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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Research Update/Status

Deep research for my TIDAL WAVE/Ploesti documentary continues, but is hopefully, finally, drawing to a close. When I committed to myself at the start of this project to "leave no stone unturned," I had no idea how long or how expensive that task would be. It’s been a ton of fun, but ye gods, I’ll be glad to have this wrapped up!


Official Romanian Bombfall Plot Maps

I’ll get to more details in a moment, but thought you might first enjoy seeing one of the official bombfall plot maps the Romanian government required each refinery company to compile from the day after TIDAL WAVE until the end of the war. In short, these diagrams show the EXACT location, to within less than one-meter accuracy, of EVERY bomb that fell within the refinery company’s property during the attack.

I found and have excellent copies of every one of these refinery bombfall plots. The diagrams themselves are large—the one for Astra Romana is about eight feet wide by five feet tall! For example, above is a copy of the bombfall plot map for the Steaua Romana (Romanian Star) refinery at Campina, Romania (target RED):

Note these diagrams plotted both high explosive (GP-General Purpose) bombs and incendiary bomb explosions, and also where dud bombs fell. However, they plot only those bombs that fell within the refinery property, none of the bombs that fell outside their fence lines are included.

There were many total misses, and their locations can only be surmised from other official Romanian damage reports that usually state a small geographic area where bombs fell, both exploded and duds. Sometimes it’s as precise as a particular building in a small village and sometimes a larger but undefined area as "the open area west of xxx refinery."

The refinery diagrams and other reports have, for one thing, finally made it crystal clear how the 98th Bomb Group performed that day—I’ll cover this in detail in my documentary.

I should also mention that all the reference material described here (and much more) has allowed me to create a number of animations that will clearly show you certain aspects of the mission. These are pretty cool, if I do say so myself!

Other Types Of Reference Material

In addition to the normal run of veteran reminisces, books, videos, articles, and interviews, I have very, very long list of official documents consulted, and in the interest of brevity I’ve left quite a bit off…and it’s still a long article. I’ve referred earlier to the film archives I’ve drawn motion picture film from in previous posts, so the material below relates to still photographs and paper archives.

9th Air Force Documentation

  • Bomb group sortie reports: These are very well known reports filled out by intelligence officers for each crew immediately after they returned from the mission. Scans of some of the TIDAL WAVE SRs are even available on the internet. I have them for every single aircraft and crew that participated, and also for the turnbacks that took off but soon returned to base for various reasons.
  • Bomb group formation charts: Again, very well known; these diagrams show where each plane was in the formation. Unfortunately these charts have to be taken with a grain of salt because although they show where individual planes should have been, that’s not necessarily where they actually were during the event. In addition, once the final leg into the target was started planes definitely moved around. For example, during the late ’70s and very early ’80s I showed dozens of 44th Bomb Group Ploesti veterans the official chart and, as a group they made significant alternations: "No, no. I wasn’t there, I was just off Abernathy’s right wing," etc.
  • Bomb group damage and injury reports.
  • IX Bomber Command Mission Planning Reports and Documents. A lot of these have survived, but unfortunately not in 9th AF files, which seem mostly to have disappeared from the US National Archives and USAF Historical Research Agency (if they were ever provided in the first place). However, I located quite a few in RAF files (MAC (Mediterranean Air Command), Hq RAF ME (Headquarters Royal Air Force Middle East), etc., etc.) the individual bomb group files, the 201st Combat Wing files, and numerous other rather obscure locations.
  • There’s quite a bit more, but I want to move on because I can’t possibly cover everything here.

British Documentation

This requires a bit of explanation. Why is so much TIDAL WAVE stuff in British files?

First, while the mission was flown exclusively by Americans (except for one RAF gunnery expert who manned one of the top turrets), you have to remember that the east end of the Mediterranean was a "British lake" where essentially all the action, planning, supplies, maintenance, etc, was in British hands. Ninth Air Force was more or less an anomaly in that it was the only major US unit operating in this part of the world. General Eisenhower was the overall Theater Commander and technically in charge of this area as well as the western North African operations, which were nearly all American with a tiny sprinkling of French units. You’re undoubtedly familiar with NAAF (Northwest African Air Force) and the USAAF Twelfth Air Force, led by USAAF General Carl Spaatz. At this time of the war, the northwest African leadership had relatively little to do with Ninth Air Force, except that Eisenhower thought highly of Spaatz and valued his advice.

General Brereton, Ninth Air Force commander, actually worked directly for Air Chief Marshal Sir William Sholto Douglas (famous for strongly arguing during the Battle of Britian for the "Big Wing" concept also championed by Douglas Bader, and becoming head of RAF Fighter Command just after the Battle of Britain). Douglas’ direct boss was Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder, Ike’s chief airman. So, Brereton had two Brits between him and Eisenhower. This was the logical result of Ninth’s role in supporting the British in the Western Desert from mid-1942 on.

In short, nearly all the pre-mission intelligence on the Romanian targets and defenses came from the Brits. They also provided 100% of the photo reconnaissance and bomb damage assessments after this attack. They provided 100% of the Air-Sea Rescue operation, and 100% of the emergency recovery bases at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. The British transported nearly all supplies. And more.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Chief of the Air Staff (RAF) Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal were actively engaged in early planning for what became TIDAL WAVE, and followed its development and execution closely.

Do not mistake my meaning: Americans created the original concept of operations and operational details necessary for the crews to successfully find and attack the targets, trained the crews and executed the mission. Except for one RAF gunnery expert who manned a top turret in one of the planes, the mission was flown entirely by Yanks. In fact, when some British officers complained bitterly to their headquarters in England the official reply was "this is and is to be seen as an American op." It was American. But the British were deeply involved, and very helpful, right up to takeoff.

Various documents obtained from British sources include:

  • Prime Minister Churchill’s personal files and reports: These are related not only to the petroleum products coming out of Romania, but the overall German oil position, war strategy, activities on the Russian Front, political and military relations with the US, and much more.
  • British War Cabinet files and reports: Similar to the Prime Minister files, but cover a wider range of topics in significantly more detail.
  • British Chiefs of Staff Committee files and reports: Technically a subcommittee of the British War Cabinet, the BCOS was the British equivalent to the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, and in fact when the two organizations met together they were called the Combined Chiefs of Staff. In particular, documents from the Joint Planning Staff and Joint Intelligence Committee go deeply into the issues surrounding German and Romanian oil and denying the Axis petroleum products. Other relevant records include relations with the Americans, the overall German oil position and especially the balance of different products required and their sources, strategic and operational planning documents, etc.
  • Ministry of Economic Warfare: Here sat the oil experts of the British Government, and I was amazed at how much they knew–and how correct they were–about the German oil position, its vulnerabilities, the delicate balance of product types and sources, etc.
  • ULTRA Intercepts: ULTRA was the extremely secret British program to intercept and decrypt German and Axis messages encrypted with, primarily, the famous Enigma code machines. This has been a remarkably productive set of records. Again, I’m utterly shocked at how much the British Government knew about the intents and details of nearly all German operations.
  • Middle East Interpretation Unit (MEIU): This RAF organization controlled all British photo reconnaissance operations and interpretation for the British (including the USAAF Ninth Air Force) as they advanced westward from Egypt towards the Americans advancing to the east from French North Africa. MEIU records are nothing less than a treasure trove of photographs, intelligence analyses, plans, and general evaluations.
  • Chief of the Air Staff (RAF) records and reports: These documents include plans, coordination with the Americans, a broad range of relevant reports and analyses by various British Government organizations, intelligence reports, and much, much more.
  • Central Interpretation Unit (CIU): These were the modelbuilders who built in record time the famous 3D models used in the "SOAPSUDS" (an earlier code name for TIDAL WAVE) briefing films and by the crews themselves for detailed target study. Although nominally a RAF organization situated just outside London, a sizeable number of USAAF personnel were assigned and worked on the TIDAL WAVE models.
  • Many more British organizations created or held documents related to TIDAL WAVE, but are too numerous to mention just now.

American Documents

  • Combined Chiefs of Staff: Although an organization that combined the British Chiefs of Staff and the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, I’m listing it here because most of their records I’ve found have come from American files, regardless of who originated them. The important subjects covered in this category is so vast I’m not going to describe them in detail, except to say that once FDR decided we had to help the Russians, the implementation of how best to do that in 1943 was left to the CCS–and TIDAL WAVE was the result. CCS reports and summaries of the two major Allied conferences where the Ploesti attack was discussed and approved (SYMBOL, the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 and TRIDENT, the Third Washington Conference in May 1943), and QUADRANT (the Quebec Conference) held in mid-August 1943 immediately after the TIDAL WAVE attack where the results were briefed to FDR & Churchill.
  • US Army Air Force records and reports: I now have more than ten shelf feet of Army Air Force records and reports related to TIDAL WAVE and the issue of Axis Oil.
  • Military Attache reports: The US Military Attache in Bucharest provided considerable detail of Ploesti defenses before the Romanians threw the Allies’ diplomatic corps out of their country in the fall of 1941. The Military Attache office in Turkey was the primary source for intelligence on the Balkans area and kept up to date on the TIDAL WAVE aviators who were captured in Romania and Bulgaria and interned in Turkey. Records of the Military Attache office in the country of Peru provided considerable detail about Uzal G. Ent, the TIDAL WAVE commander, just before he moved to North Africa. This is important because we must understand what kind of a man Ent was to be able to understand why the TIDAL WAVE attack was less than fully successful.
  • US Military Academy (West Point): Ent was a 1924 graduate of West Point, and his cadet records and remembrances of his classmates also help provide a fuller understanding of what kind of man he was.
  • Office of Strategic Services (OSS): The OSS was the predecessor of the CIA, and without doubt their files have yielded the greatest mass of detailed American reports and analyses on the German oil position and Ploesti in particular.
  • Hap Arnold Diaries: General Hap Arnold, Commanding General of the US Army Air Forces, kept detailed diaries, and those from the first half of 1943 have provided important insights into the background and planning of the TIDAL WAVE operation.
  • Many more documents from other Army, Army Air Force, and US government civilian agencies have also proved quite helpful.

Axis Records

I’ve mentioned this before, but the Romanian national archives have proven a treasure trove of insight into what happened that day. Official Romanian ministry of defense reports, other governmental reports, and especially the detailed damage/destruction reports prepared by the individual refining companies for the Romanian government make it quite clear what the actual results (as opposed to intelligence-based conjecture) were.

The refining company reports span the period from immediately after the attack to September 1944, when the war in Romania ended after the Russians captured the country. From these reports we can identify exactly what immediate and long term results were obtained by the attack of 1 August 1943. I’ll get into these results in considerable detail in the documentary.

Die Deutschen Luftwaffen Mission In Rumänien (DLM) was the German organization responsible for the defense of the Romanian oil producing area and some of their records were copied by the OSS and USAAF officers who went into Romania in early September 1944, right after the Russian captured the country. These teams photographed and filmed much of the destruction at some of the refineries and copied as many of the records as the Russians made available to them. These reports are exceptionally useful in identifying what actually happened during TIDAL WAVE. The DLM also prepared an official report on the attack from the German point of view.

The German Foreign Ministry was responsible for economic relations with the Romanians, related primarily to petroleum products and foodstuffs. Their contemporary reports on exactly what the Romanians were supplying to Axis forces give great insight into the details of what Romania contributed to the Nazi war effort—this is an extremely important subject and will be described at length in my documentary. OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, the German military high command) and to a lesser extent OKL (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, German air force high command) records shed additional light on what oil products were needed, when, and where; shortages; and sources.

Enough for now. Hope you’ve found this rather long recap interesting, and I hope you’ll enjoy the documentary when it’s released.

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Status Update

Long-delayed update on my documentary’s progress:

First, it’s not done yet (damn). However, the research portion is very nearly at end and I’m actively working on the script, visuals, graphics, etc.

I’ve recently obtained another 4,000+ pages of original documents from the US National Archives, British National Archives, and German Bundesarchiv that, among other things, clarify to a great extent who the major national players in the planning for the attack on Ploesti were, and especially their attitudes, recommendations, and decisions.

Interesting how this unfolded: some documents I got from the British National Archives led to investigation of several completely new categories of documents from the US National Archives, which are not adequately indexed. This required a great deal of research time, but revealed critical new information not previously known or available.

I’ve also obtained some additional rather obscure but extremely interesting film of the mission and related activities that will help show a clearer, more exciting, and broader picture of what went on.

Some of the new specific document types include a large number of ULTRA decrypts related to Ploesti. You’ll recall that ULTRA was the TOP SECRET British codebreaking operation that was so secret no one outside the tiny group of intelligence initiates was even allowed to know the program existed, let alone the contents of the intercepted messages.

The ULTRA material covers a wide variety of subjects in detail, sometimes in considerable detail. For example, some of the intercepted German messages included such details as the Werke Nummer (serial number) of destroyed or damaged Luftwaffe aircraft (this applies to far more than just Ploesti). German military unit and personnel movements, damage assessments, and to a limited degree overall plans were other subjects covered.

It is utterly amazing to read how well Churchill, and to possibly a lesser extent FDR, were informed on what was going on behind German lines. ULTRA was undoubted one of, if not THE, major coups of the war.

Of particular interest is the extreme difference between the very accurate information the Allies were receiving from the Germans themselves through the ULTRA decrypts, and the amazingly bad information coming to them from some human intelligence sources, especially through Swedish, Polish, and Yugoslavian sources. Contemporary German and Romanian sources available to me now, especially from the oil companies, highlight these inaccuracies. Thankfully the Allies did not put much stock in these inaccurate reports. Because it’s outside the scope of my project, I have not investigated whether these inaccuracies were the result of German penetration of Polish and Yugoslavian intelligence networks or simply over-eager reporting of what was merely positive speculation.

Can’t recall whether I’ve already told you this, but my previous research into OKW (German high command), OKL (Luftwaffe high command) and Hitler’s personal diaries and logs has revealed considerable insight and detail on the German’s attitudes and actions with regard to Romanian oil. Among other things, Hitler’s utter contempt for the Romanian people (and his high regard for Marshal Antonescu) is as well documented as FDR’s well known contempt for Winston Churchill, both in spite of their many public proclamations to the contrary.

In addition to the contextual information I’ve been researching recently, I’ve also made considerable progress on a number of specifics related to the actual attack and its results.

In sum, there is today a massive amount of original documentation that was still classified or completely unavailable 50+ years ago when Stewart and Dugan wrote their landmark book. What’s most amazing is that they did such a superlative job given the relative scarcity of information available to them. As always, I feel honored to walk in the footprints of giants who have preceded me.

Dave Klaus

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Accurate TIDAL WAVE B-24D List

Lists of TIDAL WAVE B-24Ds have been published in the past.  However, once I started evaluating them it was clear serious inaccuracies were present.  The extensive B-24D list at the link below is the result of assessing more than 450 official documents of various types along with a number of crewmember diaries, letters, and articles.

While not every single data element is confirmed in every detail (as described on the linked page), this is the most accurate list ever published.  To be clear, while I know a lot I certainly don’t know everything.  If you have confirmed information (NOT stuff from the many Ploesti books out there) that will help complete this list, please contact me by clicking one of the links on that page.  With your help, we’ll make this thing ROCK!

What doesn’t rock (yet) is the layout of the linked page.  Everybody knows Microsoft Office does a horrible job of creating web pages and it is a prime example.  I’ll work on cleaning up the format later; for now, just enjoy the cool TIDAL WAVE info.


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What The Axis Knew In Advance (Teaser)

I found and had declassified a formerly TOP SECRET report that lays out, in detail, what the Luftwaffe Signal Intelligence Service (specifically W-Leit Südost, Referat C, and Chi-Stelle) knew in advance of the TIDAL WAVE mission, and what they knew and did on the day of the actual mission.

It turns out they knew quite a lot–and it didn’t require spies in Cairo (although they certainly existed) or a “stay behind” team hiding in a wadi outside Benghazi, as speculated in certain publications.  What the Luftwaffe command structure did with the information is yet another story.

This is a story with heroes and villains.

It’s fascinating stuff, so stay tuned for the release of my documentary.

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Partial Bibliography Posted

Partial (much less than 1%) bibliography posted here.

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B-24 Maintenance Training Films DVD – Now Shipping!

Now you can watch the same training films on B-24 maintenance that World War II mechanics watched!

My digitally-enhanced versions of these six films are now available on one DVD, which is available now. Read more here…

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Quick TIDAL WAVE Documentary Update

About a week ago I received a huge dump of contemporary (original) Romanian and German documents related to TIDAL WAVE. All these docs are in the Romanian or German language, and since I don’t speak either language, I’ve been working 15-16 hour days since the pile arrived to get them translated.

Not to overstate the situation, but this document dump is proving to sort of like the “Wikileaks” of the Axis side TIDAL WAVE. Very, very good stuff.

Before this hoped-for-but-not-really-expected treasure trove arrived, I’d been racing to get everything finished and on the street before 1 August 2013, the 70th anniversary of the Ploesti attack. It’s obviously far more important to get all this new material processed and incorporated. I need to get this wrapped up, however, so at this point I’m shooting for an early September release.

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America’s Secret Plan To Confuse The Ploesti Defenses

Romanian citizens reported being attacked by “Soviet” bombers shortly after midday on Sunday, August 1st, 1943.  They can be excused for their confusion.

The B-24 Liberators of Operation TIDAL WAVE that penetrated Romanian airspace to attack the oil refineries at Ploesti that day in fact wore a bewildering variety of American national insignia.  How this came about is an interesting story.

Read more here.

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Tidal Wave Documentary Update

Been a while since I updated you on what’s been going on with the Tidal Wave/Ploesti project. Don’t let my lack of communication imply that I haven’t been busy, however!

This documentary is about more than just Tidal Wave mission execution—although that is certainly one of the main sections. “War stories” about what the men on Tidal Wave experienced can be found all over the place, whether firsthand accounts from actual participants or secondhand or third-hand hearsay.

This will not look like a typical History Channel or Discovery documentary, with a fairly superficial story line delivered by numerous “talking heads” speaking one or two sentences each before disappearing. That documentary style might give the gist of the story, but cannot impart much real understanding of what happened. It does, of course, appear to have an excellent human-interest angle.

The mission itself was obviously a major undertaking, involving considerable effort and heroism on the part of the crews who actually attacked the target. This is highly exciting stuff, and you’ll get a bunch of it in my documentary.

Because I’m very interested in the context of the mission:

  • Why it was flown
  • Why it was flown at that time
  • Who was for it
  • Who was against it
  • What was the Germans’ actual oil situation at that time
  • What did the US, and the UK, believe was the Germans’ oil situation
  • How important Ploesti really was to the Axis war machine
  • What impact did the mission have on the Combined Bomber Offensive
  • What were the actual impacts on the Axis war machine (given that not all “oil” is created equal . . . )
  • Who were the major behind-the-scenes players, in addition to the obvious players, and what were their attitudes
  • What did the Romanians themselves experience on that date, and what did it mean to their war effort
  • What were the attitudes of the American and British regarding this specific target and related larger issues; how did they differ, and how did their differences affect the mission
  • Etc.

You’re going to see and hear a great deal about some very significant issues and facts that have never been revealed before, or never related in detail or context, that will give you a whole new appreciation of what happened on 1 August 1943 at Ploesti, Romania.

I feel like I’m living inside a detective story. I’ve copied a dozen shelf-feet of original documents from numerous official archives (that is a LOT of pages), copied more than a thousand original photos, most of them of excellent quality, and found and copied original film related to the mission that takes up well more than four TERABYTES of HD video disk space.

I’ve read over 150 books related to the mission in one way or another, many of them more than once due to their importance and/or the authors’ impenetrable writing style. I feel like I’m back in grad school!

Every place I look I find a “trail.” I read a fact—then wonder why this person did that, or what were the circumstances that made that particular thing happen, etc. That leads me to the next clue, then to the next, then to the next—a little like the story line of a Nicholas Cage National Treasure movie, except there’s no huge pile of gold waiting for me at the end (dammit).

As I follow each of these hundreds and hundreds of trails, I have to relate it back to the bigger picture, and determine how what I just learned affects, or is affected by, all the other facts I’ve pursued. This pretty obviously a huge quantity of work. It’s also a huge amount of fun and I can understand how easily writers get so caught up in research that they never actually finish the project.

I can’t afford to fail to finish my documentary, and I’m working hard to bring this baby in for a safe landing. Not totally sure when it will be, but hopefully within the next month or so. I’ll keep you informed.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but NOT his own set of facts. Unfortunately, frequency of repetition does not a fact make. Seventeen writers repeating the same statement does not make it a “fact” if it was wrong in the first place.

You’ve heard me say this documentary will be controversial. It will be, because some of the long-held and dearly held myths—many exceptionally convoluted—about Ploesti that have been put forward since the war will be challenged and turned on their heads. Some people will work themselves up into, well, a white fury.

That’s not my intention, but it will happen. So, I have to be very well informed about every aspect of the controversies both to ensure the true story is told and to avoid a charge of inadequate research. This is particularly true regarding much of the material in the Deluxe Edition of my documentary.

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