USAAF return to bomb the oil refinery at Ploesti

Consolidated B-24s on the Ploesti oil refinery bombing mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Consolidated B-24s on the Ploesti oil refinery bombing mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A main strategic aim of the Allied Airforces was to cut the German fuel supplies. The oil refineries at Ploesti in Rumania supplied around a third of German needs at this time and were an obvious target. They had been hit in August 1943, when the attacking force encountered strong antiaircraft defences, with many bombers shot down. That trip was a long haul from North Africa.

Now that the Allies were in Italy a sustained ‘Ploesti campaign’ was launched, this would continue with intermittent raids through till August. It was entirely predictable that the defences would have been strengthened even further by now and the Germans moved quickly to counteract the new interest in the target. Their most effective tactic was concealment – soon smoke pots were brought in that could quickly cover the oil refineries and associated marshalling yards with dense smoke. In turn the USAAF were to deploy ground radar from their bombers for the first time.

This was regarded as such a hazardous trip that it counted as a ‘double mission’ for those taking part:

On 5 April 1944, the target was the M/Y and Oil Refineries at Ploesti, Roumania, The main purpose of this raid was to knock out the transportation system so badly needed fuel could not reach the German line to the east; and they did just that. They had a nice bomb run and the bomb pattern covered the adjacent oil refinery doing great damage and starting huge fires.

One hour and ten minutes before target time 2 FW 190’s were seen flying in from the south and they stayed with our formation until the first attack was made acting as observers and, without doubt, radioing information as to strength and heading to attacking units. The first attack come 25 minutes from the target by 10/12 ME 109’s who, using cloud cover, made a surprise attack from 12 o’clock high. These A/C dived through the first attack unit and came up under the second attack unit. Three of the group A/C were shot out of formation with the first pass. Lt. Lael, pilot from our squadron, was on of the three.

The attack was coordinated and the fighters came through in two’s, three’s and four’s. They would rally to the rear, make a side pass, gain altitude and then use the same tactics again. Nearer to the target, enemy resistance increased and 50/60 ME 109’s and FW 190’s, 10 ME 110’s and 10/15 JU 88’s were seen. Attacks were made from all angles singly and by pairs closing to within 50 yards before either pulling up or diving under.

Coordinated attacks came from 6 o’clock low in formation of six flying two abreast, closing to 50/100 yards and breaking away on either side in a diving turn followed by a split S and then raking the under side of the attacked A/C. No break off in intensity was noted over the target and enemy fighters flew through to harass our formation. JU 88’s stood off at 600/800 yards and fired rockets apparently directing the fire at the lead ships in each attack unit.

All attacks were broken off 15 minutes past the target. Our squadron lost one aircraft and were credited with ten enemy aircraft destroyed.

See 2nd Bomb Group.

Smoke rises from the Astra Romana refinery in Ploesti Romania following low level bombing attack by B-24 Liberators, Aug 1 1943.

Smoke rises from the Astra Romana refinery in Ploesti Romania following low level bombing attack by B-24 Liberators, Aug 1 1943.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Darrion August 17, 2018 at 1:02 am

I Just visited this grave yard today ( August 15, 2018,) just outside of Ploiesti, Romania. The graves is just off a busy highway. There were about 50 graves of British airman . Each head stone named the airmen, his rank, his age and date of death. The graveyard look a little unkept. However, I was told until recently the graveyard had been kept nicely. May your brother and all the aircrews Rest in Peace. They are not forgotten.

Dorothy Arnold April 2, 2018 at 3:11 pm

My brother, Harold Tucker was an airgunner in one of the Liberators which flew on a bombing raid from nr Naples to Ploesti. His plane was shot down in Romania in May 1944 and apparently he was killed outright. He was 17 years old. One of the crew who survived a prisoner of war camp visited my parents at Wanstead but he died soon after.and my mother communicated with his parents. I believe his father was a bishop in Lancashire.
As far as I know these brave airmen, who flew many missions, have no memorial nor medals and I only have the Italian star. I have all the details, logbook and photos of the military cemetery near Bucharest which were passed on to me. Can you please tell me whether these graves are ever visited by the War Graves Commission or if there is any other recognition of the brave British airmen. MRS D ARNOLD

myra slaughter wandry June 8, 2014 at 7:51 pm

my brother who is now 93 years old flew in this mission. He never talked about it. Years later, his children or grand children heard about it and saw his medals and had a story published in a paper in tyler, texas which I read later. It called him a Hero.

Santiago April 6, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Years ago I was responsible for building a small 30,000 sf manufacturing plant. The construction supervisor Ray had been a B-24 pilot in WWII and had been on Ploesti. His assigned altitude was 300 feet, much like the first photograph above. He was flying through heavy smoke from previous bombs and emerged from the smoke eye-ball to eye-ball with a smoke stack higher than his own altitude. With no time to think, he hit hard right rudder and aerilons, barely missing the stack, standing the aircraft on its right wing, and fortunately not colliding with anyone else in the bomber stream. Ray also got shot up on a run over Germany and nursed the craft back to England, crash landing back at his base. In the crash the hull broke open and the whole crew walked out of the side of the craft.

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