The B-24D, Hail Columbia's, flight officers. From the left : Lt. John S. Young, copilot, Lt. Harold Korger, bombardier, and Lt. Norman Whalen, their gifted navigator and nose gunner, celebrate after surviving the Ploesti raid. 1943.
From the left : Hail Columbia's navigator, Lt. Norman Whalen, and his close friend, and bombardier, Lt. Harold Francis Korger. 1943.
Capt. Norman Matthew Whalen
The B-24D - Hail Columbia, after the Ploesti mission and crash Landing at Nicosia, Cyprus - Aug 1, 1943. From left : Lt. Harry Korger/ Bombardier - Lt. Norman Whalen Navigator/Nose Gunner - Kneeling, second from right, 1st Lt. Raymond Hubbard/ Radio Operator/ Gunner, SSgt. Harvey Treace/Gunner, TSgt Clarence Weckesser/ Engineer/ Top Turret Gunner, SSgt. Neville Benson/Waist Gunner, SSgt. Joseph LaBranch/ Gunner, SSgt. Frederick Leard/Waist Gunner . This photo taken the next morning after the Ploesti mission. Monday August 2nd, 1943.
Operation Tidal Wave - General Brereton's last Tidal Wave briefing to the flying officers of the 98th Bomb Group. 1943
Norman Mathew Whalen joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. After graduating from Navigator School in Monroe, Louisiana, he received his commission as a Second Lieutenant and was assigned to the 9th Air force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron in North Africa where he flew numerous combat missions, including Operation Tidal Wave, the famous low level B-24 bombing mission over the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, August 1, 1943.
Lt. Whalen normally flew as navigator and nose gunner on Lt. John Young's B-24D, Kickapoo, but he and his crew were chosen by, and assigned to fly with, Col. John R. Kane on his plane, Hail Columbia, for the bombing mission on the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. This proved fortunate for Lt. Whalen, Lt. John Young, and the rest of, Kickapoo's, regular crew because the, Kickapoo, lost power in several engines in succession and crashed in flames just after takeoff for the Ploesti mission, killing all but two of the replacement crewmen. But Lt. Whalen, and his crewmen knew the odds for survival over Ploesti were not good. As they approached Ploesti, flying out of the Danube Valley, and began their final low level run into their target, the Astra Romano Refinery complex, Whalen saw ahead out of the plexiglass greenhouse in, Hail Columbia's, nose, the walls of smoke and flames, the green tracer rounds of the anti aircraft cannon fire streaking into the sky, and the explosions and flames of the fierce fires that, Hail Columbia, was nearing fast, and, then, began flying through, as their two pilots, John Kane and Johnny Young, closed in on their target refineries. And, as his plane began to be hit by the flak explosions of the terrible thundering anti aircraft guns, he thought and later wrote, "I thought I was going to die right there. I thought we all were ! I never thought we could get out of there alive."
For his skill and valor in carrying out his mission as Col. John Kane's group lead navigator and nose gunner, especially for his bravery and exceptional navigational skill on the Ploesti mission, for successfully plotting courses to Ploesti and, then, for navigating, Hail Columbia, and the other damaged B-24s following him, safely out of Romania and all the way back south, over the Pindus mountains, through Turkey, to the British airfield on the Greek Island of Cyprus, Norman Whalen was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross medal and another Oak leaf Cluster to his Distinguished Flying Cross. But he and his crewmen were happy just to be alive, after flying through the man made hell they had flown into and through, over Ploesti, Romania, on Sunday, August, 1, 1943.
After his 36th combat mission, Lt. Whalen was assigned to Mountain Home Air Field, Idaho, where he trained cadets in flight navigation until September 1944. At that time, he requested reassignment back to the 98th Bomb Group, and he flew an additional 39 bombing raids with his original unit. Whalen's combat medals include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with 11 bronze Oak Leaf Clusters and 2 silver Oak Leaf Clusters.
In 1945, Norman Whalen, also became known as, "The Baron", from an article in the "Air Force" magazine, "He Brought Us Home", about him, and especially about the Ploesti mission and Lt. Whalen's extraordinary navigation disciplines and skills coming home from Ploesti, written by his pilot, Capt. John S. Young.
Norman Whalen was honorably discharged from The U.S. Army Air Corps in 1946 with the rank of Major. Whalen returned home to Denton, Texas, where he taught religion at North Texas University for many years and gave many seminars about his experiences in the war and over Ploesti. Norman Whalen died Feb. 27, 2008.
Military | Staff Sergeant | B-24 Waist Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
SSgt. Neville C. Bensen took part in Operation Tidal Wave, over Ploesti, Romania, on 1 Aug 43. He was a waist gunner in the Element Lead B-24D Liberator, 41-11825, Hail Columbia, piloted by Col. John R. "Killer" Kane and Lt. John S. Young. He survived...
Military | First Lieutenant | Radio Operator | 98th Bomb Group
Lt. Raymond B. Hubbard was assigned to the 9th Air force, the 98th Bombardment Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron in Libya, North Africa, 1943. He flew in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943, flying as a Waist Gunner and Radio...
Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24 Command Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
Lloyd Herbert Hughes Jr., better known to his friends, as "Pete," flew his fifth mission, as pilot of a B-24D Liberator bomber in an attack against the Axis oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania. He was killed August 1, 1943 when his plane was severely...
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, in 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...
Military | Colonel | B-24 - B-52 Bombardier | 98th Bomb Group
Lt. Harold Francis Korger was a B-24 bombardier in the 344th Bombardment Squadron, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 9th Air Force, based in Benghazi, Libya, 1943. He flew on the B-24D, Hail Columbia, with the Element Group Leader Col. John R. Kane, on the...
Military | Staff Sergeant (3rd Grade) | Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
Took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943, flying in B-24 Liberator 41-11825, Hail Columbia. 1 Aug 1943.
Military | Technical Sergeant | B-24 Right Waist Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
Technical Sgt. Frederick A. Leard was a waist gunner assigned to the Element Lead B-24D Liberator bomber, named, Hail Columbia, 41-11825, flown by Col. John R. "Killer" Kane and Lt. John S. Young on Operation Tidal Wave, the large mission to destroy...
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...
Military | First Lieutenant | B-24D Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
Pilot Lt. Samuel Neeley was a B-24D Bomber pilot in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in WWII. He served in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron in North Africa, flying, bombing, and strafing missions, mostly...
Military | Major | B-24D Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
Lt. Robert Sternfels was a B-24D bomber command pilot in WWII in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombing Group, the Pyramiders, and the 345th Bombing Squadron. Lt. Sternfels flew the famous B-24D bomber, THE SANDMAN, on Operation Tidal Wave, which sought...
Units served with
The 98th trained for bombardment missions with B-24 Liberators during the first half of 1942.
The 344th Bombing Squadron was first activated at MacDill Field, Florida as one of the original three squadrons assigned to the 98th Bombardment Group. The 344th soon moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where it began to train as a Consolidated B-24...
The B-24D, Hail Columbia, 41-11825, was assigned to the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron. It was first assigned to the 344th Squadron's CO, Col. John R. Kane's, personal aircraft until Kane became the 98th Bomb Group's...
The B-24D Liberator, 41-11768, named, Kickapoo, was Lt. John S. Young's regularly assigned B-24D, after his 98th Bombardment Group moved out of Egypt, to the air bases at Benghazi, Libya. John Young was from Dallas, Texas, like so many of the men...
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...