- Historic Sites
Ploesti: A Pilot's Diary
A thousand miles behind enemy lines, Liberator bombers struck Hitler’s Rumanian oil refineries, then headed home flying so low that some came back with cornstalks in their bomb bays
October/november 1983 | Volume 34, Issue 6
The most ironic part of the whole thing was when Capt. Thomas Campbell, who had flown Daisy Mae on thirty-five missions, told me that he had never been able to get the automatic-pilot elevator control to work at all. The fact that it worked for us undoubtedly saved our lives.
We began to get some summary figures about the mission: “A total of 178 B-24s took off and 140 reached and bombed the target. Fifty-nine aircraft were shot down or crashed enroute, of which 20 were lost over the target. Eight landed in neutral Turkey and were interned. The casualties totaled 450 killed or missing and 79 interned. A total of 51 enemy fighters were shot down—Me-109s and -110s, FW-190s, Ju-88s, and some unidentified bi-planes.”
Early reports indicated that great damage was done to the targets at Ploesti, so everyone felt pretty good except for our heavy losses. We stopped by to see Lieutenant Gioana as soon as he could have visitors.
August 13, 1943 . It had been pretty quiet around the base for several days, but today the groups went to Wiener Neustadt, another long mission, and landed at Tunis. Our crew didn’t go because our new ship, Pistol Packin’ Mama , was having an engine changed.
August 26, 1943 . Our African campaign was finally ended! We packed up, took off, circled over the field, and buzzed the place in formation as a farewell gesture. We flew over to Oran, landed, and stayed the night, and next day flew on to Marrakech. The following night we took off for dear old England and landed at our home base about noon.
September 15, 1943 . Today we were presented with awards and medals for the Ploesti mission. It was a large gathering and there were Distinguished Service Crosses, Distinguished Flying Crosses, and air medals galore. A couple of Congressional Medals (for Colonel Johnson and Colonel Kane) had already been presented. Colonel Timberlake presented the awards to our group and said a lot of nice things about everybody. It’s too bad that the many fellows who really earned the medals weren’t there to receive them.
Here are the full names of the crew of the Daisy Maem .
Lt. Lewis N. Ellis, Pilot
Lt. Callistie B. Fager, Copilot
Lt. Julius M. Klinkbeil, Navigator
Lt. Guido Gioana, Bombardier
T. Sgt. Blase Dillman, Engineer
T. Sgt. Arthur T. Waugh, Radio operator
S. Sgt. James W. Ayers, Aerial engineer
S. Sgt. Carl A. Alfredson, Aerial radio operator
S. Sgt. Owen J. Coldiron, Top turret operator
S. Sgt. Nicholas Hunt, Tail turret gunner
Other participants mentioned in Lieutenant Ellis’s diary:
Capt. E. W. Anderson, Weather officer
Capt. Gerald O. Beck, Chaplain
Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, Commanding general
Brig. Gen. Uzal S. Ent, Commanding general
Maj. Marshall O. Exnicios, Intelligence officer
Col. Leon W. Johnson, Group commander 44th
Col. John R. Kane, Group commander 98th
Capt. Leon C. Packer, Assistant operations officer
Maj. Herbert Shingler, Squadron leader
Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder, Royal Air Force
Col. Edward J. Timberlake, Group commander 93rd
Col. Jack W. Wood, Group commander 389th