Forgotten History:The Bombing of Zutphen-the Netherlands

 

Zutphen is a town in the province of Gelderland in the Netherlands. It lies some 30 km north-east of Arnhem, on the Eastern bank of the river IJssel at the point where it is joined by the Berkel

On the 14th of October 1944,  Zutphen was bombed by the allies

At 4 PM three allied bombers flew over Zutphen theor task was to destroy the Ijsselbrug(Ijssel Bridge) in order to disrupt the supply of arms and block the German troops going in the direction of Arnhem.

brug

The bridge was destroyed but so was a nearby part of the town.De Rozengracht, Kreijnckstraat, Barlheze en Apenstert were complete wiped away.The station was badly damaged.

 

It is not exactly know how many people died that day but 92 were buried a great number of victims was never found.

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The Sinking of the HMS Oxley

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HMS Oxley was the Royal Navy’s first loss in WWII. Today marks the 77th anniversary of that event.

You probably are wondering why I am doing a blog about it. Because lets face it , it was war and there were going to be losses. This is true,however, what makes this special is not because it was the 1st loss but the fact it was sunk by another Royal Navy submarine the HMS Triton.

hms_triton

When the Admiralty was notified that the United Kingdom would declare war on Germany, five submarines of the 2nd Submarine Flotilla were ordered to patrol on the Obrestad line off Norway on 24 August 1939.Thus, on 3 September all British submarines were in their combat patrol sectors.

At 19:55 on 10 September 1939, Triton had surfaced, fixed a position off the Obrestad Light, set a slow zigzag patrol, and began charging batteries. Lieutenant Commander Steel, having verified that the area was clear and having posted lookouts, gave the bridge to the officer of the watch and went below, leaving orders that he was to be called if anything unusual appeared. At 20:45, he was called to the bridge when an object in the water could be seen very fine on the port bow.

Steel ordered propulsion shifted to the main motors, the signalman to the bridge, and torpedo tubes 7 and 8 readied for firing. The object was recognised as a submarine low in the water.

Once on the bridge, the signalman sent three challenges over several minutes with the box lamp, none of which were answered. Steel wondered if the boat could be HMS Oxley, which should have been patrolling next in line, but some distance away. Steel and his bridge crew studied the silhouette, but could not distinguish what type of submarine it was.

A fourth challenge was sent: three green rifle-grenade flares. After firing, Steel counted slowly to 15 and then decided that they were seeing a German U-boat.

u-boat

He ordered tubes 7 and 8 fired with a three-second interval. Less than a minute later, an explosion was heard.

Triton moved into the area to investigate and heard cries for help. The light from the Aldis lamp revealed three men floundering amid oil and debris.

Lieutenant Guy C. I. St.B. Watkins and Lieutenant Harry A. Stacey entered the water and rescued Lieutenant Commander H.G. Bowerman,Oxley’s commanding officer, as well as Able Seaman Gluckes, a lookout. The third person in the water, Lieutenant F.K. Manley, was seen to be swimming strongly when he suddenly sank from view. Neither Manley’s body nor any other survivors from Oxley were found.

A Board of Enquiry found that Steel had done all he reasonably could in the circumstances. Oxley was out of position, Triton had acted correctly, and the first Allied submarine casualty of World War II was due to “friendly fire.” During the war, the loss of Oxley was attributed to an accidental explosion. After the war, it was explained to have been a collision with Triton. The truth was not revealed until the 1950s

 

Hunger Winter- the Dutch famine

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The above picture is not a picture of a child in  Sub Saharan Africa but it is in fact a picture of a child in the Netherlands in 1944/45.

The Netherlands is a country divided by rivers and in the winter 44/45 ,what side of the river you were would determine whether you would have food or not.

map (2)

The Dutch famine of 1944, known as the Hongerwinter (“Hunger winter”) in Dutch, was a famine that took place in the German-occupied part of the Netherlands, especially in the densely populated western provinces north of the great rivers, during the winter of 1944–45, near the end of World War II. A German blockade cut off food and fuel shipments from farm areas. Some 4.5 million were affected and survived because of soup kitchens. As many as 22,000 may have died because of the famine. Most of the victims were reported to be elderly men.

Towards the end of World War II, food supplies became increasingly scarce in the Netherlands. After the landing of the Allied Forces on D-Day, conditions grew increasingly worse in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. The Allies were able to liberate the southern part of the country, but their liberation efforts came to an abrupt halt when Operation Market Garden, their attempt to gain control of the bridge across the Rhine at Arnhem, failed. The seizure of the approaches to the port of Antwerp (the Battle of the Scheldt) was delayed due to Montgomery’s preoccupation with Market Garden(a Bridge too far).

bridge

The southern provinces had already been liberated in September 1944.

hoensbroek

After the national railways complied with the exiled Dutch government’s appeal for a railway strike starting September 1944 to further the Allied liberation efforts, the German administration (under Wehrmachtbefehlshaber Friedrich Christiansen) retaliated by placing an embargo on all food transports to the western Netherlands.

friedric

In response to the railway strike, food transports to the western Netherlands were banned. After six weeks the ban was withdrawn, but the supply remained frozen because of the dismantled railway network and the German requisitioning of goods. During the harsh winter of 1944/45, the socalled hungerwinter, there were severe food shortages in the cities.

The transport of coal from the liberated south also ceased. Gas and electricity were shut off. People chopped down trees and dismantled empty houses to get fuel. The amount of food available on ration dropped steadily.The unusually early and harsh winter had already set in. The canals froze over and became impassable for barges.

City dwellers went on hunger expeditions to the countryside. They traded their valuables with the farmers for food.

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Food stocks in the cities in the western Netherlands rapidly ran out. The adult rations in cities such as Amsterdam dropped to below 1000 kilocalories (4,200 kilojoules) a day by the end of November 1944 and to 580 kilocalories in the west by the end of February 1945.Over this Hongerwinter (“Hunger winter”), a number of factors combined to cause starvation of the Dutch people: the winter itself was unusually harsh and the retreating German army destroyed docks and bridges to flood the country and impede the Allied advance. As the Netherlands became one of the main western battlefields, the widespread dislocation and destruction of the war ruined much of its agricultural land and made the transport of existing food stocks difficult.

As an alternative to onions , tulip bulbs would be used as a source of food.

tulip-bulb

Various initiatives were taken to deal with the severe food shortages. The churches of the northern and eastern Netherlands together found lodgings for 50,000 malnourished children from the cities.

At the end of January 1945, the Red Cross imported flour by ship from Sweden. It would be another month before the legendary Swedish white bread could be distributed.

A letter of commemoration given to a grocer whose shop served as a Red Cross point giving out the “Swedish bread”

OORKONDE

In April, Allied planes dropped food parcels over the Netherlands with the permission of the Germans.

drop food

On May 2nd, Allied lorries carrying food were also allowed in. But organising a fair distribution was not easy. Most of the food could not be distributed until after the liberation.

An Amsterdam resident wrote:
‘… today again the engines of the heavy bombers could be heard over a jubilant Amsterdam, When will this food be distributed? A start has already been made on handing out the items from parcels damaged after they were dropped. For the moment, 7,000 parcels have been distributed among those suffering from hunger oedema.”

The German occupiers allowed coordinated air drops of food over German-occupied Dutch territory by the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force from 29 April to 7 May, and by the U.S. Army Air Force from 1 to 8 May. This was Operation Manna (RAF/RCAF) and Operation Chowhound (USAF).

https://dirkdeklein.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/operation-manna-and-operationchowhoundending-the-dutch-famine/

The Germans agreed to not shoot at the planes flying the mercy missions, and the Allies agreed not to bomb German positions. Operation Faust also trucked in food to Rhenen beginning on 2 May, utilizing 200 vehicles. Rhenen was also occupied by the Germans.

The Dutch famine of 1944 was a rare case of a famine which took place in a modern, developed and literate country, albeit one suffering under the privations of occupation and war. The well-documented experience has helped scientists to measure the effects of famine on human health.

My family had move from the northern Province Friesland to the south eastern Province Limburg a few years before the war, so they escaped the hunger winter.

The sad thing is that this famine could have been avoided. Although there were many aspects and parameters that caused the famine, the real trigger was the failed Operation Market Garden.Not only did it cause the death of 20,000 citizens it also caused the death of a great number of allied troops.

graf

 

 

The tragedy of the SS Cap Arcona.

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Not all Concentration camp victims were killed by the Nazi’s the case of the SS Cap Arcona is one of the worst and most tragic cases of’collateral damage’ of WWII by the Allies. Today is the 71st anniversary of the tragic event.

The Cap Arcona was a large German luxury ocean liner formerly of the Hamburg-South America line that was sunk with the loss of many lives when laden with prisoners from concentration camps.The 27,500 gross ton Cap Arcona was launched in 1927, it was considered one of the most beautiful of the time. It carried upper-class travelers and steerage-class emigrants, mostly to South America. In 1940, it was taken over by the Kriegsmarine, the German navy, and used in the Baltic Sea.

An interesting side note regarding the Cap Acrona is that the ship was used in 1943 to produce the German film “Titanic”. The film was essentially a feature length propaganda epic and was the most expensive film produced in Germany up to that time. The film was released in Paris in the winter of 1943 and but was banned shortly after due to it’s depiction of mass death at a time when Germany was being bombed on a regular basis. It wasn’t shown again until 1949 after which it fell into obscurity. In 2005 a complete version of the film was made available once more.

In the last few weeks of the war in Europe, the Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte, vice-president of the Red Cross, was organising the removal of Danish and Norwegian prisoners from German concentration camps to neutral Sweden — a scheme known as the White Buses. In practice the scheme also included other nationalities.

Folke-Bernadotte

During March and April 1945, concentration camp prisoners from Scandinavian countries had been transported from all over the Reich to the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg, in the White Bus programme co-ordinated through the Swedish Red Cross – with prisoners of other nationalities displaced to make room for them.

neuenegammes

Eventually Himmler agreed that these Scandinavians, and selected others regarded as less harmful to Germany, could be transported through Denmark to freedom in Sweden. Then between the 16 and 28 April 1945, Neuengamme was systematically emptied of all its remaining prisoners, together other groups of concentration camp inmates and Soviet POWs; with the intention that they would be relocated to a secret new camp, either on the Baltic island of Fehmarn; or atMysen in Norway where preparations were put in hand to house them under the control of concentration camp guards evacuated from Sachsenhausen.In the interim.

Sachsenhausen_Crematorium_Memorial

They were to be concealed from the advancing British and Canadian forces; and for this purpose the SS assembled a prison flotilla of decommissioned ships in the Bay of Lübeck, consisting of the liners Cap Arcona and Deutschland, the freighter Thielbek, and the motor launch Athen.

Since the steering motors were out of use in Thielbek and the turbines were out of use in Cap Arcona, Athen was used to transfer prisoners from Lübeck to the larger ships and between ships; who were locked below decks and in the holds, and denied food and medical attention. On 30 April 1945 the two Swedish ships, Magdalena and Lillie Matthiessen, previously employed as support vessels for the White Bus evacuations, made a final rescue trip to Lübeck and back. Amongst the prisoners rescued were some transferred from the prison flotilla. On the evening of 2 May 1945 more prisoners, mainly women and children from the Stutthof and Mittelbau-Dora camps were loaded onto barges and brought out to the anchored vessels; although, as the Cap Arcona refused to accept any more prisoners, over eight hundred were returned to the beach at Neustadt in the morning of 3 May, where around five hundred were killed in their barges by machine-gunning, or beaten to death on the beach, their SS guards then seeking to make their escape unencumbered.

The order to transfer the prisoners to the prison ships came from Gauleiter Karl Kaufmann in Hamburg.

Karl Kaufmann

 

By early May however, any relocation plans had been scotched by the rapid British military advance to the Baltic; so the SS leadership, which had moved to Flensburg on 28 April,discussed scuttling the ships with the prisoners still aboard.Later, at a war crimes tribunal, Kaufmann claimed the prisoners were intended to be sent to Sweden; although as none of the ships carried Red Cross hospital markings and nor were they seaworthy, this was scarcely credible.Georg-Henning Graf von Bassewitz-Behr, Hamburg’s last Higher SS and Police Leader (HSSPF), testified at the same trial that the prisoners were in fact to be killed “in compliance with Himmler’s orders”.Kurt Rickert, who had worked for Bassewitz-Behr, testified at the Hamburg War Crimes Trial that he believed the ships were to be sunk by U-boats or Luftwaffe aircraft Eva Neurath, who was present in Neustadt, and whose husband survived the disaster, said she was told by a police officer that the ships held convicts and were going to be blown up.

On 2 May 1945, the British Second Army discovered the empty camp at Neuengamme, and reached the towns of Lübeck and Wismar. No. 6 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade commanded by Brigadier Derek Mills-Roberts, and 11th Armoured Division, commanded by Major-General George P. B. Roberts, entered Lübeck without resistance.

Lübeck contained a permanent Red Cross office in its function as a Red Cross port, and Mr. De Blonay of the International Committee of the Red Cross informed Major-General Roberts that 7,000–8,000 prisoners were aboard ships in the Bay of Lübeck. In the afternoon of 3 May 1945, the British 5th reconnaissance regiment advanced northwards to Neustadt, witnessing the ships burning in the bay and rescuing some severely emaciated prisoners on the beach at Neustadt, but otherwise finding mostly the bodies of women and children massacred that morning.

On 3 May 1945, three days after Hitler’s suicide and only one day before theunconditional surrender of the German troops in northwestern Germany at Lüneburg Heath to Field Marshal Montgomery, Cap Arcona, Thielbek, and the passenger linerDeutschland were attacked as part of general strikes on shipping in the Baltic Sea by RAF Typhoons of 83 Group of the 2nd Tactical Air Force. Through Ultra Intelligence, the Western Allies had become aware that most of the SS leadership and former concentration camp commandants had gathered with Heinrich Himmler in Flensburg, hoping to contrive an escape to Norway. The western allies had intercepted orders from the rump Dönitz government, also at Flensburg, that the SS leadership were to be facilitated in escaping Allied capture—or otherwise issued with false naval uniforms to conceal their identitiesas Dönitz sought, while surrendering, to maintain the fiction that his administration had been free from involvement in the camps, or in Hitler’s policies of genocide.

The aircraft were from No. 184 Squadron, No. 193 Squadron, No. 263 Squadron, No. 197 Squadron RAF, and No. 198 Squadron. Besides four 20 mm cannon, these Hawker Typhoon Mark 1B fighter-bombers carried either eight HE High Explosive “60 lb” RP-3 unguided rockets or two 500 lb (230 kg) bombs.

None of the prison flotilla were Red Cross marked (although the Deutschland had previously been intended as a hospital ship, and retained one white painted funnel with a red cross), and all prisoners were concealed below deck, so the pilots in the attacking force were unaware that they were laden with concentration camp survivors. Swedish and Swiss Red Cross officials had informed British intelligence on 2 May 1945 of the presence of prisoners on ships at anchor in Lübeck Bay, but the information had failed to be passed on.The RAF commanders ordering the strike believed that a flotilla of ships was being prepared in Lübeck Bay, to accommodate leading SS personnel fleeing to German-controlled Norway in accordance with Dönitz’s orders. “The ships are gathering in the area of Lübeck and Kiel. At SHAEF it is believed that important Nazis who have escaped from Berlin to Flensburg are onboard, and are fleeing to Norway or neutral countries”.

Equipped with lifejackets from locked storage compartments, most of the SS guards managed to jump overboard from Cap Arcona. German trawlers sent to rescue Cap Arconas crew members and guards managed to save 16 sailors, 400 SS men, and 20 SS women. Only 350 of the 5,000 former concentration camp inmates aboard Cap Arcona survived. From 2,800 prisoners on board the Thielbek only 50 were saved; whereas all 2,000 prisoners on the Deutschland were safely taken off onto the Athen, before the Deutschland capsized.

RAF Pilot Allan Wyse of No. 193 Squadron recalled, “We used our cannon fire at the chaps in the water… we shot them up with 20 mm cannons in the water. Horrible thing, but we were told to do it and we did it. That’s war.”

Severely damaged and set on fire, Cap Arcona eventually capsized. Photos of the burning ships, listed as Deutschland,Thielbek, and Cap Arcona, and of the emaciated survivors swimming in the very cold Baltic Sea, around 7 °C (44.6 °F), were taken on a reconnaissance mission over the Bay of Lübeck by F-6 Mustang (the photo-reconnaissance version of the P-51) of the USAAF’s 161st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron around 5:00 pm, shortly after the attack.

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As a light rain began to fall on the afternoon of May 3, 1945, British soldiers of 6 Commando, 1st Special Services Brigade, searched the beaches of Neustadt, Germany, on the Baltic Sea for survivors. The bodies of men, women, and even small children lay by the hundreds on the sands. Offshore, under a gray, smoke filled sky, the soldiers could see the the still-smoldering hulk of the former luxury liner, the Cap Arcona, and scores of other damaged ships. A highly effective RAF bombing and rocket raid had destroyed the fleet and killed over 7,000 concentration camp inmates who had been imprisoned on the ships.

One soldier found a girl of about seven clutching the hand of a woman beside her. He presumed she was the girl’s mother. Both bodies were clad in black-and-white-striped wool garments of concentration camp prisoners. The heads and shoulders of floating corpses were visible just offshore, as victims of all ages drifted in

On 4 May 1945, a British reconnaissance plane took photos of the two wrecks, Thielbek and Cap Arcona,the Bay of Neustadt being shallow. The capsized hulk of Cap Arcona later drifted ashore, and the beached wreck was finally broken up in 1949. For weeks after the attack, bodies of victims washed ashore, where they were collected and buried in mass graves at Neustadt in Holstein, Scharbeutz and Timmendorfer Strand.Parts of skeletons washed ashore over the next 30 years, with the last find in 1971.

It’s a story no one would tell. The British government ordered the records to be sealed for 100 years. The sinking of one of the most glamorouse ocean liners of the early twentieth century just had it’s 62nd anniversary, appears in no history books. The governments of Germany and Great Britain continue to to refuse either to discuss it or release pertinent records. So another war atrocity remains mostly a secret, like several other sinkings during the time period. 7000 dead is an awfully lot to not even be able to mention it, but that is the way wars are run.

Operation Tidal Wave

When I refer to Operation Tidal wave I am referring to the 1st Operation Tidal wave and not  Operation Tidal Wave II which is a US-led coalition military operation commenced on or about 21 October 2015 against oil transport, refining and distribution facilities and infrastructure under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Operation Tidal wave was to become one of the costliest mistakes made by the Allied Forces during WWII.

Prior to World War II, the U.S. Army Air Corps (Army Air Forces as of June 20, 1941) developed a doctrine of high-altitude, precision, daylight, massed bombing of selected enemy military and industrial targets. Combined with the Royal Air Force’s concentration on mass air attacks on industrial areas at night by 1943, this doctrine evolved into the Combined Bomber Offense featuring “around-the-clock” bombing of German targets.

Petroleum production and distribution systems were among the highest priority targets, and perhaps the most inviting of these was the concentration of oil refineries at Ploesti, Rumania, which according to Allied intelligence estimates, produced as much as one third of Germany’s liquid fuel requirements. One of the most heavily defended targets in Europe, Ploesti lay outside the range of Allied bombers from England but could be reached by Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers from the Middle East or North Africa.

Operation Tidal Wave was an air attack by bombers of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) based in Libya and Southern Italy on nine oil refineries around Ploiești, Romania on 1 August 1943, during World War II. It was a strategic bombing mission and part of the “oil campaign” to deny petroleum-based fuel to the Axis.The mission resulted in “no curtailment of overall product output”

This mission was one of the costliest for the USAAF in the European Theater, with 53 aircraft and 660 aircrew men lost. It was the second-worst loss ever suffered by the USAAF on a single mission, and its date was later referred to as “Black Sunday”. Five Medals of Honor and numerous Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded to Operation Tidal Wave crew members.

Romania had been a major power in the oil industry since the 1800s. It was one of the largest producers in Europe and Ploiesti was a major part of that production. (see Bombing of Romania in World War II).The Ploiești oil refineries provided about 30% of all Axis oil production

In June 1942, 13 B-24 Liberators of the “Halverson project” (HALPRO) attacked Ploiești.

_B-24

Though damage was small, Germany responded by putting strong anti-aircraft defenses around Ploiești. Luftwaffe General Alfred Gerstenberg built one of the heaviest and best-integrated air defense networks in Europe. The defenses included several hundred large-caliber 88mm guns and 10.5 cm FlaK 38 anti-aircraft guns, and many more small-caliber guns.

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The latter were concealed in haystacks, railroad cars, and mock buildings.The Luftwaffe had three fighter groups within flight range of Ploiești 52 (Bf 109 fighters and Bf 110 night fighters, and some Romanian IAR-80 fighters).

 

Gerstenberg also counted on warnings from the Luftwaffe signals intelligence station in Athens, which monitored Allied preparations as far away as North Africa

The Ninth Air Force (98th and 376th Bombardment Groups) was responsible for the overall conduct of the raid, and the partially formed Eighth Air Force provided three additional bomb groups (44th, 93rd, and 389th). All the bombers employed were  B-24 Liberators.

Smart,_Jacob_E

Colonel Jacob E. Smart planned the operation, based on HALPRO’s experiences. HALPRO had encountered minimal air defenses in its raid; so the planners decided Tidal Wave would be executed by day, and that the attacking bombers would approach at low altitude to avoid detection by German radar. Training included extensive review of detailed sand table models, practice raids over a mock-up of the target in the Libyan desert and practical exercises over a number of secondary targets in July to prove the viability of such a low- level strike. The bombers to be used were re-equipped with bomb-bay fuel tanks to increase their fuel capacity to 3,100 gallons.

The operation was to consist of 178 bombers with a total of 1,751 aircrew, one of the largest commitments of American heavy bombers and crewmen up to that time The planes were to fly from airfields near Benghazi, Libya. They were to cross the Mediterranean and the Adriatic Sea, pass near the island of Corfu, cross over the Pindus Mountains in Albania, cross southern Yugoslavia, enter southwestern Romania, and turn east toward Ploiești. Reaching Ploiești, they were to locate pre-determined checkpoints, approach their targets from the north, and strike all targets simultaneously.

For political reasons, the Allied planners decided to avoid the city of Ploiești, so that it would not be bombed by accident.

Early on the morning of 1 August 1943, the five groups comprising the strike force began lifting off from their home air fields around Benghazi. Large amounts of dust kicked up during take-off caused limited visibility and strained engines already carrying the burden of large bomb loads and additional fuel. These conditions contributed to the loss of one aircraft during take-off, but 177 of the planned 178 aircraft departed safely.

800px-B-24D's_fly_over_Polesti_during_World_War_II

The formation reached the Adriatic Sea without further incident; however aircraft #28 “Wongo Wongo” belonging to the 376th Bombardment Group (the lead group, about 40 B-24s) and piloted by Lt. Brian Flavelle began to fly erratically before plunging into the sea due to unknown causes. Lt. Guy Iovine—a personal friend of Flavelle and piloting aircraft #23 Desert Lilly—descended from the formation in order to look for survivors, narrowly missing aircraft Brewery Wagon piloted by Lt. John Palm. No survivors were seen, and due to the additional weight of fuel, Iovine was unable to regain altitude to rejoin the formation and resume course to Ploiești.

The resulting confusion was compounded by the inability to regain cohesion due to strict radio silence maintained as per mission guidance. Ten other aircrews opted to return to friendly air fields following the incident and those aircraft which remained faced the 9,000 ft (2,700 m) climb over the Pindus mountains, which were shrouded in cloud cover. Although all five groups made the climb around 11,000 ft (3,400 m), the 376th and 93rd, using high power settings, began to lose the trailing formations, causing variations in speed and time which disrupted the careful synchronization of the group attacks deemed so important by Smart. The possible threat to successful execution was deemed to be of secondary concern to the operational security of the mission by senior leadership. The American leaders were unaware that while their intentions were not precisely known, their presence had been duly noted by the Germans. Although the need to rebuild their formations was clear and well within the contingency for breaking radio silence, the strike would proceed without correction, a judgment that would later prove costly.

Although now well strung out on approach to Piteşti, all five groups would make the navigational check point 65 mi (105 km) from Ploiești. At Câmpina, the 389th Bomb Group departed as planned for its separate but synchronous approach to the mission target. Continuing from Piteşti, Col. Keith K. Compton and Gen. Ent made a navigational judgment that would prove especially costly. At Târgovişte, halfway to the next check point at Floreşti, Compton followed the incorrect railway line for his turn toward Ploiești, setting his group and Lt. Col. Addison Baker’s 93rd Bomb Group on a course for Bucharest. In the process, Ent and Compton went against the advice of their airplane’s navigator and the Halverson Project (HALPRO) veteran Cpt. Harold Wicklund. Now in the face of an impending disaster, many crews chose to break radio silence and draw attention to the navigational error. Meanwhile, both groups flew headlong into Gerstenberg’s extensive air defenses around the Bucharest area, which they would now face in addition to those still awaiting them around Ploiești.

Lt. Col. Baker and his co-pilot Maj. John L. Jerstad, who had already flown a full tour of duty while stationed in England, would now succumb to the effects of the extensive air defense array.

Continuing through the intense defensive barrage, damage to their aircraft forced Baker and Jerstad to jettison their bomb load in order to maintain lead of the formation over their target at the Columbia Aquila refinery. Despite heavy losses by the 93rd, Baker and Jerstad maintained course and, once clear, began to climb away. Realizing the aircraft was no longer controllable, both men maintained the climb in order to gain time for the crew to abandon the aircraft. Although none survived, both Baker and Jerstad would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for maintaining their successful approach to Columbia Aquila and their efforts to save the crew of Hell’s Wench.

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Maj. Ramsay D. Potts flying The Duchess and Maj. George S. Brown aboard Queenie, encountering heavy smoke over Columbia Aquila, would take two additional elements of the 93rd and successfully drop their payloads over the Astra Romana, Unirea Orion, and Columbia Aquila refineries. In all, the 93rd lost 11 aircraft over their targets in Ploiești. One of the bombers, Jose Carioca,was shot down by a Romanian IAR 80 fighter, which went into a half roll and moved swiftly under the B-24 upside down, raking its belly with bullets. The bomber crashed into Ploiești Women’s Prison. The three-story building exploded in flames, and only 40 women survived the disaster. There were no survivors from Jose Carioca crew.

Air defenses were heavy over the 376th’s target (Romana Americana), and Gen. Ent instructed Compton to attack “targets of opportunity.” Most of the 376th B-24s bombed the Steaua Română refinery at Câmpina from the east, and five headed directly into the already smoldering conflagration over the Concordia Vega refinery.At Câmpina, air defenses on overlooking hills were able to fire down into the formation, and IAR 80 aircraft downed 376th aircraft

With the 93rd and 376th engaged over the target area, Col. John R. Kane of the 98th Bomb Group and Col. Leon W. Johnson of the 44th Bomb Group made their prescribed turn at Floresti and proceeded to their respective targets at the Asta Romana and Columbia Aquila refineries.

Both groups would find German and Romanian defenses on full alert and faced the full effects of now raging oil fires, heavy smoke, secondary explosions, and delayed-fuse bombs dropped by Baker’s 93rd Bomb Group on their earlier run. Both Kane and Johnson’s approach, parallel to the Floresti-to-Ploiești railway had the unfortunate distinction of encountering Gerstenberg’s disguised flak train. At tree-top level, around 50 ft (15 m) above the ground, the 98th would find themselves to the left and the 44th on the right. The advantage, however, would rest with the 98th and 44th, whose gunners quickly responded to the threat, disabling the locomotive and killing multiple air defense crews.

With the effects of the 93rd and 376th’s runs causing difficulties locating and bombing their primary targets, both Kane and Johnson did not deviate from their intended targets, taking heavy losses in the process. Their low approach even enabled gunners to engage in continued ground suppression of air defense crews from directly above their targets. For their leadership and heroism, both were awarded the Medal of Honor. Lt. Col. James T. Posey took 21 of the 44th’s aircraft on a separate assigned attack run on the Creditul Minier refinery just south of Ploiești. Although air defense batteries had already heavily engaged the 93rd, Posey was fully received by the same emplacements. Maintaining a continued low-level approach into the target area took some of the still heavily laden aircraft through tall grass and damage was caused by low-level obstructions. Posey and his aircraft—equipped with heavier 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs—managed to successfully find their marks at Creditul Minier, without loss to the formation.

The last TIDAL WAVE attack bombed the Steaua Română refinery (8 mi (13 km) northwest of Ploiești):at Câmpina. The 389th attack led by Col. Jack Wood was as rehearsed at Benghazi.

The damage caused by the 376th and 389th attacks heavily damaged the refinery, which did not resume production for the duration of the war.The 389th lost four aircraft over the target area, including B-24 Ole Kickapoo flown by 2nd Lt. Lloyd Herbert Hughes.

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After hits to Ole Kickapoo only 30 feet over the target area, the detonation of previously dropped bombs had ignited fuel leaking from the B-24. Hughes maintained course for bombardier 2nd Lt. John A. McLoughlin to bomb, and the B-24 subsequently crash-landed in a river bed.187 Hughes (who posthumously received the Medal of Honor) and five crewmembers were killed, four survived the crash but died of injuries, and two gunners became prisoners of war.

On their way over Bulgaria, the B-24s were intercepted by three fighter groups, 10 Bf 109s from Karlovo, four Avia B-534s from Bozhurishte and 10 Avia B-534s from Vrashdebna (Sofia) airport.

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The pilots Sub-lieutenant Peter Bochev (five victories), Captain Tschudomir Toplodolski (four victories), Lieutenant Stoyan Stoyanov (five victories) and Sublieutenant Hristo Krastev (one victory) gained their first kills for the Bulgarian Air Force of the war. The new fighter aces were decorated afterwards by Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria personally with the Order of Bravery, the first time in 25 years. Iron Crosses were awarded a month later from the German embassy.

 

Only 88 B-24s returned to Libya, of which 55 had battle damage. Losses included 44 to air defenses and additional B-24s that ditched in the Mediterranean or were interned (e.g. a few landed in neutral Turkey). Some were diverted (e.g. to the RAF airfield on Cyprus). One B-24 with 365 bullet holes in it landed in Libya 14 hours after departing; its survival was due to the light armament of the Bulgarian Avia B-534 (4 x 7.92mm machine guns).

310 aircrewmen were killed, 108 were captured by the Axis, and 78 were interned in Turkey, 4 were MIA in Yugoslovia and taken in by Tito’s partisans.76 Three of the five Medals of Honor (the most for any single air action in history) were awarded posthumously.:Allied assessment of the attack estimated a loss of 40% of the refining capacity at the Ploiești refineries,although some refineries were largely untouched. Most of the damage was repaired within weeks, after which the net output of fuel was greater than before the raid.Circa September, the Enemy Oil Committee appraisal of Ploiești bomb damage indicated “no curtailment of overall product output“as many of the refineries had been operating previously below maximum capacity.

Despite the extreme heroism of the airmen and their determination to press the mission home, the results of Operation TIDAL WAVE were less than expected. TIDALWAVE targeted nine major refineries that produced some 8,595,000 tons of oil annually, about 90 percent of all Rumanian oil production, and the attack temporarily eliminated about 3,925,000 tons, roughly 46 percent of total annual production at Ploesti. Three refineries lost 100 percent of production. Unfortunately, these losses figures were temporary and reflected much less than the planners had hoped for. The Germans proved capable of repairing damage and restoring production quickly, and they had been operating the refineries at less than full capacity, anyway. Ploesti thus had the ability to recover rapidly. The largest and most important target, Astro Romana, was back to full production within a few months while Concordia Vega was operating at 100 percent by mid-September.

The U.S. Army Air Forces never again attempted a low level mission against German air defense.

 

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Lloyd Herbert Hughes
John Louis Jerstad
Leon William Johnson
John Riley Kane