The 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the United States Army Air Forces (forerunner of today’s United States Air Force) was no stranger to attacking the Ploesti, Romania area and its oil refineries. Its Consolidated B-24 Liberators first struck there on August 1, 1943 during Operation TIDAL WAVE. The 98th’s commander at the time, Colonel John R. “Killer” Kane, received the Medal of Honor for his courageous flying that day.
Not quite one year later, seventy years ago today, the 98th set off to bomb Ploesti again. Kane was no longer in command of the group, but flying with its 343rd Bombardment Squadron was a 28-year-old pilot named Donald Dale Pucket.
Continue reading First Lieutenant Donald D. Pucket, USAAF (July 9, 1944)
Ploesti, Romania (correctly spelled Ploiești, but I will use the common spelling as found in most World War II histories) is, to this day, a center for petroleum production and refining. The first large oil refinery in the world was opened there in 1856-57. Foreign producers, including John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil built and operated facilities there.
Nazi Germany gained control of most of Romania and the Ploesti oil production facilities in 1941. As Germany had little petroleum production of its own, the strategic significance of the city’s resources couldn’t be underestimated. By the middle of 1943, Germany was consuming up to 22 million tons of oil, but was only bringing in 14 million tons. If the Ploesti facilities could be severely damaged or destroyed, the war in Europe would assuredly be shortened by months and tens of thousands of lives might be saved.
As the war progressed into the summer of 1943, the United States Army Air Forces – progenitor of today’s United States Air Force – prepared to execute the first large scale bombing raid against the Ploesti refineries. Five heavy bomber groups would be used, flying from bases in North Africa.
The plan was called Operation TIDAL WAVE. It was scheduled for a Sunday: August 1, 1943 – seventy years ago today. The men who flew the mission and survived came to know their attack on Ploesti by a much grimmer name:
Continue reading Tidal Wave: The Raid on Ploesti