Phil Bruner Ploesti bombing raid

A retired history teacher, accomplished artist, and model resident of Freedom Plaza, Phil Bruner exhibits his large-scale replica that captures the World War II aerial attack by B-24 Liberators during the Ploiesti, formerly spelled as Ploesti, bombing raid of Romanian oil refineries in August 1943.

Freedom Plaza Retirement Community’s gallery recently showcased three-dimensional replicas created by “model resident” Phil Bruner depicting the aerial combat raid of Romanian oil refineries in the city of Ploiesti, formerly spelled Ploesti, during World War II’s Operation Tidal Wave.

An accomplished artist and retired 29-year history and science teacher, Bruner captured in minute detail large and small scale models of oil fields targeted in a daring mission by the U.S. Army Air Force on that fateful day of August 1, 1943.

“For many years I have been interested in World War II, and ever since I was a child I have done modeling,” Bruner said. “These two interests have come together over the years to make a project out of an American attack on oil refineries in Romania that were making gasoline for the Germans.”

Bruner crafted large-scale representations and smaller miniatures depicting the barracks, boiler factories, storage tanks and cooling towers of the oil fields based on pictures and diagrams in the book “Black Sunday: Ploesti!” by Michael Hill.

Bruner refers to Freedom Plaza’s gallery exhibit by the code name “Ploesti Project,” which salutes the heroic deeds of the brave airmen on that mission.

“Though the raid was a practical failure, it inspired generations of fliers and it remains a story of heroism that will not fade away,” Bruner stated. “The courage of those pilots and crewmen who flew that day inspired everyone who learns of their efforts, including me.”

Eight-year residents of Freedom Plaza, Phil and his wife, Carmalene Bruner, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on July 31. The Ploesti Project he began years ago made the move from their home in West Chester, Pennsylvania; however, it remained in storage until the mid-August exhibit opened to share with residents through early September.

“The Ploesti Project is my most extensive, secret favorite project since it has been hidden away in boxes,” Bruner reflected. “The show has seven model planes that represent many of the B-24 bombers in the air that day. I built fairly large-scale model buildings from cardboard, plastic parts, model piping and lots of gray paint. My cooling tower is almost 3 feet high, for example.

“The colors of the buildings are my guesswork, choosing to paint the roofs red based on modern pictures of Romania,” he acknowledged. “I tried to show the low-level attack with the crews flying in at only 300 feet off the ground to avoid detection. The Germans, however, spotted the formations and met the attack with full force.”

His passion for building model airplanes began in his teens, and never grows old as the youthful senior turns 80 on September 14.

Freedom Plaza residents enjoy exploring their creative talents at a variety of art classes taught in the gallery. For a personal tour of the community, call 623-815-4013.