Lady Be Good (aircraft)

Lady Be Good
0000050606-F-1234P-014.jpg
Parts were strewn by the Consolidated B-24D Liberator Lady Be Good as it skidded to a halt amid the otherwise empty Libyan desert. Engines 1, 2 and 3 visible in the photograph had their propellers feathered.
Accident
DateApril 4, 1943
SummaryNavigation error
SiteLibyan desert
26°42′45.7″N 24°01′27″E / 26°42′45.7″N 24°01′27″E / 26.712694; 24.02417
The crew of Lady Be Good. Left to right: Hatton, Toner, Hays, Woravka, Ripslinger, LaMotte, Shelley, Moore, Adams.
Lady Be Good (aircraft) is located in Libya
Lady Be Good
Lady Be Good
Soluch Field
Soluch Field
Libyan location of the Lady Be Good crash site in relation to its airbase of the 376th Bombardment Group.

Lady Be Good is a USAAF B-24D Liberator that disappeared without a trace on its first combat mission during World War II. The plane, which was from 376th Bomb Group, was believed to have been lost—with its nine-man crew—in the Mediterranean Sea while returning to its base in Libya following a bombing raid on Naples on April 4, 1943. However, the wreck was accidentally discovered 710 km (440 mi) inland in the Libyan Desert by an oil exploration team from British Petroleum on November 9, 1958.

Investigations concluded that the first-time (all new) crew failed to realize they had overflown their air base in a sandstorm. After continuing to fly south into the desert for many hours, the crew bailed out when the plane's fuel ran out. The survivors then died in the desert trying to walk to safety. All but one of the crew's remains were recovered between February and August 1960. The wreckage of the Lady Be Good was taken to a Libyan Air Force base after being removed from the crash site in August 1994.

Circumstances

Mission

In 1943, the Lady Be Good was a new Liberator bomber that had just been assigned to the 514th Bomb Squadron on March 25. The squadron was part of the 376th Bombardment Group (Heavy) based at Soluch Field in Soluch in Libya. The plane, which had the AAF serial number 41-24301, had the group identification number 64 stencil-painted on its nose. Its given name, Lady Be Good, was hand-painted on the starboard, front side of the forward fuselage.

The Lady Be Good crew were also new as they had only arrived in Libya a week before on March 18. On their first mission together, they would be flying one of the twenty-five B-24s assigned to bomb the harbor of Naples late in the afternoon of April 4 in a two-part attack. A flight of twelve B-24s would go first followed by a second wave of 13 planes, including the Lady Be Good.[1] After the attack, all planes were expected to return to their bases in North Africa. The crew of the Lady Be Good on the Naples mission were:

Operation

The plane, which was one of the last to depart, took off from Soluch Field near Benghazi not long after 3 pm. Almost immediately, high winds and obscured visibility prevented it from joining the main bomber formation so it continued the mission on its own.

The sandstorm led to nine B-24s returning to Soluch leaving four aircraft to continue the operation. But when the Lady Be Good arrived over Naples at 7:50pm at 7,600 m (24,900 ft), poor visibility was obscuring the primary target. Two B-24s attacked their secondary target on the return trip while the other two aircraft dumped their bombs into the Mediterranean to reduce weight and save fuel.[1]

Disappearance

Lady Be Good flew back alone from Italy on its return trip to its home base in Libya. At 12:12 a.m. the pilot, Lt. Hatton, radioed to say his automatic direction finder was not working and asked for a location of base.[1] The plane apparently overflew its base, failing to see the flares fired to attract its attention. It continued into the interior of North Africa deeper into the Sahara desert for the next two hours. At 2 a.m. the crew parachuted to the ground as the abandoned Lady Be Good flew a further 26 km (16 mi) before it crash-landed into the Calanshio Sand Sea. A subsequent search and rescue mission from Soluch Air Base failed to find any trace of the aircraft or its crew. The disappearance of the Lady Be Good became a mystery.[1]