TIDAL WAVE B-24D Decal Set Preferences – FINAL Survey

My TIDAL WAVE B-24D decal sets are getting much closer to completion.  However, there are about 45 aircraft that I could include these decal sets, but that’s obviously too many!  I need your help deciding exactly which ships to include.

There’s some really cool nose art here.  But be aware, some of the “favorites” people have mentioned earlier are not included!  They are omitted for one of three reasons:

  1. If no known photos exist of the airplane’s nose art.  The prime example is Addison Baker’s “Hell’s Wench.”  Yes, I know an IPMS-USA national convention from years ago included a couple of “possibilities” for this nose art, but there were (and are) no photos of this plane.  A couple of artists have done beautiful paintings of this ship, but they used the IPMS decals (which are fantasy) and cannot be taken as historically correct.  But wait, there’s more.  NONE of the vast number of contemporary official documents I’ve found even mention this nickname–not one.  I’ve verified this ship was delivered “brand-new” to North Africa less than two weeks prior to the mission, and certainly a name might have been painted on it before it left the States.  Or maybe not.  We just don’t know, and I’m not going to release this or any other decal marking based purely on speculation.

  2. If the ship was a “turnback” that did not actually participate in the TIDAL WAVE attack on Ploesti.  This includes several well-known ships with great nose art: Picadilly Filly, Shoot Luke, Hellsadroppin II, Big Operator, Shanghai Lil, etc.

  3. Except for five individual crews, the 376th Bomb Group did not actually attack Ploesti, they simply followed the orders of the mission commander and flew in a big circle around the city and salvoed their bombs on the way home.  The survey below includes the only five 376th ships that actually attacked Ploesti, plus the TIDAL WAVE command ship, Teggie Ann, which also did not attack Ploesti.  The 376th had some pretty cool nose art, but these decal sets are about TIDAL WAVE and if they didn’t attack they’re not really TW veterans.

Some of this artwork is what we call “line art” graphics and will be released in my Cutting Edge Decals line.  Some of it is what we call “shaded art” and will be released in my PYN-ups Decals line.

Previous buyers of my 1/48 B-24 and B-17 decal sets in both my Cutting Edge and PYN-ups Decals lines have seen that none of those sets include the national insignia (the 1/72 sets do include national insignia).

The reason they’re omitted from the 1/48 sets is straightforward: since there were many variations in the exact type of national insignia applied to various TIDAL WAVE ships, to include the proper variants on the decal sheet with the nose art would dramatically reduce the number of nose art subjects I can offer, and therefore drastically reduce the choices you’d have in marking your Liberator models.  By separating the national insignia from the nose art and other individual markings, you get a LOT more nose art subjects per set and can then choose which one of my national insignia markings sets is appropriate to the specific plane you’re modeling.

Take the survey below to tell me which ships you like best. It’s OK to skip any planes that definitely don’t interest you.

Sorry, this survey is now closed. Thanks for participating!

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Proper Pronunciation Of Romanian Place Names

I don’t speak Romanian, and if you don’t either you probably don’t know the correct pronunciation of Romanian place names related to the TIDAL WAVE operation.  I asked my good friend Emil Chirvasuta, a native Romanian speaker, to record the proper pronunciation of a bunch of place and people names you’ll come across as you study TIDAL WAVE.  Hear all of them here.

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Large New Update

It’s been quite a while since my last update and some of you may have been thinking the documentary is on hold or abandoned. Absolutely not!

I’ve unearthed a massive amount of previously unseen official information related to the TIDAL WAVE attack in Romanian, German, and British archives, and I’ve found several never-before-seen photo archives that include amazing TIDAL WAVE imagery.

A tiny snapshot of the new documentation includes:

  • Exact number of flak guns that faced the American attackers. I’d previously identified where each flak battery were located, but did not know how many guns were at each location. Now I know, and it explains the bulk of the shoot-downs, including 93rd Bomb Group commander Addison Baker and several other ships following him.
     
  • Exactly where the 44th and 93rd bomb groups flew–their ground tracks photo-documented! I’m currently working on the 98th, but their photo coverage is considerably spottier. However, the photos also help prove why such a huge number of 98th ships were shot down over the target.
     
  • Col John “Killer” Kane’s full combat diary (partially published in the AAHS Journal many years ago, but with huge omissions). This is a stunning document, and like most diaries it tells more about the writer than the subject matter. However, it also contains a considerable amount of useful specific evidence, along with a number of easily-documentable outright lies that attempt to put Kane’s performance in the best possible light. Frankly, it’s very easy to see why he was never promoted to general and remained a colonel up until the time he retired in great bitterness 10 years after the mission.
     
  • A large-scale, high altitude photo montage of the Ploesti, Brazi, and Campina areas composed from the high-definition 3 and 19 August 1943 RAF Mosquito recce flights photos. It documents many flak batteries, refinery damage, and most importantly several previously unknown B-24 crash sites.
     
  • Multiple official Romanian refinery damage reports from several points in time, documenting the exact damage caused by the bombing and status of the recovery efforts, including the reopening of primitive old refineries to make up the oil production losses.
     
  • This one is YUUUGE: I now have documentation of the German & Romanian flak personnel strength at Ploesti in July 1943 that shows a very interesting situation.
     
  • The exact locations of the nine Freya radar sites ringing Ploesti, and when they were activated. This is a very big deal, and previously unknown or inaccurately reported.
     
  • Romanian-German political and economic relations that had a direct bearing on the TIDAL WAVE mission.
     
  • Previously unknown bomb and fuze information that materially affected the attack’s outcome. This has been glossed over or ignored in previously published accounts, but it was fundamental to the outcome.
     
  • Although not yet uncovered, I now know the location where the photos and films recovered from shot-down Liberators were kept by the Romanian government. Whether these images survived until to today is currently unknown, but I’m digging!

…and these are the barest tip of the iceberg. There is much more brand new material that fundamentally affected the attack.

The newly uncovered photo archives are also amazing. I now have a very large number of original German and Romanian Ploesti photos, most of which are amazingly clear, well composed, and in good condition. I also have a treasure trove of color photos that will blow your mind.

As you can imagine, this work is exceptionally time consuming and I have been and still am working very hard to finish this project this year. I can’t predict a specific date yet, but I’m close to having as much information as I truly need to tell the real story.

BTW, for modelers, we’ve almost finished the artwork for a large number of TIDAL WAVE B-24s, based on photos most of you have never seen. The families of many TW men have been very generous in sharing their keepsake photos, which has helped us create the most accurate nose art and other markings ever seen–particularly in decal form, but also in published profile artwork.

Enough for now…I’ve got to get back to work!

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The Problems With Diaries, Photos, And Memory

The Problems With Diaries, Photos, And Memory

If you’ve been following this project for any time you’re already aware that I put little emphasis on postwar reminiscences. The entire premise of my research has been to use as much original documentation as possible.

Cascading problems of accurate documentation confront every historian. This is a problem in TIDAL WAVE research primarily because so little 376th Bomb Group documentation survived.

Even original diaries written within a day or two of the event can cause problems when trying to determine historical facts. Even original photos have their own problems.

CONTEMPORARY DIARIES

The basic problem with a diary, of course, is that each man writes what he knows and feels at the time he writes it. I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last week poring over original diaries from TIDAL WAVE men. One of the big things that jump out is how much scuttlebutt (rumor) is recorded as fact. Think about this: when a man in the combat zone hears something from his friends or superiors he’s more likely to regard it as fact than rumor.

If the historian accepts everything in a diary as objective fact (rather than fact as the writer understood it at the time) he’s in for a rough ride. It’s amazing, but understandable, to read how often a man’s diary records on 2 August 1943–the day after the mission–the loss of certain friends during the mission, only to read another entry several days later that the friend was interned in Turkey, landed on Cyprus, etc. In this example the wrong information was corrected within a few days, but it cautions us to wonder how many erroneous entries were never corrected.

Another good example of the German/Italian paratroopers who purportedly landed at various times and places near Benghazi. The participants’ diaries are filled with reports of paratroops landed, captured, killed, etc. Objective reports from official sources show some of these entries are accurate but many simply record the current scuttlebutt.

Yet another example of understandable misreporting in diaries concerns the two airplane sentries killed during the night of 19-20 June 1943. This was big news to the airmen. Every diary records they were killed by German or Italian paratroopers, and that the diarist slept with a gun next to his bed for the next several nights.

However, the official IX Bomber Command investigation report states that because of a rebuffed sexual advance one USAAF guard was murdered by the other, who then committed suicide. No Germans. No Italians.

It’s no surprise the men knew nothing of this, but it remains a good example of recorded “fact” that would be completely misleading without digging deeper into what really happened.

On the other hand, diaries are excellent sources for what the writer personally saw and felt at the time. This is obvious and I won’t expand further here.

PHOTOS

Photos are usually a huge help when documenting a historical event, but you must always remember that a photo is merely the record of a particular instant in time. It is not a record of everything that happened, nor even a complete record of what happened at that particular time and place.

Studying the various series of strike photos taken during TIDAL WAVE has strongly reminded me of this limitation. I have 500+ strike photos in my collection. The most useful are those taken as part of a sequence of photos.

Many TIDAL WAVE B-24s had fixed cameras mounted inside the lower right rear fuselage. An external mirror fitting recorded the image directly behind and slightly below the aircraft. For example, I can follow the 44th Bomb Group’s WHITE V (Columbia Aquila) target force from just before their turn at Floresti all the way past the target. As you can imagine, this is a fascinating trip.

Also useful, but often problematic are the photos taken out waist windows with hand-held K-20 cameras. The images recorded by these cameras were at the mercy of the cameraman: when he took each photo and where he was pointing the camera when he took the photo.

A good example of this problem is a series of hand-held camera shots taken out the left waist window of the 98th Bomb Group’s 795-I, flown by LeBrecht. This particular series shows the crash of (probably) 197-A Tagalong. It also clearly shows 98th B-24s dropping their bombs in open fields just past the target area.

More to the point, because the camera was pointed in slightly different directions and the images snapped at unknown but irregular times, it’s very difficult to track with complete certainty the action shown in these several photos.

Another great example are the several photos taken with hand-held cameras in 376th Bomb Group planes of a dummy oil refinery set up east of Ploesti. Since these are individual photos and not part of sequences it’s impossible to know which of the two dummy refineries east of the city the 376th passed by.

A whole spectrum of problems serious scale modelers will appreciate is related to the many “nose art” photos taken of various Liberators that participated in TIDAL WAVE. It is a huge problem to track the accurate name (or names) carried on TW aircraft during the mission. A mountain of incorrect information has been published in books and on the internet.

In particular, the two 9th Air Force bomb groups (98th & 376th) were notorious for renaming aircraft, and even changing the Field Numbers (large two-digit numbers painted on the nose and/or fin). Very often when a new crew took over an old plane the previous nickname and artwork was changed on one or both sides of the nose.

At least one model airplane decal company has depicted wrong “Hail Columbia” for John Kane’s ship on the mission. They didn’t realize that although Kane previously flew a ship he’d named “Hail Columbia,” he picked a different aircraft for the TIDAL WAVE mission and named it “Hail Columbia.” These were two different B-24s and had completely different artwork.

The three 8th Air Force bomb groups sent to the desert for TIDAL WAVE (44th, 93rd, and 389th) had the same issue, but to a lesser degree and generally not during the time they were deployed to North Africa.

REMINISCENCES

To continue my rant against wholesale reliance on reminiscences, let us all be reminded of the problems police have when interviewing eyewitnesses to a traumatic event. Typically each sees something different: he was tall, he was short; he was white, he was purple; it was a man, it was a woman, etc. You can’t watch a reality TV cop show without getting a sense of this problem. Eyewitnesses are simply not reliable.

I learned how severe this problem is back in the late ’70s when I interviews hundreds of veterans. Very frequently a vet would tell me a story, but his fellow crewmen would jump in to point out he had the wrong mission, plane, or people in mind. I soon learned it was better to interview the whole crew at once than each man individually.

It also turns out the seminal Ploesti: The Great Ground-Air Battle of 1 August 1943 written by Cal Stewart and Jim Dugan has created a huge problem for trying to decipher participants’ reminiscences. The book is a true tour de force and if you don’t have it, get it now. Cal Stewart did Herculean work finding and recording every snippet of official and anecdotal information that was available at the time it was written in the 1960-61 period.

The problem–which I’ve encountered repeatedly in veteran interviews–is that over time some of the vets have confused what they actually saw or knew at the time with what they read in the famous book. Time after time the person I was interviewing would stop in the middle of a sentence, pause, and say “I’m not sure whether I saw that or read about it in the book.” That’s a scary thing for a historian to hear.

Another huge problem is intentional editing by the speaker to make himself look better or seem more dramatic after the fact. This problem is certainly not limited to TIDAL WAVE reminiscences; it’s so pervasive that any personal account must be read with a sense of skepticism. At least one senior participant has written extensive self-aggrandizing accounts of what happened.

I am NOT saying everybody lies, or that everybody misremembers. I am absolutely saying that every reminiscence must be taken with a grain of salt. Skepticism is the historian’s greatest strength when dealing with memory.

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9th AF Entertainment – Movies

I’ve been going through a bunch of 9th AF (IX Bomber Command) crewmen’s diaries and decided to list the entertainment movies they saw from January to the end of July 1943. I doubt this is a complete list and I think some of the titles are wrong or misspelled, but hope it interests you to see the entertainment air and ground crews saw.

The dates are direct from the individual diaries. The movies would have “made the rounds” of the various units and obviously been shown on different dates at different units.

If you live in the US you can see some of these old movies on the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) channel. They may occasionally show up on other channels too.

Shylock 19 Jan
My Smiling Gal 18 Apr
Whispering Ghost 23 Apr
Yank in Libya 28 Apr
The Hard Way 3 May
The Vivacious Lady 8 May
King’s Row 11 May
Casablanca 14 May
Wake Island 21 May
Hunchback of Notre Dame 25 May
Tale of Two Cities 27 May (wind blew down screen)
Grand Central Murder 28 May
Westerners 31 May
Rio Rita 1 Jun
Sailors Three 3 Jun (British film)
White Cargo 3 Jun
Victory at Stalingrad 6 Jun
Desert Victory 6 Jun
Sweetye Girl (sp?) 21 Jun
Love Crazy 22 Jun
Stage Door Canteen 24 Jun
I Got ‘Em Covered (You Got Me Covered?) 27 Jun
You Can’t Fool Your Wife 29 Jun
They Got Me Covered 2 Jul
Boys From Syracuse 4 Jul
Allegheny Uprising 6 Jul
Unexpected Father 8 Jul
Jackass Mail 10 Jul
Gallant Lady 13 Jul
Mission: Spitfire 15 Jul
Mr. V 16 Jul
It Happened At Flatbush 18 Jul
Tortilla Flats 22 Jul
Panama Lady 24 Jul
10 Men From West Point 26 Jul
I’ll Find You Somewhere 28 Jul
That’s Right, You Are Wrong 30 Jul

 

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Loyalty Among Senior Officers

Loyalty among senior officers involved in TIDAL WAVE turns out to be a major part of the story, based on what I’ve uncovered during my research. I urge you to read the article at the link below to get a similar story that you’ll be able to relate back to TIDAL WAVE when you see my documentary.

If you personally have served as a military officer in any service in any country you’ll know instantly what I’m talking about because this loyalty has always existed everywhere men fight and you’ll have observed it or even been involved . . . for good or not. At a certain point it’s simply not avoidable. If you’ve served in an enlisted capacity you’ll also have a clear sense of what this is and what it means, especially because the same kind of loyalty has always existed everywhere at the non-officer levels too.

An obviously strong tendency is for troops to respect and even venerate their commander. If you’ve been around long enough, and/or experienced or read enough military history, you will have noticed this loyalty often tends to increase over time. Patton is a great example. While he commanded the Third Army he was frequently not loved and even hated by men under his command. But in the years after the war it was unusual to find a Third Army veteran who described “Old Blood & Guts” Patton in anything less than reverential terms.

It is nearly universal for senior officers to avoid publicly criticizing their commanders and peers. What’s said behind closed doors is another thing entirely. General Jacob Smart’s son recalls that whenever his dad’s fellow TIDAL WAVE participants visited they retreated behind closed doors and did not discuss the mission in front of him or other non-senior participants or outsiders. When General Leon Johnson personally told me “what really happened at Ploesti” (his exact words) when he was long retired and I was an Air Force captain researching TIDAL WAVE and the 44th Bomb Group, he did so only after making me promise I would not reveal what he said until after he had passed away.

Yeah, yeah, there’s always open warfare like the public fights between Montgomery and Patton, but it should be easy to see their professional relationship was entirely different from, for example, the relationship between the senior officers involved in TIDAL WAVE (from Gen George Marshall all the way down to the individual bomb group commanders).

You can always chalk public criticism up to “sour grapes,” and you’ll form your own opinion when you read the article linked below. This is as it should be.

I strongly recommend you read this article, entitled “Officer breaks rank over the Battle of Crete,” to get a sense of how loyalty among senior officers worked back then, and before that, and certainly even today. If this is new information to you I think it will quite revealing and maybe even stunning. If you’re already clear on the phenomenon I think you’ll find it a breath of fresh air.

Again, here is the link.

Dave Klaus

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TIDAL WAVE Model Airplane Decal Sets Survey

I’m thinking about producing a series of brand-new decal sets related to the research I’ve been doing on the TIDAL WAVE/Ploesti operation. Note–this is not a definite commitment on my part to actually do this, but I’m considering it and need your guidance.

These decal sets would produced to the same high standard as my other sets, likely in the PYN-ups Decals line with their photographic-quality nose art decals, and possibly a set or two the Cutting Edge line.

This is also a chance for you to let me know if there are other subjects (beyond TIDAL WAVE) you’d like me to create–just put your suggestions in the comments section.

 

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Romanian Pronunciation Guide

Romanian is a Romance Language and therefore somewhat related to French. However, their words are pronounced quite differently from what we in the English speaking world might expect. Therefore, I’ve asked a friend of mine who was born and raised in Romania to record a pronunciation guide for the most common words we might see related to TIDAL WAVE.

You’ll see a list of words, primarily place names but others as well. You will be able to click on each one to hear a native Romanian-speaker correctly pronounce it.

We’re working on it now and I expect to publish it within the next couple of weeks. I hope you’ll find this interesting and useful.

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Progress Update

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It’s been quite a long time since I updated you on the status of my TIDAL WAVE/Ploesti documentary, and I assure you I’ve been working diligently. It’s not done yet, but I’m getting much closer to putting it on the street.

This update is a very long since it’s been quite a while since I last communicated with you so I’ve broken this up into several sections. Here’s what I’ll cover:

  • The “big deal” that’s kept me motivated to keep going on this long and very expensive project
  • Why only 56 bombs out of 260 (22%) carried to the 98th Bomb Group’s target (WHITE IV) actually fell on the target–as an example of the kind of research and analysis I’ve been doing
  • What the German and Romanian flak locations in the Ploesti area looked like, the flak coverage the crews had to fly through (good thing they didn’t see the map in advance!), where specific planes crashed in relation to the flak, etc.–as another example of my recent research and analysis

These are barely the tip of the iceberg, but all I’m going to talk about today!

READ MORE . . .

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TIDAL WAVE/Ploesti – Call For Questions

I’m deep into writing the script for my documentary right now and I need your help. With the massive original research I’ve done at the US National Archives, USAF Historical Research Agency, Air Force Museum, Romanian archives, German Bundesarchiv, British National Archives and Imperial War Museum, interviews with participants, etc., etc., etc., I have FAR more information than could ever fit into a film documentary.

This documentary is for you–since I’ve done the research, obviously I already know the story. The point is that to be useful, this doc must first answer your “burning questions” about the mission. This is literally the most important thing.

What do you want to know about the mission? What interests or perplexes you? This could include the background (or situation), planning, execution, aftermath and/or anything else that interests you.

If you don’t want to enter your questions and comments on the video above, feel free to leave them as a comment by checking the comment box below, or you can email me privately here.

Thanks for your help–remember, this project is for YOUR benefit!

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