24 April 1944

24 April 1944

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24 April 1944

War at Sea

German submarine U-311 sunk with all hands south west of Ireland


The US War Department announces that it believes Japan will have to be invaded

Great Britain

All overseas travel is banned as part of the security precautions prior to D-Day

New Guinea

Australian troops enter Madang

Post-War Plans of AFL Are a Farce

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 17, 24 April 1944, pp.ف &ك.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The American Federation of Labor has issued a long statement which can correctly be called its Political and Economic Testament for the Guidance of the Post-War World. The document lays down principles not only for the United States today and after the war but economic and political standards for the construction of international policy, now and following the war.

The document is essentially and basically a political pronouncement and must be judged as such by workers both within and outside the AFL. It will surely be judged and accepted in this manner of the capitalist ruling class and the government.

The statement is divided into four parts. Part One is Guiding International Principles. Part Two is Program for the establishment of “a lasting peace.” Part Three is Guiding Domestic Principles and Part Four is Immediate Domestic Program.

Echoes of the Past

The Federation begins its platform with the declaration that “war is the enemy.” The AFL recognizes that labor “has no future promise in a world living under the threat and burden of the war system . the elimination of war as an instrument of national policy is a condition essential to the perpetuation . of our democratic way of life.” There is nothing especially startling here, of course. All of this has been said before. The AFL statesmen have only dug into the pre-Hitler past for their language.

It is almost the identical language of the Pact of Paris (Briand-Kellogg Pact) signed August 27, 1928. In this pact war was forever “renounced as an instrument of national policy.” But this is not all the AFL builders of international good will continue with the position that “lasting peace must rest on social justice and include all peoples.” They are in full accord with the international politics of Mr. Gompers, who “set forth this principle . at the close of the First World War in the constitution of the International Labor Organization.”

Furthermore, the AFL is in full accord with the Atlantic Charter and “notes with satisfaction” the declaration of Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt to the effect that these great democrats will welcome into their blessed circle “all nations . whose peoples in heart and mind are dedicated, as are our own peoples, to the elimination of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance.”

There is no hint that the Atlantic Charter is now of a part with the Briand-Kellogg Pact, that Churchill is finding it difficult to square the so-called principles of the Atlantic Charter with his declaration that “I did not become His Majesty’s First Minister to sit in at the liquidation of the British Empire” that Stalinist Russia is a prison house and a slave pen, and that no one of the imperialist governments has expressed any intention of welcoming the exploited colonial peoples into the “world family of democratic nations.” The AFL political scientists declare that “the only safety from war is the international organization of peace.” The United States must participate in this.

This country must “do its full part to help develop a general system of mutual security.” The United Nations must be “ready and equipped . to prevent the outbreak of war. This will surely require programs for policing and the use of armed forces.” There is more about achieving prosperity by a “free people under a regime of social justice,” the safeguarding of freedom of thought “throughout the world,” and the dependence of freedom of thought “upon the growth of public conscience.”

The AFL statesmen go on and on with their .”guiding international principles” until one becomes nauseated. They give the impression of being old men, physically and mentally decrepit, who have rummaged in second-hand bookstores among the musty and discarded volumes and offerings of post-Versailles and pre-Hitler days. They dig up all the old language, the old plans that a decaying capitalism, an unrestrained imperialism, and the threat of world fascism, have rendered not only naive and impotent, but filled to overflowing with danger for the world working class.

In the light of actual history and the present world situation these “principles” and the international politics of the AFL leaders are as outmoded and rusty as their craft union and reactionary trade union practices in the United States.

What About World Labor?

There is no call for the reforming of the labor movement of the world, for the solidarity of world labor, for the organization of the world working class on class lines, to include the German, Italian and Japanese workers and the miserably exploited colonial slaves. These intellectually bankrupt and ignorant bureaucrats can only talk in vague terms about maintaining peace with “political and military programs” associated with “a far-reaching economic program which will be designed not to advantage certain nations at the expense of others . ”

What nations are not to receive advantage at the expense of which other nations? And how can this come to ,pass in the minds of Green, Woll & Co. when they say in their statement that the United Nations must remain prepared to police the world with armed force? Policing the world with armed force is nothing new. Every imperialist nation has done this, at one time or another, for over a hundred years.

In its statement the AFL takes a position against world poverty. They say that “poverty, unemployment and widespread insecurity are not endurable in the midst of potential plenty.” Not endurable to whom? The starving millions of Europe? The millions of colonial serfs writhing under the imperialist lash? The stricken workers of Hitler’s concentration camps? The exploited millions of Japan and China? The hundreds of thousands in Stalin’s “socialist” factories and prison camps? Not endurable to the hard-pressed working class in the United States?

True, their present condition is not endurable to these millions. But they are forced to endure these things and the AFL gives them no ray of hope. They are not told what to do, they are not given a program for world labor as a class, they are promised no aid in the struggle which they carry on today.

The AFL’s “Program”

The AFL, however, does have a “program” for international peace and economic and political security. What is it? The Atlantic Charter and the Four-Nation Declaration of Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek. They don’t want a world government, but the United Nations are to form a “General International Organization.” Presumably it is this international organization that will function as policemen of the world. What the AFL leaders really call for is the domination of the world, after the war, but the United Nations, but principally by the United State’s.

They are imperialistic minded, demand ins the continuation of the world as it is and defending the imperialists of the ruling classes of England and the United States. Furthermore, they are white imperialists, calling for the continued exploitation of the colonial peoples by their present masters. This is all their “program” means and all that it can mean.

The AFL “planners” remember that there is such a thing as “livelihood,” that is, the workers .must eat, wear clothing and have a house to live in. They are for feeding the starving peoples of the world after the war. They want labor on the staff of the UNRRA. They call this relief, “charity,” and do not believe that the people of other countries “or the United States would profit from continuing charity after the restoration of normal conditions.”

This is a very noble sentiment, coming from these well-fed and high-salaried bureaucrats. It is in the best tradition of the “Sixty Families,” who were always afraid that “charity” would demoralize the workers. This statement, too, will meet with the full approval of the NAM, whose members fear that the Hottentots will get too much U.S. milk and there will not be enough left for the babies of the steel workers and coal diggers.

The AFL world “program” calls for long-range economic planning and “a certain number of international functional agencies . to insure the consistent development of sound economic policies in a world which will be increasingly responsive to the advances in technology . ” What does this mean? What are sound economic policies? Since the AFL is committed, as much as the NAM, to the continuation of capitalism as a sound economic policy for the U.S., a sound economic policy in world planning can mean only the same thing. In turn, this can only mean the continuation of national economic and political rivalries which lead to imperialist forays, plunder and imperialist wars. Thus do labor leaders put forth their “plans” for world peace, security and justice.

Other Proposals

There are other international proposals which we can only mention. The International Labor Office “has abundantly justified its existence.” The Permanent Court of International Justice should be adopted (where have these people been for the past twenty years?) And for the safeguarding of “human rights” there should be a permanent international institute. It is assumed that all of these institutes, courts, organizations and commissions will be functioning under the protection of the bayonets and navies of the victorious United Nations.

This is the AFL’s contribution to foreign and international politics. It is a stale and musty document out of the cellars of imperialist balance of power politics. It does not even approach the empty vaporings of Woodrow Wilson . It seemingly is not aware of the history of the world since the Treaty of Versailles. It pays not the slightest heed to the rumblings from the underground movements of Hitlerized Europe, to the insistent demands of the Italian workers, or to the anti-imperialist struggles of the Chinese masses. It expresses no sympathy for the traduced workers of Germany and Japan or for the aspirations of the black millions of Africa.

These bureaucrats of the labor movement, fat from their millions in per capita tax, do not know that world labor has moved beyond their day and their time. Gompers is dead and Gompersism is no answer to the world problems of the working class: certainly not today. Those workers of occupied countries, including Italy, will read this rubbish with disgust and loathing.

Certainly they want democracy, freedom, security and peace. But they know that these can come only with the development of their might and their power organized in the trade unions and workers’ political parties. They are beginning to learn that the “public conscience” is a capitalist and imperialist conscience, that international cooperation is the practice of diplomatic trickery and fraud that economic cooperation between nations is a brotherhood of death organized by armament manufacturers, and a pillaging of the plain people by cartel agreements.

Working Class Plans

We of the working class must have our plans for the post-war world. But for us the post-war world is part and parcel of the world today and the world of the past. Our first consideration is the fact that an impassable gulf exists between us and the capitalists of our own country, and that this same impassable gulf spreads itself between the workers of every other capitalist country and their ruling classes. The present war does not dry up that gulf, does not destroy this barrier between us as workers and our capitalist and imperialist oppressors.

Our real guarantee against post-war insecurity or fascism is the organization of the working class – as a class – in every capitalist country, Germany, Italy and Japan included – into an international brotherhood of the toilers, organized into strong world unions and a world political party of the working class. Then we can talk about the “public conscience” because we, the majority of the people, will be that conscience. We can talk about peace because we who have no interest in war will not plunge the world into war. We will have security because we, the people, will own and control the instruments of production which are the foundation of security.

Ploesti—The Rest of the Story

B-24H Liberators of the Fifteenth Air Force bomb the oil cracking plant at the Concordia Vega refinery, one of many targets around Ploesti, on May 31, 1944.

In addition to the 10 refineries at Ploesti, which produced perhaps one-third of Germany’s oil, there was a wide network of targets like Giurgiu: storage facilities, transportation routes and shipment points.

The navigators of the 97th Bomb Group B-17s checked their maps as they approached the Danube River from the north on the morning of June 23, 1944. So far they were on course and on time for their assigned target, the Romanian city of Giurgiu on the border with Bulgaria. The Italy-based Fifteenth Air Force had that day launched hundreds of bombers against targets affiliated with Ploesti and other Axis petroleum production and shipping points.

Nearly 70 miles south of Ploesti, the Flying Fortresses pressed through a thick anti-aircraft barrage. During the bombing run on Giurgiu, the B-17F Opissonya was struck by flak and began losing altitude, but pilot Lieutenant Edwin Anderson was determined to put his bombardier over the target.

Lieutenant David R. Kingsley crouched over the Norden bombsight in Opissonya’s nose, seeking the aim point. He ignored attacking Messerschmitt Me-109s and dropped his bombs through thickening flak. By then the B-17 had taken a beating: Anderson pulled off target with one engine out and serious airframe damage.

More 109s pressed in, eager to finish off the straggler. One of them put a 20mm round into the tail gunner’s compartment, wounding Sergeant Michael Sullivan. Unable to call for help on the intercom, Sullivan crawled forward to the waist position. The gunners carried him to the radio compartment and summoned assistance. Now that they had dropped their bombload, Kingsley was the obvious choice to provide first aid.

A veteran airman on his 20th mission, Kingsley was not quite 26 years old. Although the lieutenant had washed out of pilot training, he excelled as a dual-rated bombardier-navigator. He was a long way from his home in Portland, Ore.

After removing Sullivan’s damaged parachute harness and jacket to expose his mangled shoulder, Kingsley managed to slow the bleeding. But the gunner had already lost too much blood 500 miles from base, Sullivan was going into shock.

Then even more 109s arrived. During the course of a prolonged gunfight they shot the Fortress to tatters, forcing Anderson to ring the bailout bell. In the resulting confusion, Sullivan’s chute harness could not be found. Kingsley didn’t hesitate: He removed his own harness and fitted it on the gunner. Sullivan later related: “Lieutenant Kingsley took me in his arms and struggled to the bomb bay, where he told me to keep my hand on the ripcord and said to pull it when I was clear of the ship. Before I jumped, I looked up at him and the look on his face was firm and solemn. He must have known what was coming because there was no fear in his eyes at all.”

Dangling in their chutes, the crewmen watched their bomber fall to earth and burn in Bulgaria. The fliers were soon taken prisoner, and their captors later said they had found a dead airman on the crushed flight deck, perhaps having attempted a crash landing. Ten months later the Kingsley family received David’s Medal of Honor.

The 97th Group lost three more aircraft that day, while the Fifteenth wrote off five other bombers and four fighters. It was one more tragic entry in the prolonged campaign to turn off the spigot of Adolf Hitler’s Balkan oil.

Post Tidal Wave

In April 1944, the Fifteenth Air Force had begun a four-month campaign to destroy the petroleum refineries around Ploesti. In fact, the Fifteenth was all about oil at that point: Since Romania lay 1,300 miles from the English bases of the Eighth Air Force, Lt. Gen. Nathan Twining’s command had been established on fields surrounding Foggia, on Italy’s east coast—well within reach of the refineries.

On August 1, 1943, three months before the Fifteenth was organized, Eighth and Ninth air force
B-24Ds had flown a historic low-level mission against Ploesti, suffering spectacular losses. Operation Tidal Wave cost 54 of the 178 Liberators destroyed or interned in Turkey—proof that Ploesti would not be eliminated in a single stroke (see “The Truth About Tidal Wave,” March 2012).

Ironically, Ploesti’s first refineries had been built with American backing, but nine decades later Bucharest was allied with Berlin. In addition to the 10 refineries at Ploesti, which produced perhaps one-third of Germany’s oil, there was a wide network of targets like Giurgiu: storage facilities, transportation routes and shipment points. All were interrelated, and all were distant from Italy. From Foggia, Ploesti lay 580 miles to the northeast across the Adriatic.

By the spring of 1944, the U.S. Army Air Forces realized that there was no such thing as a knockout blow when it came to these industrial sites. A “restrike” policy was clearly needed to keep them operating below peak capacity. General Twining launched his first effort against Ploesti on April 5. Three bomb wings set out to attack the railroad marshaling yards, though only two got through the weather.

Marshaling-yard missions reduced Ploesti’s output substantially in April. The Royal Air Force’s No. 205 Group joined the effort, with eight squadrons flying Vickers Wellingtons, Handley-Page Halifaxes and Consolidated Liberators. They contributed about 4 percent of the campaign’s sorties, usually at night, and also mined the Danube, severely limiting oil exports via barge.

The first six missions, through May 6, targeted Ploesti’s rail yards as part of the Allies’ overall “transport plan.” But as the Eighth Air Force was learning, railroads were extremely difficult to destroy they could be repaired in surprisingly short order. The largest Ploesti mission of that first phase involved all five of Twining’s bomb wings, with 485 aircraft dropping some 1,200 tons of ordnance on May 5. It was questionable, however, whether the damage done was worth the 18 bombers and crews lost. Even with upwards of 200 escorting fighters, the Axis defenses took a toll.

After 1,320 sorties and nearly 50 airplanes lost, the Fifteenth’s priorities changed. Seven of the 10 refineries circling the city stood within a mile of the rail yards, so it was easy for the Mediterranean air commander, Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, to order a shift of bombing aim points. Nearly two weeks passed before the Fifteenth launched another raid on Ploesti, this time attacking the refineries themselves. The new approach produced results: Persistent restrikes brought production at Ploesti to a near halt just before Bucharest capitulated in late August.

The 2nd Bomb Group mission summary for April 24 illustrates the variety of opposition the raiders encountered over Ploesti: “A 40-minute fighter attack started at the initial point. Approximately 20 to 30 e/a [enemy aircraft], consisting of Me 109s, FW 190s, and DW 520s attacked aggressively and caused damage to five B-17s. Flak at the target was both tracking and barrage, which resulted in damage to 28 B-17s [of 36] and injury to one man. Flak was described as intense and accurate.” The Allied gunners were credited with downing two 109s and a Dewoitine D.520.

By mid-May, the Fifteenth Air Force had achieved maturity. Twining deployed 21 bomb groups, seven fighter groups and a reconnaissance group. Although his command was half the size of the “Mighty Eighth,” it was still a potent, effective force.

The Defenders

The two-week respite in Allied bombing also gave the defenders time to adjust. The air defense commander was Luftwaffe Lt. Gen. Alfred Gerstenberg, who had flown in Manfred von Richthofen’s Jasta 11 in 1917. Ploesti already boasted 140 heavy and medium anti-aircraft guns, plus hundreds of smaller-caliber weapons in case of another Tidal Wave. The heavy and medium guns (mainly 88 to 128mm) doubled in number before the campaign ended, and some 40 barrage balloons were added to counter the low-level threat. Heavy flak could be extremely efficient if not always lethal: On one May mission a group reported damage to 33 of its 36 Fortresses, but all returned.

Approximately 200 German and Romanian fighters were based around Ploesti, mainly Me-109s and -110s along with locally produced, radial-engine IAR 80s and 81s. The Royal Bulgarian Air Force also contributed 109s and D.520s. Equipped with radar warning and control, the Axis was well prepared to engage approaching Allied bombers.

Yet the most effective defensive weapon was the simplest. The Romanians quickly became expert at deploying smoke generators to obscure targets. The Americans rated the smoke screens ineffective on four of the first five missions, but thereafter the smoke proved to be increasingly successful in masking specific areas. Smoke was created by chlorosulfonic acid fed into generators by compressed air. When there were bombers reported inbound, the Romanians cranked up their generators about 40 minutes before the expected strike time. There was ample supply: 1,900 generators, each of which produced smoke for more than three hours, though surface winds could reduce the time during which the screen was effective. Consequently, recon P-38 Lightnings and F-5 “Photo Joes” often preceded the bomber stream, reporting the extent of smoke coverage in a given area.

U.S. bombardiers adopted two new methods to cope with the smoke. Blind bombing employed H2X radar in pathfinder aircraft, coordinating the radar image with the bombsight. Offset bombing used an aim point’s known bearing and distance from the target, outside the smoke screen. Both could be effective, but neither was a substitute for direct visual bombing using the Norden. The Fifteenth Air Force concluded that smoke rendered “normal visual bombing virtually impossible.”

Among the Royal Romanian Air Force defenders, certainly the outstanding personality was Captain Constantin Cantacuzino, a charismatic nobleman and sportsman. The national aerobatic champion, he easily took to 109s and regarded aerial combat as the ultimate sport. At war’s end he was credited with 47 victories, flying against the Soviets and Americans—and later his erstwhile German allies.

Then there was Lieutenant Ion Dobran, who claimed 10 Allied aircraft and was himself shot down three times. Looking back in 2002, he reflected: “We could not wait to meet the Americans [but] the numerical difference was huge. For example, we engaged 15 against 100 and something. The immediate [bomber] protection was secured by the Lightnings, and the Mustangs flew higher, as a strategic reserve, which could intervene where it was necessary. They also strafed roads and railways to attract enemy fighters.”

To counter increasing pressure from the growing Eighth Air Force, more Luftwaffe fighters were soon shifted north. By early summer, only two Gruppen of Jagdgeschwader 77 provided the bulk of Luftwaffe fighters in Italy and the Balkans, and attrition took a toll on those as the Fifteenth received P-51s. On April 24, III Gruppe had lost its commander, 70-victory Knight’s Cross recipient Captain Emil Omert, who was shot down by Mustangs.

Lightnings Over Ploesti

Frustrated with the results of conventional bombing, Fifteenth Air Force commanders decided to send P-38s to dive-bomb the Romana Americana refinery. On June 10, the 1st Fighter Group escorted bomb-armed 82nd Group Lightnings on one of the longest fighter missions yet, a 1,300-mile round trip. The ingress this time would be at low level, in an attempt to surprise the refinery’s defenders before they could crank up their smoke generators.

Nothing went according to plan.

Amid the 48 escorts that day was Minnesotan 2nd Lt. Herbert Hatch. Distracted by Dornier Do-217s, Hatch’s flight leader had turned toward the “easy meat” when the roof fell in. The Romanian 6th Fighter Group had scrambled 23 IAR 81Cs, which the Americans mistook for Focke-Wulf Fw-190s.

“I looked up to my left and there was a whole flock of Fw-190s headed in from 10 o’clock,” Hatch said. “We all broke hard to our left to meet them head on and, as I turned, a lone 190 came across in front of me. He was so close all I could see in my sight was the belly of his fuselage and the wingroots. He wasn’t more than 75 yards away. I opened fire with my four .50-caliber and the 20mm cannon and damned near blew him in half….Shooting at him pulled me further around to my right and I looked up at 2 o’clock and there were another four 190s.”

At that point the fight turned to hash. The Minnesotan and his wingman took the offensive, firing whenever an enemy fighter crossed their noses. Hatch saw three P-38s shot down but, turning and climbing, he gunned down four more enemies. He came so close to one of his victims that he lost 3 inches off his left rudder.

“I looked up at 2 o’clock and saw another one coming right at me,” recalled Hatch. “It was too late for me to turn. I just shut my eyes and hunched down in my cockpit. I thought I’d bought the farm, but he missed me without even putting a hole in my ship.” Hatch then dived on another bandit and got off a few rounds before running dry.

Of the 16 Lightnings of Hatch’s 71st Fighter Squadron that participated in the mission, only eight returned. In all, out of the two groups’ 96 aircraft, they lost 24 to interceptors and AA guns. The Romanian 6th Fighter Group chalked up 23 Lightnings in the confused dogfight, two of which were credited to its commander, Captain Dan Vizanty, for the loss of four IARs. It would be the last major success for the nimble but aging Romanian fighter.

With enough warning, the Romanians produced smoke over two of the 82nd Group’s three targets. Post-strike recon photos showed visible damage to the refinery, though it continued to produce oil.

Another Medal of Honor

On July 9, some 220 bombing sorties targeted two refineries, including the Xenia complex assigned to the 98th Bomb Group. Lieutenant Donald D. Pucket’s B-24G was hammered by flak immediately after bombs away, with one crewman killed and six others wounded. Two of the Liberator’s engines were knocked out and the control cables were severed. Pucket ordered the able-bodied crewmen to lighten the ship, tossing any loose items overboard as he descended westward.

When Pucket subsequently ordered a bailout, five men prepared to jump and headed for the bomb bay. But three others were unable or unwilling to leave the aircraft. Ignoring the urging of the ambulatory fliers, Pucket calculated he had insufficient time to drag the three others to the bay and shove them out. As the uninjured five leapt into space, he returned to the cockpit, trying to control the descending, burning bomber.

The Liberator smashed into a mountainside, exploding on impact. Pucket’s widow, who received his Medal of Honor nearly a year later, remarked, “Don’s action in staying with his wounded crewmembers and crippled B-24 was what was traditional and expected of the captain of the ship.”

As summer peaked, so did the results of the persistent bombing, but the Axis defenses remained formidable. B-24 bombardier Quentin Petersen, of the 454th Bomb Group, remembered that at the August 17 briefing, “The curtain was pulled from the map to groans when it was seen that we were going to Ploesti again! [Lieutenant] Colonel [James] Gunn discussed this long mission to attack the Astra oil refinery….” Approaching the target that day, Petersen’s Lib fell victim to AA: “The next thing I knew we were hit by the first flak we saw that day. Two of our engines were destroyed. Pieces and crew of the five leading planes passed by our craft. Recognizing that some bombs had been hit, I let ours go in salvo. With our oxygen and hydraulic systems shot out, we descended to a breathable altitude, assessed the damage, and started for home alone, having fallen far behind and been left by all the other planes remaining from the original formation.”

Unable to make it back to Italy on two engines, Lieutenant John McAullife turned southwest, hoping to reach friendly partisans in Yugoslavia. The doomed Liberator got as far as Greece, where the crew abandoned ship. Petersen recalled:

Combat crews were not given parachute training. None of us had ever jumped! Everyone had heard stories of crews that had been ordered to bail out but, because of a “frozen” crewmember, no one jumped and all stayed in the aircraft and were killed when it crashed. John McAullife, aircraft commander, and I had discussed this issue in many a bar and agreed that, inasmuch as the bombardier had little to do for most of the mission, under these circumstances my job would be to get everyone’s attention, and jump so that there would be no “balking” at his order. I hand-cranked the bomb bay doors open (remember, no hydraulic power left), placed my shoes in my A-2 jacket and zipped it closed to prevent them from being jerked off when the chute opened. I got everyone’s attention and stepped off the bomb-bay catwalk into space.

Petersen dislocated a hip in the jump. After Germans scooped up the airmen, a Luftwaffe interrogator lent the injured airman his own cot for the Yank’s first night in captivity.

Two days later, the Ploesti campaign came to an end. On August 23, Bucharest bowed to the inevitable, breaking its alliance with Germany and siding with the Allies. The four-month-long campaign had seen the launch of 5,675 bombing sorties, including the P-38 attack, with nearly 14,000 tons of ordnance dropped. The sustained effort cost 282 U.S. and 38 British aircraft, but proved that persistent strikes could ruin a major industrial complex. In the end, Ploesti’s burned and battered refineries were producing just a dribble: a 90 percent reduction in petroleum intended for the Wehrmacht. Reich armaments head Albert Speer and Luftwaffe Field Marshal Erhard Milch later told Allied interrogators that the bombing campaign would have been more effective if the oil plan had been pursued earlier.

Meanwhile, a final drama played out in that contested region. In late August Captain Cantacuzino, the leading Romanian ace, cooperated with the senior American POW in an effort to prevent Allied airmen from being moved by the Germans or “rescued” by the Soviets. Lieutenant Colonel Gunn, who had been shot down during the August 17 mission and was being held in Bucharest, wedged himself into an Me-109 and the mismatched twosome flew to Italy. Cantacuzino then offered to lead rescue aircraft to a field near Bucharest, beginning a POW airlift to Foggia. After an American “borrowed” his 109 and ground looped it, Cantacuzino got a quick checkout in a P-51B, in which he performed an eye-watering aerobatic demonstration. He then guided 38 B-17s to the field, enabling 1,161 fliers to be returned to safety—a fitting end to the drawn-out saga that was Ploesti.

Arizona-based aviation writer Barrett Tillman is the author of more than 45 books and 500 magazine articles. His latest book, due in May 2014, is tentatively titled The Forgotten Fifteenth: The Daring Airmen Who Crippled Hitler’s Oil Supply. For further reading, he recommends Fortress Ploesti: The Campaign to Destroy Hitler’s Oil, by Jay Stout.

455th Bomb Group

A B-24 Liberator (serial number 44-50468) of the 455th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force which crashed landed on its nose as a result of a freak accident on take off, 1945. Handwritten caption on reverse: 'Extraordinary take off crash, Italy.'

B-24H-10-CF 41-29264 SKY WOLF w/ air crew 15th AF 455th BG, 740th BS, Italy B

41-29264 B-24H-10-CF SKY WOLF ground accident with Heaven Can Wait, 455th BG, Italy

B24H-10- CF 'Sky Wolf' of 455th BG, 15th AF 41-29264 Purcell Crew #418

part one of Jimmy H Smith's World War two adventure with the 741st bomb squadron of the 455th Bomb Group.

part two of Jimmy H Smith's World War two adventure with the 741st bomb squadron of the 455th Bomb Group.

S/Sgt Kenneth Griffith, 742BS, 455BG, 15AF.

Captain Gilbert Cole, 741st Bomber Squadron, Killed in Action.

The group was activated July 1943 with four essentially stand-alone bomb squadrons: 740th, 741st, 742nd, and 743rd. After a somewhat nomadic training regimen with dilapidated equipment, the pieces of the group came together at Langley, VA in October 1943. They were issued G and H models of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator.

They departed Langley in December 1943 and flew to Tunisia by way of Brazil, arriving in January 1944. They remained in Tunisia until completion of their airfield at San Giovanni, Italy, about five miles west of Cerignola and 20 miles southwest of Foggia. The group moved to San Giovanni in February 1944 and flew its first combat mission (Anzio) on 16 February 1943 as part of the 304th Bomb Wing, Fifteenth Air Force. The group flew its last mission (Linz, Austria) 15 months later on 25 April 1945. The mission scheduled for the following day was cancelled and the group began preparations to return home. Probably no one was sorry.

The group had only two commanders during combat operations. Col. Kenneth A. Cool commanded from July 1943-September 1944. Col. William I. Snowden then commanded until May 1945. Both survived the war but both are now deceased.

The 455th flew 252 combat missions over France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Austria, and the Balkans. They dropped 13, 249 tons of munitions with the following approximate targeting breakout

Authorized personnel strength was over 4,000 personnel. The group lost 118 aircraft, 31 directly to fighters, 36 directly to flak, and 51 from all other causes combined. The figure for combined causes includes causes such as collisions, ditchings, and crashes attributable to fighter or flak damage. As time passed, the fighter opposition decreased but the Germans concentrated their anti-aircraft guns around the fewer remaining targets, so the threat from flak remained intense. They suffered 147 KIA, 268 MIA, 179 POW, and 169 wounded in action. On the other hand, the group is credited with 119 enemy aircraft destroyed and another 78 probables. Only about 40% of the original crews returned.

Most members would probably agree on the two toughest missions. The Group hit the ball bearing plant at Steyer, Austria on 2 April 1944. They lost 4 of 40 aircraft—40 comrades. In addition to successful target damage, they were credited with 27 enemy aircraft destroyed and 17 probables. It was their first heavy loss in two months of combat. The other consensus mission was the Moosbierbaum oil refinery at Vienna, Austria on 26 June 1944. Thirty-six planes took off with only 26 returning. Six of the ten losses were from a single squadron. Several of those crews were on their 50th mission.

The 455th BG received a Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission on 2 April 1944 when the group contributed to Fifteenth AF’s campaign against enemy industry by attacking a ball-bearing plant at Steyr. They lost 4 of 40 aircraft—40 comrades. In addition to successful target damage, they were credited with 27 enemy aircraft destroyed and 17 probables. It was their first heavy loss in two months of combat.

Although meeting severe fighter opposition and losing several of its bombers on 26 June 1944, the group proceeded to attack an oil refinery at Moosbierbaum, receiving another DUC for this performance. Thirty-six planes took off with only 26 returning. Six of the ten losses were from a single squadron. Several of those crews were on their 50th mission.

Bomb Census London: An East End Raid Over Walthamstow And Leyton

By 1944 Luftwaffe raids on England were becoming less frequent, but this map, dating from April 1944, shows bombs dropped during a single raid in the early hours of April 18/19 1944 over Leyton and Walthamstow in London’s East End.

This bomb census map makes an interesting comparison with the central London bombing map, hastily compiled during the height of the Blitz.

Different kinds of bomb and their locations are shown with a line leading to an annotation on the map margin.

Rather than the quickly applied felt pen blotches of 1941 we now have carefully and meticlously annotated bomb locations - with some indication as to the size and type of bomb dropped.

The difference in detail may be down to the ways different agencies and ARP stations approached bomb census plotting, but it may equally be an indicator of the sporadic nature of Luftwaffe bombing raids as the war progressed.

The map shows when and where the first bombs dropped. At 1.00am the Luftwaffe bombers were over Leyton and five minutes later they were over Walthamstow. © National Archives

Another explanation may be found in the fact that the Leyton/Walthamstow map plots the bombs dropped during a single raid whilst the central London map gives a general overview of a two-week period.

When plotting the street locations a full round dot is used to show phosphorous or ‘incendiary’ bombs, whilst unexploded bombs are indicated using a hollow circle.

High explosive bombs are marked with a red triangle. The annotation AB is also shown in the margin – perhaps this refers to an 'aerial bomb' or an 'air burst'?

Although bomb locations were plotted using military maps rather than standard Ordnance Survey, by taking a walk with a modern OS Map or A-Z it is possible to find the locations of the bomb sites plotted on the maps.

In residential areas look out for differences in architecture and building materials - these may indicate where a house or building has been rebuilt after bomb damage. Some former residential areas of the East End are now parkland or squares - the bomb damage being so severe that rebuilding work was never undertaken.

Visit the main 24 Hour Museum VE Day index page to find out about Their Past Your Future Events and to explore World War Two-related resources - including trails, features, news and reviews.


The bulk of the production started in February 1944, with around 2,252 delivered until the end of the year, perhaps 50% being of the new IS-2 1944 model. There was a subtle difference concerning the nose, between the one manufactured by Chelyabinsk (rounded cast) in August 1944, and the UZTM nose which had a flat lower bow plate. But as soon as they were put into service, alarming reports claimed that the limited ammo provision always meant supply had to be carried by following trucks, and the low rate of fire was almost half that of the T-34/85, while the latter had greater muzzle velocity.

KV-13 prototype front view

A new gun was urgently needed. Plus, other reports showed that even the new armor-piercing shell BR-471 failed to penetrate the frontal armor of a Panther at less than 700 m (765 yards). Only the RP-471 HE rounds had a better chance in jamming the enemy turret, because the tremendous blast torn away the turret ring. Same effects could be devastating on the tracks. However, the situation tended to change in time because of the degrading quality of German steel armor plates, devoid of Manganese, as it was in short supply. The high carbon steel used instead was much more fragile.
The anti-aircraft DSHK heavy-machine gun was introduced on the final production IS-1. Its performances were relatively similar to the cal.50 in terms of penetration, rate of fire and reliability. The massive pintle mount was located just at the rear of the commander cupola, which itself could turn, acting as a ring mount.

Omaha Beach was one of the areas where the Allies suffered the most casualties. The geography of the area played a role in the high number of casualties at Omaha Beach. High cliffs that lined the beach characterized the geography of the Omaha Beach landing target. Many American forces lost their lives because the Germans had gun positions on these high cliffs.

The saddest D-Day facts are the number of people who were injured, and the number of people who died, as a result of the invasion of Normandy. Due to the position of the German forces and the defenses they had built, the Allies suffered over 10,000 casualties, with over 4,000 people confirmed dead.

Pinned Down and Wounded at Suicide Creek

What I remember most about my service is the day I got shot. It was on 2 January in 1944. The 3d Battalion, 7th Marines — in which I was a member of L Company, 2d Platoon — and the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines were to do a sweep in front of the lines at Cape Gloucester on New Britain.

We'd been on patrols out there a number of times, had the perimeter set up, and were to clear the front of 1st and 2d battalions of the 7th. I was a scout. We advanced about a half-mile or a mile. Out in front, we approached a creek flowing perpendicular to our line of advance and into the perimeter. As we got near, the other scout and I saw that the ground was very level until we reached the edge of the declivity that led down to the creek.

The creek itself was probably 10 to 15 feet wide. We didn't know at the time the Japanese had dug their pillboxes into the side of the bank, on the opposite side, just below the lip. We could see several Japanese soldiers. We didn't know whether they were decoys or what, but they seemed oblivious to our approach.

We checked with the squad leader, who said, "Open fire!" So we opened up on them. Within a minute or less, all hell breaks loose.

The machine-gun squad supporting us was not set up when we moved off the lip and down the creek bank. The slope was probably about 45 degrees. I was on my haunches when all of a sudden the gun immediately opposite me, about 35 yards off, started firing. He started off to my left and got immediate hits. At that point, they hit the gunnery sergeant off to my left. Then they started searching back toward me and the guys to my right.

The first bullet hit me in the left elbow. It felt like a sledgehammer. Probably fortunately, it pulled me somewhat to the left. The next round hit me in the right shoulder and lodged in my chest at about the tenth rib. They were hitting men all over. Our machine gun never got set up. Both BAR (Browning automatic rifle) men in our squad were killed. Our battalion commander lost control of the situation. The 2d and 3d platoons of L Company were pinned down, and we lost, dead and wounded, probably 60 percent. In a matter of about five minutes, our squad alone had five killed and six wounded, one of whom subsequently died.

I was lying downhill on the creek bank, and I didn't know whether I had a left arm below the elbow, because it was twisted around and numb. I knew the shoulder wound did no nerve damage because I could see the bullet hole. So I lay there a while.

We tried to get corpsmen to come up, but they couldn't. So finally, I started to get up, and I didn't know how to do it. I tried to turn myself around, but not being able to use your arms makes it even more difficult to get on your knees.

So I was thrashing around, trying to get at least pointed uphill, when the Japanese see the movement. They open fire again, and this time they hit me through the left buttocks and shoot off the left side of my heel. It feels like a whip hitting me.

That was the only time I got angry. I'd been pretty cool up until then, trying to figure how to get out. We knew they didn't take prisoners, but I was wondering why they were shooting at a wounded man. They were within easy voice range of us, so I shouted some epithets at them.

Then I lay there probably two hours. I noticed it was getting dark, but it was only about noon. I began to wonder if I was dying. To my right, I saw Private Floyd Martin behind a log. I yelled, "Martin, can you get my helmet out of my eyes ? I can't see."

He said, "I'm afraid I can't do it, but I'll see if I can reach you with my rifle." He reached over with his rifle and was able to use the barrel to knock my helmet upward. So then I could see and watch. The Japanese fire the same way we do, probably one tracer to three ball, so I can tell where the gun immediately opposite me is firing.

Another gun was to my right, not immediately in front of me. The guy with the gun immediately opposite me, in the pillbox, evidently sees some Marines moving off to my right and starts firing at them.

At a time like that, you don't realize you can get superhuman strength. I was able in some way to turn myself at least partially sideways, so I could get a little roll. I got myself up and walked on my knees to where the bank leveled off. Off to my right I could see the machine-gun squad, who never got set up. If they're not all dead, they're all dying by that time. The Japanese gunner sees me, but he can't get his gun low enough to hit me.

I'm next lying on my back after falling. I could see the tracers, which looked like they were very close to hitting me. By this time, our platoon leader was killed trying to get people out. Some men were going to get medals that day, and it's questionable whether others should. Lieutenant Thomas J. O'Leary, a New York Irishman, was the commander of the weapons platoon. He and a corpsman named Hartman got a lot of guys out. But they don't get any medals.

So the two came up to me. They had to lie flat and push with their feet, because they couldn't crawl that's how low the tracers were. Hartman inched around and gave me a shot of morphine. O'Leary said to me — because I'm lying with my head toward them — "We cannot get on our knees. Can you stand it if we pull you by your dungarees ? " I said, "Yes, any way to get me out of here." So they had to move using only their toes, as they're lying perfectly flat, and pull me probably 30 yards before they were able to get on their knees and move me to a battalion aid station, about 300 yards back.

There, they put me on a stretcher and — just like you see them doing in the stills from World War II or in Vietnam — they stuck a rifle with its bayonet in the ground and from it hung a plasma bottle to combat shock.

Stretcher bearers later hauled me probably a half-mile. Japanese mortars fire, and the bearers dropped me. They finally got me to a jeep, which they needed because of the mud. Gloucester has the heaviest rainfall average in the world: 400 inches in the rainy season.

I stayed in the regimental aide station for 2 .5 days. By that time shock set in and I have very little memory of it. They were not able to get planes to the strips, so they evacuated us on an LST (tank landing ship). The LST has probably the worst smell I ever smelled in my life. Some of about 250 guys hadn't had a bandage changed in 2 .5 or 3 days, like me. Nothing stinks like blood.

Treaty Deliveries

The graph of Estimated Deliveries on the United States International Boundary and Water Commission’s webpage shows the volume of water Mexico has delivered during the current 5-year cycle.

Mexico has had multiple years where they have not met their Treaty requirements. The history of Treaty deliveries can be seen on the graph provided by United States International Boundary and Water Commission.

Current estimated ownership can be seen on a weekly basis through the Reservoir Storage Report.

Can America Return to a Gold Standard?

How would a return to the gold standard affect the U.S. economy? First, it would constrict the government's ability to manage the economy. The Fed would no longer be able to reduce the money supply by raising interest rates in times of inflation. Nor could it increase the money supply by lowering rates in times of recession. In fact, this is why many advocate a return to the gold standard. It would enforce fiscal discipline, balance the budget, and limit government intervention. The Cato Institute’s policy analysis, ”The Gold Standard: An Analysis of Some Recent Proposals,” presents an evaluation of methods for returning to the gold standard.  

A fixed money supply, dependent on gold reserves, would limit economic growth. Many businesses would not get funded because of a lack of capital. Furthermore, the United States could not unilaterally convert to a gold standard if the rest of the world didn't. If it did, everyone in the world could demand that the United States redeem their dollars with gold. American reserves would be quickly depleted. Defense of the United States’ supply of gold helped cause the Great Depression. The Great Depression ended when Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the New Deal.  

Watch the video: Soyuzkinozhurnal, 24 April 1944. ON THE CRIMEAN LAND


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