Raiders of ‘Hitler’s gas station’ reunite in US
CINCINNATI (AP) — Surviving U.S. veterans and relatives are trading memories about the attack on “Hitler’s gas station” that produced a fierce World War II battle.
The 70th anniversary Ploesti Raid reunion at the U.S. Air Force Museum commemorates an Aug. 1, 1943, assault by B-24 bombers on oil refineries in Romania that provided much of the fuel for the Nazi war machine.
Nearly a third of the planes and their men didn’t make it back to North Africa bases more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away.
Ninety-two-year-old Bob Rans recalled being bathed in gasoline in a burning plane before parachuting out. He was captured and put in a prison camp.
He said it’s emotional to consider the raid’s place in history as the most-decorated action of the war.
U.S. commanders “emphasized the importance of completing the mission; in their estimate, it would shorten the war in Europe by six months,” said Dale Hulsey, 91.
Operation Tidal Wave was to be a surprise assault coming in under radar and methodically knocking out assigned targets. But navigational problems disrupted plans, and defenders on the ground were ready for them.
“We were so close to the ground it was like driving at high speed in an automobile,” Hulsey said. The bombers were met with a barrage of firepower.
Rans and Hulsey were among 11 raid veterans at the reunion, with nearly 100 family members and friends.
Operation Tidal Wave: http://www.af.mil/information/heritage/spotlight.asp?id=123224768