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.
From the records of the 450th Bomb Group.