Consolidated B-24 "Lady be Good"

Discussion in 'Aircraft Pictures' started by gekho, Aug 21, 2010.

  1. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    On the afternoon of April 4, 1943, the B-24 bomber 'Lady Be Good' (LBG) took off from Soluch Airstrip in Libya, along with 24 other planes, on a mission to bomb the port at Naples, Italy. The estimated time for the mission was nine hours round trip, and the planes had enough fuel for twelve hours of flight time. Due to strong winds and sandstorms, the planes were forced to take off in small groups. The LBG was one of the last to leave, in a group with two other planes. But these two planes had gotten sand in their engines while taking off and had to turn back, leaving the LBG alone and well behind the other planes.

    The crew had to make constant course corrections along the route, due to strong winds, and fell even further behind the other planes. The planes could not communicate with each other by radio, for fear of attracting Nazi fighter planes. By the time the LBG reached the vicinity of the target, the other planes had already dropped their bombs and were on their way back home. Rather than drop its bombs alone, the LBG headed for home and dropped its bombs into the sea along the way. On its way back, the aircraft sent a coded message asking for a directional bearing to Soluch, and was sent one, but after that the plane was not heard from again. An extensive sea search and limited land search were undertaken, but the plane and its crew of nine could not be found. It had been the crew's first combat mission.

    The crew members of the 'Lady Be Good' were:

    * 1st Lieutenant William J. Hatton, Pilot - Whitestone, New York
    * 2d Lieutenant Robert F. Toner, Copilot - North Attelboro, Massachusetts
    * 2d Lieutenant Dp Hays, Navigator - Lee's Summit, Missouri
    * 2d Lieutenant John S. Woravka, Bombardier - Cleveland, Ohio
    * Technical Sergeant Harold J. Ripslinger, Flight Engineer - Saginaw, Michigan
    * Technical Sergeant Robert E. LaMotte, Radio Operator - Lake Linden, Michigan
    * Staff Sergeant Guy E. Shelley, Gunner/Asst Flight Engineer - New Cumberland, Pennsylvania
    * Staff Sergeant Vernon L. Moore, Gunner/Asst Radio Operator - New Boston, Ohio
    * Staff Sergeant Samuel R. Adams, Gunner - Eureka, Illinois
     

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  2. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #2 gekho, Aug 21, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2010
    The April 4th, 1943 bombing run on Naples had been the first call to action for Lady Be Good and her crew. That afternoon they launched from the Benina air strip in the city of Soluch in Libya. They departed amidst a sandstorm which incapacitated two other bombers in the flight group, forcing them to return to base. Lady’s engines ingested some of the airborne sand as well, but seemed to be running normally, so Lieutenant Hatton opted not abort the mission. En route to the target, the aircraft was buffeted by severe winds that pushed her off course and further away from the bomber group, forcing numerous course corrections on the way to Naples. By the time they neared the target, the other Liberators had long since come and gone, and visibility was reportedly poor. So the pilot turned back, dumping their bombs into the Mediterranean Sea.

    The last contact from the crew of Lady Be Good was a radio transmission from her pilot, William Hatton: “My ADF has malfunctioned. Please give me a QDM.” This indicated that his position-finding equipment had failed, and due to the thick cloud cover he had become disoriented. For reasons unknown, Lt. Hatton never received a response to this request for a position report, but it has been suggested that the radio tower suspected a German trick. Later, in the darkness, the distinct droning sound of a B-24 emanated from the clouds over Benina airport. Flares were launched to signal the bomber, but the engine sound passed overhead, and faded into the distance.

    Realizing that they were hopelessly disoriented, several members of the Lady’s crew made notations in their logs indicating that they had become lost. A notepad belonging to bombardier Lt. John Woravka revealed one side of a written conversation, probably penciled so their pilot wouldn’t hear them over the intercom. It suggests that there may have been some disagreement in the cockpit:

    “What’s he beeching (bitching) about?”
    “What’s going to happen?”
    “Are we going home?”

    Running dangerously low on fuel and probably believing they were over the Mediterranean Sea, the nine men donned parachutes and ditched the aircraft to take their chances. It’s likely that the men were surprised when their boots hit sand rather than water. Using revolvers and flare guns, the seven scattered survivors managed to find one another in the desert. They decided to get underway immediately, knowing that the unforgiving Libyan desert reached daytime temperatures of up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Lady Be Good flew on through the dark night, slowly descending to crash-land sixteen miles from the men’s gathering place. Not realizing that their plane and its supply of food and water were a scant sixteen miles away, the men estimated that travelling northwest would bring them back to the airbase in Soluch. They set out on foot with what supplies they carried. By their calculations, they were no more than 100 miles from the base. In reality, the distance was over 400 miles.

    In May of 1958, fifteen years after the LBG disappeared, some aircraft wreckage was spotted from the air by a British oil exploration crew while they were looking for oil deep in the Libyan desert. A ground team subsequently visited the crash site and identified the wreckage as being that of the LBG. The aircraft was located about 440 miles (708 km) south of its intended destination. It is not known for sure how the plane ended up so far off course, but it is thought that the plane did not receive, or else misread, the directional bearing that had been sent to it and became lost in the darkness, crossing over the Libyan coast and continuing on into the desert until it ran out of fuel. The desert survival experts predicted that the airmen could only have moved up to thirty miles on foot, particularly considering the fact that they were unprepared for the unforgiving desert environment. Much to the amazement of investigators, the remains of the first group of men were found about eighty miles north of the wreck. A British oil survey team discovered the five bodies, closely grouped together in an area strewn with personal effects such as wallets, flashlights, pieces of parachutes, flight jackets, first-aid kits, and most importantly, the diary of Lieutenant Robert Toner which described his final eight days with a sober brevity:

    Sunday, Apr. 4, 1943
    Naples–28 places–things pretty well mixed up–got lost returning, out of gas, jumped, landed in desert at 2:00 in morning. no one badly hurt, cant find John, all others present.

    Monday 5
    Start walking N.W., still no John. a few rations, 1/2 canteen of water, 1 cap full per day. Sun fairly warm. Good breeze from N.W. Nite very cold. no sleep. Rested walked.

    Tuesday 6
    Rested at 11:30, sun very warm. no breeze, spent P.M. in hell, no planes, etc. rested until 5:00 P.M. Walked rested all nite. 15 min on, 5 off.

    Wednesday, Apr. 7, 1943
    Same routine, everyone getting weak, cant get very far, prayers all the time, again P.M. very warm, hell. Can’t sleep. everyone sore from ground.

    Thursday 8
    Hit Sand Dunes, very miserable, good wind but continuous blowing of sand, every[one] now very weak, thought Sam Moore were all done. La Motte eyes are gone, everyone else’s eyes are bad. Still going N.W.

    On 9 April, Lieutenants Hatton, Toner, Hays and Sergeants Adams and LaMotte ended their trek, too exhausted to continue. Sergeants Shelley, Moore and Ripslinger continued northward in search of help. There was no further written record for the three men who departed, but with negligible water, no food, and temperatures as high as 130 degrees, the misery of their last few days is difficult to imagine. Lieutenant Toner continued to keep his diary as they waited:

    Friday 9
    Shelly [sic], Rip, Moore separate try to go for help, rest of us all very weak, eyes bad, not any travel, all want to die. still very little water. nites are about 35, good n wind, no shelter, 1 parachute left.

    Saturday, Apr. 10, 1943
    Still having prayer meetings for help. No sign of anything, a couple of birds; good wind from N. –Really weak now, cant walk. pains all over, still all want to die. Nites very cold. no sleep.

    Sunday 11
    Still waiting for help, still praying. eyes bad, lost all our wgt. aching all over, could make it if we had water; just enough left to put our tongues to, have hope for help very soon, no rest, still same place.

    Monday 12
    No help yet, very cold nite

    The entry from Monday, April 12 was the last, written in thick pencil lines.
     
  3. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    Of the three men who continued on, the remains of two were eventually found; Staff Sergeant Guy E. Shelley was discovered twenty-one miles north of his five crewmates, and Technical Sergeant Harold J. Ripslinger may have been the last to fall, having crossed an incredible 109 miles of open desert. Radio operator Moore has never been located. Later that year, the remains of the bombardier, 2nd Lt. Woravka, were found a few miles from the crash site. His parachute was still attached but appeared to have malfunctioned during evacuation, causing him to fall to his death. Under the circumstances, he was probably the most fortunate of his crew.

    When they set out after evacuation, had the survivors trekked southeast towards the wreckage of Lady Be Good, they would have greatly increased their chances of survival by retrieving the food and water stored there, and using the radio to call for help. But they had no way to know how far Lady had glided before landfall. And had their emergency maps included the area where they bailed out, they might have realized the severity of their predicament, and instead headed for an oasis to the south. Good fortune certainly did not favor the crew of Lady Be Good on her first– and last– battle mission. But the toughness of the crew is unquestionable, surviving days of marching across unforgiving desert with only a half-canteen of water to share between them.

    The remains of the eight crewmembers which were found were all returned to the United States. Today the wreckage of the plane is stored in a compound in Libya, but many of the crew’s personal effects and a few parts from the plane are on display at the Army Quartermaster Museum at Fort Lee, Virginia.
     

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  4. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for sharing.....:salute:
     
  5. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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  6. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

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    The story of the Lady Be Good has always been fascinating! Thanks for the heads-up!
     
  7. skeeter

    skeeter Member

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    Death be not proud. Make no mistake. Although mistakes were made, these men died heroes.
     
  8. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    So tragic, great post.
     
  9. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    I read McClendon's book about the Lady many years ago and was immediately hooked on the story. IIRC, the finding of the Lady Be Good was the genesis for a made-for-TV piece of hokum entitled "Sole Survivor" in which the crew of a B-25 sat in the desert awaiting rescue unaware that they were, in fact, ghosts and that many years had passed since the crash.

    The fortitude of Lady's crew is truly amazing. I can't imagine the hardships they went through. I wish we could locate the last resting place of the crewman who's still out there in the desert but, like so many casualties in WWII, it's likely to remain known only to God.

    :salute:
     
  10. skeeter

    skeeter Member

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    So the crew bailed out, that much is certain. Probably through open bomb bay doors? Was the landing gear down and locked? I notice a tire out in front of the wreck that is visible. Also the remains of the number four engine or its mount. The ship is remarkably intact considering it presumably landed with no one at the controls.

    I have a question about who might have been responsible for navigation. This was the first mission of the Lady Be Good. How good was the crew in working together? Should not both pilots have at least double checked the navigators take on where they were? Was it a case of more than one man screwing up? One does not expect the gunner or the crew chief to know where they might be, but what about the "more educated and trained" men onboard? I just find it hard to fathom that if one knows the approximate speed and bearing, that they should not have been able to work out much more closely where they were. Four hundred miles out into the desert? Was this tragedy the result of a green crew?
     
  11. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I have that movie on DVD.

    As haunting now, as it was when first broadcast.
     
  12. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

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    It was also the inspiration behind a Hollywood movie.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Flight_of_the_Phoenix_(1965_film)
     
  13. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Where did you get it - I'd love to see it again (and put it in my collection).
     
  14. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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    Also the inspiration for a pretty good Twilight Zone episode "King Nine Will Not Return" which first aired in 1960.

    TO
     
  15. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    A lot of things could have happened as true with any accident, there is always an accident "chain."

    Yes, the crew was green. The navigator was the primary source of direction in the aircraft although the pilot has the responsibility to ensure that members of his crew were able to perform their job function. The Co-pilot would also have had the know-how to back up the navigator. Although some crew members were cross trained, I doubt that any of the rest of the NCO crew could have assisted in the navigation.

    It's amazing that they flew as long as they did without realizing something was terribly wrong. I would also guess that one or more of the essential crew were incapacitated, perhaps suffering from hypoxia or some other ailment that affected their judgment and decision making process.
     
  16. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    Here are some more pic's, taken by a team that was there, and sent to me by Airman Roger Landry.
    That's him in the second pic, where you can still see the word "Good".

    According to everything I've read, the aircraft "did not have a functioning navigatior".

    Charles
     

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  17. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    What an amazing story! :salute:
     
  18. skeeter

    skeeter Member

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    #18 skeeter, Aug 23, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2010
    Roger that FlyboyJ. There is some previous mention above about notes being exchanged between bombardier Lt. John Woravka and an unknown member of the crew indicating there may have been disagreement in the cockpit. Somebody must have had a very good idea they were blowing it as they were blowing it. I do realize it was very dark, that they had been dealing with strong winds aloft and the ADF was messed up. What a sorry situation it turned out to be. From all indications, at least Woravka did not have to suffer for long. They found his skeleton still in his chute where he had landed. His telling note pad must have been found with his remains for them to think he authored the cryptic notes.
     
  19. cptsmith

    cptsmith Member

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    I don't work for the NTSB, but it looks like it landed opposite of the way it is facing. That would account for the landing gear and debris out front, then ground looped which broke it's back.
     
  20. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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