Saturday, August 1, 2015

Remembering Operation Tidal Wave

72 years ago today Operation Tidal Wave was launched against Nazi oilfields in Ploesti, Romania.

According to Wikipedia it was one of the costliest operations in Europe with 53 aircraft and 660 aircrewmen lost. I have a couple books on the subject, but I'll use those numbers for illustration.

One of my favorite quotes is this:
"He was convinced most of the planes would go down and there would be enough wandering Americans in Romania 'to call a general election, vote the Germans out, and make peace with the allies'"
from Ploesti: The Great Ground-Air Battle of 1 August 1943 by James Dugan and Carroll Stewart
M. Gerald Kennedy
My uncle, M. Gerald Kennedy was one of the "lucky" ones to survive that day...oddly enough in a plane named "Lucky"...only to go MIA/KIA 3 months later over Bremen, Germany

This is how the story goes:
The "Lucky" and part of her crew before Operation Tidal Wave. 
"Some of the Libs [B-24 Liberators] landed in Turkey - some of them even got down okay in Romania - some landed in Malta - some even went on and found freshly conquered fields in Sicily to land on. Capt. Harold Kendall, from Charlton, Iowa, was one of the joes who landed in Sicily.
     They found a half-finished fighter field. The crew was still standing by inside the "Lucky" with ears cocked for the bail-out gong when Kendall landed, with all the red lights showing on the last drops of gas in the tanks. "Lucky" hit the end of the landing strip, plowed into a flock of P-40's dispersed beyond the runway, and came to a stop, literally leaning against the sides of a hill. The crew piled out and kissed the ground, and waited to be congratulated by the ground crews on their magnificent emergency landing. Top-turret gunner Jim Goodgion, from Ruston, Lousiana, described a very different welcome from what they expected:
"Them grease monkeys, instead of giving us a glad hand, damn near blew their tops. They had just taken seven cracked-up P-40's and made two good ones out of them and here we come along and mash the hell out of the whole seven of them all over again." "
citation: I don't have it in front of me, but if you want it, I can find it.

All that being said, I have been unable to actually identify my uncle in any of the crew photos associated with the "Lucky" or Harold "Hap" Kendall's crew. My information comes from various sources identifying him as the navigator of that crew.

Thinking today of the heroes of that day, those that survived and those that were lost, and of the good people of Romania who, by most accounts, were hospitable and helpful to our downed airmen.