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Operation Tidalwave


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Here's a grouping from a POW of the Operation Tidalwave Ploesti mission. It's attributed to waistgunner SSgt. Raymond A. Heisner who flew on B-24D 41-11886 - "Lil Joe" 345th BS, 98th BG, (The Pyramiders) piloted by 1st Lt. Lindley P. Hussey. On that day they were one of forty six Liberators belonging to the 98th BG who would start out for Ploesti, this group was led by Colonel John ‘Killer’ Kane. Their target was the Astro Romana refinery, White Four Target. On the way there 7 of the 98th BG aborted, while over the Mediterranean SSgt. Heisner's B-24 Lil Joe had a faulty fuel connection losing 800 gallons of fuel from the bomb bay tanks yet still they pressed on knowing they probably couldn't make it back to Tunisia.

 

When they got to Ploesti they saw that their target had already been attacked, the 93rd had made a navigational error and had come in from the wrong direction bombing the 98th's target which was now an inferno. Still the 98th and 44th BG pressed on at tree top level with their gunners suppressing air defense ground crews and a hidden flak train disabling the train and destroying some ground units. In front of them was their target which was a mass of raging oil fires, heavy smoke, secondary explosions, and delayed fuse bombs dropped earlier by the 93rd, but into the inferno they flew. On the "Lil Joe" they set up for their bombing run and flew into the fire, when they emerged the bomb bay was in flames from the leaked gasoline so the pilot tried to gain some altitude for a bailout. 6 men jumped at 75-100 feet with only 3 surviving the jump, as soon as they jumped the plane exploded and crashed in a field. Somehow the Pilot and Radioman, though badly burned, survived the crash and were pulled out by Romanians. I'm not sure what happened to one of the 3 who survived the jump since only 4 of the crew were said to have survived and are listed as POWs.

 

All of the crewmembers on Operation Tidalwave would receive the DFC for the mission, there were 5 MOHs, and many more DSCs. Of the 11 B-24s of the 345th BS who went that day there were 7 shot down, 2 were damaged so badly they diverted to Sicily, another diverted to Cyprus, and only 1 made it to Tunisia.

 

The shortsnorter has I think 53 names. I've had trouble reading many of them but of the 23 I've been able to make out all were Operation Tidalwave POWs. Lots of heroes on that bill! It also came with a couple Romanian coins and some sort of small tag with NYA 106 that I'd appreciate any help identifying. Hope you all like it.

 

post-25673-0-89808500-1402198641.jpg

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Patchcollector

A great story and a sweet group.Yes,these guys are heroes.

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Glad you liked the group. It's been very interesting researching all these airmen. There's a signature I was researching belonging to right waist gunner/assistant engineer Staff Sergeant Edmond H. Smith B-24 flying on B-24 "Ole Kickapoo" 564th Bomb Sqd, 389th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force. One of the most decorated crews in history, each received the DSC with the exception of Pilot Lloyd Herbert Hughes who received the MOH. Their plane had been hit by many rounds of anti-aircraft fire and had gasoline leaking in the bomb bay tanks and the left wing. Knowing they would catch on fire but not wanting to jeopardize the formation they made their run and emerged from the flames with the left wing on fire, the pilot attempted a crash landing but the wing fell off and the plane cartwheeled into the ground. Only 2 would survive to become POWs, Edmond Smith and tailgunner Thomas Hoff.

 

Here's some of the other heroes signatures on the bill.

James J. Sedlack 389th BG

Philipp A. Rurack 389th BG

Edmond H. Smith 389th BG

Fred D. Randall 389th BG

Harold T. Goodwin 389th BG

John R. Ross 389th BG

Early C. Westcott 389th BG

Francis W. Doll 93rd BG

Jack Reed 93rd BG

Leo Sharp 93rd BG

William Thompson 376th BG

Alexander P. Rockinson 376th BG

Paul L. Breedlove 44th BG

Russell D. Huntley 44th BG

Ray Walaczka 44th BG

Clark Fitzpatrick 98th BG

Robert Rans 98th BG

James E. Turner 98th BG Lil Joe

James R. Vest 98th BG

Delmar M. Schweigart 98th BG

Delbert Warner 98th BG

Jack J. Reed 98th BG

Robert E. Coleman 98th BG

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