- 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
Benghazi, Libya, July 23,1943. Something new is in the air! This morning we were introduced to a Major Blank, an expert in low-level bombing, who lectured us on a new bombsight, which was a converted gunsight. He explained how A-20s had been making low-level attacks and that experiments were being made with B-24s. He said that he didn’t know if the new sights would ever be used, but we assumed the Air Force wouldn’t be running experiments that far out in the desert for nothing, so we decided to get interested in low-level bombing.
July 24, 1943 . This afternoon several B-24s were rigged up with the new sights, and some of the lead crews ran demonstrations on wooden targets built much like billboards. The planes came in very low and released their bombs just before reaching the target. Bull’s-eyes were scored almost every time.
July 25, 1943 . Today all the ships on our field were suddenly equipped with the new low-altitude sight, and the bombardiers were given special bombing charts. Now we knew they weren’t kidding! Rumors and tall stories began going around the camp about where the attacks would be made. Some guessed the Messina dockyards.
This afternoon we were briefed on low-altitude formation flying and also on security (which wasn’t much of a problem in the desert; there was no one to talk to except ourselves).
July 26, 1943 . Captain Packer called my crew in and explained that our group (the 389th) had more crews and ships than our quota and that the 98th Group was short, and since we had joined the group last, we were to fly the next mission with the 98th Group. We therefore packed and went the short distance over to the 98th and were assigned the airplane Daisy Mae , a veteran of some fifty-six missions but a good ship just the same. Little did we know what a difference this simple transfer was to make for us in the raid to come.
The next five days were busy ones. Every morning we flew low-altitude formation (from fifty feet down). It was really fun! All five groups (44th, 93rd, 98th, 376th, and 389th) were doing the same thing. I guess we frightened every Arab off every hay wagon and blew down half the tents for fifty miles around. Each morning we added something new. At first we flew in three- and six-ship formations, then squadron formation, then in our group, and finally in five waves with seven ships in each. I was assigned to fly on the left wing of the squadron leader (Maj. Herbert Shingler) of the fourth wave. For days you could look around almost anywhere on the desert and see formations of B-24s skimming along the ground, just missing what few palm trees there were. In open spaces they swooped still lower until they barely missed the ground. The sheepherders on the desert really had a rough time! One lieutenant actually flew so low he scraped off his bomb-bay doors, kicked up a lot of dust, and blew down three tents. On the third day the British engineers erected the “target” on a clear space in the desert. It consisted of a large number of long, low, wooden buildings with an occasional circular building and a few towers. We always dropped a few one-hundred-pound practice bombs, but on the last day we put in some live five-hundred-pounders with delayed fuses and blew the whole thing sky high.
In the afternoon and evenings we studied the target, for by now we knew we were making a low-level attack on the Ploesti oil fields in Rumania. I guess we received the most complete and detailed briefing of any air raid in history. Each of our five groups was assigned one of the thirteen oil refineries around Bucharest, and each of the five waves in our group had a certain area. Every airplane had a specific building or a part of a building on which the bombs were to be placed. Our target was the left end of a boiler house; the ship behind us was assigned the right end. The briefing facilities, equipment, and assistance were unlimited. We had draftsmen to make drawings and sketches of every route, every target, every building. They constructed wooden models, to scale, of every building and every oil storage tank. We had pictures, maps, and drawings galore. Every pilot, navigator, and bombardier knew exactly what he was supposed to do. Group commanders Colonel Kane, Colonel Wood, Colonel Timberlake, and wing commander Brig. Gen. Ent knew all the targets better than the crews themselves. General Brereton and Air Chief Marshal Tedder talked with all the crews. In the evenings we were shown motion pictures of the target area and buildings, some borrowed from the files of American oil companies in the States, some smuggled out of occupied Rumania. One evening a group of engineers who had helped to build the refineries spoke to us and described many of the buildings, how they were constructed and how the plants could best be put out of action. For five days we talked only of Ploesti, trying to digest all the information the intelligence section had spent so long in preparing. On Sunday, August 1, we were ready.
We were at five hundred feet and still going down. It was only twelve miles to Ploesti, yet it was the longest twelve miles I ever hope to fly.
August 1, 1943 . At 3:30 A.M. the assistant operations officer came around to our tent and woke us up for the mission. We dressed, ate breakfast (powdered eggs, prunes, oatmeal, bacon, and coffee), and went over to the briefing hut. Not much additional briefing was necessary, so thorough had been our previous study of the target. Colonel Kane, from Shreveport, Louisiana, did most of the talking. (He reminded me a lot of Wallace Beery, only he was younger and undoubtedly tougher.) He reviewed the formation board and the briefed route (Benghazi to the island of Corfu, to the target, back to Corfu, and home—just as simple as that). It was a twenty-four-hundred-mile flight. We had an extra bomb-bay tank, which gave us a total of thirty-one hundred gallons of gasoline in addition to our bomb load of three 1,000-pound bombs with long-delay fuses, plus some incendiary clusters and an extra-large load of ammunition. We had the ten regular .50-caliber machine guns and two extras—double-waist guns, very formidable weapons. The weather officer, Captain Anderson, explained the situation. Pretty heavy clouds were expected along the coast in the Corfu area; otherwise it was OK. The intelligence officer, Major Exnicios, briefly reviewed the targets. Ours was white target (Austro-Rumania), blue route, building No. 6 (oil-refining plant). We already knew it perfectly. The question was raised whether we should carry our pistols. Colonel Kane explained that it was optional (that personally if he went down, he was going to shoot his way out of Rumania), and about half the crews decided to take them along. Our crew didn’t. But everyone did take his water canteen (in addition to the huge thermos jug in the ship) and a good supply of K rations.
Altogether the briefing was comparatively short for so important a mission, but practically everything had already been covered many times in previous sessions. We went out to check over our ship. The mechanics had been working all night to get everything in shape, and it looked pretty good. The crew members reported their equipment as being in proper condition. Takeoff was scheduled for 6:30 A.M.
Father Beck came around in his jeep to give final blessings and to pick up any last-minute “just in case” mail—(letters to be sent in case the crew didn’t return). Almost everyone had already completed his letters home the day before. This was the first time we had written letters of this kind, and everyone knew this would be a tough assignment. Colonel Wood had said this mission was the reason for our trip to Africa, and Colonel Kane had explained that if the entire group was lost, the destruction of the target would be worth it. Not much consolation.
Pretty soon it was time to start the engines and taxi out. All of the fellows said good-bye to Peanuts, our mascot terrier, before turning him over to the crew chief for safekeeping. We had often discussed the possibility of taking him on a mission, but no one thought it was a good idea to take Peanuts to Ploesti for his first trip.
As we taxied out, everyone was surprisingly quiet and confident, at least outwardly. During our few missions in Africa we had learned something about fear and how to control it.
The ships were marshaled in long lines on both sides of the field, tails pointing slightly downwind to prevent columns of dust from covering the ships. Lt. CaI Fager and I ran up the engine and went through the checklist automatically. Then, trying to appear nonchalant, I smiled and said, “Here we go, boy. ” I gave it full throttle, and we began to gain speed across the dirt runway, then lifted slowly into the air. I had hardly relaxed after the takeoff (getting safely into the air with a heavily loaded ship is always a mental strain on pilots and quite often on other members of the crew as well) when Lieutenant Klinkbeil said over the Interphone, “Navigator to pilot, a plane has just crashed south of the field. You can see it if you look out your left side window.” Something had gone wrong on the takeoff and the ship crashed and burned furiously. I wondered if this was a bad omen at the beginning of our trip and said half-aloud to myself, “Tough luck.”
We circled over the field and formed the group above the black, billowing smoke of the burning ship and headed north, on course, across the blue Mediterranean. The other four groups were flying parallel courses, two up front and one on either side.
SIXTY MINUTES SLIPPED BY without incident, and then suddenly the navigator (who always saw things first) called out that a ship up ahead was losing altitude and was going to crash and, sure enough, down it went, a long trail of blue smoke following it into the water. The radio operator reported that our leader had radioed a distress signal to Malta, but we could see no survivors. The waist gunner said that he had snapped a picture of the ship.
Another hour went by and we passed over the southern tip of the island of Corfu and headed northeast across Greece where it joins Albania. As we crossed the coast we expected some flak but saw none. We were flying low (six thousand feet) to avoid alerting the German radar stations, but now we had to climb to pass over the Pindus Mountains; so up we went to eleven thousand feet. We were over enemy territory and heading straight for Ploesti, still five hundred miles away.
The weather above the mountains was worse than we had expected; large cumulus clouds had developed and were towering high above the formation. Three planes began clipping the edges of the clouds, some losing the formation altogether for several minutes. It was difficult just to keep the groups together, impossible to keep them in their proper positions. The lead group became separated, and we did not see it again until we reached the target area.
Across the mountains the weather began to get a little better, and we started letting down to three thousand feet and finally to one thousand feet. We continued across Greece, southern Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, over the Danube, and straight into Rumania. One navigator noted in his log, “The Danube River isn’t blue but brown.”
At this low altitude we had a good view of the countryside. Bombardier Gioana pointed out a Rumanian festival in full swing with girls in colorful dresses. They were unaccustomed to air raids and waved as we went by. Farmers were ploughing in the small, square fields. Some stopped to look upward, using their hands to shade the sun from their eyes; others ignored us completely. Some fields were green with wheat. In others sunflowers were growing between the rows of corn. Occasionally we passed yellow haystacks, which reflected the bright sunlight. It was a beautiful country and looked quite peaceful.
We had been briefed to expect fighters any time after making landfall, and this thought limited our enjoyment of the scenery. We flew for two and a half hours in a straight line to a little town in Rumania called Pitesti. This was the place where the five groups would break up and proceed to their respective targets. Once we turned down the wrong valley but quickly turned back and were finally on our bomb run. We were at five hundred feet now and still going down. From Pitesti to Ploesti was only twelve miles, yet it was the longest twelve miles I ever hope to fly. The peaceful countryside wasn’t peaceful anymore: the Germans had made good use of their two or three hours’ advance warning. Haystacks opened up and turned into gun nests; machine guns and flak guns were on every hill. By now we were down to two hundred feet, but we knew instantly that we were still much too high. Down we went to one hundred feet, fifty feet, twenty-five feet, just clearing the bushes and shrubbery. At 2300 rpm and thirty-seven inches we were doing 230 mph in tight formation. As we got closer we were surprised to see B-24s from another group bombing our target. The ack-ack boys were already at work, and the oil tanks were smoking and burning furiously. Our route followed a railway line to the target. As we headed into the target area, dozens of machine guns from a flak train alongside opened up, and then all hell broke loose! Thousands of tracers crisscrossed through the sky making beautiful but terrifying patterns. I saw one heavy 88-mm gun fire point blank, and a long arm of orange flame spouted from the muzzle.
Coming out of the smoke on the far side of the target seemed like a miracle, unbelievable! The tail gunner said, “Look at all that oil burning!”
Our gunners were not idle. Twelve .50-caliber machine guns from each ship spouted continuous rounds of deadly fire concentrating on anything that moved. Many gun emplacements were put out of action; many ground gunners were mowed down. Our lead ships had several extra fixed guns in the nose section that fired continuously until the barrels burned out. One ship made a belly landing, and a couple of the crew members scrambled for cover. The storage tanks were exploding now, with burning oil flowing out, making towering, black smoke clouds. But we could still see the outline of the target, the buildings, and the chimneys. I was astonished to hear Gioana say calmly over the Interphone, “We’re headed straight for our building; be sure you pull up in time.” When the smoking target was almost in the windshield, CaI and I both hauled back on the wheel, held it a few seconds, and pushed it forward again, barely clearing the chimneys as we plunged through the smoke. I felt the bombs go and saw several balloon cables snap as they struck our wings. A ship on our left waited too long to pull up and flew directly into a storage tank. Burning pieces of it disintegrated into the air, and crewmen were thrown in every direction. Other ships, hopelessly damaged on the bomb run, plunged directly into the burning target.
Coming out of the smoke on the far side of the target seemed like a miracle, unbelievable! Sergeant Hunt, tail gunner, picked this time to say over the Interphone: “Look at all that oil burning. And to think this time last year I was working in a gas station. ” Quickly we looked around to assess the damage. Number three engine had been hit and was smoking. (I reduced the power and waited before feathering it.) The nosewheel was knocked out. The hydraulic system was inoperative, fluid pouring into the bomb bay. The top turret was out, and one gun in the tail turret was inoperative. Flak holes were all over the fuselage and several were in the wings and engine nacelles. But we were still flying, and no one was badly injured. Our chances looked pretty good.
Others ships had not been so lucky. Boilermaker Number II wasn’t with us anymore. The Cornhusker had gone down. Lil Joe wasn’t there, nor Semper Felix, Old Baldy, Air Lobe, Vulgar Virgin , and others. Over on the right a B-24 suddenly started climbing, stalled, and spun in. Another, smoking badly, was forced to crash-land in a long field. A twin-engine fighter went down in flames. I was amazed at the capacity of my subconscious mind to record so many details at a glance.
Out of the target area the formation had loosened up, but we closed in again quickly. I ended up on the right wing of Maj. Herbert Shingler, from Tennessee, our squadron commander, and flew the tightest formation I had ever flown. Junkers-88s and Me-IOQs were attacking stragglers and cripples and anyone above one hundred feet. We had been briefed to fly low to make fighter attacks more difficult, and for fifty miles after the target we skimmed the deck, cutting corn, wheat, and sunflowers with the propellers. The engineer, Sergeant Dillman, was posted between the seats as a safety measure, to observe any obstructions that CaI and I might miss. Lieutenant Gioana in the nose was very much concerned about a small wooden tower coming up ahead (which we had already seen), and he screamed over the Interphone until at the last instant we pulled up and just cleared it.
The navigator reported that Colonel Kane’s ship, Hail, Columbia , had slipped behind and turned off course with a feathered engine.
For fifty miles we flew low at 175 mph. Then someone called the leader over the command radio and complained that his rudder section had been damaged and fluttered if he flew above 160; so we slowed down. Before reaching the target, I had become very tired from flying, and CaI relieved me about every thirty minutes. Now I somehow felt fresh, almost completely rested, and in spite of all that had happened, I thoroughly enjoyed flying. We buzzed over small villages and, invariably, people waved. We passed so close over a two-wheeled hay wagon that three girls in brightly colored skirts jumped off, but nevertheless they smiled and waved. I wondered if they knew who we were.
A farmer plowing in a cornfield saw us coming and left his horse and plow and lay flat between the rows, obviously frightened. He didn’t wave.
Just past the Danube River we started a gradual climb. We flew north of Pleven, Bulgaria, and later passed south of Sofia. At about five thousand feet someone suddenly called out “fighters at three o’clock and a little high. ” Sergeant Coldiron in the top turret (our best man on aircraft recognition) looked them over and decided they were Italian fighters, and he was right. They made only a few passes and did not press the attack. I think we actually scared them away with our tracers, which showed up brilliantly in the rather dark sky. (There were many thunderheads in this area.)
We continued our climb to eleven thousand feet to clear the mountains. Some of the damaged ships were unable to climb and were forced to turn south and fly down the winding river valley. As we crossed the southern tip of Corfu we breathed a premature sigh of relief. The worst was yet to come! We had only nine B-24s left in the formation of thirty-five starting with our group, and again we heard the announcement, “Fighters, three o’clock, straight in the sun.” We looked closely and there were fifteen Me-109s flying along parallel to our course, looking us over. We tightened up the formation a bit and waited. I was on the right wing and dropped down a little to uncover the guns of the ship on my left. Pretty soon the 109s dropped their belly (gas) tanks, and five of them started in, flying abreast in a shallow V-shape formation. There was no surprise action. We recognized this as a cool, well-planned, German attack, and we knew the Jerries couldn’t be frightened away. We either had to shoot them down, be shot down ourselves, or wait for them to run out of gas. At one thousand yards we started firing, and at eight hundred yards everyone was firing. Tracers literally covered the sky, and 20-mm shells exploded all through the formation. Our gunners got the range, and the two Me-109s on the right were hit hard; one exploded immediately, and the other blew up just after passing the formation. The second Jerry bailed out in a yellow parachute.
BUT WE DIDN’T exactly win that round. One B-24 was burning furiously, and the crew members were already bailing out. That left eight B-24s in formation for the second attack. The Jerries tried the same tactics, this time six abreast. Again they all fired together, and the lead Me-109 completely disintegrated in the air as it was caught in our deadly crossfire. Another was smoking, and again a B-24 went down in flames; this time we only counted five chutes out.
Then the Jerries changed their tactics and began coming in individually and from all directions. On the second pass we received several holes in the fuselage, and Lieutenant Gioana (who had exchanged places with Sergeant Alfredson) and Sergeant Ayers were injured by 20-mm explosions. Lieutenant Gioana smiled and said, “Guess we get the Purple Heart. ” A couple of seconds later an individual fighter ship slipped in from directly astern and planted a direct hit on the armored glass of the tail turret, knocking Sergeant Hunt into the fuselage and putting the turret out of action. Sergeant Hunt picked himself up and then manned a waist gun. We now had only our waist guns working and hurriedly transferred our spare ammunition to these positions.
Another 20-mm explosion knocked a large hole in the left rudder and still another tore away a large piece of elevator surface. And then suddenly two more shells exploded in the fuselage and seriously wounded Lieutenant Gioana. He had thirty-five cuts, mostly on the torso and legs. The explosions also severed the control surface cables. The nose dropped slightly, and the ship started into a shallow bank to the left, out of control. CaI, who was looking out the window at the time, turned and said, “Let’s move back up into formation.” I answered, “Can’t do it, the controls are gone,” as I pulled the control column completely back in my lap. I automatically reached for the elevator trim tab, but that too was loose and revolved freely without effect. I almost pushed the alarm button to prepare to bail out, but then I remembered the automatic pilot, which, fortunately, I always kept warmed up. I reached over and flipped it into the “on” position and, thank heaven, it was working. By this time we were down about five hundred feet below the formation. I adjusted the elevator and aileron knobs, and the nose came up slowly. We moved under the formation, where we stayed for about fifteen minutes until the fighters, out of gas, finally left us.
The trip home was one of sweating out the gas. Sergeant Dillman figured we had enough to last until 7:00 P.M. Lieutenant Klinkbeil said we would never make it by then. So we decided to stretch it as far as possible. We threw all the guns, except two, overboard and most of the ammunition and everything else we figured we wouldn’t need if we were forced to ditch. I cut back the rpm to 1700 and the manifold pressure to twenty-five inches and indicated 155 mph. Oddly enough, the number three engine was running more smoothly now, although I could see several flak hits on the top cylinders and several spark-plug wires dangling in the air.
The engines were still going but couldn’t last much longer; the gas gauges indicated zero. It was 9:30 P.M. We only needed a few more minutes!
Sergeants Ayers and Alfredson and Coldiron were in the back bandaging both themselves and Lieutenant Gioana, who had passed out by this time from loss of blood. Sergeant Dillman was busy trying to splice the broken control cables, which were dangling all over the fuselage.
We waited and watched for the coastline and did a lot of praying. Several times we thought we could see the coast, but it would always turn out to be a long string of clouds. Finally it began to get dark, and our spirits dropped even more. Gas was running low, and Sergeant Dillman, checking it for the twenty-seventh time, said he didn’t see how it could last beyond 9:00 P.M. even with our low power settings.
I couldn’t decide for sure what was best to do. I knew that ditching a B-24 at night was a very hazardous undertaking and should be done while we still had power. Bailing out into our individual dinghies would have been OK for everyone except Lieutenant Gioana, who was still unconscious. We decided to keep flying until we ran out of gas and then ditch without benefit of power from the engines. We reviewed the ditching procedure and did some more silent praying. Finally we saw some red flares straight ahead and knew we were approaching the field. Lieutenant Klinkbeil had kept us exactly on course. The engines were still going but couldn’t last much longer; the gas gauges indicated zero. It was already 9:30 P.M. We only needed a few more minutes! Sergeant Dillman cranked down the main wheels as we crossed the coastline, saving what little hydraulic fluid we still had for the flaps. The nosewheel was useless, so we left it up. The radio was not working, but we could see other ships landing into the northwest, so I flew to the right of the field and started a gradual turn to the left. We were at about five hundred feet, and as we came in on the final approach, CaI started pumping down the flaps. I put the rpm up to 2100 but knew we could never go around if we missed the first time. CaI got the flaps halfway down and operated the ailerons and rudder. I manipulated the automatic-pilot elevator knob and handled the throttles. At two hundred feet CaI put on the landing lights. The ship was lightweight, so we slowed down to 100 mph as we flared out. The wheels touched, and she bounced several feet. I advanced the throttles, and she settled back to the ground as one engine cut out; she rolled halfway across the field, and as we lost speed, the nose began scraping the ground, and we came to an abrupt stop. It was 9:54 P.M., fifteen hours after takeoff.
To say we were glad to be on the ground is a great understatement, but our first concern was Lieutenant Gioana. We had fired several red flares as we came in, and the ambulance met us as we came to a stop. The attendants put him on a stretcher and lifted him out of the plane. His clothes were torn, and he was bandaged up. He, and the inside of the ship, were covered with blood. I thought sure he was dead or dying because he was so pale and white, but I was greatly relieved when he rallied and said, “Sure glad to be back. ” That night he spent four hours on the operating table, had a temperature of 105, and received two blood transfusions.
SERGEANTS HUNT, AYERS , and Waugh were taken to the hospital but were released after first-aid treatment. The rest of us went to interrogation where General Ent and General Brereton were very much interested in all the details of the mission. I was amazed to see Sergeant Alfredson in a huddle with both generals, telling them “just how it happened.” After that we went over to the mess tent, where they were serving “fresh” eggs—all we could eat. Lieutenant Klinkbeil ate ten and regretted his inability to make it an even dozen. After eating all we possibly could and relaxing a bit, we began to realize just how tired we really were. Up to now we had been busy trying to learn what had happened to all the fellows, where and when they went down, and what damage had been received by the ones who got back.
August 2, 1943 . At about six o’clock in the afternoon we woke up and decided to have a look around to check up on some more of the fellows.
We learned that Lt. William Nading, on the last ship in his group over the target, had followed his leader (Capt. Robert Mooney in Blonds Away) out of the target area, only to learn that Captain Mooney had been killed by machine-gun fire and the copilot was flying the badly damaged ship and trying to stay on course. Lieutenant Nading took over the lead, realized that the five damaged ships in the formation could never climb over the Carpathian Mountains, and decided to head for Cyprus. Lt. Charles Weinberg, his navigator, ran out of pilotage maps over Turkey but used a large Mercator map to pinpoint the tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean. It had a small airdrome and short runway, but all the ships got down safely and were refueled. Colonel Kane, too, made it safely to Cyprus.
We heard that after Colonel Johnson’s ship landed, the colonel noticed that his waist gunner, on his first mission, was looking a little sad, so the colonel explained to him that all his mission’s wouldn’t be as rough as Ploesti. The gunner was greatly relieved.
Several ships from other fields had crash-landed at our base, and some of them looked like wrecks. Ours, Daisy Mae , didn’t look so good herself. The crew chief and his men were already working on her. They had counted more than 150 holes all over the ship—flak, machine gun, and 20-mm. Number three engine was in bad shape. Flak had knocked several holes in the nacelle and cowling and penetrated the oil cooler in several places. The top was knocked off of the two top cylinders, and four spark-plug wires were severed. They were unable to measure any gas in the tanks at all and doubted if it would have flown five minutes longer.
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