Ploieşti 1944

Flight Journal - - FEATURES -

The Ro­ma­nian oil re­finer­ies around Ploieşti re­main one of the best-known tar­gets of the Euro­pean air war. The dar­ing low-level B-24 raid in Au­gust 1943 re­ceives nearly all the at­ten­tion, but it ac­com­plished rel­a­tively lit­tle while writ­ing off some 60 Lib­er­a­tors.

Far more suc­cess­ful—and even more costly— was the four-month cam­paign waged by the 15th Air Force in the spring and sum­mer of 1944. Once freed by the air chiefs to con­cen­trate on pe­tro­leum rather than trans­port tar­gets, Maj. Gen. Nathan Twin­ing’s bombers pounded the Ro­ma­nian com­plex in a se­ries of at­tacks that re­duced Ploieşti’s oil out­put to about 10 per­cent of the pre­vi­ous pro­duc­tion.

Twin­ing’s five bomb wings (four B-24, one B-17) pur­sued a vig­or­ous re­strike pol­icy. By then, ex­pe­ri­ence had shown that few ob­jec­tives were de­stroyed in one blow. Fur­ther­more, oil re­finer­ies were por­ous tar­gets with con­sid­er­able open space in­side the perime­ter. But when Soviet forces oc­cu­pied Ro­ma­nia that Au­gust, they found one ru­ined re­fin­ery af­ter an­other a jum­bled, scorched wreck.

The north and south pin­cers of the Al­lied air of­fen­sive pro­duced bat­tle­field ef­fects far be­yond the ru­ined re­finer­ies. In Ger­many’s last desperate gam­ble in the Bat­tle of the Bulge in De­cem­ber 1944, Al­lied forces found hun­dreds of im­mo­bile Ger­man ve­hi­cles—in­tact but out of gas.

B-24Ds of the 415th Bomb Squadron 98th Bomb Group fly low over the oil re­finer­ies at Ploeşti, Ro­ma­nia, on Au­gust 1, 1943. (Photo cour­tesy of Jack Cook)

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