US Bomber Emerging From Smoke After Raid

B-24 Liberator “the Sandman” Emerging From Smoke During raid On Ploesti Oil Field in Romania; THEN ALLIED TO NAZI GERMANY.
THIS FIELD SUPPLIED IMMENSE AMOUNTS OF PETROLEUM PRODUCTS TO WEHRMACHT 

The_Sandman_a_B-24_Liberator,_piloted_by_Robert_Sternfels

Aug. 1, 1943. The Sandman,  a US Army Air Force B-24 Liberator from the 98th Bomb Group of the 9th Air Force, piloted by Major Robert Sternfels, shown emerging from a cloud of smoke as it barely clears the stacks of the Astra Romana refinery during the disastrous American raid on the Romania oil fields at Ploesti.

(caption and photo courtesy of the National Museum of the US Air Force. The photo was taken by Jerry J. Joswick, the only survivor of the 16 cameramen of the operation)

 

Unfortunately, Not the Most Successful Action of the War

Since US Army Air Force doctrine stipulated high-altitude precision bombing, pilots had little experience in low-level missions. And this was a low-level mission.  Several months prior to the attack, aircrews and aircraft were sent to Libya and trained day after day in flying fifty feet off the ground or lower while in formation.

Coming in at low altitude was the key tactical element in the plan of attack on the refineries and associated facilities at the oil fields in Ploesti, Romania. These oil fields were Nazi Germany’s main source of oil, supplying almost 40% of the total. As such, Ploesti was the most heavily defended target against air attack in the entire Nazi empire. (Romania was a staunch ally of Nazi Germany).

The USAAF suffered terrible losses. Of the 177 B-24s on the raid, 53 were lost, most on the raid, some of which crashed and a handful interned in neutral Turkey. Official US Air Force casualty figures are as follows:  310 aircrewmen were killed, 108 were captured by the Axis, and 78 were interned in Turkey.

 

Despite the extreme heroism of the airmen and their determination to press the mission home, the results… were less than expected…. the attack temporarily eliminated about 3,925,000 tons (of petroleum production), roughly 46 percent of total annual production at Ploesti.

Unfortunately…these losses were temporary and much less than the planners had hoped for. The Germans proved capable of repairing damage and restoring production quickly, and they had been operating the refineries at less than full capacity, anyway.

Ploesti thus had the ability to recover rapidly. The largest and most important target, Astro Romana, was back to full production within a few months…”

 

Source: Fact sheet on low level bombing of Ploesti August 1943, US Air Force Historical Office. You can find the entire fact sheet here:

http://www.afhso.af.mil/topics/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=17993

Highest Casualty Rate in British Empire

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The “Red Ensign” was the flag flown by the British Merchant Navy. The Royal Navy flew the “White Ensign”

(photo courtesy of  the National Archives of the United Kingdom)

 19% of officers and ratings of the British Merchant Navy died in World War Two as the result of hostile action–a far higher percentage than any branches of the British and Commonwealth Forces.

The actual number who died is 25,864 men. Not of these men weren’t actually British sailors. Many were from neutral countries such as Sweden, who volunteered to sail on Swedish ships chartered to the British Ministry of War Transport. Others were Portuguese, also neutral.

840 ships from foreign nations who were belligerents against Germany including Norway, the Netherlands and Greece placed themselves under charter to the British although the Germans offered them large sums to come back to their own countries. The men refused.

 

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British sailor covered in oil from a tanker torpedoed in 1943

(photo courtesy of IWM)

Ships not specifically built or purchased by the British Ministry of War Transport were insured by the Ministry since obviously no maritime insurance company could take the risk of insuring merchant ships in a war.

 

Three_Lascars_on_the_Viceroy_of_India

 Three Lascars of the P&O liner Viceroy of India, standing behind the wheel of one of the ship’s tenders. National Maritime Museum from Greenwich, United Kingdom.

 

A large number of men who crewed British merchant ships were Lascars, men native to the Indian subcontinent. They were paid far less than white British sailors and signed a more restrictive set of articles as they were known before signing on.

A number of British owned ships were crewed entirely by Lascars except for the officers or mates who were white or “European” as they were known. On these ships officers were required the predominant language of the crew such as Hindi and speak it fluently since all orders were given in the language of the crew.

Despite the carnage, well known to the merchant officers and sailors, not one Allied merchant ship ever failed to find a crew and put to sea. Yes, there were delays as some men balked and said “hell no.” Nonetheless, officers and crewmen were always found who manned the ships.

They were brave men.

 

MerchantLead

Survivors of two merchant ships crowd the decks of a rescue trawler at St. John’s, Newfoundland, April 1943.
(photo courtesy of National Library of Canada)

 

 

source: Churchill’s Navy

author’s research

Oil and Global Power – Part 1

Part 1

A British soldier guards a BP pipeline in Iran, 1941 – oil production and distribution played a major strategic role in the Second World War.

All purpose built British warships had either been converted to burn oil or were originally built to burn oil. This was the case with HMS Kent, named for the ‘Kent sub-class’ of the ‘County Class’ heavy cruisers built in the 1920s under the limitations of Washington Naval Treaty of 1922.

Hence, these cruisers and the two later sub-classes, London and Norfolk, were also known as ‘treaty cruisers’ as was the US Navy cruiser, USS Indianapolis, for instance. (Famous for being the only ship to leave Pearl Harbor on 6 December 1941, for carrying the atom bomb to Tinian, and for her sinking by a Japanese submarine afterwards; the loss of life among the crew being the worst naval disaster in the history of the US Navy.)

The British Empire paid careful attention to its oil supplies both for motor fuel and for the Royal Navy. (The US armed forces and the British armed forces were the only two militaries to enter World War Two completely motorized. The Germans still used horses for 80% of their transport.)

Great Britain controlled Iran and the oil producing regions of Iraq along with other oil producing territories. British Petroleum explored for oil throughout the empire and other countries and oil politics were played as fiercely then as they are now.

Japan attacked the main islands of Indonesia in World War Two because they produced oil and lots of oil. Then known as Batavia, the main islands had a highly developed oil infrastructure for drilling, refining, and shipping. Shell Oil, then known as Royal Dutch Shell, controlled this entire process.

One of the reasons the Japanese desperately needed oil was the US had stopped exporting oil to them. While hard to believe, before World War Two, the largest oil exporter in the world was the United States.

[Image courtesy of The Telegraph.]