US Air Force fails to destroy the Romanian oil fields (August 1, 1943) - History Key

US Air Force fails to destroy the Romanian oil fields (August 1, 1943)

The strategic mission of US Air Force during Operation “Tidal Wave” aimed to destroy the oil refineries around Ploiesti, Romania. Despite the long preparation, the “destruction wave” was a big failure: US Air force lost in a single day 53 planes and 660 soldiers. Moreover they didn’t destroy any of the oil refineries. It was a “black Sunday” for the Americans.

B-24D's fly over Ploiești during World War II
B-24D’s fly over Ploiești during World War II © media.defense.gov Jerry J. Jostwick/Image Source: Wikipedia

Was it in vain?

Operation “Tidal Wave” wasn’t the first attempt of this kind. They also tried it in June 1942 (“Project Halverston”), but at that time things went differently for the Americans. They managed to bomb an important oil refinery from Ploiesti and another one in Constanta, Romania. The Americans had no injuries and no damaged planes. All the planes sent in the mission returned back unharmed.

Air Raid Ploesti! A B-24 flying over a burning oil refinery at Ploesti, Rumania, 1 August 1943
Air Raid Ploiesti! A B-24 flying over a burning oil refinery at Ploiesti, Romania, 1 August 1943 © Army.mil/ Image Source: Wikipedia

Coming back in 1943, the Americans made the preparation for the Tidal Wave just like the previous mission. But they not took into account an essential element: the Germans among with the Romanians had strengthened their defence.

For the Americans, the operation was a big failure because they lost 53 planes out of 177 and 660 soldiers never returned to their base. As for material damage caused by the bombardment, the information varies. The US estimates that 40% of the refinery’s production capacity was destroyed while the Germans sustain that the refineries were untouched and those who have been hit only suffered minor damages.

However, according the Enemy Oil Committee evaluation of September 1943, the results of the bombing in Ploiesti was unacceptable for the Americans: “there was no decrease in global production capacity”.

Columbia Aquila refinery after the bombing, with bomb craters, largely intact
Columbia Aquila refinery after the bombing, with bomb craters, largely intact © Image Source: Wikipedia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *