Aug 1 2013

70th Anniversary of Operation Tidal Wave

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Today marks the 70th anniversary of “Operation Tidal Wave”, the disastrous first raid on the Nazi oil refineries at Ploesti that occurred on August 1, 1943.  The five refineries of Ploesti accounted for one third of the Nazis’ oil supply.  Knowing that the Ploesti oil refineries were a heavily guarded target, Allied forces had to rely on the element of surprise.  It was decided that this operation was to consist of low level flying B-24 Liberators participating in a mission to fly under the Nazi radar and take Ploesti by surprise.  Unfortunately, the mission was plagued by misfortune.  Under heavy cloud cover and radio silence, several of the groups had become separated.  The lead group had also turned too soon and began heading for Bucharest by error.  When the mistake was corrected, the lead group was approaching their target from the city’s heavily protected southern perimeter.  As the lead group dropped their bombs, the following groups flying at a low altitude  had no other option than to fly through the smoke and fire from the blazing refineries below.  Low flying bomber planes were blown out of the air from the bombs that had exploded beneath them.  The planes that had made it out of the thick smoke had to contend with an onslaught of Nazi fighter planes.  By the time that the mission was over, barely half of the planes had returned to their home airfield in Africa.  More than five hundred men were either killed, wounded or taken as prisoner.  Five Medals of Honor were awarded that day, three of which were posthumously.

The Toughest Target: The Raid on Ploesti