Thursday, August 1, 2013

Black Sunday

On Sunday August 1st, 1943, 177 B-24 Liberators from five bombardment groups of the USAAF (44th, 93rd, 98th, 376th, and 389th) departed their bases near Benghazi, Libya and headed out over the Mediterranean Sea for an operation named 'Tidal Wave'. Their target: the oil refineries of Ploesti, Brazi, and Câmpina in Romania.

Intended to put a significant dent in the enemy's oil and fuel production, and flown at very low-level, which was highly unusual for heavy bombers, 'Tidal Wave' was one of the most audacious operations to be planned and executed by the USAAF during WWII. And it was their most costly single mission up to that date. Bad luck, weather, navigational errors, botched coordination, and effective enemy defenses led to the loss of more than 50 aircraft to enemy action, and more than 530 aircrew killed, wounded, taken prisoner, interned, or missing.

Many of the aircraft that made it out of the target area were so badly damaged that they had to divert to alternate airfields, or wound up ditching in the sea. Some came down in neutral Turkey, where the aircraft were impounded and their crews interned. Of the 88 aircraft to return 'safely' to their home bases, only 33 were not damaged to any significant degree. Some of the other 55 were so badly damaged that they were considered beyond economical repair and would never fly again.

Among the many decorations for bravery and valor awarded as result of this mission were five Medals of Honor... three of which were posthumous.

There could easily have been many more.

Though it led to a more concerted effort to deny the enemy its oil and fuel reserves, this mission, while causing a good bit of damage, was described in a subsequent appraisal of its effectiveness as having caused "no curtailment of overall product output". The Romanian oil refineries had previously been operating below their maximum output potential, but were able to increase their output after repairs were effected... repairs that went quickly and without interruption, because the losses incurred by the attacking force of B-24s were so great that any sort of immediate follow up attacks were out of the question. So, in the end, 'Tidal Wave' was considered to be a failure.

There is much more to this story but, although your blogmeister likes to tap the keyboard quite a bit, it would take considerable time and effort to produce any more than the bare bones general outline presented above. And besides, that's what books and full-blown websites are for... and there have been a good number of those written and created on this subject already.

So, until your blogmeister decides to write a book or build a website about 'Tidal Wave', we shall let the following images do most of the rest of the talking for this installment of 'TWW'...


Four B-24s of the 415th Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bombardment Group during 'Tidal Wave'.

FSA/OWI collection - Library of Congress (Source)

A closer look at the ship nearest the camera... B-24D 42-63758, named 'Lil Jughaid', flown by Robert G. Nicholsen. This ship returned safely to Benghazi.

FSA/OWI collection - Library of Congress

Here's a painting by Roy Grinnell titled, 'Remember... Returning is Secondary'. It depicts 'Hell's Wench', a B-24D, serial 42-40994, of the 328th Bombardment Squadron, 93rd Bombardment Group shortly before her demise. Lt. Colonel Addison Baker, C.O. of the 93rd BG, and Major John 'Jack' Jerstad were at the controls... both were awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. Go HERE to read more...

Painting by Roy Grinnell

A few more photos from that day...

Project 914 Archives

Project 914 Archives

Project 914 Archives


Project 914 Archives

Fade to Black...

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