Osprey's Ploesti 1943
96 pages, Air Campaign #12
By the time the US got really involved in the war in Europe/North Africa, the tide had already started to turn for the Third Reich. The USAAF thought that strategic bombing (bombing of specific targets) was a better way to do things that carpet bombing (bombing of cities). So US bomber groups were tasked with taking out the means of production rather than the people who operated the various plants and factories.
It was pretty obvious from the start that the best way to bomb something was when there was no opposition. It was nigh impossible to wipe out anti-aircraft guns enough to make a difference but it was possible to reduce the threat of fighters. There were two basic ways of dealing with this. One was to hit those production resources that provided parts for and the assembly plants for aircraft. The other was the cut off the supply of fuel. This latter one had the benefit of reducing the number of operational tanks, ships, trucks and other vehicles that needed it.
The main issue with dealing with the fuel supply is that in 1943, most of the refineries were not exactly close. The major oil production facilities for the Germans were in Romania. This was too far for British based bombers, but not for those operating out of eastern Libya. The B-24 Liberator had the best range/bomb load combination so it was decided to send several bomb groups to North Africa to participate in what was hoped would be a single knock out blow of the refineries around Ploesti, Romania.
Much planning and practice went on by all concerned and there was quite a bit of dissent amongst the bomb group commanders as to how this should actually be carried out. It was decided that low level was the best way as it would help to avoid being detected by German radar on the way in. It was hoped that this would be a huge surprise that that defenses would be caught off guard. The flight plan was complex to avoid detection.
I won't go into all the details, as they are extensive, but the Germans were aware of what was going on almost at the beginning of the mission. IP's were missed and some units were decimated by the low level flying and light flak. Much positive spin was made of the mission, but it was pretty much a disaster. Commanders were sacked and many medals were issued.
The author did a superb amount of research in putting this book together. We are provided with the full mission story of every group that partook of the mission as well as individual stories of individual aircraft. The other side's story is also told, making for a well rounded look at what is considered by many to be one of the iconic raids of WWII in Europe. Lots of great period photos (some in color), along with excellent art work and easy to understand charts and diagrams make this a book that all WWII air enthusiasts need to have on their shelves.
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