Operation Tidal Wave – A Risky Raid on Hitler's Gas Station

The city of Ploiești, Romania, was better known during World War 2 as Hitler’s gas station. The country produced a third of the Reich’s oil supply, which made it a prime target for the Allies.

At the beginning of 1943, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill, along with other key military leaders, met for the Casablanca Conference. In it, the Allies carefully outlined a surprise mission against Ploiești.

The plan was to send 178 B-24 bombers to the city, flying at a low altitude to avoid German radar detection. Then, the aircraft would drop time delayed bombs over the unsuspecting town.

The Germans, however, had fortified the city against any possible attack. Luftwaffe commander in the area, Colonel Alfred Gerstenberg, had hundreds of anti-aircraft guns, many of them hidden in rail cars and empty buildings, around Ploiești’s refineries. Gerstenberg also summoned three Luftwaffe fighter units inside the city limits.

Immediately after the operation began, the Allied B-24 formations discovered the challenges of flying in radio silence. The situation got so bad that the formations did not arrive in Ploiești simultaneously. Once over the city, they came upon Gerstenberg’s unique traps…

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