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June 10 Ploesti Raid

Ploesti oil fields were one of the most important targets for Allies in Europe. They were irreplaceable fuel source for Nazi Germany. Therefore it was heavily defended by Germans and Romanians. First massive raid by 220 B-24 Liberators flying from Libya saw losses of more than one third of planes and crews. In Spring of 1944. Air offensive on Ploesti was started in full force from bases in Italy. However, due to heavy defenses it was not so efficient. So Allies tried new tactics. On June 10. 1044, more than 90 P-38 fighter-bombers from 1st and 82nd FIghter group took off from bases around Foggia.


One group carried one 1000 pound bomb and plan was to do low altitude dive bombing, which was more accurate. But once again, Germans and Romanians were prepared for them. Germans attacked them early on with Me-109 fighters, while Romanians used IAR-80 fighters (mistaken by US pilots as FW-190), Flak batteries opened fire on low altitude planes, while smoke hid targets. In ensuing fight more than 20 P-38 planes were lost, again more than 30% of planes that reached target. However, not all pilots of shot down planes were lost. Four of them crashed in Serbia. Carl Hoenshell died in crash, near Knjaževac. William McClellan landed near Grabovo (probably on Fruska Gora mountain in Vojvodina). He injured leg on landing, but was quickly picked by local peasants who helped him and took him to partisan hospital. British mission organized his flight back, and he came back in two weeks. Walter Leslie's plane caught fire near Bucharest. He managed to reach Prokuplje, where he jumped out, badly burned. Peasants quickly took him, and carried for two hours to hospital. After medical treatment, he was taken to mountains to Chetnik guerrillas, where he met other evaders. Rudolph Janci had very interesting story on that day. He was the only pilot from his, 71st Squadron, who made it back to base. While on the bombing run, they were attacked by 50 planes. He shot down one plane from head-on, and probably second one. His left engine was damaged and stopped working. Janci broke away from fight, and headed back home. While on the way back, he was shot from the ground, and in Bulgaria he strafed one truck until he used all of his ammo. However, damaged plane could not go further, so he had to crash land. His plane broke apart on landing, but he managed to escape without injuries. Chetnik guerrillas quickly came and took him to Soko Banja, where they hid him in civilian clothes for some time. Since he spoke Czech, he could communicate with locals. Walter Leslie and Rudolph Janci were evacuated on August 10 from Pranjani, during first evacuation of Halyard mission.


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