Here is an excerpt from my dad's diary (Stan F Olson, 44th Bomb Group) from July 31-August 2, 1943
It is a confirmation of the description you gave of being over the target. Of course, his estimation of losses was based on what he knew on the evening of August 2nd. Thanks for your anniversary reminder. I especially related to the upside down wheel trying to keep the plane level. All the best.
-Terry Olson (son of Stan)
Yesterday flew with Strong on a practice bombing trip about 60 miles out in the desert. We bombed wrecked tanks, planes, trucks. Evidently the Armies of the African Campaign passed through there.
Today General Brereton talked to us about tomorrow's mission. I don't know yet whether I will go with anyone. It is an important target and no one actually has any idea whether it will be a snap or a rough nut to crack. [I now believe that when Strong took Stan with him out on that practice bombing run on 30 July, that he was testing Stan to see if he would have confidence in him as a co-pilot for the Ploesti raid. You see here he doesn't even know at this late hour if he will go. He does end up flying with Strong to Ploesti in "Baldy and his Brood." See the letter from Strong I have included under August 2, 1943.]
August 1, 1943
Too busy ! !
August 2, 1943
Yesterday we had it! We flew 2400 miles round-trip to Ploesti , Rumania and back. One of the most important targets of the war. We wound our way over the mountains through Albania, Yugoslavia, Rumania and others --- they were hit.
When we neared the I.P. I believe I was scared. The target area was covered with smoke; flak was bursting and it looked as if all hell was breaking loose.
As we turned on the I.P., Strong gave it power and we overshot Bunker. However, we moved into attack position in trail of Bunker; I took over. With Strong handling the throttles, I was busy trying to keep the plane level, out of prop-wash, and hit the target. Once I swore we had been hit but we went on. I had the wheel turned upside down once trying to hold a wing up. Strong even gave right throttle trying to pull it up. Had trouble keeping the ship straight because of Nos. 1 & 2 having more rpms, but adjusted them.
Just as we dropped our bombs (we barely had time before having to turn off), one ship went into a vertical climb, then quivering, rared back head first into the ground, bursting into flame. Two men bailed out, one jumped out without a chute. It was Houston's ship; he incidentally had finished his missions. [All in Houston's ship were KIA, in spite of Stan having seen parachutes.]
Sixty airplanes are unaccounted for. So far we have 14 missing.