and another small the dam was enough for the British to claim a big success at a difficult time during the war the cruise themselves had mixed feelings satisfaction in doing their
00:07:04job but also a huge sense of loss because fifty three of their fellow eman with killed in the attack guy Gibson himself died in a crash in nineteen forty four he became a legendary figure particularly when the public found out what happened to his dog just before the
00:07:21Dambusters attack they ought to noon wandering around the actually right in front of the cars is coming along gets the credit that should not be brought cost to anybody else in case he was looked on as a bad omen for the error rate but he did our state
00:07:38ownership Jeffrey Paul if you would bear the dog outside his office at midnight that night when he would be over the target area which she did off to the war Johnnie Johnson became a school teacher now in his nineties he recently visited the soul but them for a
00:07:55TV documentary for the first time he was able to see the Dambusters raid from a German point of view I fully expect to get my nose punch but I'm astounded to find out how friendly the German people want and then was walking across the dam itself with with
00:08:11cameraman I should stop Hey Johnny hiring this about where you drop trouble trying to the side came back to then I will totally the other side of the dam isolation of anybody going right down there I should you know shy I'm almost glad we didn't reaches down having
00:08:31done so this study would actually really and I still felt that what we did we had to do to this our ability he made me realize how much other effectual Shetland non combatant civilians number of people at the killed and I should say this this particular group of
00:08:50people his long time ago we won't forget it but he's up to it both our countries now to make sure that the shoulder condition doesn't arise again Johnnie Johnson ending that's addition of witness for me Simon wants as you know we like to recommend other put costs when
00:09:09we can and I've got an idea for you more precisely the big idea it's a new series from the BBC world service and it's about the people searching for the ideas changing the way we think about the world searched for the big idea wherever you find your ball
00:09:24costs and this week there's a new episode every day

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