Lt. Gilbert Hadley's plane, the B-24D he named 'Hadley's Harem', serial number 41-24311. 1943.
B-24D 'Hadley's Harem' - Istanbul Turkey, 2018
First Lieutenant Gilbert "Gib" Hadley, the well liked young pilot in the 344th bomb Squadron of the 98th Bomb Group, and 9th Air Force. He named his airplane, Hadley's Harem, to denote how many women, he said, were fond of him. Hadley flew on Operation Tidal Wave to Ploesti, Romania, with his friends in the 344th Bomb Squadron of the 98th Bombardment Group. His plane took two direct flak hits in the nose, approaching his target, White IV, one killing his bombardier, and the other damaging two of his engines, before he approached and bombed his target, White IV. He survived attacking Ploesti and had joined up with Col. John Kane in, Hail Columbia, South of Ploesti, in order to fly to safety with company for his crippled ship. He made it as far as just past the the south Turkish coast close to Nicosia, Cyprus, but had to turn back from the group of straggler B-24s in the darkness with low engine oil and fuel. Hadley finally lost his fight with his failing, Harem, and crashed into the Aegean sea after losing his last two engines, just off the Turkish coast. Both Hadley and his copilot. Lt. James Lindsey, were trapped in the plane's collapsed cockpit and drowned. Aug 1, 1943.
Col. John R. Kane was the group leader and command pilot of the B-24D he named, Hail Columbia, named by Kane for Columbia University, with his copilot, Lt. John S. Young, on the mission to bomb Ploesti, Romania. Col. Kane was awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor for his leadership and courage during the Ploesti mission, Operation Tidal Wave. John Kane flew as Group Leader for his 98th Bomb Group, Col. Leon Johnson's 44th Bombing Group, and Col. Jack Wood's 389th Bomb Group, all of whom attacked and bombed their assigned targets. at Ploesti, including their target, code named, White IV, the Astra Romano Refinery complex. Lt. Young was awarded the Silver Star and an Oak Leaf Cluster for his Distinguished Flying Cross for his part in the Ploesti mission. 1 August, 1943.
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. As Hadley was approaching his target refinery, code named, "White IV", Hadley's Harem, took two direct flak hits, killing his bombardier. Lt. Leon Storms, instantly, and damaging two engines. “We were two to three miles from our target, flying about 50 feet off the ground when we got hit,” one of the gunners, SSgt. Newton, remembers. “We couldn’t turn because we were in a tight formation with the other planes behind us and in our flight, so we kept flying, powering up to clear the smokestacks ahead of us, 200 feet tall.”
Upon leaving the refinery area behind them, Lt. Hadley and Copilot James Lindsey of Texarkana, Texas, pointed their damaged airplane south toward Turkey and Cyprus. They jettisoned their bombs and ordered their crew to get rid of everything else, ammunition, fire extinguishers, Mae West life preservers, parachutes, anything to lighten the airship, which was struggling to stay in the air on only two good engines. South of Ploesti, they joined up with another group of shot up straggler B-24s, like themselves, led by the 98th Bomb Group's Leader, Col. John R. "Killer" Kane, in his B-24D that he had twice named, Hail Columbia, and continued following the entire group of planes south, first, to try make it out of the area alive, and, then, to the British air base at Nicosia, Cyprus.
Lt. Hadley made it all the way past the southern coast of Turkey in his badly crippled plane. But, almost out of gasoline and engine oil for the two big Pratt & Whitney engines, still running, he had to break away from Hail Columbia, The Squaw, The Sandman, and Walter Stewart in, Utah Man. Hadley radioed a goodbye to the group of his friends and turned his plane back, in the darkness, toward the Turkish coast. “We got 25 miles off the coast of Turkey and were flying barely above stall speed,” Newton recalled. “Hadley had turned left toward land. It was about 8 o’clock at night, and we were losing oil pressure and altitude.”
Newton remembers Hadley asking his fellow crew members, “You want to try the beach - or the water?” Shortly thereafter, the two remaining engines failed and froze, out of gas and engine oil, and the ship plunged 150 feet, hitting the water nose first and breaking into three pieces, in the sea off the coast of Antalya in Turkey. Neither Lt. Hadley, nor Lt. Lindsey, emerged from the sinking wreckage. They were caught in their collapsed cockpit and drowned. Seven of the crew of ten escaped their sinking B-24 after crashing while trying to ditch, and were able to swim to shore. The seven survivors were captured by the Turks, and survived the war, interned. ~ Aircraft Failed To Return (FTR) - Ploesti oil refinery raid. Pilot 1st Lt. Gilbert B. Hadley, (KIA) - Copilot 2nd Lt. James Rex Lindsey, (KIA) - Bombardier Leon Storms, (KIA). All crewmen received DFCs for flying the mission. Both pilots, Lt. Gilbert Hadley, Lt. James Rex Lindsey, and Bombardier Lt. Leon M. Storms, received their Distinguished Flying Crosses and Purple Hearts, posthumously, for their valor and sacrifice over Ploesti. August 1, 1943. MACR 167.
The Crew on Hadley's Harem On The Ploesti Mission :
Pilot Gilbert B. Hadley KIA -
CP James R. Lindsey (KIA) -
N Harold Tabacoff INT-TURKEY (WIA) -
B Leon Storms (KIA) -
TT Russell B. Page (INT-TURKEY) -
TB William F. Leonard (INT-TURKEY) -
TG Frank Nemoth (INT-TURKEY) -
G Pershing W. Waples (INT-TURKEY) -
WC Leroy Newton (INT-TURKEY) -
WG Christopher N. Holweger (INT-TURKEY)
B-24D - 41-24311
23 Nov 42 through 5 Dec 42 - Built in San Diego
10 Dec 42 - 2 Test Flights
12 Dec 42 - ACC AAF
13 Dec 42 - Delivered
24 Dec 42 - Flown to Fort Worth for MOD
01 Jan 43 - MODs Completed
12 Jan 43 - ACC again by AAF
26 Mar 43 - Went Overseas
09 Jun 43 - Cairo
15 Jul 43 - Flew First 98th BG Mission (Flew 10 missions including last)
01 Aug 43 - Crashed off Turkish Coast - MACR 167
1995 - 2 Crew Recovered
1996 - Cockpit and forward aircraft section recovered from the sea
Dec 1997 - Installed in Rahni M Koc Museum (Istanbul, Turkey)
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1 August 1943
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||1 August 1943
Failed To Return - Ploesti oil refinery raid. Pilot Gilbert B Hadley. MACR 167
Approaching the target, the A/C was hit by a shell, causing a fatality and serious damage. The crew managed to drop their bombs and then set course for home. Subsequent engine problems led to a decision to divert to Cyprus, but the aircraft couldn’t maintain flight and it ditched in the sea off the coast of Antalya in Turkey.
344th BS 98th BG 9th AF.