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41-24301

B-24 Liberator

The 'Lady Be Good', # 41-24301, was an American B-24D Liberator, which flew for the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. Based at Soluch Field in Soluch, today Suluq and Benina International Airport, Libya, as part of the 8th Air Force, the 376th Bomb Group, and the 514th Bomb Squadron.
The crew of 'Lady Be Good' were on their first combat mission, on April 4, 1943 having arrived in Libya on March 18, 1943. The aircraft was also new, having reached the 376th Bombardment Group on March 25. It was one of 25 B-24s assigned to bomb Naples late in the afternoon of April 4, 1943, and failed to return. The crew took off from Soluch Field shortly after 3 pm., one of the last to depart. High winds and obscured visibility prevented it from joining the main formation of bombers, and it continued the mission on its own. Their mission was the second part of a two-part, two-flight raid on the Italian harbor of Naples, with a flight of 13 B-24s.

Nine B-24s returned to base almost immediately after takeoff because of a sandstorm, and four aircraft, including 'Lady Be Good', continued on. They arrived over Naples at 7:50 pm. at 25,000 feet. With bad visibility, they did not bomb the primary target, but two B-24s hit their secondary target on the return trip, and two dumped their bombs into the Mediterranean to reduce weight and save fuel. 'Lady Be Good' flew back alone from Italy on the return trip to Benina, its home base in Libya.

At 12:12 am, the pilot, Lt. William J. Hatton, called base by radio and stated that his automatic direction finder was not working and asked for a bearing to base. The bearing indicated the 'Lady Be Good' was flying on a direct path from Naples to Benghazi. However, the radio direction finder in use at the base had only a single loop antenna and was unable to distinguish between a true bearing and its reciprocal, so that the same bearing would be returned whether the plane was inbound from the Mediterranean or if it had overflown the base and was heading inland.

The plane apparently overflew its base and did not see flares fired to attract its attention. The plane continued into the interior of North Africa for two more hours. At 2 am, the crew parachuted to the ground and 'Lady Be Good' continued on for 16 miles more with no one aboard, crash landing in the Calanshio Sand Sea of the Libyan Desert. A search and rescue mission from Soluch Air Base to find the missing bomber was unsuccessful, and no trace of the crew or aircraft was found at that time. At the time, the plane was assumed to have crashed into the Mediterranean Sea and it's nine crew members were classified as MIA, Missing in Action.

The first reported sighting of the crash site was on November 9, 1958 by a British Oil Company exploration team. The team contacted authorities at Wheelus Air Base, but no attempt to examine the aircraft was made as no records existed of any plane believed to have been lost in the area. The location of the wreckage was, however, marked on maps to be used by oil prospecting teams that were due to set out to explore the Calanshio Sand Sea the next year.

On February 27, 1959, British Oil surveyor, Paul Johnson, spotted the wreckage near 26°42′45.7″N 24°01′27″E, 440 miles southeast of Soluch, following up the first sighting from the air on May 16, 1958, and another on June 15. A recovery team made initial trips from Wheelus Air Base to the crash site on May 26, 1959.

Although the plane was broken into two pieces, it was immaculately preserved, with functioning machine guns, a working radio, and some supplies of food and water. A thermos of tea was found to be drinkable. No human remains were found on board the aircraft nor in the surroundinhad bailed out. After the crew abandoned the aircraft, it continued flying southward.

After parachuting to the desert floor, eight of the nine airmen had managed to meet up by firing their revolvers and signal flares into the air. They had not been able to find the ninth crewman, bombardier Lt. John Woravka, because unknown to them his parachute had only partially opened and he likely died on impact. Thinking they were fairly close to the Mediterranean coast, the eight surviving crew members walked north, leaving behind footwear, parachute scraps, Mae West vests and other items as markers to show searchers what their path had been. They survived for eight days, sharing only a single canteen of water while walking over 100 miles (160 km) in searing heat before perishing. Remains of five airmen were found in a group nearly 80 miles from the crash site. The other three, Guy Shelley, "Rip" Ripslinger, and Vernon Moore had set off to try to find help while the other five waited behind. The bodies of Shelley and Ripslinger were found 20 miles and 27 miles further north, respectively. Moore's remains were never found, although it is possible that in 1953 his body had been spotted and buried by a British desert patrol, unaware that any air crews from the war had ever gone missing in the area.

A diary recovered from the pocket of co-pilot, Robert Toner, told of much suffering on the walk northward and indicated the crew were unaware they were over land when they bailed out. There has been speculation that whatever airborne glimpses they may have caught of the empty desert floor in the darkness looked like open sea. It seems the crew never understood they were more than 400 miles inland.
The members of the Lady Be Good crew were:
1st Lt. William J. Hatton, pilot — Whitestone, New York
2nd Lt. Robert F. Toner, co-pilot — North Attleborough, Massachusetts
2d Lt. D.P. Hays, navigator — Lee's Summit, Missouri
2d Lt. John S. Woravka, bombardier — Cleveland, Ohio
T/Sgt. Harold J. Ripslinger, flight engineer — Saginaw, Michigan
T/Sgt. Robert E. LaMotte, radio operator — Lake Linden, Michigan
S/Sgt. Guy E. Shelley, gunner — New Cumberland, Pennsylvania
S/Sgt. Vernon L. Moore, gunner — New Boston, Ohio
S/Sgt. Samuel E. Adams, gunner — Eureka, Illinois

Service

Units

  • 8th Air Force

    8th Air Force


    Eighth Air Force Bomber Command became the Eighth Air Force on February 1944, it oversaw bombardment of strategic targets in Europe until 1945. ...

  • 376th Bomb Group

    376th Bomb Group

    Group
    Constituted as 376th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 19 Oct 1942 and activated in Palestine on 31 Oct. Began combat immediately, using B-24 aircraft. Operated with Ninth AF from bases in the Middle East, Nov 1942-Sep 1943, and with Twelfth AF from Tunisia...

  • 514th Bomb Squadron

People

  • William Hatton

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24D Command Pilot | 376th Bomb Group
    ...

Places

  • Benina

    Military site : airfield

Events

Not yet known

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
15 December 2020 01:38:23 Kickapoo Changes to place associations
Sources

Military Aircraft - B-24 -- Wkipedia

Date Contributor Update
13 December 2020 09:33:21 Kickapoo Changes to production block number and markings
Sources

Military Aircraft - B-24 - Lady Be Good

Date Contributor Update
13 December 2020 09:23:49 Kickapoo Changes to description
Sources

Military Aircraft - B24 - #41-24301 - 'Lady Be Good'

Date Contributor Update
13 December 2020 09:21:26 Kickapoo Changes to description
Sources

'Lady Be Good' - B-24 - airplane - Wikipedia

Date Contributor Update
13 December 2020 08:43:36 Kickapoo Changes to nicknames
Sources

Military Aircraft - B24 - #41-24301 - 'Lady Be Good'

Date Contributor Update
13 December 2020 07:45:11 Kickapoo Created entry with serial number, aircraft type, manufacturer, nicknames, markings, description and unit associations
Sources

'Lady Be Good' (aircraft) -- Wikipedia

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