21. Series of Mistakes Doom a Well Planned Raid
During WWII, American air commanders planned a raid on the Ploesti oilfields and complex in Romania, which furnished the Nazis with a third of their fuel. The plan was for B-24 Liberator heavy bombers, without fighter escort, to take off for a 2000 mile trip north from Libya across the Mediterranean, then turn northeast towards Ploesti upon reaching the Greek coast. On August 1st, 1943, which came to be known as “Black Sunday”, 177 Liberators took off from Libyan airfields. The plan was good, but it was wrecked by cascading mishaps and mistakes.
Maintaining radio silence, the B-24s skimmed over the Mediterranean, flying at 50 feet or lower to avoid German radar, then flew at treetop level upon reaching land. However, the Germans were alerted and the raid came to grief because of a series of misfortunes and mistakes. First, a navigation error took some bombers directly above a German position. Then, a lead navigator crashed, and the bombers following him arrived over the target staggered, instead of simultaneously.