August 1, 1943: A very memorable date for the US Army Air Corps, for which five Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded. It was on this day that the 9th AF carried out “Operation Tidal Wave”. This mission was a daylight bombing raid on the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania. These oil refineries produced a third of the petroleum needed to supply the Nazi war efforts. The plan was to sent 178 B-24 Liberators on a 2400 mile roundtrip journey towards the oil refineries of Ploesti. Flying at an altitude of 1800 feet, the intent was to fly under the Nazi radar, avoid antiaircraft fire and hit the enemy’s oil supply with accurate bombing. Unfortunately the mission was plagued with technical and communication problems. Several of the Liberators had technical trouble and either crashed after taking off or had to return. The remainder of the formation was split up due to miscommunication because of radio silence. This error caused some of the Liberators to head towards Bucharest, the headquarters of the German air force command. . By the time that their heading was corrected, it was already to late. The Germans were alerted and the element of surprise was lost. As the formation approached Ploesti, the first wave of Liberators attacked from the most heavily protected direction. The second wave of bombers had to endure the onslaught of delayed action bombs, flak and small arms. Although loses during “Operation Tidal Wave” were heavy, by the end of the attack, 40% of the oil-producing capacity of Ploesti was destroyed. Within six months, Nazi slave labor had repaired the damage inflicted by the raid, and Ploesti was back to normal capacity.
Also on August 1, 1943, the 464th Bombardment Group was activated in Wendover Field, Utah. As part of the 15th AF, the group arrived at its base in Pocatello Idaho on October 2, 1943. By March 9, 1944, the first aircraft and crew arrived at Oudna. After some training there, the group flew to their temporary base at Gioia del Cole Italy in April of 1944. Their first combat mission occurred by the end of that April with the Marshaling Yards at Castel Maggiore being their first combat target. It was on June 1, 1944 that the 464th BG moved to their permanent base at Pantanella Italy. Eight months after “Operation Tidal Wave”, the Allied forces were ready to attack Ploesti again, this time from the newly added bases in Italy. The new attempt was a single raid at a larger scale at a higher altitude and with fighter cover part of the way in. The daylight bombing raids on Ploesti was full of flak and smoke. Over 2000 smoke pots helped mask the bombers’ targets, making accurate bombing almost impossible. The 464th pressed on continued to play an important role in several oil refinery bombings, ultimately slowing down the Nazi war machine. Such bombings also include the Concordia Vega refinery on May 18, 1944, the oil refinery at Vienna on July 8, 1944, and the Paradubice oil refinery on August 24, 1944. The 464th BG sometimes assisted in support of Allied Forces and interdictory operations, such as the “Operation Dragoon” invasion of Southern France in August of 1944. They also assisted the advance of Russian troops in southeastern Europe by bombing railroad centers in March of 1945. The 464th BG assisted the advance of the US 5th and British 8th Army in northern Italy in April of 1945 by bombing enemy supply lines. The lineage of the 464th Bombardment Group (Heavy) is listed below.
- Constituted as 464th Bombardment Group (Heavy) On 19 May 1943
- Activated on 1 August 1943
- Inactivated on 31 July 1945
- Established as 464th Troop Carrier Wing, Medium on 16 December 1952
- Activated on 1 February 1953
- Redesignated as 464th Troop Carrier Wing, Assault on 16 December 1958
- Redesignated as 464th Troop Carrier Wing, Medium on 8 January 1964
- Redesignated as 464th Troop Carrier Wing, on 1 March 1966
- Redesignated as 464th Tactical Airlift Wing on 1 May 1967
- Inactivated on 31 August 1971