View Full Version : The Remains of Lady Be Good

06-12-2007, 08:14 AM
The Remains of Lady Be Good

In early November, 1958, a British oil exploration team was flying over North Africa's harsh Libyan Desert when they stumbled across something unexpected…

The wreckage of a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) plane from World War 2. A ground crew eventually located the site, where a quick inspection of the remains identified it as a B-24D Liberator called the Lady Be Good, an Allied bomber that had disappeared following a bombing run in Italy in 1943. When she failed to return to base, the USAAF conducted a search, ultimately presuming that the Lady and her crew perished in the Mediterranean Sea after becoming disoriented.

The British oil surveyors found that the desert environment had preserved the aircraft's hardware astonishingly well; the plane's 50 caliber machine guns still operated at the pull of the trigger, the radio was in working condition, one of the engines was still functional, and there were still containers filled with water on board. But the remains of the crew were nowhere to be seen.

Read on... (http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=489)

Interesting story.

A search didn't turn up anything...

06-12-2007, 08:22 AM
Very interesting indeed!

06-12-2007, 09:30 AM
Interesting read Tuna, nice find. Poor lads.

06-12-2007, 10:04 AM
The History Channel made a documentary about Lady Be Good, very good show. They eventually located the remains of the crew and flew them home for burial. RIP to the crew

Opening Batsman
06-12-2007, 10:24 AM
Interesting story, would like to see that docco some time.

06-12-2007, 11:36 AM
From Wikipedia. Pretty much accurate.

The Lady Be Good was an American B-24D Liberator, serial number 41-24301, based at Benina Airfield in Soluch (today Suluq), Libya which crashed in April 1943 on a mission and was later found hundreds of miles into the Sahara Desert with its crew mysteriously missing.

Following an April 4, 1943 bombing raid on Naples, Italy, conducted by the 376th Bomb Group, the Lady Be Good of the 514th Bomb Squadron failed to return to base. After attempts to locate the plane in Libya, its nine crewmen were classified as MIA, and presumed dead, believed to have perished after crashing in the Mediterranean.

Contents [hide]
1 Background and mission
2 Wreckage found
3 Bodies recovered
4 Aftermath
5 Cultural references
6 References
7 External links

[edit] Background and mission
The crew of Lady Be Good were on their first combat mission, having arrived in Libya on March 18. The aircraft itself was also new, reaching the 376th BG on March 25. The ship had the identification number 64 painted on its nose and was one of 25 assigned to bomb Naples late in the afternoon of April 4.

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. (initials only, also seen as "Dp") 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 R. Adams - gunner - Eureka, Illinois
The crew took off from Benina shortly after 3:00 p.m., one of the last to depart. High winds and obscured visibility (and possibly the crew's inexperience) prevented it from joining the main formation of bombers, and it continued the mission on its own.

An 8:52 p.m. entry in the navigator's log shows a bearing of 140 that indicates the plane abandoned the mission and turned back towards base, but its whereabouts at that time are not known and may have been a source of dispute among the crew itself. At approximately 10:00 p.m. the plane dropped its bombs into the Mediterranean to reduce weight and decrease its fuel consumption.

At around midnight the pilot, Lt. Hatton, called base by radio and stated that his automatic direction finder was not working and asked for a location of base. He was apparently given a bearing but it is unknown if Lady Be Good received the transmission or not. The plane apparently overflew its base and did not see flares fired to attract its attention and continued into the interior of North Africa for two more hours.

Wreckage found
On February 27, 1959, British oil surveyors located the wreckage of the Lady Be Good near 2642′45.7″N, 2401′27″E, 440 statute miles southeast of Soluch, following up a first sighting from the air on May 16, 1958, and another on June 15. Although the plane was broken into two pieces, it was immaculately preserved, with functioning machine guns, and a working radio.

Evidence aboard the plane indicated that the men had bailed out. Records in the log of the navigator Lieutenant Hays ended at Naples, which initially suggested that he may have been incapacitated by altitude sickness. (However notes of questions asked of Hays found in the pocket of Lt. Woravka, who shared the same compartment with the navigator, later indicated otherwise). The United States Army conducted a search for the remains of the airmen. Finding evidence of the men's progress northward, the exploration concluded that their bodies were buried beneath sand dunes.

The abandoned Liberator had apparently exhausted its fuel and glided down, flying itself to a crash-landing.

Bodies recovered
In 1960, the bodies of eight airmen were discovered by another British oil exploration. Five were found nearly 80 miles from the crash site, while another two were found another twenty and twenty seven miles farther north, respectively. A journal recovered from the pocket of co-pilot Robert Toner indicated that the crew were unaware they were over land when they decided to bail out. Eight of the men had managed to meet up by firing their revolvers and signal flares into the air and had survived for eight days without water before perishing, managing over 100 miles in searing heat.

Three of the eight (Guy Shelley, 'Rip' Ripslinger and Vernon Moore) had set off to try and find help while the other five waited behind. The crew never suspected that they were more than 100 miles inland. The body of one of the three, Staff Sergeant Vernon L. Moore, assistant radio operator-gunner, was never found[1] The body of the last man, bombardier John Woravka, was found not far from the crash site. The other crew members could not find him and presumed him lost. In fact, his parachute had failed.

The crew could have survived had they known how far inland they were and had their maps covered the area in which they had bailed out. The distance they covered, heading north, was only slightly less than the distance to the oasis of El Zighen to the south. On their way there, they would have come across the wreckage of the Lady Be Good and the water stored aboard.

According to the Graves Registration Report on the incident:

The aircraft flew on a 150 degree course toward Benina Airfield. The craft radioed for a directional reading from the HF/DF station at Benina and received a reading of 330 degrees from Benina. The actions of the pilot in flying 440 miles into the desert, however, indicate the navigator probably took a reciprocal reading off the back of the radio directional loop antenna from a position beyond and south of Benina but 'on course'. The pilot flew into the desert, thinking he was still over the Mediterranean and on his way to Benina.[2]

[edit] Aftermath
Parts of the plane were scavenged or returned to the United States for evaluation. Curiously, several aircraft that were repaired with parts scavenged from the Lady Be Good crashed. An Army 'Otter' that had an armrest from the bomber, crashed in the Gulf of Sidra. The only traces that were ever found from the plane were a few parts that washed ashore - including the armrest from the Lady Be Good.[3]

Aside from components reused in other aircraft, other parts from the Lady Be Good may be seen today at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The propeller can be seen in front of the village hall in Lake Linden, the home of Robert E. LaMotte. A Royal Air Force team visited the site in 1968, and hauled away components including an engine (later donated to the USAF) for evaluation by the McDonnell Douglas company. Other pieces were *****ped by souvenir hunters over the years. In August 1994, the remains of the craft were recovered by a team led by Dr. Fadel Ali Mohammed and taken to a military base in Tobruk for safekeeping.[2]

[edit] Cultural references
The Lady Be Good incident was indirectly referenced in a couple of television shows and movies. Sole Survivor, a 1970 made-for-TV movie, was about the ghosts of a B-25 bomber crew that crashed in the Libyan desert.[4] "King Nine Will Not Return" is an episode of the Twilight Zone that told the story of a B-25 crew member finding himself alone with the wreckage of his plane in the desert.[5]

The film The Flight of the Phoenix features a plot similar to the Lady Be Good tragedy. In this movie, a military plane crashes in a remote desert with a full crew, who must decide the best way to reach civilization.

06-12-2007, 04:09 PM
Unfortunately the wreck of 'lady be good' many years a marker to flyers navigating across the desert is now in a scrap metal yard in Tubruk as mentioned above.

But without proper preservation she will just rust away, ok the desert is kind to aircraft skin but still,also i loved the peiece about the wreck been 'saved' from souvenir hunters the problem is it was something like a 5 day drive into the desert and this could only be done at certain times of the year.

Keep an eye out for the next issue of 'aeroplane' monthly as they have an article all about it.


06-15-2007, 10:41 PM
After The Battle Magazine had an issue on this wreck and there are at least 2 books written about it.
'Sole Survivor' was a film where the wreck is found and the ghosts of the crew are unable to leave until the modern day search crew find the bodies one by one. It ends with one body undiscovered and that ghost is left alone with the wreck as everyone else leaves.


06-17-2007, 11:45 AM
Is the wreckage still there? I wonder if it can be seen in satellite images?

06-17-2007, 01:48 PM
Is the wreckage still there? I wonder if it can be seen in satellite images?

No as someone wrote above it is in a scrapyard in Tripoli.

06-17-2007, 02:24 PM
My mistake the hulk of 'lady be good' is been held in a police impound yard in Tobruk after been seized and the wreck which was not in a bad condition (compared to some) has been cut into sections by the Libyans for the move.

Some pictures of the remains can be found here: