August 1, 1943: OPERATION TIDAL WAVE
of the practice was great fun for the pilots. They knocked down tents
and forced Arabs off their camels.
The target was to be 18 square miles of German-controlled oil refineries located in the area of Ploesti, Romania.
It was to be a daylight low-altitude bombing run using delayed fuse bombs.
Each B-24 was heavily loaded with ammunition, bombs, and fuel as well as incendiary bombs to drop on the target.
The mission was 2400 miles round trip requiring the planes to stay airborne over 13 1/2 hours.
The refineries were intensely defended by many large anti-aircraft batteries.
Operation "Tidal Wave", as it was called, was an extremely dangerous mission.
Major General Lewis Brereton was credited with being the brain - or, in the estimation of some, the culprit behind the daring raid. His assessment during a final briefing was: "We expect our losses to be 50 per cent, but even if we lose everything we've sent but hit the target, it will be worth it."
The low altitude raid on Ploesti earned the name Black Sunday. The groups became separated by bad weather over the Romanian Alps. The synchronized timing of the raid was ruined and the element of surprise was lost.
Between confused navigation, faulty bombs, and bad timing many bomber crews found themselves flying into total chaos over the target. At one point during the raid, B-24s were flying over one target area from 3 different directions. Observers on the ground said it was the greatest exhibition of flying skill they had ever seen. They thought it was planned that way.
Many aircraft were flying so low that they had to raise up to go over the power lines.
Waist gunner, Don Pierce, recalled shooting up at anti-aircraft emplacements on the tops of buildings.
"...one of the most reliable of these reports was that submitted by the Turkish minister in Bucharest to the Turkish Foreign Minister and transmitted to the United States Ambassador to Turkey in strictest confidence...
Exerpt from the declassified military study of the Tidal Wave mission
The raid on the Romanian oil fields was officially considered a
Within a year, some of the refineries were once again operating at almost 90% capacity. The15th Air Force was given the assignment to destroy Ploesti and it took them 22 missions of high altitude bombardment to get the job done.
On "Black Sunday", the "novice" 389th Bomb Group was effective against its assigned target. The 389th made one of the two as-planned attacks of the day. The Steaua Romana refinery was completely destroyed and did not resume production until the end of the decade.
"Colonel Wood's force, much the least experienced of the five participating groups, succeeded in reaching the target area with all the aircraft that had been dispatched. Of the four groups which actually attacked selected targets, its losses were lightest, and it completely destroyed its target...
Casualties, however, were heavy.
Ole Irish, piloted by Lt. Frank
McLaughlin, had one engine knocked out. The crew of "Old
Blister Butt" saw her limping away from the target area and escorted
her as far as the Mediteranean coast. Lt. McLaughlin gave his crew the opportunity
to give their opinions on whether they should try to return to base or head for
Turkey. The crew opted for the Banghazi base. They unbolted guns
and threw overboard whatever they could to lighten the load. She carried
her brave crew the entire distance across the Mediterranean sea back to Benghazi
on three engines.
Of the 179 B-24s that took off from Benghazi, 41 aircraft and crew were lost.
More about Operation Tidal Wave
A B-24D operating from an airbase in the Libyan desert -
This bomber is returning from the raid on Ploesti
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