"Knights of the Sky: Air War Over Romania"


World War II was declared when Germany attacked Poland in September of 1939. In Romania, the Iron Guard rose to power under King Carol-II who would soon abdicate to be succeeded by his young son Michael. The government fell in a coup led by General Ion Antonescu who quickly assumed dictatorial power. There were hopes that an alliance with the Soviet Union and Germany would maintain the nation's political boundaries in Transylvania and Bessarabia gained after WW-I. Under pressure, Romania officially joined the Axis Powers on November 23, 1940. Romania’s oil resources, as in WW-I, became a highly coveted strategic asset needed to fuel the German war machine. This set the stage for a major military conflict and the eventual Declaration of War by the United States against Romania in 1942. As the tide of the war shifted against the Axis in 1943, the United States set out to bomb the Romanian oil leviathan and shear the head its supply lines. Dubbed ‘Tidal Wave,’ a low-level air attack, a first of this sort and at this distance, was launched from Libya in order to destroy the Ploesti oil refineries and cause a debilitating blow.

No further raids occurred until April 1944, when bases in conquered Italy were used to launch numerous missions against Romania. Soviet Russia's invasion in August 1944 was followed by Romania turning sides against its German ally.

Almost 6,000 flights from Libya and Italy were recorded.The U.S. and its allies suffered 2,300 casualties and 1,100 prisoners from this raids. Prisons were in Bucharest and 100 miles north in the Carpathian Mountains.


Lft - Map of Europe (1939)

Btm - Aerial 1944 next to present-day Google map showing site of one of the prisons in Bucharest that held U.S. airmen in 1943 and 1944.
NOTE: WW-II aerial photo with thanks to Beth Ciullo, daughter of the B-24 pilot John Mc Cormick shot down on 4 april 44 and taken prisoner