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'Operation Tidal Wave' 1 August 1943.
Through flak and over the destruction created by preceding waves of bombers, these 15th Air Force B-24s leave Ploesti, Rumania, after one of the long series of attacks against the No. 1 oil target in Europe.
After weeks of practicing in extreme heat, where crews flew in formations just 100 feet over the Libyan desert, 177 B-24 Liberator bombers took off Aug. 1, 1943, as part of Operation Tidal Wave. They flew from their North African base in Benghazi to land a crippling blow to oil refineries in Ploesti. The refineries were producing an estimated one-third of Germany's oil, and the U.S. Army Air Forces planned a massive run against the target to choke off the supply.Multiple waves of B-24s from the 98th, 376th, 44th, 93rd and 389th Heavy Bombardment Groups flew in — some 300 to 500 feet off the ground, others as low as 100 feet off the ground — to surprise and destroy their target.
In that single-day strike, 54 bombers did not make it home and 532 airmen were killed.
The refineries, while damaged, survived this deadly attack. It would take another year of relentless bombing, more than 13,000 tons of bombs and the loss of an additional 2,000 airmen before Ploesti would fall in August 1944. (Photo source - National Museum file 050616-F-1234P-017.jpg) (Colourised by Royston Leonard UK)
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