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Gilbert Benny Hadley

Military

First Lieutenant Gilbert B. Hadley was a B-24D Liberator bomber pilot with the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, "The Pyramiders", from Texas, and the 344th Bombing Squadron, based at Cairo, Egypt, Tobruk, and Benghazi, Libya, in the Mediterranean Theatre 1942-3. He flew on Operation Tidal Wave, the mission to destroy Hitler's oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, Aug 1, 1943. He was KIA on his return from Ploesti when his shot up and failing B-24D bomber, 'Hadley's Harem', ran out of fuel and forced Hadley to leave a small group of crippled stragglers led by Col. John R. Kane in 'Hail Columbia' and attempt a ditching at night off the Turkish coast. Three of his crew members escaped, but Hadley was trapped in his cockpit and drowned.

“He looked like Clark Gable,” a Kansas City newspaper wrote about Gib when he was young. He “could talk his way into or out of virtually anything and loved to wear his cowboy boots and pearl-handled revolvers into battle.” He was a handsome, rowdy, flamboyant guy, liked by everybody who met him, particularly his own flight crew.

Like many young men in those hard times before World War II, Hadley joined the Army for the pay, meager as it was, it was better than no job at all. He scored high enough on the army’s intelligence test to be selected for flight training, and he loved it.

Gib’s early training took place not far from where he grew up, and he took great delight in buzzing the houses of his parents and friends, flying only a few feet over their rooftops. When he was assigned to the huge four-engine Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers during the war, he flew them the same way, scaring everyone but himself. When he got his own B-24, he named it 'Hadley’s Harem' because he liked to think he had a way with the ladies. He wanted to paint nudes on the plane below the name, but the chaplain objected.

Gib Hadley died piloting his damaged B-24 after flying his B-24 1,200 miles, with two engines out, on the way home after attacking Ploesti and trying to return to the British air base at Nicosia, Cyprus. 'Hadley’s Harem' was one of 177 B-24 Liberators that had set out that morning on August 1, 1943, to bomb the major source of oil for Nazi Germany. The men had been told that the mission was vital and would help end the war. They were also told, just before the mission, that they, likely, would not survive the mission. Lt. Hadley and his crew did survive the first and most dangerous part of the Ploesti mission, but, after completing their bombing run over the Astra Romano Refinery, his bomber was severely shot up and damaged by flak leaving the target. South of the refinery area, Hadley joined a group of crippled stragglers from his own 98th Bomb Group led by his Group Leader, Col John R. Kane, in 'Hail Columbia', also leaving the area. Hadley was still following them hours later that evening, when his badly damaged B-24 airplane finally ran out of luck and fuel just short of the island of Cyprus and safety. He crashed in the dark trying to ditch the 'Harem' in the Aegean Sea just off the Turkish coast and drowned, trapped in his sinking airplane. Hadley was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart, posthumously for his part in the Ploesti mission. In 1977, Lt. Hadley was found, still in the wreck of his sunken plane in the ocean off the Turkish coast. Later, he was brought back to the U.S. to be buried with honors back home in Kansas in 1997, some 54 years after he was killed in action on the Ploesti mission, August 1, 1943.

Lt. Gilbert Hadley was just 22 years old when he gave his life for his god, his country, and for freedom.

Service

People

  • Lloyd Hughes

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    ...

  • John Kane

    Military | Colonel | Commanding Officer, Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    John Riley Kane (January 5, 1907 – May 29, 1996) was a colonel in the United States Army Air Corps and later the United States Air Force. He received the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II, for his...

  • Harold Korger

    Military | Colonel | Bombardier Navigator | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Harold Korger was a bombardier in the 344th Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force. He flew on the famous mission, Operation Tidal Wave, Aug 1, 1943, to knock out the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. ...

  • Royden LeBrecht

    Military | Captain | B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Royden LeBrecht was a B-24 Command pilot of the B-24D, #4111761, The 'Squaw' in North Africa in 1942-43. Lt. Lebrecht flew on Operation Tidal Wave, the Aug 1 1943 Ploesti raid, with the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombardment Group, and the 344th Bomb...

  • Norman Whalen

    Military | Major | Navigator / Nose Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    Norman Whalen joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. After graduating from Navigator School in Monroe, Louisiana, he received his commission as a Second Lieutenant and was assigned to the 9th Air force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron...

  • John Young

    Military | Major | B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Lieutenant John S. Young was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. Bored with college at SMU, and knowing the country was headed for war, he joined the Army Air Force early in 1941 and began training as a flight cadet. He was known as "Johnny" or "Big...

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Units served with

  • 9th Air Force
  • 98th Bomb Group

    98th Bomb Group

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

  • 344th Bomb Squadron

    344th Bomb Squadron

    Squadron
    The 344th Bombing Squadron was first activated at MacDill Field, Florida as one of the original three squadrons assigned to the 98th Bombardment Group. The 344th soon moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where it began to train as a Consolidated B-24...

Aircraft

  • 41-24226 'Utah Man' 'Joisey Bounce'

    B-24 Liberator
    Assigned to Col. Walter T. Stewart of the 330 Bomb Squadron, 93rd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, USAAF for the mission to bomb the refineries at Ploesti Aug 1,1943. Col. Stewart named this plane, 'Utah Man', to underscore his Utah Morman background to all...

  • 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. ...

Missions

  • 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...

Associated Place

Events

Event Location Date
Killed in action 1 August 1943

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
13 April 2020 20:33:26 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

FindAGrave Memorial ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- The Return Of Hadley's Harem - Michael Schultz ---- John S. Young. Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
13 April 2020 20:25:28 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

FindAGrave Memorial ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- The Return Of Hadley's Harem - Michael Schultz ---- John S. Young. Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
13 April 2020 20:17:21 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

FindAGrave Memorial ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- The Return Of Hadley's Harem - Michael Schultz ---- John S. Young. Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
29 October 2019 22:40:46 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

FindAGrave Memorial ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- The Return Of Hadley's Harem - Michael Schultz ---- John S. Young. Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
29 October 2019 22:23:58 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

FindAGrave Memorial ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- The Return Of Hadley's Harem - Michael Schultz ---- John S. Young. Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
29 October 2019 12:55:27 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

FindaGrave Memorial ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- The Return Of Hadley's Harem - Michael Schultz ---- John S. Young. Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
12 August 2019 17:19:52 Kickapoo Changes to media associations
Sources

FindaGrave Memorial Black Sunday - Michael Hill The Return Of Hadley's Harem - Michael Schultz ---- John S. Young. Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
10 June 2019 17:31:47 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

FindaGrave Memorial Black Sunday - Michael Hill The Return Of Hadley's Harem - Michael Schultz

Date Contributor Update
10 June 2019 15:05:38 Kickapoo Changes to awards
Sources

FindaGrave Memorial Black Sunday - Michael Hill The Return Of Hadley's Harem - Michael Schultz

Date Contributor Update
10 June 2019 15:01:11 Kickapoo Changes to biography, person associations, unit associations and place associations
Sources

FindaGrave Memorial ---- Into the fire - Duane Schultz ------ Black Sunday - Michael hill

Date Contributor Update
10 June 2019 14:31:51 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

FindaGrave Memorial Black Sunday - Michael Hill The Return Of Hadley's Harem - Michael Schultz

Date Contributor Update
10 June 2019 14:19:39 Kickapoo Changes to service number
Sources

FindaGrave Memorial Black Sunday - Michael Hill The Return Of Hadley's Harem - Michael Schultz

Date Contributor Update
10 June 2019 14:15:53 Kickapoo Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nickname, nationality, highest rank, role, biography, unit associations, aircraft associations and mission associations
Sources

FindaGrave.com The Return of Hadley's Harem - Duane Schultz Black Sunday - Michael Hill

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