Book Review
Ploesti 1943
Ploesti 1943 The great raid on Hitler's Romanian oil refineries Air Campaign 12
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Lord Tennyson's epic The Charge of the Light Brigade could be recited for the B-24 heavy bombers that flew into alerted Axis defenses, except the bombers were only a quarter of the number of the cavalrymen in the Light Brigade. This is an extraordinary story of bomber gunners firing their machine guns in duels with Axis flak crews, obsolete biplane fighters trying to intercept modern bombers, bomber flight paths crossing through burning refineries and smoke clouds, and B-24s roaring along a railway with a flak train pacing the bombers.

Ploesti 1943 The great raid on Hitler's Romanian oil refineries, Air Campaign 12, from Osprey Publishing LTD is 96 pages of recounting the bold plan, Operation Tidalwave. Authored by renowned Steven J. Zaloga and illustrated by the incomparable Steve Noon, this book is available in softcover, ePub, and PDF. Osprey catalogues it with their short code ACM 12, and it also has the ISBN 9781472837349 (paperback).

Osprey introduces the book:
    Operation Tidal Wave was one of the boldest and most controversial air raids by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). At the time, the Romanian Ploesti oil fields produced about a third of all Axis oil, and was Germany's single most important fuel source. In the summer of 1943, the USAAF decided to stage a major raid on Ploesti from air bases in Libya. The resulting Operation Tidal Wave raid on 1 August 1943 was one of the costliest to date, losing 53 aircraft, about a third of the starting force. Of the more than 150 bombers that took part in the raid, only 88 B-24s returned to Libya, 55 of which were damaged. On the other hand, of the 17 Medals of Honor awarded to US soldiers and airmen from Pearl Harbor in 1941 to D-Day in 1944, 5 were awarded to pilots of the Tidal Wave mission in recognition of their extraordinary performance. Although undoubtedly bold and heroic, the mission had questionable results. Initial assessments argued that the mission caused 40% of the refinery capacity at Ploesti to be lost but subsequent studies concluded that the damage was quickly repaired and that output had exceeded August levels within a month.
    This new study examines the raid in detail, exploring the reasons why its dubious success came at such a high price. Supported by maps, diagrams, and full-colour artwork including battlescenes and bird's-eye views, this is the full story of the audacious Ploesti raid of 1943.

Ploesti was the target of one of the most dramatic raids of WWII. The fearsome raid witnessed bomber gunners firing their machine guns in duels with Axis flak crews; obsolete biplane fighters trying to intercept modern bombers; bomber flight paths crossing over burning refineries through smoke clouds; B-24s roaring along a railway taking fire from a flak train pacing the bombers; fighters attacking bombers just above the trees. Interested yet?

Ploesti 1943 is a story told through 96 pages and nine chapters and sections:
    Attacker's Capabilities
    Defender's Capabilities
    Campaign Objectives
    The Campaign
Further Reading

Mr. Zaloga is highly regarded as a military historian and modeler. His delivery of situations and technical aspects is clear and engaging. The book is enriched with first-hand accounts, group logs, and USAAF historical records. A surprising number of accounts are by Axis pilots, including tree-top encounters with heavy bombers barrelling out of clouds of smoke and near-midair collisions.
    I saw a B-24 emerging from the smoke that covered Ploesti. I was flying at only 40 meters. I attacked from the rear and set his right wing afire. After firing a long burst, I gained altitude to avoid machine gun fire...
Accounts from Romanian pilots cover almost two pages of text, including one pilot who, with aircraft and flying clothes aflame, intentional rammed and destroyed a B-24, and yet survived.

Mr. Zaloga's four-page Introduction opens with an overview of the top five oil producing countries in 1941 (Romania was one) and the bullseye on Ploesti from the opening of the war. It continues into USAAF (United States Army Air Force) missions that began in mid-1942. A glossary of English, German and Romanian terms precedes the story.

Attacker's Capabilities presents the USAAF commanders and the remarkable operation they planned and lead. It reviews the bomb groups (BG) that participated, and characteristics of the B-24. Five pages later we learn the Defender's Capabilities. Detail is paid to Romanian AAA defenses, German flak defenses, communications/command/control (CCC), radar, fixed and mobile flak batteries, fighter defenses, smoke, Imperator air defense network, and Bulgarian fighter forces. Those complex subjects are conveyed through 16 pages of technical, organizational, and operational descriptions, including significant dates.

Campaign Objectives examines the concepts and planning of the mission. It covers arguments and resistance between combat leaders and headquarters. Detailed large scale models (!) of Ploesti were were created for crew orientation. Bomb types and delivery are discussed, as are the training missions.

The Campaign is a detailed 39-page narrative of the mission. It describes the fracturing of the plan from early in the mission, German reactions and surprises, warnings, interceptions, and a controversial navigation error that lead to rumors of a mission leader "running away."

Each group's routes and attacks on each target are described in fascinating detail, rcounting dozens of individual bombers and crews, are identified by names or aircraft names, and often serial numbers.

They went to Ploesti to destroy it and damage to various targets is explored. Detail includes damage to plants, number of bombs on target, loss of production and subsequent repairs, and even interesting trivia, i.e., plant equipment knocked off foundations. Post-mission and later intelligence assessments are also included.

Finally, the post-mission story is told. The attack incurred severe losses and the affect upon Nazi oil supplies is surprising. USAAF's handling of the commanders is interesting, as are the stories of the follow-up attacks.

Tidal Wave was a daring undertaking that has been written about before. Mr. Zaloga put a great deal of research into the story and this presentation of the attack has its own unique quality compared to other accounts I have read.

Photography, Artwork, Graphics
USAAF crews in the attack has a lot of camera equipment at their disposal. The attack produced a great deal of still and motion picture photography archiving some of the most incredible heavy bomber scenes of the war. In this book are plenty of inflight images and bombers on the ground. Numerous diorama-worthy images will be found in the pages as well as original color photographs of B-24s that survived Tidal Wave.

Excellent artwork by the incomparable Steve Noon enriches the book.

1. Map, Flakgruppe Ploesti 1943, showing refineries, barrage balloon fields, German or Romanian light and heavy flak batteries.

2. Map, Luftwaffe Air Defense in Romania 1943: the Imperator Network, depicting Flakgruppe, radars and coverage, and Romanian-only warning sectors.

3. Bird's-eye view map Tidal Wave Mission Route, August 1, 1943, keyed to 15 events.

4. Map, Tidal Wave Mission: the Plan depicting the five routes of the bomb groups.

5. Battlescene of Bulgarian biplanes trying to intercept the inbound bombers.

6. Centerfold: Tidal Wave approaches Ploesti depicts "Desert Pink" or Olive Drab 98th and 44th BG B-24s storming towards target.

7. Bird's-eye view map Tidal Wave Strikes Ploesti, August 1, 1943, illustrating flight paths and altitudes of five USAAF units and four Axis air groups, keyed to 17 events.

8. Centerfold: Romanian interceptors over the refineries shows a pair of IAR 80s peeling off from 150 feet to attack lower B-24s over exploding refineries.

9. 3-D illustration 98th Bomb Group "The Pyramiders" Attack Formation showing all 48 B-24s, color-coded by fate. It is accompanied by a table listing each B-24 in each of the five flights by Pilot, aircraft name, and fate.

10. Centerfold: Deadly duel over Brazi recreates the Bf 109 of Hauptmann Wilhelm Steinmann of JG.4 attacking Capt Rowland Houston's B-24 "Satan's Hell Cats."

1. IX Bomber Command Heavy Bombardment Groups, Operation Tidal Wave by group, commander, nickname, target and operational strength of:
    44th BG
    93rd BG
    98th BG
    376th BG
    389th BG
2. Romanian Flak Equipment, 1942: 10 types of weapons and number deployed.

3. Flakgruppe Ploesti and HQ, Flak-Regiment. 180: 14 units.

4. Antiaircraft Artillery in the Ploesti Area, August 1943: seven flak organizations and commanders.

5. Fighter Squadrons in Ploesti Area, August 1943 by Romanian or German unit, aircraft type, bases.

6. Bulgarian fighter force units, bases, and aircraft types.

7. The major Ploesti refineries presents nine refineries by codename, processing capability, and crude oil processed Jan-Jun, 1941.

8. Tidal Wave bomber allocations:
    Group Assigned
    No. of key targets
    No. of aircraft
    1,000lb bombs
    500lb bombs
    Incendiary bombs

The visual support of the book is as valuable as the text.

Ploesti 1943 is a thouroughly researched and engagingly presented book about Operation Tidal Wave. First-person accounts of the fight are impressive, and names of crews and aircraft are useful. Modelers should be amazed and inspired by the story and its supporting photographic and illustration content. The artwork by Steve Noon is, as usual, fantastic. Tables present data in a concise form.

I have no objective compliant about this book and highly recommend it to modelers, and historical students, of the Ploesti raid, the B-24, Romanian aircraft and military, the oil campaign, and the air war against Germany.

Please remember to mention to Osprey and retailers that you saw this book here - on Aeroscale.
Highs: Thoroughly researched and written with first-hand accounts, fascinating photos and awesome artwork.
Lows: Nothing of consequence.
Verdict: Highly recommended to modelers, and historical students, of the Ploesti raid, the B-24, Romanian aircraft and military, the oil campaign, and the air war against Germany.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781472837349
  PUBLISHED: Jan 27, 2020

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Nice review, Fred. I still want to build a Ploesti raider one day. So many things went wrong. I have read a lot about this and how the survivors of the mission felt about those who organized it.
JAN 28, 2020 - 04:01 AM

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