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Baptism by Blunder: Operation Tidal Wave II

Grigore Scarlatoiu martie 15, 2016 Global / Europa, Opinie
11 comentarii 1,435 Vizualizari

Over the last year, the United State has been confronted by numerous foreign policy challenges. Russia’s gamble in Ukraine and now Syria, China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, countering the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, and the menace of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) all beckon American resolve. The global nature of these various challenges requires U.S. policymakers to work with our friends and allies. Just as importantly, policymakers will need the support of the American people. The Department of Defense has named the ongoing campaign against ISIS “Operation Tidal Wave II.” By doing so, it may be sending the wrong signals to both the American public and U.S. friends and allies.

Two? What was the first operation? The original operation was conducted 73 years ago during World War II when the United States and Britain decided to destroy oil refineries in Ploiesti, Romania. According to the Air Force Historical Support Division, Allied intelligence estimated the refineries in Ploiesti provided Nazi Germany as much as one-third of its fuel requirements. Obliteration of these sites would severely inhibit Nazi Germany’s war effort while helping the allies. Over the span of seven months the Allies crafted their strategy and trained in Libya. At that time, bombers flying from England lay out of range, but those taking off from the Middle East could reach Ploiesti.

On the morning of August 1, 1943, 178 B-24s took off and conducted a low-altitude bombing mission. There were a few problems with the overall operation, though. First, U.S. Army Air Corps bombing doctrine did not employ low-level mass bombing campaigns. Second, operational planners mandated radio silence, which was problematic since the B-24s came from different bases. Hence, the operation was less successful and resulted in hundreds of deaths and the destruction of about half of the bombers. Even worse, damage to Ploiesti’s refineries was temporary and within months Nazi Germany resumed production.

What is behind the name of a military operation? Boosting the morale of those tasked to execute it, underscoring resolve, energizing allies, and re-assuring the home front. That considered, there are serious issues with the name Tidal Wave. Tidal Wave does not inspire confidence given the historical precedent and the current situation involving ISIS. In the wake of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, American public opinion of the U.S. government’s handling of terrorism has declined to new lows. The Pew Research Center conducted a poll between December 8–13 and found only 37 percent approve of President Obama’s handling of terrorism while 57 percent disapprove.  Policymakers should understand  that naming a current operation after one that resulted in astoundingly high casualties and failed would inspire little confidence.

Moreover, U.S. allies and friends are important in a world of growing challenges. While the United States maintains a robust network of alliances in Europe (e.g. NATO) and the Asia-Pacific (U.S.-Republic of Korea, U.S.-Japan), strategic partnerships have also emerged when U.S. interests aligned with a particular country. Take, for example, Singapore. The U.S. and Singapore do not have a formal defense agreement, but both countries cooperate in the military-to-military area and Singapore hosts U.S. military assets. Singapore has even gone as far as re-dredging its port to host U.S. carriers. Such success is built upon mutual respect and trust between both countries.

A NATO member since 2004, Romania has been an important partner for the United States, particularly in the realm of missile defense and the Global War on Terrorism. Despite pressure from Russia, in 2011 Romania agreed to host elements of the second phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), the U.S. contribution to a NATO missile defense architecture shielding NATO countries and boosting protection of the United States against the threat of ballistic missiles. Deveselu Base in Romania is now home to an Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system. The U.S. Navy is in control of this site, which became operational in December 2015. Allies such as Romania are critical for U.S. national security interests. The missile defense system provides the United States and her allies with the ability to defend against potential aggressors including Iran.

Romania has been a staunch partner, friend and ally in peacekeeping and stabilization operations, and servicemen have been killed or wounded in theaters of operations including Iraq and Afghanistan. Romania and the United States were surely on different sides during most of World War II and the Cold War, but the Romanians have proven to be staunch friends, allies, and partners for over two decades. Without allies such as Romania, the United States would have a more difficult time fielding and operating complex systems, especially missile defense, and confronting the rise of all forms of violent extremism. Hence, it is odd that U.S. policy planners would name an operation that does little justice to the important role Romania has played and continues to play.

For these reasons, it is hard to understand why U.S. policy planners would name an operation that did not achieve its original goal. While there is no public data on how Americans perceive the name of Operation Tidal Wave II, knowing the history would likely impact their already negative perceptions about how the government is handling terrorism. The name is also inconsiderate of the post-Cold War alliance with Romania. The authors are reminded of Washington Post writer Christian Davenport who wrote an article titled In choosing its battle names, the military must know its target audience. While it is important there is public acceptance, so too must our military operations reflect respect for our allies. “Operation Tidal Wave II” does not.

An article by Grigore Scarlatoiu and Mark Olson

Grigore (Greg) Scarlatoiu is Executive Director, Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

Mark Olson is Research and Program Associate, Global America Business Institute (GABI).

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Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ghitza spune:

    In 1943, Germania nu era un aliat cinstit, ci un stat terorist care jefuia si omora lumea impreuna cu statul terorist sovietic. Am salvat atunci petrolul si de nemti nu trebuie sa ne doara, ca nu eram cu ei de buna voie. Nu are nici o legatura cu Romania de acum. Sa lasam patriotismul stangaci ca e pacat.

  2. Bogdan Brebenel spune:

    Well, the proposed name of the operation was initially Soapsuds. Sir Winston Churchill opposed that idea – apparently, he did not want to associate a tactical military operation of such importance to a funny character in a silent American movie. Eventually, everybody seemed to settle with Tidal Wave.

    The bombardment of Ploiești in August 1943 – which locals called it Duminica Neagră, that was how my grandparents referred to it – did not actually achieve its scope. The oil refineries were little affected because of many reasons: The anti-aircraft defense of Ploiesti was in excellent condition at that time, next to what Germans prepared in Vienna. Around the city, the Germans deployed a armored military train equipped with heavy guns, called The Caterpillar / Omida, capable to circle the city quickly and shoot at any airplanes that would attempt flying at low and medium altitudes in an attempt to drop bombs around. And Tidal Wave was clearly a tree-top kind of operation. Secondly, the military prepared for such attacks by flying huge latex balloons anchored with heavy chains around the refineries. That would prevent the pilots flying their B-24s very low to avoid tangling their aircrafts in the chains. Thirdly, a part of American pilots took the wrong turn when started descend and subsequently they missed Ploiești. They realized that later when they were approaching Bucharest. Returning and dropping bombs on Ploiești would have been impossible so they kept flying on on their route back to Benghazi.

    The oil refineries resumed their production approximately two weeks after attacks, at full of their capacity.

  3. Constantin Cranganu Constantin Crânganu spune:

    A very interesting story about Tidal Wave 1 was told by the great Romanian poet Nichita Stanescu.

    Born and raised up in Ploiesti, Nichita was 10 year old in 1943. On August 1, 1943, the future great poet went with his mother to local church for Sunday morning service. After a while, the civil defense sirens started to blow their loud warning. The boy Nichita and his mother rushed out of the church to take shelter.

    Suddenly, the boy heard a loud explosion in the sky: It was one of the 52 B-25 bombardiers destroyed by the German anti-aircraft weapons. And then, the boy saw a small black point coming down and growing very fast: Mama, mama, what is that? the boy asked impatiently. His mother was also looking curiously into the sky, without answering the boy’s question.

    After several seconds, in the church yard, in front of the mother and son looking, speechlessly to one another, something big and black smashed into the ground. Blood was splattered all over yard.

    Mama, mama, what is this?.

    Mama: Este un cioroi american! (He is a nigger!)

    Nichita Stanescu: Asa am cunoscut, la 10 ani, pe primul om negru cazut din cer (Thus, when I was ten, I met the first black man fallen from the sky)

    • Bogdan Brebenel spune:

      Aparatele de zbor folosite in Tidal Wave au fost B-24 Liberator.

      Sunt curios de unde ați cules povestirea cu Nichita Stănescu. Familia Sănescu a locuit pe strada unde am copilărit, îi cunoc foarte bine. Vă spun că nu am auzit o astfel de povestire.

    • Constantin Cranganu Constantin Crânganu spune:

      Întâmplarea povestită de Nichita Stănescu a avut loc prin 1969 sau 1970, când poetul a vizitat liceul Codreanu din Bârlad, al cărui elev eram. În plus, conduceam cenaclul literar al Liceului și eram redactorul-șef al revistei „Debuturi și Tradiții”, editată de Liceul nostr.

      Unul dintre absolvenții de marcă ai liceului era vicepreședintele Uniunii Scriitorilor, cunoscutul autor al best-seller-ului Cireșarii, scriitorul Constantin Chiriță. Acesta, împreună cu alți alumni vestiți (George Ivașcu, Ioan Hobana, Cezar Ivanescu, – ca să numesc numai o parte dintre scriitori), au fost foarte activi în acțiunea de revenire la vechiul nume al Liceului de băieți nr.2, care, o dată cu aniversarea a 125 ani de existență în 1971 ( a fost al patrulea liceu românesc ca vechime, după Naționalelel din Bucureși, Iași și Craiova), și-a reluat numele tradițional – Liceul Codreanu (numele boierului de lângă Bârlad care l-a înființat la 1846).

      După întâlnirea oficială a poetului Stăenescu și a prozatorului Chiriță cu profesorii și elevii liceului, a urmat o agapă la care invitații au fost mult mai puțini. Atunci am avut norocul să ascult povestea cu primul negru căzut din cer în orașul Ploiești.

      Dacă a fost doar imaginația genială a poetului, foarte bine stimulată de un combustibil lichid adus special de la Huși (Nichita știa, pare-mi-se, că cei doi lideri politici ai momentului, NC și EC, sunt mari fani ai Busuioacei de Bohotin și Zgiharei de Huși, respectiv) sau a fost o întâmplare absolut reală pe care el ar fi trăit-o alături de mama lui, nu pot să știu.

      Ar fi interesant de aflat de la istorici dacă, în 1943, avioanele americane, care au zburat peste Ploiești, erau mixe ca rasă. Dacă da, înseamnă că Nichita n-a fabulat.

      Se non è vero, è ben trovato!…

      • Red Tail spune:

        Era probabil combustibilul lichid de la bordul lui Nichita, RIP. Pilotii afroamericani au fost antrenati la Tuskegee, Alabama, si nu au zburat in Europa de Est. The 99th Fighter Squadron was sent to North Africa in April 1943 for combat duty… After a few months in North Africa, the 99th was ordered to support the Allies’ campaigns in Italy and later, Germany. http://www.redtail.org/the-airmen-a-brief-history/airmen-in-combat/

      • victor L spune:

        Nu ca ar conta, marturia mea, dar si eu am citit, si altundeva, povestea lui Nichita cu “cioroiul american”.
        E drept, am luat-o ca de la un fictionar :P

      • Bogdan Brebenel spune:

        Ar fi interesant de aflat de la istorici dacă, în 1943, avioanele americane, care au zburat peste Ploiești, erau mixe ca rasă. Dacă da, înseamnă că Nichita n-a fabulat.

        Mulțumesc pentru lămuriri. Cred că întreaga poveste este rodul imginației bogate a lui Nichita Stănescu stimulată de licoarea de Huși și Bohotin.

        În acele vremuri, tot ce ținea de aparat militar american era segregat rasial. Singurele două grupuri, exclusiv operate de piloți negri, au fost cel de Vânătoare 332 și cel de Bombardiere 447.

        Grupul de Bombardiere 447 NU a participat la nicio operațiune de luptă, pe durata WWII.

        Grupul de Vănâtoare 332 (Red Tails) a fost transferat începând cu luna Aprilie 1943 în nordul Africii pentru a susține operațiunile de invazie a Italiei. Din 1944 au fost relocați în Italia iar de acolo au desfăsurat misiuni de insoțire a alto grupuri de bombardiere deasupra Europei Centrale.

        Operațiunea Tidal Wave a fost operată de 177 bombardiere B-24 Liberator, neînsoțite de aparate de luptă. Bombardierele proveneau de la unități staționate inițial în Regatul Unit, după cum urmează: “Ted’s Travelling Circus” – Grupul 93, “Sky Scorpions” – Grupul 389, “Flying Eight Balls” – Grupul 44. Piloții s-au antrenat timp de două luni în deșert, în zona Benghazi, pentru a testa aparatele B-24 încărcate cu muniție și echipate cu rezervoare suplimentare de benzină la zboruri de joasă altitudine.

        O carte interesantă pe această temă este cea a lui Duane Schultz – Into The Fire, pe care o recomand.

  4. Emil spune:

    Tot din epoca raidurilor americane asupra ţintelor din România datează nemuritoarea expresie caprovecinistă, intrată în folclor, care se auzea atunci când suna alarma aeriană, anunţând un nou atac: “Du-i Doamne la Ploieşti!!!!” :) :) :)

    • victor L spune:

      E necesara o precizare: expresia apartine bucurestenilor cind se anunta alarma sau vedeau pe cer avioane, “du-i, Doamne, la Ploiesti!” :P

  5. chishtocu verde spune:

    “The missile defense system provides the United States and her allies with the ability to defend against potential aggressors, ” including Russia as we all know it, but keep telling bullshit maybe some ignorant people will believe it.



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Grigore Scarlatoiu


Grigore Scarlatoiu

Directorul executiv al Comitetului pentru Drepturile Omului in Coreea de Nord din Washington, D.C. Citeste mai departe


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