The Great Ground-Air Battle of 1 August 1943

By James Dugan and Carroll (Cal) Stewart

The New Yorker:
“This is the very model of a war book.”

“First-rate battle log ... the authors generate an almost excruciating dramatic tension even before the onset of the fiery 27-minute battle.”

Chicago Tribune:
“Unforgettable chapters. In no other document has been found such a prolonged report of dramatic moments.”

“A taut and gripping tale of a disastrous yet heroic snafu pieced together from letters, diaries, interviews, and correspondence with U.S., German and Romanian survivors.”

“Ploesti is a big, carefully documented, tremendously exciting book about the wildest U.S. air raid of World War II. It is easily the best ever of the ‘single air battle’ books and in many ways superior to such major campaign records as
The Longest Day.”

Air Power History:
Journal of the U.S. Air Force Historical Foundation
“The authors do a masterful job of deconstructing the mission down to its smallest elements, the individual crews, and from their vivid and gripping stories reconstructing the entire battle. You can imagine yourself in one of the lumbering B-24’s racing at treetop level through the maelstrom of fire. The authors also do justice to the defenders, especially the resourceful Lt. Gen. Alfred Gerstenberg.”

*John Toland:
“We have here the authoritative story of this fantastic and dramatic mission ... an exciting and impressive book.”

*Author: The Rising Sun, Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath, fourteen other works.


About PLOESTI . . .

During the events described in this book, James Dugan was a sergeant with the Photo & Newsreel Section of the Eighth Air Force, the Eighth providing three bomb groups for the low-level attack (code-named Tidal Wave) against Hitler’s gas station. Sergeant Carroll “Cal” Stewart was the public relations “officer” of one of those heavy bomber outfits–the 93rd Bombardment Group (Ted’s Travelling Circus). The two other Britain-based B-24 Liberator groups were the 44th (Flying Eight Balls) and the 389th (Sky Scorpions). The Ninth Air Force supplied two Libya-based groups–the 98th (Pyramiders) and the 376th (Liberandos). Each group consisted of four squadrons of four-engine B-24 Liberators.

The authors knew many combatants who did not return and, shortly after the mission, interviewed scores who did. Five Congressional Medals of Honor, three posthumously, were awarded, more than any single engagement in history.

The writers began their queries when the Office of Strategic Services (wartime version of the Central Intelligence Agency) ordered text and photographs for a tract to be strewn over Occupied Europe. Uncle Sam wanted the world to know a heavy price had been paid in American lives to deny gas and oil to the Axis war machine. It was an audacious strike painstakingly designed to spare civilians. Tens of thousands booklets, printed in French, were air-dropped. It was then Dugan and Stewart vowed one day they would do a non-fiction book on the historic battle.

Commencing in 1959 (16 years later), the authors cleared their respective desks and corresponded with about half of the living U.S. Tidal Wave participants as well as with ground staffers and relatives of the fallen. Two forms were submitted to air crewmen. One questionnaire sought general information; the other requested annotations on a target-area (compass rose) map. The latter produced responses from pilots, navigators and bombardiers. Similiar information was sought and gained from Luftwaffe pilots, flight controllers and anti-aircraft (flak) gunners with forms submitted to them in German. For more than two years, the authors contended with snail mail. No e-mail in those days.

They found the five surviving German pilots who fought the unorthodox intruders in the stifling Balkan heat that eventful Sunday, also the four top fighter controllers, and a number of General Gerstenberg’s staff officers. Gerstenberg was the defensive genius of the entire air war. Testimony also was obtained from Romanian and Bulgarian pilots under Hitler’s command.

Dugan and Stewart personally interviewed 164 U.S. combatants and dozens of ground (and grounded) men, their widows and relatives. They also consulted 29 unpublished narratives, diaries and chronicles.

The spate of narratives indicated that the men regarded Tidal Wave as the supreme event of their lives. A hundred wrote shorter recollections of the low-level Ploesti battle. Very few of them had previously told their stories for publication, so the accounts are relatively fresh, even after the passage of years.

The Dugan and Stewart work first appeared in 1962 through Random House (five printings), Ballantynes, Bantam, subsequently in England (hard and soft covers), translated versions in France, Italy, Brazil and Portugal. The Israeli government purchased rights to translate and reproduce 200 thousand copies.

After years out-of-print, Brassey’s (Washington and London) released a 1997 printing and followed with a revised edition in April 2002. The text and pagination are identical in all fourteen printings. Brassey’s 2002 provides forty-eight pages of excellent graphics.

Dugan in Philadelphia and Stewart at O’Neill, Nebraska, didn’t have access in 1959-’60 to primitive facsimile machines. Most diaries and personal papers on loan were returned, as agreed, to owners or survivors on both sides of the Atlantic.

The authors compiled the first Tidal Wave mission roster. An upgraded version, the purpose of this website and the most authentic consolidation of such data, appears below.

Questionnaires that were returned by combatants were cross-checked for factual integrity. These journalistic exercises separated truth from hearsay that inevitably follows great events. In relevance, historians now rank low-level Ploesti alongside Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Belleau Wood, Anzio and Iwo Jima. The percentage of corroboration among the Ploesti participants was extremely high on both sides.

The research entailed two trips to Europe and about 50,000 miles of travel in the United States. The U.S. Air Force cooperated wholeheartedly and declassified every known document and photograph sought. The USAF read the manuscript for security. However, U.S. government interest did not involve censorship of the treatment. The sole security consideration was protection of real names of certain Europeans who befriended Ploesti men and who may have been living under governments that resented such activity.

To order PLOESTI by Dugan and Stewart, follow this link: Brasseys


Remit $30 (checks only), UPS and handling prepaid, to:

Nebraska Printing Center (PLOESTI Project)
P.O. Box 5325, Lincoln, NE 68505-5325

(Nebraskans add 6.5% sales tax)
Allow at least 3 weeks for delivery

ISBN 1-57488-510-3
Also available at your favorite book store