Only 56 bombs out of 260 (22%) carried to target WHITE IV actually fell on the target, which was attacked by part of the 93rd Bomb Group before the assigned 98th Bomb Group arrived.
I just completed the analysis of this situation, which is quite important to the story of TIDAL WAVE results. We need to know WHY only 56 bombs fell on the WHITE IV when it was the most important target in Romania and the 98th Bomb Group sent the largest TW target force to attack that specific group of refineries.
Ah, but wait! How do we know only 56 bombs fell on WHITE IV out of the 260 bombs carried to that target area? How do we know how many bombs were carried to the target area? The crews reported serious strikes on the target in their Sortie Reports. The target was burning fiercely both before and after the 98th arrived in the area. What the hell really happened?
Let’s lay this out in highly abbreviated form. Facts have no opinion, they only record what happened.
About the WHITE IV refinery target system, which consisted of the Astra Romana, Phoenix Orion, and Lumina refineries:
- Astra Romana was the largest refinery in Romania and produced by far the most petroleum products for the Axis war effort. This information comes from Allied intelligence assessments, the American and British engineering companies that actually built the refinery, and confirmed by Romanian documents recovered in August 1944 when the Soviets captured Romania.
- The two other refineries in the WHITE IV target, Phoenix Orion and Lumina, were tiny in comparison but lay right next to Astra, so including them was obvious. (Same reference sources as above.)
About the attack force and bombing results:
- WHITE IV was allocated the largest number of aircraft in the entire TIDAL WAVE force. Since TIDAL WAVE was a Ninth Air Force operation conducted by the IX Bomber Command, whose headquarters considered the 376th Bomb Group and the 98th Bomb Group to be the most experienced bombing outfits in the entire Army Air Forces, the two positions of honor were reserved for them. The 376th was to lead the entire attack, and the 98th assigned the largest and most important target. This information comes from a multitude of planning documents, operational reports, crew Sortie Reports, etc., etc.
- The 98th BG carried 208 high explosive (General Purpose) bombs to the general target area. This excludes the bombs carried on planes that aborted or otherwise failed to reach the target area. This data comes from the 98th’s Sortie Reports and crosschecked with the munitions loading charts.
- The Romanian refineries were owned by commercial corporations, although the Romanian government controlled nearly every aspect of their operation by the time of TIDAL WAVE. The government required each refinery to report all damage after each air raid, and in fact to precisely plot the location of every single bomb strike (exploded or dud) on the refinery property after each attack. Once I found the Astra Romana bombfall plot diagram all I had to do was count the bomb strike plots. It was more difficult for the Phoenix Orion and Lumina refineries as apparently their 1 August 1943 bombfall plot maps did not survive the war. For those two tiny refineries I had to rely on three sources: the RAF MEIU (Middle East Interpretation Unit) analysis of refinery damage based on the 3 August reconnaissance flight over Ploesti, my own detailed analysis of the same recce photos, and the official Romanian reports on refinery damage. Counting bomb craters is not nearly as much fun as it sounds . . .
- The 93rd Bomb Group carried 42 bombs over WHITE IV. This figure was extremely complex to analyze and the full range of sources and the analysis behind this must wait for another day.
The Astra refinery returned to full operation in less than three weeks. This was analyzed by MEIU, which assessed the Astra damage as minor based on the high altitude reconnaissance photos taken on 3 August 1943 and reaffirmed based on the 19 August 1943 recce photos. It is confirmed by multiple contemporary Romanian documents captured in August 1944.
If 80% of the bombs carried to the WHITE IV target area did not fall on the refinery, where did they go? It turns out contemporary Romanian documents tell where they landed—and that the Romanians expressed perplexity as to why the Americans bombed that area. I’ll reveal this in the documentary!