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Thursday, August 1, 2013
Seventy years ago today, Aug. 1, 1943, the U.S. Army Air Corps conducted Operation Tidal Wave, a low-level bombing raid on Nazi-controlled oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania.
Operation Tidal Wave consisted of five waves of B-24 Liberator bombers making low-level (smokestack-high) passes in order to have pinpoint accuracy with their munitions. A total of 174 aircraft and 1,700 men participated in the operation; 53 aircraft and 600 air crew members were lost.
Col. Walter Stewart commanded the only B-24 from the first wave that survived the mission. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day.
The B-24 named Utah Man, piloted by Col. Walter Scott, survived the mission and returned to base with 365 bullet holes in it. The Liberator named Hells Wench,” piloted by Col. Addison Baker, received heavy damage prior to reaching its target, but proceeded per orders and delivered its bomb load. Hells Wench and crew did not return to base.
Operation Tidal Wave is known as the most highly decorated military mission in American history. Five men received the Medal of Honor (some posthumously), and several men received the Distinguished Service Cross.
On May 31, 1944, 15 B-24 Liberator bombers again raided, with much success, the rebuilt Nazi-controlled oil refineries at Ploesti.
Concerning the B-24 Liberator bomber, at the height of its production, Ford’s Willow Run Plant turned out B-24s at a rate of one in slightly less than an hour.
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