MEGA After Action

After Action Report - 26 to 28 July 2002

This is the After Action Report of a series of games put on at Historicon 2002 at Lancaster, PA July 25 to 28, 2002 hosted Tom Sparhawk.

The Raid on Ploesti

By Tom Sparhawk

The Raid on Ploesti was a three game mini campaign put on at Historicon 2002. Each of the games stood alone - with their own objectives and victory conditions, but the results of each game influenced the game that followed.

The idea for the game - and the mini campaign - was based on the 1943 raid on Rumania by 177 B-24s based in Africa. The objective was to destroy the oil refineries at Ploesti where one third of Germany's oil was refined. During the mission briefing, to stress the importance of the target, the crews were informed that "coming back is secondary." Almost one third of the raiders were lost on this mission. Four metals of honor were awarded.

The first game, "The Approach," had elements of the Bulgarian Air Force and some German night fighters intercept the formation of B-24s as they crossed Bulgaria. Historically the fighters were out of formation and missed the B-24s completely, but in this game they find them.

Twenty four B-24s, six each from four bomb groups entered the table: From the 8th Air Force the 93rd (Ted's Traveling Circus) and the 389th (Sky Scorpions), and from the 9th Air Force the 98th (Pyramiders) and the 376th (Liberandos). These were met initially by two Ju88s and two Me110s from the German night fighter squadrons. On turn six another two Ju88s and two more Me110s came showed up, all from the same flank. All eight planes concentrated their attacks on the Pyramiders and shot down their first B-24.

On turn eleven the Bulgarian Air Force arrived - four Me109s and six Avias biplanes - the most advanced biplane fighter of the war. These dug into the Sky Scorpions and started causing damage. The Avias soon fell behing as they were slower than the B-24s…

By the end of the game fourteen of the Axis fighters were shot down but four B-24s were also lost. Two more were so severely shot up that they aborted, having no real hope of carrying out their mission successfully. All losses came from the 98th and 389th, both groups losing 50% of their planes.

This game was a Bulgarian victory. The Americans had to get over 75% of their planes off of the table in shape to bomb their target. They lost exactly 25%.

The second game in the campaign was "Ploesti - Low Level Attack." This was the assault on the oil refinery and was called "low level" because the highest the B-24s could fly in the game was 300 feet.

The German/Rumanian players had 23 flak batteries, a flak train, a dozen barrage balloons, and ten fighters for defense. These were deployed and then the American bombers entered. Each B-24 was assigned a specific target in the refinery complex, although the Sky Scorpions were at the wrong refinery so their targets were not on the table.

As the bombers approached the refinery one of the Liberandos, already damaged from the approach, took significant damage and caught on fire. It attempted to bomb a cracking tower but missed, then flew off the table and eventually crash landed.

The Rumanian IAR80s and Me109s then arrived and started to mix it up with the bombers, causing significant damage. They hit every group but in their eagerness to attack they were quickly dispatched by the bombers.

Another plane from the Liberandos had its Tokyo tank hit and was engulfed in flames, eventually crashing into a blast wall around an oil storage area. The third, and last, of the Liberandos hit its target then flew off badly damaged but intact.

The 93rd, Ted's Traveling Circus, was little damaged in the approach and attacked the target from a lightly defended direction. During their approach the gunners destroyed two AA batteries outside of the complex and knocked out an 88 on a flak tower at the edge of the refinery. Four of the six planes hit their targets and caused significant damage to the refinery. They escaped in fairly good shape, but two of the planes had lost their electrical systems, which meant that their top and tail turrets were not able to fire for the next game.

The Pyramiders took six planes into the target and hit every one of their targets, but they paid a price. Two planes were engulfed in flames as they bombed their targets from very low level - oil from the blast catching the planes on fire. One of these crashed into the refinery and another crash landed off the table. Two were so damaged that they diverted to Turkey and were interred. Some very resolute flying from this group.

The final group to attack was the Sky Scorpions, which had lost half of their planes over Bulgaria. They were at the wrong refinery so attacked targets of opportunity - hitting a power plant and an oil storage facility. One plane from the flight had both its pilot and copilot killed, but, before it crashed, it rose high enough for seven of the crew to bail out. Three survived.

This low level attack was a resounding victory for the Americans. With twelve targets destroyed the bombing could be considered extraordinary. The complex lost over 65% of its production capacity. While the German defense was spirited, the Americans came through in fairly good shape - four planes shot down or crashed and three diverted to Turkey.

At this point the Americans had lost 13 of their 24 planes - and they still had one more hurtle to cross…

For the final game, "The Return," the 11 surviving B-24's were joined by a six plane formation from the 44th Bomb Group - the Eight Balls - making a total of seventeen planes. As the formation flew over Greece on their return to Africa they faced the fire of 5 Me109s and 5 Me110s deployed in depth across the map.

The Eight Balls, being undamaged, were placed in the most dangerous position. As the bombers swept across the board there were some initial successes - two German fighters were lost. But then things fell apart for the Americans. First a plane from the Sky Scorpions was attacked by five fighters and destroyed. Then a plane from the Eight Balls met the same fate. Then the last of the Sky Scorpions had its Tokyo tank hit and was engulfed in flames - the entire bomb group had been destroyed. This at the cost of two more German fighters.

Then things really went wrong. In five turns four of the Eight Balls were lost - two to hammering and two to explosions. One German pilot was absolutely extraordinary in his ability to hit the right spot. He got payback of a sort - one of the burning planes crashed into his Me109 causing the loss of his engine…

The return brought another victory for the Germans. Seven planes lost and one so badly damaged that it had to make a forced landing in Greece.

At the end of the day eight of the original 24 bombers returned to Africa. One from the Pyramiders, one from the Liberandos, and all six of Ted's Traveling Circus. Indeed, of the whole of this group there was only one fatality.

All in all the mini campaign seemed to be a success. There were twenty two people who played in the three games (and I should have gotten their names…). Only two players participated in more than one game, but everyone involved really seemed to enjoy it.