Into the Fire: Ploesti: The Most Fateful Mission of World War II

Westholme Publishing, 2007

Planned by Winston Churchill, authorized by Dwight D. Eisenhower, and executed by five specially trained American bomber units, the attack on the oil refineries of Ploesti, Romania, was among the most daring and dangerous missions of World War II. If the raid succeeded, the Nazi war machine would suffer a devastating blow.

On August 1, 1943, nearly 200 B-24 bombers flew from Benghazi in North Africa with directions to descend on Ploesti at treetop level, bomb the refineries, and return. The low-level bombers could evade enemy radar and were thought to be more difficult to shoot down. But despite warnings that a German heavy flak train had been moved into the area and that the secrecy of their mission had been compromised, the bombers were sent out.
Minutes from the target, one of the commanders made a wrong turn, leading the formations away from Ploesti. Recovering from this mistake, most of the bombers relocated the refineries but the mission was doomed. The ensuing air-ground battle claimed dozens of the aircraft. Of those that survived, many were forced to ditch in the ocean or in remote areas due to structural damage or insufficient fuel.

Duane Schultz recreates this great battle, combining original research and interviews with survivors to capture the tension, drama and heroics of the warring sides. More Medals of Honor were awarded for this mission than any other aerial combat enterprise in US history. But the medals are bittersweet testimony to the courage of the 1726 young men who risked all on a fateful attempt to cut off the Nazi supply of “black gold.”


“We were dragged through the mouth of hell.”

from a Ploesti Mission debriefing report

“We knew it was a disaster and knew that in the flames shooting up from those refineries we might be burned to death. But we went right in.”

Lt. Norman Whalen

Schultz combines a historian’s meticulous research and a novelist’s hypnotic prose to produce this memorable popular history… Shultz’s intimate account of this controversial episode is a timely reminder of the horrors of war and a moving tribute to Ploesti’s heroes.

Publishers Weekly

This bittersweet tale of arrogance, wishful thinking, sacrifice, and heroism is recounted with grace and empathy.

Shimmers with historical parallels and modern resonances. . . . Schultz combed an impressive body of material for this account.

Washington Times

A detailed and vivid account of the World War II disaster.


This is one of the best stories of World War II aviation, brilliantly told. Schultz describes the poor planning, erroneous intelligence, and command arrogance that resulted in a 27-minute aerial slaughter of American bomber crews by German and Romanian fighters and antiaircraft artillery in a raid US airmen consider suicidal

Military Officer

A stirring account of one of the most daring Allied raids of the Second World War. Schultz has crafted a tight, arresting narrative that virtually places the reader inside the B-24s. A must-read

World War II Quarterly

A vivid chronicle [and] a fresh account of a particularly bloody mission

Wall Street Journal

More WWII War Books by Duane Schultz