Photo: "Sojusznicy Luftwaffe", part 1, Books Internatinal.
Engine warming of IAR 81C's. Please note the wing-mounted MG 151/20 mm guns, specific for this version of IAR, designed specially to attack enamy bombers.
On 1st August 1943, the USAAF conducted its second raid over Romania.
The Romanian and German AA defense near Ploeºti was considerable. There were 36 heavy Flak batteries (164x88 mm guns) and 16 light batteries (210x20 or 37 mm automated guns), which fired 3552x88 mm shells and 56271x20 mm shells that day. There were also 71 balloons and the "Caterpillar" (an armored train packed with AA guns, which could easily be moved to the endangered part of the city) The FARR (Forþele Aeriene Regale Române - Royal Romanian Air Force) had five fighter squadrons one night fighter squadron and the Luftwaffe had three fighter squadrons and two night fighter squadrons. In total there were 108 fighters, but on 1st August, there were only 57 pilots available, the rest were on leave. But they managed to fly 123 sorties. The "show" was directed from the "Opera" (the code name of the Freya radar coordination center) in Bucharest
The 53rd Squadron, equipped with Me-109s, had only the alarm patrol on the airfield (in the Romanian Air Force, the patrol is a formation of 4 planes, composed of two cells of two planes each). Of. echip. Ioan Maga, slt. av. Fl. Zamfirescu, adj. av. Dumitru Encioiu and adj. av. Nicolae Sculi took off and made contact with the Americans at 14:13. But they were low on fuel and had to return to base after the first attacks. They caught up with the bombers and of. echip. Maga and adj. av. Encioiu got one each. The latter crash landed after he ran out of fuel. Slt. av. Zamfirescu damaged one, but it didn't go down, at least not in Romania.
The 6th FG, stationed at Pipera (near Bucharest) had 15 airplanes available, but only 12 pilots ready for action. They took off at 13:20 and made contact with the enemy at 13:50 in the area Crivina-Periº-Buftea. They attacked and prevented them to fly over Bucharest and forced them to change direction. Adj. av. Aurel Vlãdãreanu shot down one enemy plane near Ploeºti and adj. sef av. Dumitru Ilie had two probable kills. They were both in flames, but continued to fly and crossed the frontier. They probably fell in Bulgaria or in the Mediterranean. Lt. Carol Anastasescu was the high scorer of the day with 2 B-24s destroyed. Adj. av. Gheorghe Cocebaº crash landed, after having his engine turned into Swiss-cheese. The plane was repairable.
Lt. Carol Anastasescu got 2 bombers that day, but he was sot down and hardly survived the crash-landing. Let's hear him tell the story:
"In the morning of 1st August 1943, I was on duty on the Pipera airfield, replacing my comrade Teodor Nicolaescu, who was at his sisters' wedding. After we took the planes out of the hangar we sat down in lounge-chairs relaxed and calm, because usually, the alarm duty was boring. At 10:25 we received the order to exercise "extreme caution" and at 11 o'clock we were in our seats. We sat there for two hours strapped in our seats and in the flying suits under a killing sun. At 13:20 we took off, but our orders were to fly at 200 m, which was very unusual, because at that altitude dogfighting is very difficult, if not impossible. It was a big surprise for us to see a compact formation of bombers underneath us: there were American B-24s. They were practically flying wing next to wing, like they were at a parade. I ordered the attack. When we got close to the bombers, a stunning tracer barrage unleashed. I had the impression that all of them were aimed at my forehead and I felt a cold drops of sweat on my back. At 100 m I fired at part of the left wing where I knew were the fuel tanks, but nothing happened. To avoid the incoming fire from the machine-guns of the Liberator, I dove quickly and I almost crashed. When I managed to recover, the bombers were already under heavy fire from the AA artillery around Ploeºti and some refineries were in flames. It was like hell. I closed up on the same B-24 and aimed for the same area of the wing, but still nothing happened. I came in for a third time and fired. In the same time I felt a powerful hit in my airplane. As I pulled up I saw the bomber going down in flames, but I was in the same situation. I opened the cockpit, but I was at 50 m and couldn't jump. I started to climb slowly, expecting to simply blow up in any second. I saw a B-24 coming at me, probably to give me the final blow. I was passing through horrible moments and couldn't bear any more. I didn't have any way out, so I decided to ram him and finish it quickly. He tried to avoid me, but was to late. I felt a powerful heat and then I woke up in the hospital"
The 45th Sqd. (4th FG) had 6 available airplanes on the Târgºor airfield. They took off at 13:30 and were flying at 1200 m, when they received orders at 14:00 from the radar station to descend to 100 m. They saw an enemy formation, which had already attacked the refineries and engaged them. Adj. av. stag. Ioan Nicola shot down another one, which fell south of the village Ogrezeni and adj. av. Ioan Bosinceanu also attacked a B-24, but ran out of ammo after only destroying the machine-gun turret on top of the bomber. They returned to the airfield and 4 of them took off again at 15:30. Slt. av. Cristu I. Cristu shot down a B-24 near Scroviºtea and lt. av. Ion Bârladeanu got 2xB-24. They crashed west of Bilciureºti and north-east of Conteºtii de Sus.
The 51st Night Fighter Squadron was on the Ziliºtea airfield. Out the four Me-110s that took off, only cpt. av. Marin Ghica engaged the enemy near Bolintinu de Vale at 300 m. There were two B-24s and one of them was being attacked by a Me-109, so he attacked the other one. He fired at the left wing and the engine near the fuselage was soon in flames. He returned and fired on the other engine, but when he was pulling out the plane was hit really bad by the American machine-gunners. The flames soon entered the cockpit. He tried to gain some altitude in order to jump, but only the radio operator made it. Cpt. av. Ghica was found crushed, because his parachute didn't open.
The conclusion was that the IAR-80Cs of the 4th FG were more successful than the IAR-80Bs of the 6th FG, because they had 2 Ikaria 20 mm guns instead of 2x13.2 mm machine-guns as heavy weapons. The FARR lost 2 airplanes (one pilot dead, the other heavily wounded) and 2 were damaged. The Romanian fighter pilots destroyed 9 US bombers and damaged others. The Luftwaffe (69 sorties) destroyed seven, but lost two airplanes (both pilots dead) and nine were damaged.
The Germans shot down 7 B-24s, but lost 3 airplanes and another 9 were damaged.
Bibliography: Vasile Tudor, "Constantin "Bâzu" Cantacuzino - Prinþul aºilor", Editura MODELISM, 2000; Dan Antoniu, George Cicos, "Vânãtorul IAR-80 - istoria unui erou necunoscut", Editura MODELISM, 2000; Ioan Grigorescu, "Bine aþi venit în infern", Editura Nemira, 1995.
IAR 80A No 109, from Defence Squadron of Ploesti rafinery, flown of Lt. Wilhelm Steinmann, commander of this Squadron.
Profile: "Samolot myœliwski IAR-80 i 81", TBiU 133, WMON.
2001.06.01, © WW II Ace Stories.