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Dec-13-2011 03:15printcommentsVideo

Libya: Can We Have the 'Lady Be Good' Back Now Please?

Do the spoils of war include this? If so is there enough left to worry about?

Lady be Good

(SALEM) -

Photo from 1943
1st Lt William J. Hatton, Pilot
2d Lt Robert F. Toner, Copilot
2d Lt Dp Hays, Navigator
2d Lt John S. Woravka, Bombardier
Tech Sgt Harold J. Ripslinger, Flt Eng
Tech Sgt Robert E. LaMotte, Radio Op
SSgt Guy E. Shelley, Gunner,
SSgt Vernon L. Moore, Gunner,
SSgt Samuel R. Adams, Gunner

I don't think it's easy to take a single story from the pages of aviation history and call it the 'best' or 'most interesting' because the competition is fierce, but the doomed crew of the World War Two B24 Liberator 'Lady Be Good' ranks for the title if any do. The plane was lost on a mission over Libya, failing to return from a 4 April 1943 bombing raid over Naples, Italy, the Lady Be Good had been crewed by nine men:

The crew became hopelessly lost and because they were flying at night, they ultimately came to believe they were over the ocean, just about to run out of fuel, and this is what led to their decision to bail out. The survivors who left behind diaries and notes, stated that they were surprised to have landed on the desert sand, instead of the ocean they anticipated.

The men had plenty of time to try to resolve their situation, but their luck was lost in the dark night and as it turns out there was a call from the plane's crew advising their navigational distress, seeking a location... but the tower that heard the call failed to provide the data they do desperately sought, so that they could get the plane back on course. As it turns out, the air traffic controllers in that particular tower decided it might be a trick from the Germans, so the 'Lady Be Good' was allowed to fly into oblivion.

Lady Be Good in flight - 1943

The plane continued for about 16 miles after the crew bailed out. It would take 16 years for this ghost to finally show itself to a western observer. In was in 1959, when a British oil crew spotted the mostly intact B24 and they approached the plane to investigate.

The official search was eventually called off due to problems with equipment and also due to the harsh environment.

The discovery of the military airplane led to the recovery of most of its crew members during the year of 1960, more than a decade and a half after the Lady disappeared. Combined with the findings from the crash site, the clues that the men left behind in their quest for survival, related the story of their final days.

What they found was nothing short of a time capsule.

While it was damaged, the plane that landed gently, all things considered. The massive four-engine bomber's rear section broke free from the main fuselage, it was all there and the people who initially found the plane learned that one of the engines was still functional, and at least one of the .50 caliber machine guns on the 'Lady Be Good' still sprayed deadly lead with the push of a trigger.

The plane's discovery led to a slow but thorough U.S. response, a significant set of discoveries, and the eventual recovery of the remains of most of the crew members.

They had traveled amazing distances for men with little to no water or supplies. However their calculation estimation of having to travel approximately 100 miles were actually off, way off. The distance they would have needed to cover was about 400 miles.

Temperatures in this part of Libya can reach 130 degrees. One can only imagine how completely the odds were stacked against these men.

There are many great resources on the crash, the search for the crew and the ongoing story of this plane. Several items from the plane were recovered by the United States and are displayed along with personal effects recovered from the crew.

However the plane itself, never found its way back to the United States, seems Muamar Gaddafi found it particularly interesting and had Libyan teams recover it some number of years ago and bring it back to Tobruck, where it was placed in a storage yard that is part of the Tobruck Police Station.

Lady Be Good in 2009, after being brought to Tobruck. Suleiman Mahmoud photo.

A somewhat well known Libyan military officer, Suleiman Mahmoud was a commander in Gaddafi's army, where he served as commander of the Tobruk Military Region. This senior military official was among the first to support the western backed 'Libyan Rebels' and as he turned on his national leadership, he retained control of a large number of fighters.

However one of the first things rebel forces did, was torch the and essentially raze the Tobruck Police station. Where this leaves the wreckage of the 'Lady Be Good' is unknown.

I sincerely hope that people who know the disposition of the aircraft's remains will leave comments on this story. I believe after looking at the picture that Soleiman Mahmoud took of the plane, recovered from the desert and transported to Tobruck, that it would be fantastic to have it back here, after a very long, extended mission to a war that Americans helped win.

There are overwhelming political connections to the west's bloody conquest of Libya. Disturbed by the trends I was seeing in May 2010, I wrote the article Questions Surround Third U.S. War Theater: AFRICOM, I was disturbed to realize that the United States military and political (read 'business') interests had secured a place in all but one of Africa's nations.

It's not colonizing, but the United States, now in all but one of Africa's 56 countries, has sewn the seeds of its interests. Regions known to contain sought after material like uranium, are now fully open to American exploitation, thanks to all of the signed agreements.

So, now that the U.S. and its allies have gone and done this, and since the U.S. has its political, military and business claws in Libya's back, neck and sides, can we have the plane back? It would be nice, these are American heroes and they died in service

The Arab uprising against Gaddafi, who in the opinion of so many Libyans and political experts was not even a fraction of the tyrant he was portrayed to be; (he was making incredible strides for Libya, and he threatened to remove the U.S. dollar from the oil game) left the western powers once again, with the blood of many on its hands.

The 'rebels' in the opinion of many, are little more than Islamic thugs who are willing to take a few bucks from NATO to betray their country, however in many cases there probably was little choice.

Gaddafi on the other hand, followed the people who fought with one of my personal heroes, Omar Mukhtar.

He was the Libyan resistance leader who had tremendous success fighting Italy's Fascist colonialism of Libya that happened almost exactly 100 years ago and involved Mussolini's building the first concentration camps, for Libyans, whose land he and his neo Roman army stole. (see: The Lion of Libya: Omar Mukhtar, Launched Resistance of Italy's Colonial Invasion 100 Years Ago)

Kept in a publicly accessible place, the 'Lady be Good' has taken a real beating

The U.S. collection of Lady Be Good artifacts

I don't like any of it, I would rather see a peaceful country where our war relic is still possessed by a flashy dictator who at least thought enough about the plane to preserve what was left, and as the photo shows that means the majority of the airplane.

However the photo of the wreckage in Tobruck when compared to how the plane appeared after discover in 1959, shows what appears to be substantial additional damage and the entire lower section of the forward fuselage appears to be missing.

The wings still appear attached. My general impression is that the wreckage was probably seriously damaged when it was brought back to Tobruck PD, however that is little more than my speculation.

I have had the opportunity to visit World War Two four-engine bomber crash sites in a variety of locations, and those in deserts, like southern Arizona and also near Las Vegas, Nevada, which I believe would be very similar to Libya in terms of climate and environment, showed little if any decay.

Aluminum still had a bright shine- a full half century and more after the various plane crashes.

My point is that this plane probably could have survived very well as a history specimen however I fear it was not handled adequately, and it would have needed to have been disassembled prior to being picked up and moved.

Sole Survivor

My introduction to this story was indirect in a way; when I was very young I saw the movie of the above title, Sole Survivor that was loosely based on the story of the Lady Be Good. In this film the crew were ghosts, they didn't realize they were dead, and they played baseball while still believing they would be rescued.

The film starred William Shatner and

IMDB (Internet Movie Database) carries this user-generated summary on the movie:

When a bomber believed to have crashed in the ocean 17 years ago is found in the Libyan desert. A Colonel and Major accompany the only surviving member of the crew, who is now a General to figure out what happened. The General claims that he and the other members of the crew jumped over the ocean when in reality he bailed out leaving the others to fend for themselves. And while the Colonel just wants the whole thing closed, the Major insists on finding the truth. And watching them are the ghosts of the crew.

Director: Paul Stanley

Writer: Guerdon Trueblood

Stars: Vince Edwards, Richard Basehart and William Shatner

I sincerely hope that this possibility is evaluated; the people at Evergreen Aviation in McMinnville, Oregon, house amazing aviation history at their museum of all types, and this seems like it would be a real historic gem. Since we've already helped clobber Libya out of sovereignty and into submission, this seems a fair spoil of war. Please visit all of the related Websites, I have just given you a small snapshot of this story, heavy on images; there is a great deal that can be learned.

Lady Be Good.net - A repository for online information about WWIIs Ghost Bomber

Lady Be Good (aircraft) - From Wikipedia

http://www.ladybegood.com/

Sole Survivor (TV 1970)

The Remains of Lady Be Good by Alan Bellows damninteresting.com

National Museum of the Air Force - Factsheets: "LADY BE GOOD"

Panoramio - WWII Bomber 'Lady be Good'

_________________________________________________________

Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim is a former U.S. Marine, he served in the 3rd Marine Air Wing at El Toro.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.

Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 91 Salem-News.com writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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Anonymous August 12, 2017 11:43 am (Pacific time)

My Dad was on the recovery mission for the Lady Be Good- I have some awesome photos of the wreckage- he disputes some of the stories floating around- he was a flight engineer and says that many of the parts that were taken from the plane were perfectly viable parts- in fact the flight instrument in the aircraft they flew to the site went out and he took out the gauge and installed it in their aircraft- flew them back safely.


hutley July 29, 2017 7:30 pm (Pacific time)

what a shame this historical aircraft has to stay in the 4th world wasteland,when it should be back in this country.looking at the life march 1960 pictures and the 1996 photos shows what happens when "humans" are allowed to have access to an this treasure.


Gregg Chapman January 20, 2017 7:44 pm (Pacific time)

It's about time someone stood up for this tragic piece of American history. I can't believe they didn't bring it home in 1955. It would certainly honor the men who died in the worst way imaginable. Let's buy it back if we have to. I'd donate. Thak you for this webpage.


Allan White June 23, 2016 5:27 am (Pacific time)

I saw the bomber in Tobruk in May 1996. I have some pictures but can't figure out how to post them here.


Daniel December 15, 2011 2:07 pm (Pacific time)

I also have to add one of the darker aspects of the allied forces during WW2 was the multi- day and night bombing of Dresden . This magnificent medieval town was a treasure house of some of the finest art in the world . Not just German art but a representation of the Worlds best . Dresden was also home to a number of allied POW's and civilian refugees . Its hospitals were packed with wounded solders and civilians . It did not have a large war manufacturing facility or military base . The decision was largely influenced by Stalin at the Yalta conference to punish Germany . But it was British and American planes that carried it out . More were killed than by the A bombs in Japan , combined . During the multi day and night bombing a fire storm developed engulfing the area , with flames up to a mile high . Not only did the attack kill numerous civilians , allied POWs , and destroy irreplaceable art , architecture and culture , a number of the allied aircrew were killed or injured . Those crews would have been better used bombing rocket , aircraft , heavy water or large munitions factories . In WAR extreme evil is done by all sides , some more that others . The WAR criminals are always the losers . More were killed in those several days than the total killed by the German air and rocket attacks on all of England .

Tim King:Daniel, this is extremely important to point out, Dresden was such a cultural mecca, and of course the fires that swept Japan from bombing raids killed more than the two atom bombs.  Bombing is something the commanders seemed to enjoy, and there was no distinction for civilians, terrible stuff.  Thanks for your comment.


Karin Rougeau December 14, 2011 3:02 pm (Pacific time)

My first thought was "The Flight of the Phoenix" when reading this. Not being military, in fact, totally non warlike, I was not familiar with this airplane and it's history.

As Tim knows, I was emotionally crestfallen with the West's taking of Libya and the horrors that Gadaffi suffered in his last few hours of life. It was a total injustice of all moral ethics, but also totally against 'rules of war' when traveling under a white flag as Gaddafi and entourage were.

Since I have empathy, even sympathy concerning this, I risk being classified , as of yesterday, of being a terrorist. I do NOT care anymore. I am 65, my frame is bent and broken, altho the spirit and organs live well.
Come and get me u.s.gov. You betrayed us, what else have we to believe in since you passed NDAA?


Daniel December 14, 2011 6:05 am (Pacific time)

Tim it's different but has some similarities . You can find on YouTube under king 9 will not return . I believe it was an influence on the movie that came out years later . I watched it again last night . Bob Cummings was a good actor , much better than the writing on the Love that Bob TV show ever showed . He was quite good in Hitchcocks Sabatour .

Tim King: Thanks Daniel, I will check that out, great aspect of this story to have caught.


Daniel December 13, 2011 4:39 pm (Pacific time)

The episode was called King 9 will not return staring Robert Cummings . Twilight Zone September 1960 .

Tim King: Excellent, and this was different from the movie right Daniel?


Daniel December 13, 2011 4:33 pm (Pacific time)

My father flew in the B17 during the war , he was one of the lucky ones . The boys named their planes after girl friends , wives or popular songs . Oh Lady be good was a popular Benny Goodman song of the era . Tim there was also a Twilight Zone with a similar theme .

Tim King: I will look for that TZ episode, would be really cool to see.  Thanks for mentioning the origin of the aircraft's name; that is super important and a noteworthy aspect of many famous planes like the Memphis Belle.  Glad your dad made it through that really tough period of service, the injury and death rate was extremely excessive, the period sure advanced the design of airplanes, too bad it takes war.  Thanks Daniel, and those reading this, Bonnie King and I produced a documentary about a B-17 plane crash in Oregon in 1943 in the early 90's for Oregon Public Broadcasting, and we recently located a copy and it is now available online.  Those who are interested can read the story and watch the documentary in two parts here: WWII Documentary Unearthed: B-17 Plane Crash Sole Survivor's Story Thanks Daniel! 


Anonymous December 13, 2011 3:43 pm (Pacific time)

Well, we had a chance to vote for Ron Paul in 2008...Hopefully people will wake up for 2012, if there even is an election.


Bob December 13, 2011 3:38 am (Pacific time)

Damm good story... good reporting.... keep up the good work... this story should brought forward to this younger generation so they can be aware of the sacrifices made for their freedoms. Lest we not forget thes brave men.

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