Skip to comments.Tidalwave, the August 1943 Raid on Ploesti (60th Anniversary 8/1)
Posted on 08/03/2003 11:12:06 AM PDT by NonValueAdded
[Posted in honor of the 60th anniversary of the great raid on the Ploesti oil fields]
The Combined Bomber Offensive (Operation Pointblank) evolved beginning with the entrance of the United States into World War II. The Army Air Forces (AAF) were committed to "destruction of selected vital elements of the German military and industrial machine through precision bombing in daylight." The Royal Air Force was to concentrate upon "mass air attacks of industrial areas at night, to break down morale" and thus limit German production.
When this division of work was firmly established at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, the AAF did not have sufficient crews or aircraft for sustained strategic operations. By the summer of 1943 priority targets were worked out and some ambitious AAF raids scheduled. Priorities for the offensive were aircraft manufacturing plants, anti-friction bearings factories (on the theory that stopping key industries would have large effects on the Germany war effort), petroleum refineries, and other targets.
B-24s over Ploesti with bombs bursting over targetThe most inviting oil target was at Ploesti which was thought to produce a third of Germany's liquid fuel requirements. The Rumanian targets were at the limit of the range of American aircraft and could not be reached from England. The oil fields and refineries had been ineffectually attacked by the Russian Air Force and, in January 1942, by American bombers from the Middle East.
Planning for a major mission began in earnest when the Germans in Tunisian were close to defeat. Five groups of B-24 Liberators were assigned to the task, three of them borrowed from the Eighth Air Force in the United Kingdom. Under command of the Ninth Air Force, the groups practiced low-level formation flying and bombing at bases near Bengazi, Libya.
After dawn on 1 August 1943, 177 B-24s under the command of Brigadier General Uzal G. Ent, who flew with the lead group, the 376th Bombardment Group, the most experienced heavy bomber unit in the Mediterranean area approached Ploesti. The route was past Corfu Island and northeast over the mountains of Albania and Yugoslavia.
The formations, somewhat disorganized by the loss of the lead navigator, descended to 500 feet at Pitesti, 65 miles from the targets. Halfway to the initial point where the final turn was to be made into Ploesti, the 376th Group, followed by the 93rd Bombardment Group, made an erroneous turn southeast toward Bucharest. The other bomb groups, the 389th, 98th, and 44th, continued as briefed. When Ent discovered the error, both groups headed back toward Ploesti. The 376th was told to strike targets of opportunity, and the 93rd attacked the original targets from the opposite direction as briefed.
The return flight to Libya was disorganized and under heavy German fighter attack for much of the way. In all, 54 planes were lost, but the bombing destroyed up to 42 percent of Ploesti's cracking capacity. The AAF's 30 percent losses meant that a follow-up mission was not practical, and with no opposition, the Germans were able to repair the facilities rapidly. Five officers received the Medal of Honor for bravery on this mission.
A web search did not turn up any current articles about the anniversary of the raid and that is a shame. Let us not forget the great sacrifice of our WW II veterans.
Or the people who assisted them!
We covered this raid back in January. Thanks for remembering.
*KINGSLEY, DAVID R. (Air Mission)
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 97th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force.
Place and date: Ploesti Raid, Rumania, 23 June 1944.
Entered service at. Portland, Oreg.
Birth: Oregon. G.O. No.: 26, 9 April 1945.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, 23 June 1944 near Ploesti, Rumania, while flying as bombardier of a B17 type aircraft. On the bomb run 2d Lt. Kingsley's aircraft was severely damaged by intense flak and forced to drop out of formation but the pilot proceeded over the target and 2d Lt. Kingsley successfully dropped his bombs, causing severe damage to vital installations. The damaged aircraft, forced to lose altitude and to lag behind the formation, was aggressively attacked by 3 ME-109 aircraft, causing more damage to the aircraft and severely wounding the tail gunner in the upper arm. The radio operator and engineer notified 2d Lt. Kingsley that the tail gunner had been wounded and that assistance was needed to check the bleeding. 2d Lt. Kingsley made his way back to the radio room, skillfully applied first aid to the wound, and succeeded in checking the bleeding. The tail gunner's parachute harness and heavy clothes were removed and he was covered with blankets, making him as comfortable as possible. Eight ME-109 aircraft again aggressively attacked 2d Lt. Kingsley's aircraft and the ball turret gunner was wounded by 20mm. shell fragments. He went forward to the radio room to have 2d Lt. Kingsley administer first aid. A few minutes later when the pilot gave the order to prepare to bail out, 2d Lt. Kingsley immediately began to assist the wounded gunners in putting on their parachute harness. In the confusion the tail gunner's harness, believed to have been damaged, could not be located in the bundle of blankets and flying clothes which had been removed from the wounded men. With utter disregard for his own means of escape, 2d Lt. Kingsley unhesitatingly removed his parachute harness and adjusted it to the wounded tail gunner. Due to the extensive damage caused by the accurate and concentrated 20mm. fire by the enemy aircraft the pilot gave the order to bail out, as it appeared that the aircraft would disintegrate at any moment. 2d Lt. Kingsley aided the wounded men in bailing out and when last seen by the crewmembers he was standing on the bomb bay catwalk. The aircraft continued to fly on automatic pilot for a short distance, then crashed and burned. His body was later found in the wreckage. 2d Lt. Kingsley by his gallant heroic action was directly responsible for saving the life of the wounded gunner.
PS It appears that paragraphs were in short supply in WWII.
I never knew Kingsley but I did lose an uncle in the raid.
I don't know if your father-in-law ever told the story from his point of view but if he did, perhaps you could post it sometime in memory to them both.
thanks, VOA, for the bump.