Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tidal Wave--Ploesti, August 1, 1943

Seventy years ago today, a low-level raid by B-24  bombers from the 389th-the Sky Scorpions, 98th-the Pyramidiers, 44th--the Flying 8 Balls, 376th-the Liberandos, and 93rd-Ted's Traveling Circus Bomb groups was made.  It was an ambitious plan to destroy the oil refineries at Ploesti Romania.  Instead of flying at the high altitudes which were standard for the B-24's, it was decided to send them low to ensure a crippling blow to the operation.  The refinery installations were surrounded by schools and other civilian buildings and the Allied Forces wished to avoid civilian casualties as much possible.



Gathering in Benghazi, Libya, the groups practiced their low-level flying necessary to the plan and carried out missions from that base. 

The groups were separated into different waves organized by target:  White, Blue, Red.  The 93rd made up White III and II, the 376th White I, the 98th-White IV, and the 44th-White V.  Bombers in the 44th also were chosen for the Blue Target five miles south of Ploesti.  Pic found here...



The 389th, flying the newer B-24Ds out of Hethel, England, were chosen to target Campina--Red Target, due to the extra distance capacity of the D.  My grandfather is in the picture below, BTW.



One-hundred seventy eight planes took off from Benghazi, 125 returned.  It destroyed enough of the refining capacity for the German air forces that they had to husband their resources rather than venture far from their borders, as they had been doing in the past.

I had the opportunity to touch history and fly in the only fully operational B-24 this week--the Collings Foundation has their Wings of Freedom tour every year.  We flew low and we flew slow and no-one was trying to shoot us down.  Regardless, it gave me a connection of sorts to those men and let me have a small, safe look into their world.  It gave me an insight and an appreciation for what my grandfather did and what he experienced.

The 70th Reunion is going on now in Ohio.  Since the 60th, 15 of these brave men have 'Folded Wings'.  Take a second to remember the price paid for what we have.  Remember the ideals and ideas for which these men fought.  And if you get a chance, take a ride in a B-24, it'll change you forever.


8 comments:

og said...

oooh, how cool! I hope you have some photos!!

Old NFO said...

That is SUPER! Not comfortable, but hell it's a piece of living history!!! Congrats and ENVY!

Midwest Chick said...

Og--I have photos as well as his old kit, flag, etc.

NFO--Mr B, my enabler, talked me into going. Not comfortable, but thanks goodness I wore pants since it was a spur of the moment thing and the pants let me crawl into the nose.

Last time I was out there going up the ladder of the B-17, I was in a short skirt. The guys behind me were... appreciative.

Chas Clifton said...

I always think about how the heavy bombers had such big crews, what with all the gunners, compared to an airplane that can deliver similar explosive power today.

NotClauswitz said...

Awesome to ride in the Collings Fdn. airplanes!! Have not been in the B-24, but we went up in the B-17 a few years back, and the B-25 Mitchell a few years before that. The Mitchell was a total hoot! Very LOUD and very rattly-shaky but fast and LOUD - and we flew-in low over a quarry and that was like a bomb-run.
And LOUD!

Brigid said...

That is a beautiful tribute. When you called me when you were on the ground after you landed I was jumping up and down like a little kid. That is beyond cool. Next time I come over I'll bring Dad's book of his unit over there, lots of cool pictures. You are right, such things change one forever.

NotClauswitz said...

Our friend Pete Watson (Idaho) was pilot of as B-24 that flew out of Italy - don't know what Group - and Earl Knechtel (later with NASA) was a bombardier on a B29 flying out of the Northern Marianas on "visits" to Japan...

Murphy's Law said...

A most excellent post.