Walter Travis Stewart

Military

Object Number - UPL 40655 - Capt. Walter T. Stewart, B-24D pilot from Benjamin, Utah. 1943

In 1941, Walter Stewart was a 24 year old, U.S. Army Air Force cadet at the University of Utah. He wrote, "We were pulling guns around with horses as a plane flew overhead. Jack Adamson, who had been my Morman mission companion, said to me, "There's a war coming." Later that year, I was one of the first flying cadets in Ontario, California. In his B-24D, he named, UTAH MAN, for the University of Utah fight song, Walter Stewart flew as the deputy leader of the 93rd Bomb Group on the famous Ploesti mission, one of the most pivotal missions of the war, named, Operation Tidal Wave, to destroy the German held oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, the most plentiful supplier of fuel and oil to the Nazi and fascist regimes. "They said that if we took out Ploesti, the Italians would be out of the war in 30 days." Stewart said.

Flying on his 31st mission, Stewart flew on Operation Tidal Wave to the Ploesti oil refineries, just behind the 93rd Bomb Group's Leader, Col. Addison Baker, in HELL'S WENCH on Sunday, Aug 1, 1943. As they approached Ploesti, a disastrously wrong tactical move was made by Stewart's Mission Commander, Gen. Uzal Ent, who, inexplicably, ordered Keith K. Compton, his pilot, to turn away from Ploesti towards Bucharest at his first IP, and led the B-24s of the 93rd and the 376th Bomb Groups into the confusion that led to the unravelling of the mission and many unnecessary casualties. Stewart's Group leader, Col. Addison Baker and several of the other pilots of the 93rd and 376th Bomb Groups, in shock at what they had just seen Keith Compton do, decided to disobey their attack plan orders and to turn away from their lead plane flown by Col. Compton, and fly back north and west through the worst of the enemy's lethal flak defenses south of the Ploesti refineries, in order to bomb targets of opportunity, as they promised they would do, even, if they died doing it. Stewart recalled Col. Addison Baker talking about leading his planes to Ploesti : "Our leaders, including Col. Baker, told us that if we didn't bomb Ploesti on that day, we'd have to return to do it another day.", Stewart said. "And the Germans would be even more prepared for us the next time." "When I saw Col. Baker and his copilot, Major John Jerstad, turn HELL'S WENCH into the target, instead of following Col. Compton and Gen Ent, I thought it was one of the greatest acts of bravery I have ever witnessed. We were only ten minutes ahead of the enemy. Col. Baker had told us he was going over the target if he had to go over in flames, and he did just that."

Shortly after, as they flew through the flak nest south of Ploesti, Col. Baker, and Major John Jerstad took two direct flak hits, which turned HELL'S WENCH into a blow torch of flames. They continued straight ahead for a time, and then pulled up into a steep climb, then, rolled over and crashed in a ball of fire, killing everyone on board. Stewart's UTAH MAN became the 93rd Group's lead plane, dropping three of it's six bomb payload on the Romanian refineries of opportunity they could find. Three of the plane's bombs failed to drop, so the crew dropped them manually, including hand throwing a 100 pound incendiary device out of the bomb bay.

Stewart's UTAH MAN and the planes following him, were on a collision course with Col John Kane's 98th Bomb Group coming right at them from the north, and flew right through them at low altitude with, miraculously, no collisions. As Stewart approached a radio tower, a steep climb would have taken the plane up into the enemy's flak kill zone, so, instead, Stewart, incredibly, rolled his huge plane sideways, staying low, and missed the tower and it's guy wires. Enemy flak struck one of his fuel tanks causing a gasoline leak. So Stewart and his crew decided to head due south across Turkey, to the much closer British air base at Nicosia, Cyprus, where he landed safely and returned the next day to his home base at Benghazi, Libya. Aug 1, 1943.

Stewart wrote, "John Connelly, my navigator, said he'd never been so out of gas. We came back last from the mission, making it home even after we'd been reported MIA missing in action. The mission was the largest Army Air Force bombing mission up to that date and was seen at the time as being only a partial success, with three of the five refineries having been taken out. But, now, with new historical knowledge of the repercussions of the mission, it now is being acknowledged to have been one of the most important and pivotal bombing missions of the war and was the event that caused Hitler to turn back from his invasion of Russia, when he learned the Americans had attacked his most important source of oil and gasoline. Stewart flew one remaining mission before heading home.

Stewart piloted the B-24, 41-23722, BOMERANG, home to the U.S. for a war bond tour after the Ploesti mission, in 1944.

Stewart received numerous medals and commendations for his war record, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star, and a Presidential Unit Citation.

Connections

See how this entry relates to other items in the archive by exploring the connections below.

Units served with

The insignia of the 93rd Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment

People

A bomber crew of the 93rd Bomb Group with their B-24 Liberator nicknamed "Boomerang". A censor has obscured the insignia on the airmen's jackets. Passed as censored 5 Apr 1944. Printed caption on reverse: '"Boomerang" 53-Mission Liberator Goes Home. Associated Press Photo Shows:- Crew of the Liberator "Boomerang" before leaving for U.S. L-R squatting : 1st. Lt. William N. Ford of Jersey City, N.J. Navigator; Sgt. George C. Ewald of Norfolk, Va. crew chief; T/Sgt. Edwin D. Kleine of Long Island City, N.Y.,
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 93rd Bomb Group 330th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 13037816
  • Highest Rank: Technical Sergeant
  • Role/Job: Waist Gunner
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 376th Bomb Group 409th Bomb Group 93rd Bomb Group
  • Service Numbers: O-22545 / 1849A
  • Highest Rank: Lieutenant General
  • Role/Job: Pilot - Squadron Commander - Commanding Officer
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 93rd Bomb Group 330th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 19074500 / O-733155
  • Highest Rank: First Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Bombardier
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 376th Bomb Group Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron (9th Air Force)
  • Service Numbers: O-15604
  • Highest Rank: Major General
  • Role/Job: Commanding General
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 98th Bomb Group 344th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: O-661482
  • Highest Rank: First Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: B-24D Pilot

Aircraft

  • Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator
  • Nicknames: Exterminator
  • Unit: 93rd Bomb Group 329th Bomb Squadron 330th Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator
  • Nicknames: - Bomerang
  • Unit: 93rd Bomb Group 328th Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator
  • Nicknames: - Joisey Bounce - Utah Man
  • Unit: 93rd Bomb Group 330th Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator
  • Nicknames: Hell's Wench
  • Unit: 93rd Bomb Group 328th Bomb Squadron

Missions

  • Date: 1 August 1943
  • Official Description: 177 B-24’s, of IX Bomber Command (including Heavy Bombers on loan from Eighth AF) are dispatched to bomb oil refineries at Ploesti and nearby Campina. The operation (TIDALWAVE) is costly, 54 planes and 532 airmen being lost, but damage to the targets...

Places

  • Site type: Airfield
  • Known as: Bengazi Airfield, Wheelus Airbase

Events

Event Location Date Description

Born

Benjamin, UT 1917-11-08 Son of Otto Ren and Millicent [Tollestrup] Stewart.

Died

Payson, UT 2016-01-09

Buried

Benjamin Cemetery Benjamin, Utah County, UT 2016-01-16 Benjamin Cemetery Benjamin, Utah County, Utah

Enlisted

Salt Lake City, UT 1941-09-27 Salt Lake City, Utah

Revisions

Date17 Aug 2021 07:07:22
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Punctuation, wording, and letter spacing changes. for accuracy and clarity. - Kickapoo

Date6 May 2021 10:01:41
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Best Web - B-24 - 'Bomerang'

Date6 May 2021 09:44:51
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

The Great Ground-Air Battle Of August 1, 1943 by James Dugan & Carroll Stewart ----- Ploesti : Anatomy of Disaster by Gen. Hoyt S Vandenberg Jr ----- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Personal Archives - John S Young Jr

Date2 Jan 2021 08:08:46
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date29 Aug 2020 20:10:48
Contributordecwriter
Sources

Of note, his Distinguished Service Cross was not awarded until 1995. His officer number is verified in NARA files.

Date20 Sep 2019 14:28:16
Date24 Nov 2018 03:27:01
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date24 Nov 2018 01:11:25
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date24 Nov 2018 00:55:51
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Black sunday - Michael Hill

Date24 Nov 2018 00:26:50
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date4 Oct 2018 04:09:28
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Deseret News

Date4 Oct 2018 04:08:28
ContributorKickapoo
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Deseret News

Date4 Oct 2018 04:04:07
ContributorKickapoo
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Deseret News

Date4 Oct 2018 04:00:40
ContributorKickapoo
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Deseret News

Date4 Oct 2018 03:52:21
ContributorKickapoo
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Deseret News

Date4 Oct 2018 03:50:25
ContributorKickapoo
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Deserat News

Date4 Oct 2018 03:39:20
ContributorKickapoo
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Deseret News

Date27 Sep 2014 18:27:02
ContributorAAM
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Page 418 in the book 2ND AIR DIVISIONby Turner Publishing Company, 1998 edition (D790.A2S45)

Walter Travis Stewart: Gallery (12 items)