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> 63. Aerial Bombings
Posted: July 09, 2005 09:43 pm
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by Vasile Barboi

On March 4, 1944, in a very difficult strategic-operational situation for Romania, the British-American Air Forces restarted their bombings, that were to be continued uninterruptedly five months after that, until August 19,1944. The main target was the oil field region Ploiesti-Campina, but the aircrafts also throw their deadly bombs to Bucuresti, Brasov, Giurgiu and other cities. These missions were fulfilled by the 5th Air Force (U.S.A.), which included more than 1,500 "Liberators" (B-24) and "Fortress" (B-17) bombers, and also fighting aircrafts ("Lightning" and "Mustang") of high performance. By night the flights were performed by the British Group, which had "Wellington" and "Halifax" bombers, equiped with special apparatus. These aerial forces were disposed in their bases in Italy (Foggia, Brindissi and Bari airdromes), at a distance of only 900 km from their targets in Romania. Also they could use the advantages of "to and from flight system": they were landing in U.S.S.R., reloaded after with bombs, then they were coming back to Italy — so, they could develop two bombing missions during a single flight (on leaving and on returning). If we take into account their purposes, the amount of the strikes, and also the effects produced as a result of the bombings, we may call these British-American raids a true aerial operation.

The general object was to reduce or even to strangle the oil production for the German war-machine, but also to strike a deadly blow at the Romanian military potential — Romanian factories, ammunition depots, railways platforms etc.

The ampleness of the aerial operations is given by the 48 aerial raids, including 15 night missions, with a monthly rate of 7-12 strikes, on an average of 300-500 bombers in one raid. Totally, at about 16,000 flights were fulfilled, out of which more than 12,000 were made by the bombers. If we take solely the Ploiesti-Prahova region, it suffered roughly 30 strikes; Bucharest was attacked 20 times; Brasov, Giurgiu and other small towns were struck 5 to 7 times each.

The massive forces involved in these operations launched against their targets on the Romanian territory more than 40,000 tones of bombs (totally); these strikes had destructive effects for the fuel production, which was finally reduced, in spite of that, with only 10-12%; also, the bombings influenced the well-functioning of the railway-system, mainly the Bucharest-South and Ploiesti-South marshalling yards.

The total value of the losses produced raised at about 130 billions lei. The casualties raised at more than 8,000 dead and an equal number of wounded. Also, a great number of industrial units, houses and buildings were destroyed. All these destructions were due mainly to the fact that the bombs were thrown by using "the carpet system", on large areas, including houses and inhabited zones; a number of about 35,000 buildings were destroyed, and this fact disas-truously affected the moral of the people. An edifying example consists in the bombing mission on April 4, 1944, in the Northern Railway Station area in Bucharest, which caused a great number of dead, buried after in the "4 April" cemetery, and also in the one of April 5, 1944 at Ploiesti, when besides the oil distilleries were struck hospitals, social institutions, houses, schools and other buildings.

The Romanian and German anti-aircraft defence system reacted by using the fire of about 210 anti-aircraft cannon sections, being very strong especially in Ploiesti area, where the German were directly interested in, then in the zone of Bucharest and in other well-defenced points in the territory. Under the legion of fire-balls, dropped by the enemy's bombers, the anti-aircraft artillery men from the 1st and the 3rd A.A. Regiments (in Bucharest) and from the 7th and 9th A.A. Regiments (in Ploiesti, where also fought two German regiments) opposed a strong resistance, proving themselves to be brave warriors and inflicting heavy losses to the enemy.

A direct and really heroical contribution in the course of these confrontations had the Romanian fighting aircrafts, with the 1st, 6th, 7th and 9th Fighting Groups, which included I.A.R.-80 and Me-109 G planes; they attacked the massive American flying units proving a high training and a lot of courage; we cannot forget the 51 Romanian pilots who died in the course of the aerial fights with the British-American aircrafts.

As a result of the actions of the Romanian Air Force's units and of the anti-aircraft artillery more than 250 British-American bombers and fighters were destroyed. The members of the squads who managed to escape alive (roughly 1,000 men) were captured and inprisoned in Timisul de Jos inprisonment camp, where they were treated decently; it was a treatment which the British-American pilots had appreciated very much at that time, in 1944, and that they still consider today as having been one of the most human they met during the war (of course, those who still live).

Given their unusual amplitude, the destructions resulted and the moral impact in the public opinion, the British-American bombings in the summer of 1944 had directly supported the offensive operations of the II and the III Ukrainean Fronts, and thus they proved to be — without taking into account the enormous sufferings and casualties caused to Romanians — an action of loyalty, with regard to their Soviet ally; yet, these bombings also contributted to the occupation of our country by the Russian troops, with all the consequences which came after that.
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