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Robert W. Sternfels


Lt. Robert Sternfels was a B-24D command bomber pilot in WWII in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombing Group, the Pyramiders, and the 345th Bombing Squadron, who flew the famous B-24D bomber, 'The Sandman' on the mission Operation Tidal Wave to bomb the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, August 1, 1943. After enlisting as an Air Force pilot in World War II, Lt. Sternfels was sent to and based at Benghazi, North Africa, where he engaged in many tactical missions against the Axis land army and shipping over the Mediterranean Sea. He was awarded the Silver Star for his role in the execution of Tidal Wave, which sought the destruction of the major part of the German oil supplies in 1943. A photograph of his B-24 Liberator "Sandman" flying low through the smoke, fire, and explosions over his target, White IV, which is often associated with the occasion and was a source of pride for Sternfels. He achieved the rank of Major before being honorably discharged from the Army Air Corps. Later in life he cherished the Thursday morning breakfasts with his WWII friends talking about their experiences. The two things Robert loved most in the world were his country and his family.



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Units served with

  • 9th Air Force
  • 98th Bomb Group

    98th Bomb Group

    The 98th trained for bombardment missions with B-24 Liberators during the first half of 1942. ...

  • 345th Bomb Squadron

    345th Bomb Squadron

    Established as a B-24 Liberator heavy bomb squadron and trained by Third Air Force. Deployed to Egypt in June 1942 over South Atlantic Transport Route transiting from Morrison Field, Florida though the Caribbean to Brazil; performed trans-Atlantic...


  • 42-40402 The Sandman

    B-24 Liberator
    Crew of "The Sandman" on the Ploesti raid: ...

  • 41-24311 'Hadley's Harem'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, named 'Hadley's Harem' was Lt. Gilbert Hadley's personal airplane and the one he flew on the mission to destroy Hitler's oil refineries at Ploesti Romania in 1943. ...

  • 41-11825 Hail Columbia, Grumpy, Little Chief Big Dog

    B-24 Liberator
    This aircraft originally served in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron as 'HAIL COLUMBIA'. It was 344th's CO Col. John R. Kane's personal aircraft until Kane became the 98th Bomb Group CO and turned it over to Herman ...


  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B24D 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 B...

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Event Location Date


Date Contributor Update
29 August 2020 20:33:01 decwriter Changes to middlename

Middle initial from NARA files.

Date Contributor Update
29 August 2020 20:31:46 decwriter Changes to service number and awards

NARA files verified AM w/6 oak leaf clusters. His DFC was awarded for the 1 August 1943 Ploesti low level mission and was presented to him in the field by Major General James H. Doolittle. His Silver Star was for a mission in November 1943 and the general order was issued in March 1944.

Date Contributor Update
25 July 2019 08:18:11 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Anatomy Of A Disaster - Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Into The Fire - Duane Schultz ---- ---- ---- Personal Archives - John S. Young

Date Contributor Update
18 July 2019 17:04:43 Kickapoo Changes to biography, awards, unit associations, aircraft associations and mission associations

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
25 September 2018 17:58:58 Kickapoo Changes to biography

The Orange County Register

Date Contributor Update
25 September 2018 17:48:58 Kickapoo Changes to biography

The Orange County Register

Date Contributor Update
25 September 2018 16:59:28 Kickapoo Created entry with surname, firstname, nationality, highest rank, role, person associations, unit associations and place associations

Black Sunday - Michael Hill