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)