Ploesti Oil Fields, Air Raids on

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PLOESTI OIL FIELDS, AIR RAIDS ON (1941–1944). Refineries located near Ploesti, Romania, provided one-third of the oil supply of the Axis forces in World War II, making the oil fields a crucial Allied target. Minor air attacks by the Russians in 1941 and the United States in 1942 were ineffective. The Germans, anticipating further strikes, increased their defenses.

By mid-1943 a force was available for a one-time attack. Three U.S. Liberator groups based in England joined Major General Lewis H. Brereton's two Ninth Air Force groups in Libya. Brereton planned a low-level attack; this unusual strategy required special flight training over a simulated Ploesti site constructed in the desert. At dawn on 1 August, 177 aircraft were airborne on a 2,300-mile mission. Simultaneous treetop strikes were planned against eight refineries. Fierce battles ensued in the developing inferno of the target area. Fifty-four aircraft were lost and fifty-five damaged by defending guns, fighters, airships, and bombs. Refinery production was reduced by about one-half.

Major General Nathan F. Twining's Fifteenth Air Force, based in Italy, struck the oil fields again in April 1944, opening a successful high-altitude campaign that continued until 19 August. Bomber crews dreaded meeting Ploesti's defenses, which included flak guns, German fighters, and smoke screens. Campaign bomber sorties numbered 5,287, with a 3.6 percent loss. The British contributed 900 night sorties. Combined with attacks on German refineries by other forces, the campaign deprived the Germans of a sizable quantity of the fuel essential for war.


Dugan, James, and Carroll Stewart. Ploesti: The Great Ground-Air Battle of 1 August 1943. New York: Random House, 1962.

Sweetman, John. Ploesti: Oil Strike. New York: Ballantine, 1974.

Leon W.Johnson/a. r.

See alsoAir Power, Strategic ; World War II, Air War against Germany .