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TARGET: OIL STORAGE AND REFINERIES

Ploesti was the center of the great Rumanian oil fields, which were capable of producing seven million tons of oil a year. Rumanian oil was vital to Germany’s war effort and Hitler spared nothing in his protection of Ploesti. In June 1940, the implied threat of Soviet seizures in Bessarabia and Bulkovina was met by a build-up both of German forces in nearby Poland and Hitler’s mistrust of Stalin.

The German invasion of Russia was in part prompted by the need to secure oil supplies, and after 1941 the Ploesti oil- fields were strongly defended in the face of repeated Allied bombing attacks.

In June 1942, a B-24 Liberator Wing became involved in a very specialized period of training. Combat crews had no idea what ultimate target they were training for, but it was obvious that it had nothing to do with high altitude bombing.

The big ships were sent roaring across the countryside in tight formation at tree top level. Low-altitude bomb sights were installed. Armament modifications, designed to in- crease firepower forward, were speeded up. The Liberator men, pleased with their new hair-raising tactics, speculated as to the nature of their next assignment.

The answer came 1350 miles later as the bomber flies. The B-24s landed in Africa, became associated with the Ninth Air Force and announcement was made to the combat crews that Rumanian oil facilities would be their prime target...

Next...Bob Rosenthal

Continued...

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