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Walter Travis Stewart

Military

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.

Service

People

  • Herbert Arens

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    2nd Lt. Herbert W. Arens was a B-24D command pilot in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron. He flew the B-24D Liberator bomber, 41-11803, named, Rosie Wrecked 'Em, on the mission to destroy the oil refineries at Ploesti,...

  • Ralph Carroll

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Waist Gunner | 93rd Bomb Group
    Assigned to 330BS, 93BG, 8AF USAAF. 25 x combat missions. Flew on famous Ploesti raid of 1-Aug-43 aboard B-24 41-24109. Returned to ZI aboard B-24 'Bomerang' with Capt Walter T Stewart. Awards: AM, WWII Victory, EAME.

  • Keith Compton

    Military | Lieutenant General | B-24 Command Pilot - Squadron Commander - Commanding Officer | 376th Bomb Group
    Keith Karl Compton was an American Air Force Lieutenant General who was Vice Commander in Chief, in the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command. He flew as the Element Lead Aircraft's Command Pilot with Gen. Uzal Ent, the Ploesti Mission...

  • Ralph Cummings

    Military | First Lieutenant | Bombardier | 93rd Bomb Group
    Assigned to 330BS, 93BG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to return (FTR) from Bremen, lost En-route to target 13-Nov-43; Joisey Bounce, suffered a mid-air collision with B-24, 42-40765, 'The Valiant Virgin', Killed in Action (KIA) MACR 2179 Awards: DFC, PH.

  • Uzal Ent

    Military | Major General | Commanding General | 376th Bomb Group
    Uzal Girard Ent was an American Army Air Force officer who served as the commander of the 9th Air Force and subsequently the 2nd Air Force during World War II. He flew as mission commander on the Aug 1, 1943, Ploesti oil refinery raid, Operation Tidal...

  • Gilbert Hadley

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24D Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Name : Gilbert Ben Hadley ...

  • John Kane

    Military | Colonel | B-24 Bomb Group Commanding Officer / B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    John Riley Kane was a colonel in the United States Army Air Corps and later the United States Air Force. He received the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor, in World War II, for his leadership, courage, and heroism for...

  • Royden LeBrecht

    Military | Captain | B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Royden Louis LeBrecht was a B-24D command pilot in the 9th Air force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron. He flew his B-24D, he named, The Squaw, on Operation Tidal Wave, the large mission to destroy the German held oil refineries at...

  • John Palm

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 376th Bomb Group
    B-24

  • Ramsay Potts

    Military | Major General | Command Pilot, Operations Officer, Commanding Officer, Observer | 389th Bomb Group
    Major Ramsay Potts flew 41 combat missions in WWII, including deep penetrations from England to the Messerschmidt factory at Weiner Neustadt, Austria and German synthetic fuel plants. On 21 November 1942, he was engaged by 5 JU-88's over the Bay of...

Show more

Units served with

  • 8th Air Force

    8th Air Force


    Eighth Air Force Bomber Command became the Eighth Air Force on February 1944, it oversaw bombardment of strategic targets in Europe until 1945. ...

  • 93rd Bomb Group

    93rd Bomb Group

    Group
    93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated 1-March-1942 at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. On 15-May-1942 the Group moved to Ft. Myers, Florida to continue advanced flight training and also to fly anti-submarine patrols over the Gulf of Mexico; they...

  • 330th Bomb Squadron

Aircraft

  • 41-23717 Exterminator

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator, Exterminator, serial number 41-23717, originally flew with the 329th Bomb Squadron of the 93rd Bomb Group and was later transferred to the 93rd's 330th Bomb Squadron, in March 1943. The first mission with the 330th Bomb Squadron...

  • 41-24226 Joisey Bounce - Utah Man

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, 41-24226, Joisey Bounce, was assigned to Pilot Lt. Walter Travis Stewart of the 330th Bomb Squadron, the 93rd Bomb Group, and the 8th Air Force, for the large mission to bomb the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. Col. Stewart changed his...

  • 41-23722 Bomerang

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, 41-23722, flew on the maiden mission of the 93rd Bomb Group on 9 October 1942. It sustained the worst battle damage of the ten Liberators damaged on the mission, with over 200 holes. Due to shortages of B-24 parts in the UK early in the war...

Missions

  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B-24D Liberators attack the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. The bombers flew low to avoid radar detection and dropped time delayed bombs. Out of the 177 B-24s that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57...

Associated Place

  • Hardwick

    Military site : airfield
    Planned as an RAF bomber airfield, Hardwick was used first by the 310th Bomb Group, equipped with B-25 Mitchells. In December 1943, the B-24 Liberators of the 93rd Bomb Group moved in, and remained until the end of the war, flying over 330 missions....

  • Mellaha

    Military site : airfield

Events

Event Location Date
Born Benjamin, UT 8 November 1917

Son of Otto Ren and Millicent [Tollestrup] Stewart.

Enlisted Salt Lake City, UT 27 September 1941

Salt Lake City, Utah

Died Payson, UT 9 January 2016
Buried Benjamin Cemetery Benjamin, Utah County, UT 16 January 2016

Benjamin Cemetery
Benjamin,
Utah County, Utah

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
17 August 2021 07:07:22 Kickapoo Changes to nickname and biography
Sources

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

Date Contributor Update
06 May 2021 10:01:41 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Best Web - B-24 - 'Bomerang'

Date Contributor Update
06 May 2021 09:44:51 Kickapoo Changes to role and biography
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

Date Contributor Update
27 April 2021 10:35:07 Al_Skiff Changes to role, biography, events and place associations
Sources

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/156989952/walter-travis-stewart

Date Contributor Update
02 January 2021 08:08:46 Kickapoo Changes to suffix, nickname, role and biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
29 August 2020 20:10:48 decwriter Changes to service number and awards
Sources

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

Date Contributor Update
27 November 2019 18:32:07 Al_Skiff Changes to suffix, service number, awards and events
Sources

https://www.fold3.com/image/210328733
https://www.fold3.com/page/84930290-walter-t-stewart
https://www.fold3.com/record/84930290-walter-t-stewart
https://valor.militarytimes.com/hero/32925
http://www.walkerspanishfork.com/obit/colonel-walter-travis-stewart/
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/156989952/walter-travis-stewart

Date Contributor Update
20 September 2019 14:28:16 general ira snapsorter Changes to unit associations
Sources

Ploesti Sortie Reports, 93rd Bomb Group

Date Contributor Update
24 November 2018 03:27:01 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
24 November 2018 01:11:25 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
24 November 2018 00:55:51 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
24 November 2018 00:26:50 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
04 October 2018 04:09:28 Kickapoo Changes to highest rank
Sources

Deseret News

Date Contributor Update
04 October 2018 04:08:28 Kickapoo Changes to person associations and place associations
Sources

Deseret News

Date Contributor Update
04 October 2018 04:04:07 Kickapoo Changes to awards
Sources

Deseret News

Date Contributor Update
04 October 2018 04:00:40 Kickapoo Changes to unit associations and mission associations
Sources

Deseret News

Date Contributor Update
04 October 2018 03:52:21 Kickapoo Changes to awards
Sources

Deseret News

Date Contributor Update
04 October 2018 03:50:25 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Deserat News

Date Contributor Update
04 October 2018 03:39:20 Kickapoo Changes to role and biography
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Deseret News

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:27:02 AAM AAM ingest
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)

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