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> 48. The American Air Force Bombings (August 1, 1943)
dragos
Posted: July 15, 2004 08:24 pm
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by Serban Pavelescu

The oil region Ploieşti-Câmpina entered in the history of the Second World War as a basic point in the strategic effort of both sides involved in the conflict. As a "German power's pivot root", the Romanian oil was to becom the stake of a prolonged and bloody conflict. On August 1, 1943 the American B-24 Consolidated Liberator bombers delivered their flrst American strategic bombing on the European theater, against the oil fleld region Ploieşti-Câmpina.

After was discussed at Casablanca, in January 1943, being included within "the six major task of the British-American air offensive", the problem concerning the destruction of the Romanian oil distilleries become operational in the summer of the same year, after the landing in Sicilia.

For reaching the goal - depriving Germanny of the most important source of combustible, with a single blow - the Allies destined two air fleets, the 8th and the 9th American ones, based in the Northern Africa.

Given the utmost importance of the mission and due to the experience of a previous bombing carried out on June 12, 1942, General Lewis H.Brereton, the commander of the 9lh American Air Fleet, that was charged to conduct this mission, being helped by a special Staff, punctiliously prepared the attack from the air. He ordered a serious documentation on the entire Romanian oil field region. As a result of this analyses, the decision was taken that the target selected for the mission be stroken and attacked at a low attitude, with the view that this way the suprise could be real-ized and the strong riposte of the A.A. defence could be avoided.

But something was missing to the scrupulously careful allied plan; this was the correct valuation of the means (fighters aircrafts and A.A. artillery) and of the firepower at disposal of the Romanian and German forces, that constituted the defence disposition of the oil region.

Being fully aware of the importance of the oil region and of the destructions which could be provoked by another American bombing from the air, the Romanian and the German Command have prepared — under the leading of General Kuderna, starting with June 1943 — an important A.A. defence dis-position. In the very moment of the air attack, both Romanian and German forces have at their hand 15 light and 36 heavy A.A. cannons sections and a number of 57 fighters, ready for action, disposed on the airdromes Pipera, Târgşor, Mizil, Ziliştea and Galaţi, to which added a subunit of captive balloons, a system of artificial fog genera-tor and one of visual and electromagnetical alarm.

On Sunday, August 1, 1943, at 7:15 a.a., began the longest air mission of the war, as period of time (11 hours and 16 minutes) and distance of fight (3,500 km) in a single raid. From the airdromes of Benghazi left the ground 178 aircrafts. According to the order of mission, the bombers formation moved to the itinerary: Benghazi, north of Corfu, east of Prespa Lake, Pirot, Sofia, Corabia, east of Piteşti, folowing variable levels of altitude, between 4,250 metres high till 100 and 50 metres over the targets.

Some technical problems, the unfavourable weather, also the alarming of the entire A.A. defence in the Balkans - which annuled the surprise element — marked, from the beginning, this special mission's development.

After entering the Romanian territory, between Corabia and Bechet, the bombers took the route Caracal, Piatra Olt, north of Slatina, Piteşti and, from there, towards the targets. The group of bombers was cutted in two parts, due to some orientation errors. This way, the attack was performed in successive waves and at significants intervals in time, this fact helping both the A.A. artillery's action and the one carried out by the fighters.

During the bombing, the American bombs threw roughly 310 tones of expolosive bombs and about 430 incendiary charges to the "Columbia", "Vega", "Orion", "Astra Română", "Steaua Română" and "Creditul Minier" distilleries. Also the "Concordia" and "Metalurgica" industrial units, the Roundhouse in Ploieşti and the Electrical Factory Campina were struck by the bombs.

During the air fights carried out over Crivina, Periş, Buftea, Bilciureşti, Conteşti, Butimanu, Bolintin a.s.o., the Romanian and German fighters executed 123 take-offs, attacking 60-70 hostile bombers.

The A.A.artillery, which entered the fight with all its forces in the disposition, delivered a very intense barrage, registering an ammunition consume of roughly 30,000 shells of all calibres. As the American prisoners of war interrogated after declared, they met on the Romanian territory "the strogest A.A. defence in all their airbattle experience".

The human losses for the Romanians and the Germans raised at 120 dead and 335 wounded, the majority being constituted of civilians. After the fights, on the Romanian naţional territory, the remains of 36 American bombers were found.

In accordance with the allied sources, the American losses raised at 67 bombers (7 of them being interned in Turkey) and 532 men (dead, wounded and missing). It was the greatest percentage of losses registered in an air mission during the World War II. As a result of the air attack, the capacity of the distilleries was reduced with 45% - 40%. More than 50,000 tones of oil fired. The errors in planning and performing the mission, but also the efficiency of the A. A. defence at Ploieşti were the decisive factors that provoked the failure of the allies' goal: the destruction of the Romanian oil region. The air attack on August 1, 1943 represented an action of great courage and boldness, being - in a sort of way - unique, mainly from the point of view of the air achievement, but also it was a very costly and mediocre success, as one takes into account the result obtained by the Allies. The A.A.defence successfully passed the exams, an extra-argument being the one that a new attack against this area did not produce for a whole year. The allied bombers came again only after they had at their disposal an adequate protection, due to the appearance on the stage of action of the new strategic fighter Lockheed P-38 Ligthning.
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Fratello
Posted: January 26, 2005 10:54 pm
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Hi Dragos. Where did you find this article written by Serban Pavelescu?
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dragos
Posted: January 27, 2005 07:42 am
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All articles in this sub-forum are from Romania in World War II 1941-1945, ISOSIM, Bucharest 1997.
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Fratello
Posted: January 29, 2005 03:22 pm
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Thank you for information.
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