Aug 1 2013

70th Anniversary of Operation Tidal Wave


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

Aug 1 2012

The 464th BG (H): 69 Years Later


August 1, 1943:  A very memorable date for the US Army Air Corps, for which five Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded.  It was on this day that the 9th AF carried out “Operation Tidal Wave”.  This mission was a daylight bombing raid on the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania.  These oil refineries produced a third of the petroleum needed to supply the Nazi war efforts.  The plan was to sent 178 B-24 Liberators on a 2400 mile roundtrip journey towards the oil refineries of Ploesti.  Flying at an altitude of 1800 feet, the intent was to fly under the Nazi radar, avoid antiaircraft fire and hit the enemy’s oil supply with accurate bombing.  Unfortunately the mission was plagued with technical and communication problems.  Several of the Liberators had technical trouble and either crashed after taking off or had to return.  The remainder of the formation was split up due to miscommunication because of radio silence. This error caused some of the Liberators to head towards Bucharest, the headquarters of the German air force command. .  By the time that their heading was corrected, it was already to late.  The Germans were alerted and the element of surprise was lost.  As the formation approached Ploesti, the first wave of Liberators attacked from the most heavily protected  direction.  The second wave of bombers had to endure the onslaught of delayed action bombs, flak and small arms.  Although loses during “Operation Tidal Wave” were heavy, by the end of the attack, 40% of the oil-producing capacity of Ploesti was destroyed.  Within six months, Nazi slave labor had repaired the damage inflicted by the raid, and Ploesti was back to normal capacity.
Also on August 1, 1943, the 464th Bombardment Group was activated in Wendover Field, Utah.  As part of the 15th AF, the group arrived at its base in Pocatello Idaho on October 2, 1943.  By March 9, 1944, the first aircraft and crew arrived at Oudna.  After some training there, the group flew to their temporary base at Gioia del Cole Italy in April of 1944.  Their first combat mission occurred by the end of that April with the Marshaling Yards at Castel Maggiore being their first combat target.  It was on June 1, 1944 that the 464th BG moved to their permanent base at Pantanella Italy.  Eight months after “Operation Tidal Wave”, the Allied forces were ready to attack Ploesti again, this time from the newly added bases in Italy.  The new attempt was a single raid at a larger scale at a higher altitude and with fighter cover part of the way in.  The daylight bombing raids on Ploesti was full of flak and smoke. Over 2000 smoke pots helped mask the bombers’ targets, making accurate bombing almost impossible.  The 464th pressed on continued to play an important role in several oil refinery bombings, ultimately slowing down the Nazi war machine.   Such bombings also include the Concordia Vega refinery on May 18, 1944, the oil refinery at Vienna on July 8, 1944, and the Paradubice oil refinery on August 24, 1944.  The 464th BG sometimes assisted in support of Allied Forces and interdictory operations, such as the “Operation Dragoon” invasion of Southern France in August of 1944.  They also assisted the advance of Russian troops in southeastern Europe by bombing railroad centers in March of 1945.  The 464th BG assisted the advance of the US 5th and British 8th Army in northern Italy in April of 1945 by bombing enemy supply lines.  The lineage of the 464th Bombardment Group (Heavy) is listed below.

  • Constituted as 464th Bombardment Group (Heavy) On 19 May 1943
Activated on 1 August 1943
Inactivated on 31 July 1945
  • Established as 464th Troop Carrier Wing, Medium on 16 December 1952
Activated on 1 February 1953
Redesignated as 464th Troop Carrier Wing, Assault on 16 December 1958
Redesignated as 464th Troop Carrier Wing, Medium on 8 January 1964
Redesignated as 464th Troop Carrier Wing, on 1 March 1966
Redesignated as 464th Tactical Airlift Wing on 1 May 1967
Inactivated on 31 August 1971