operation tidal wave

Fire Over Ploesti by Roy Grinnell

Badly damaged, Lieutenant Colonel Addison E. Baker and Major John L. Jerstad keep “Hell’s Wench” steady, leading their formation for the bombing run over the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. Both were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their efforts.

(National Guard)


Operation Tidal Wave, the American strategic bombings of 9 Romanian oil fields located around the town of Ploiești.

One of the costliest USAAF bombing campaigns of the war, with 53 aircraft and 660 aircrewmen lost; considered a failure as oil production was barely affected, a quickly recovered mere days after the campaign ended. 

“Operation Tidal Wave” 74 years ago today

‘Liberator’ B-24D-55-CO S/N 42-40402 “The Sandman” of the 345th Bomb Squadron, 98th Bomb Group “The Pyramiders”, 9th Air Force, on a bombing mission over Ploieşti, Rumanian oil refinery. August 1st 1943

TheB24D Liberators bombers flew low to avoid radar detection and dropped time delayed bombs. Out of the 177 B24Ds that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57 B24Ds were lost in total; 54 over Ploesti and 3 in the sea.

Five bomb groups were involved from the 8th and 9th Air Forces; the 44th, 93rd, 389th from the 8th and the 98th and 376th of the 9th.

Five Medals of Honor were awarded for the Ploesti raid. All five groups that took part received Presidential Unit Citations.

Crew of “The Sandman” when this photo was taken:
1st Lt. Robert W. Sternfels - Pilot
2nd Lt. Barney Jackson - CoPilot
2nd Lt. Anthony W. Flesch - Navigator
2nd Lt. David A. Polaschek - Bombadier
T/Sgt. William W. Stout - Flight Engineer/Gunner
T/Sgt. Frank Just - Radio Operator/Gunner
Sgt. Raymond E. Stewart - Gunner
Sgt. Harry Rifkin - Waist Gunner
Sgt. Merle B. Bowen - Waist Gunner
S/Sgt. John T. Weston - Ball Turret Tail Gunner (WIA - 2nd degree burns on lower right leg)

“The Sandman” was later lost on a mission to Augsburg,Germany on December 19th 1943.

(Colourised by Royston Leonard from the UK)

August 1, 1943 is known for OPERATION TIDAL WAVE, or “Black Sunday,” as it would come to be known in the USAAC. The raid was part of the POL campaign. Strategically, it was determined that the best way to hinder the German war effort in World War II was to attack POL or Petroleum Oil and Lubricants. The destruction of the manufacture of those products would put a quicker end to the war.

One target on the POL list was the Refineries of Ploiesti Romania. Romania at the time, was deep into German held territory and was safe from attacks from Great Britain. The decision was made to launch from Libya North Africa and fly across the Med, and attack them from the south. 177 B-24s of the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces USAAC were launched at 7:00 AM.

The mission was run under strict radio silence. That and poor weather caused havoc to the bomber streams. The attacks of the various refineries were done at low level. The result was, there was serious resistance via Flak and the Luftwaffe and Romanian Air Forces.

Another result was 53 B-24s were lost that day; 88 returned to Libya, with 55 of those with serious battle damage. 440 Aircrew were Killed in action; with another 220 either becoming POWs or MIAs. It is the United States highest loss of life for any one single mission. For all that loss of life and machine, in September, 1943, the Enemy Oil Committee stated “No curtailment of overall product output”

Every aircrew who flew the missions received the DFC or Distinguished Flying Cross.

Five Medal of Honors were given out for OPERATION TIDAL WAVE: they are

Col. John R. Kane
Col. Leon W. JohnsonLt
Col. Addison E. Baker, Posthumously
Maj. John L. Jerstad, Posthumously
2nd Lt. Lloyd Herbert Hughes, Posthumously

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