Z SQUARE 7, A B-29 TRUE STORY

Memorial Page #6

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Zachary Taylor Nat'l Cemetery Memorial Page - B29 Superfortress
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ELVIS PRESLEY SINGS "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL"
Airmen Medal Of Honor Memorial
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Lt Raymond "Hap" Halloran
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Omori POW Camp
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Great Bend, Kansas B-29 Memorial
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March 9 and 10, 1945 Over Tokyo
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313th Bomb Wing Mining Missions
Lt Robert Copeland, copilot, Z Square 8
Pyote Bomber Base With A Photo Album
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C. Douglas Caffey, A WW2 Veteran, Book Of Poetry
C. Douglas Caffey Collection Of Poetry
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C. Douglas Caffey on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
C. Douglas Caffey With More on PTSD
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Cpl Ira Hayes, USMC
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Japanese Surrender
Navy Ships At Surrender Ceremonies
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Ivan Fail's "The Silent Sentries"
Last Page

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"Lady Be Good"
Consolidated B-24D-25-CO Liberator
s/n 41-24301
514th Bomb Squadron, 376th Bomb Group

 

THE PLANE

 

The “Lady Be Good,” B-24D # 41-24301, was one of 639 built by Consolidated in San Diego, California. The B-24D had a wingspan of 110 ft, weighed 56,000 pounds loaded, carried 8,000 pounds of bombs. Maximum speed was near 300 MPH, cruising speed 175 MPH, range 2850 miles, and had a service ceiling of 28,000 ft. For armament it was fitted with eleven .50 Cal. Machine guns. It was powered by four Pratt and Whitney R-1830 engines of 1200 HP each. Consolidated built more than 18,000 Liberators. The “Lady Be Good” was assigned to the 514th Squadron, 376th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force.

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Crew of "Lady Be Good"

THE CREW

 
”Lady Be Good” Crew

 

Left to Right

1st Lt. William J. Hatton Pilot Whitestone, N.Y.

2nd Lt. Robert F. Toner Co-Pilot North Attelboro, Mass.

2nd Lt. D.P. Hays Navigator Lee’s Summit, Missouri

2nd Lt. John S. Woravka Bombardier Cleveland, Ohio (chute didn’t open)

T/Sgt. Harold J. Ripslinger Flt. Engineer Saginaw, Michigan

T/Sgt. Robert E. LaMotte Radio Operator Lake Linden, Michigan

S/Sgt. Guy E. Shelley Gunner New Cumberland, Pa.

S/Sgt. Vernon L. Moore Gunner New Boston, Ohio (never found)

S/Sgt. Samuel Adams Gunner Eureka, Ill.

 

 

THE MISSION

 

It was after noon on April 4, 1943, the B-24D “Lady Be Good” departed Soluch Airfield in Libya on it's very first combat mission. This was the 376th Bomb Group mission 109, and along with the “Lady Be Good” were 24 B-24Ds. The 512th Squadron was A Section of the 1st flight with seven aircraft. The 513th Squadron was the 2nd flight. with seven aircraft. The 514th B Section first flight had six aircraft. The 515th second flight had five aircraft. The “Lady Be Good” was in the 514th B section 1st flight. They were to fly to Crotone, on the SE side of Italy, cross over and come in over the water to bomb the harbor facilities at Naples. The flight would be approximately nine hours. Flights from Soluch were notorious for their high number of turn backs. The sand was responsible for a large number of problems. This mission was no different as many B-24s returned to Soluch shortly after takeoff due to malfunction. For an unknown reason, thirty minutes before reaching Naples the Pilot of the “Lady Be Good” aborted the mission, dropped their bombs in the ocean and headed back for Soluch. The Navigator 2nd Lt. Hays was now facing a task for which he was not prepared, having received minimum training of 20 weeks and very little night time. A great catastrophe was in the making.

NAVIGATOR'S FATAL DECISIONS

 

The “Lady Be Good” was now on the way back to Soluch Airfield. Even using dead reckoning (time and distance) they would be close to their destination. The aircraft was flying above cloud cover and at night. There are several theories as to how the aircraft became lost. Strong tail winds, navigational errors and a lack of visibility of the ground being the most probable. The official Graves Registration Report of Investigation states:

 

"The aircraft flew on a 150 degree course toward Benina Airfield (Libya). The craft radioed for a directional reading from the HF/DF (high frequency/direction finding) 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 few into the desert, thinking he was still over the Mediterranean and on his way to Benina."

 

The “Lady Be Good” was the only aircraft that did not return from that mission. Air-Sea Rescue conducted an extensive search, concentrating on the sea. No evidence of the crew or aircraft were found.

 

The pilot, Lt. Hatton requested an inbound bearing from Benina tower's HF/DF equipment covering Benghazi which was 30 miles north of Soluch. He was informed he was on an inbound magnetic bearing of 330 degrees. The reciprocal heading was used leading the “Lady Be Good” to believe they were still over the Mediterranean. The inbound bearing of 330 degrees from Benina tower could also have been an outbound bearing of 150 degrees. So the “Lady Be Good” continued it's fateful flight into the unknown. They were actually on the 150 degree outbound bearing, which could have been verified by turning left and noting a decrease in the reported bearing values. The Navigator made no attempt to verify if he was inbound or outbound. It is proper to mention here that the Navigator logs were recovered completely intact, and there were no entries in the log since the return trip started. The final judgement here has to be that the Navigator was non-functioning and was hopelessly lost. No attempt was made to verify the actual position in relation to the Benina tower. It is hard to believe the pilot blundered on through the darkness almost two more hours into the unknown. All of the other B-24s returned safely. It was reported that a B-24 was heard over Soluch just before midnight. It should also be pointed out that the major navigational instruments such as radios, ADF, and magnetic compass were all working properly when the wreckage was recovered.

 

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THE INEVITABLE OUTCOME

 

The ill fated “Lady Be Good” flying blindly with no idea of it's position continued 350 miles into Libyan desert. until the engines began starving for fuel (engines #1,2 and 3 had been feathered), at which time the crew apparently bailed out. In May, 1958, a British Oil Exploration team from D'Arcy Oil Company spotted the wreckage from the air. Later in March of 1959 a ground team actually arrived at the crash site, 440 miles south of Soluch. The aircraft was broken up from the crash, but the equipment was in surprisingly good shape. The aircraft was located on a featureless gravel plain in the Libyan Desert near the edge of Sand Sea of Calanscio. The guns fired, the radio worked, and most of the instruments were functional. No parachutes were found which indicated the crew had bailed out prior to the crash.

 

The “Lady Be Good” had skidded almost 700 yards, the stress of the crash breaking the body of the aircraft just behind the main wings. The propellers on engines 1, 2, and 3 had been feathered and not under power when the plane crashed. The aircraft was intact despite the crash landing and was in an excellent state of preservation. An example of this was that the recovery crew was able to fire one of the bomber's 50 caliber machine-guns simply by pulling the trigger. A radio was removed from the “Lady Be Good “and installed in a C-47 cargo plane involved in the operation. The C-47s radio had failed on the flight to the crash site, the replacement radio worked perfectly.

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The rear escape hatch and the bomb bay doors of the aircraft were open and no parachutes or "Mae West" life preservers were found on the bomber. It was assumed that the crew had parachuted shortly before the crash.

 

The commander of Wheelus Air Base in Libya was notified of the find. The Quartermaster Mortuary in Frankfurt, Germany, sent a team to attempt to locate the crew. Many items were found during their search such as flight boots, arrowhead markers made from parachutes pointing the way the crew went. After searching for months no remains were found.

 

On Feb. 11, 1960, British Petroleum workers found the remains of five crewmembers. They found a diary belonging to Lt. Robert Toner. It covered eight days of impossible human suffering in an effort to survive. It was noted the crew jumped at 2 AM April 5, 1943. The eight men had apparently struggled for 85 miles with only a half canteen of water. Three became too exhausted to continue. The five crewmembers were flown to Frankfurt, Germany for identification.

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The rear escape hatch and the bomb bay doors of the aircraft were open and no parachutes or "Mae West" life preservers were found on the bomber. It was assumed that the crew had parachuted shortly before the crash.

 

The commander of Wheelus Air Base in Libya was notified of the find. The Quartermaster Mortuary in Frankfurt, Germany, sent a team to attempt to locate the crew. Many items were found during their search such as flight boots, arrowhead markers made from parachutes pointing the way the crew went. After searching for months no remains were found.

 

On Feb. 11, 1960, British Petroleum workers found the remains of five crewmembers. They found a diary belonging to Lt. Robert Toner. It covered eight days of impossible human suffering in an effort to survive. It was noted the crew jumped at 2 AM April 5, 1943. The eight men had apparently struggled for 85 miles with only a half canteen of water. Three became too exhausted to continue. The five crewmembers were flown to Frankfurt, Germany for identification.

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The Propeller

The Air Force Museum acquired this Propeller Memorial from Wheelus AFB in Libya. It is on loan to Lake Linden.

A final extensive search was begun to find the four remaining crewmen. Air Force recon planes searched the desert trying to locate anything that would indicate the location of the missing men. On May 12, 1960, British Petroleum workers found the remains of S/Sgt Guy Shelley 37 miles N.W. of the first five crewmembers. Five days later, on May 17, a helicopter located the remains of T/Sgt Harold Ripslinger just 26 miles N.W. of the first five crewmembers. Shelley had walked an additional 11 miles beyond where Ripslinger had fallen. The actual search was discontinued a few days later after failure to find the remaining two crewmembers.

 

In Aug. 1960 another B.P. team found the remains of Lt. John Woravka 12 miles from the “Lady Be Good.” He was still wearing his high altitude flight suit. His parachute had failed to open properly. S/Sgt. Vernon Moore was never found. The search operation had covered 6300 sq. miles.

 

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The Glass Window

FINAL SUMMATION

 


This stained glass window was donated to the Air Force Museum by Wheelus AFB, Libya, in honor of the men of the “Lady Be Good.”

The crew had made a tremendous effort for survival in the unforgiving Libyan desert. Many items were sent to the Air Force Museum, the Air Force Academy, and the Army Quartermaster Museum. “The Lady Be Good” was stripped by souvenir hunters. The final remains were moved by the Libyan Government for safekeeping at a military site in Tobruk. When Wheelus AFB closed in 1971, a stained glass memorial window was sent to the Air Force Museum. It is always tragic when so many men have to suffer due to inadequate training. We are now quite certain of the cause of the loss of the “Lady Be Good.” The war raged on for a few more years, then ended. The “Lady Be Good” and her crew vanished in the cracks of aviation history.
 

The American search that followed answered many mysteries, but others still persist. All the remains of the Lady's crew were subsequently found except those of Vernon Moore.

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In 1941-42, America was desperate for aircrews and the Air Corps began recruiting from the tender ranks of teenagers. This meant that wings were being given to high-school graduates as young as 18. So severe was the need for aviators that pilot-training courses were cut to seven and a half months. Many of these trainees reported to flying school on Saturday and were up and flying on Monday.

Aviation cadet William Hatton was deemed an old man when he took pilot training in 1942; he was 25.

Originally trained as a fighter pilot, the decision to convert him to a bomber pilot was not only a disappointment, but a mystery to him.

Hatton was a warm, decent man with an open heart who wrote letters to his mother, Rose, constantly. Among them was a one describing how he, his wife Millie, and fellow-flyers had met Bing Crosby.

And the cadet destined to be his co-pilot, Robert F. Toner, who qualified as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force before America joined the war, was a year older than Hatton. Although Toner had more than 200 flying hours, he had to qualify all over again for Uncle Sam. Both he and Hatton were devout Catholics.


Another officer fated for Hatton's crew was Navigator D.P. Hays. A former bank clerk, he was never given a first name, just the letters D.P. He was 23, balding, and what little hair he had was turning grey. One of three children, the diminutive D.P. came by this name because his father's Christian names were David Peter, so he simply became D.P.The crew called him 'Deep'.

Yet another"old man", at 26, was Bombardier John S. Woravka, from Cleveland, Ohio. The crew called him "Lefty."

This core group of officers, all with the rank of Lieutenant, were to be called "Pops" by their younger colleagues.

Harold Ripslinger, 22, was to be Hatton's flight engineer. He had graduated from his training with Vernon Moore, 21, who was also to be in Hatton's crew.

Ripslinger, from Saginaw, Michigan, was a powerful youth of strong Catholic beliefs and Moore, from New Boston, Ohio, was slight and somewhat shy. He has been described as looking like a young Roddy McDowell, the actor.

Three other enlisted men in training at the time were also to join Hatton. Robert LaMotte, 25, Guy Shelley, 26, and Samuel Adams, 24, were all gunners, and LaMotte too was a strict Catholic. LaMotte, from Lake Linden, Michigan was of French/Canadian extraction.


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Shelley, a strapping six footer from near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, overcame early-life ill health, flourished physically and continues to astonish survival experts with his stamina. Adams, from Eureka, Illinois was born in Speedwell, Kentucky and had recently become a father, the only member of the crew with offspring.He had a strong Protestant faith. (Note: in photo above, Shelley is second from the right kneeling with left hand visible. Perhaps he was fond  of trains because, at least in Topeka, he appears always to have worn a striped railroad engineer’s cap. No one seemed to mind that he was out of uniform.)

Thus, in late 1942, the nine men composed of four officers and five sergeants converged by various routes toTopeka, Kansas, for training as a crew.

Since they were all above the average age of crews at the time, they must have been pleased with the nine sets of orders that had brought them together by chance.

Whether they were pleased or displeased by the extra 50% pay they received for "hazardous flying duties" is another matter. But it certainly had to make them think: the threat of death always concentrates the mind wonderfully.


 Hatton and his men were assigned to the 367th Bomb Group and were posted to Soluch, Libya. When they arrived around the 18th of March, the B-24 they flew in was given to a more experienced crew because there were more crews than planes. This left Hatton and company without a ship. For a time, the Hatton crew was in limbo.

After a few days the crew were sent out on a familiarization mission, after which they were checked out to be proficient and ready for action. This, thankfully, was one less worry for Col. Keith K. Compton, the youthful Commanding Officer of the 376th.

A rust-colored B-24 Liberator, soon to be named "Lady Be Good," was flown into Soluch on March 25th, about a week after the arrival of Hatton and his men. The pilot was Lt. Samuel Dawson Rose.

Who named the ship is unknown, but it was not Rose nor any of his crew. The name more likely came from a member of one of the ground crews.

On April 4th, Hatton and his crew received their first call to action. Sam Rose and his crew were in Malta with engine trouble on another Liberator, and the “Lady Be Good” was at Soluch, standing idle.

The squadron needed a replacement crew, and Hatton's got the call.

They were to go on a 25-plane high-altitude raid on Naples, Italy, in daylight and without fighter escort, to arrive at the target just at sunset.

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They would then turn for home under cover of darkness.

The trip to Naples and back would take 11 hours, and the Liberators had 12 hours of fuel.

The “Lady Be Good's” serial number was 1-24301 and her mission was number 109. She flew in Section B, Squadron 514, 376th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force. Her squadron number was a big 64 on either side of her nose.

The last anyone on the ground saw of the “Lady Be Good” was at takeoff. This was a member of the ground crew at Soluch Airfield, a private named Richard R. Dahlstedt.

In a letter to Mario Martinez, author of Lady's Men, Dahlstedt said: "Of the takeoff from the terrible Soluch field I can describe only that she seemed reluctant to become airborne. She had to struggle to get off the ground."

The “Lady Be Good” lumbered into the sky and for the next 15 years, what happened to her remained a perplexing mystery.

Mission 109 began with takeoff from Soluch Airfield at 1:30 p.m. in the midst of a sandstorm blowing north from the Sahara.

The sandstorm created many problems for the Liberators and the two sections that comprised it were scattered. Many of the ships in the “Lady Be Good's” section were forced to return to base with bad engines. The “Lady Be Good” was one of the last bombers to take off at 3:10 p.m. but her engines seemed to have none of the problems of the preceding planes.

Severe winds caused the “Lady Be Good” to be separated from the other ships, changing her route to Naples to an arching approach from the east. By the time she had reached Naples it was night; the other Liberators had come and gone.

Just before 9 p.m. she turned for home, and at 10 p.m. she dropped her bombs in the Mediterranean. At this point she was right on course for Soluch.

At around midnight, April 4-5, 1943, the “Lady Be Good” flew over or very near Soluch and continued southeast over the Libyan desert. She had called her base for help but somewhere at this juncture a critical mix up occurred.

Flares, however, did go up from Soluch.

By 2 a.m. the “Lady Be Good” had flown 400 miles since overflying her base and she was now running out of fuel, so her crew bailed out into the darkness thinking they were still over the Mediterranean.


Having hit the desert floor with a thump and not the Mediterranean with a splash the surprised crew gathered in the desert gloom to discover that while they were all unhurt, John Woravka, the bombardier, was missing.

They called out in the darkness but he was nowhere to be found. It was clear to everyone what had happened; they had overflown their base. It had to be near, they thought. They would walk northwest. Along the way they were sure to find Woravka.

But they had to get a move on; they had little water and no food to speak of. Better start now before the sun comes up then it would be hell.

The crew, now down to 8, discarded what they didn't need and moved on. They didn't realize that their ship, with food, water and a radio on board was only 16 miles to the south of them.

With little to sustain them and with the sun draining their lives away, the flyers struggled northwest for five days. They were down to skin and bone, and they paused often to hold group prayers.

They had not found Woravka, nor would they. He had been killed when his parachute failed to open, and his broken body was only four-tenths of a mile from the point where his comrades had gathered in the darkness after bailout.

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By Friday, April 9th, five of the crew could go no further and collapsed. They had walked 78 miles and were close to the Calanscio Sand Sea and its tall, menacing dunes.

Only Moore, Ripslinger and Shelley had the strength to go on. They thought their base lay just beyond the sand dunes, so into the dunes they went. They didn't realize that their base was still hundreds of miles away, and that for them the dunes were the jaws of death and that they and their comrades should have walked south after bailout and not northwest.

Within three days they and the rest of the ship's crew would all be dead.

The war raged on for a few more years, then ended. The “Lady Be Good” and her crew vanished in the cracks of aviation history.



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