DAYTON, Ohio -- One of the four propellers and an engine from the "Lady Be Good" are on display in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The propeller was transferred from the 40th Troop Carrier Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo)
DAYTON, Ohio -- "Lady Be Good" nosewheel and tire on display in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Items were transferred from Wheelus Air Base, Libya. (U.S. Air Force photo)
At 2:50 p.m. on April 4, 1943, 25 B-24Ds of the 376th Bomb Group took off from their AAF base at Soluch, Libya, for a high-altitude bombing attack against harbor facilities at Naples, Italy. All planes but one returned safely to Allied territory that night -- the one missing was the "Lady Be Good."
Almost 16 years later on Nov. 9, 1958, several British geologists were flying over the desolate, sun-baked Libyan Desert. At approximately 400 miles south of Soluch, they spotted an aircraft on the sand. A ground party that reached the site in March 1959 discovered the plane to be a B-24D. The "Lady Be Good" had been found.
Evidence at the site indicated that the crew had become lost in the dark on return from Naples and had flown over their base and southward into the desert. As their fuel supply became depleted, the nine men aboard had bailed out but had disappeared while attempting to walk northward to civilization.
Intensive searches were made for clues as to the fate of the crew, and in 1960 the remains of eight were found, one near the plane and the other seven far to the north. Five had trekked 78 miles across the tortuous sand before perishing and one had gone an amazing 109 miles. In addition, they had lived eight days rather than only two expected of men in this area with little or no water. The body of the ninth man was never found.
Numerous parts from the "Lady Be Good" were returned to the U.S. for technical study. Also, some parts were installed in other aircraft, which then experienced unexpected difficulties. A C-54 in which several autosyn transmitters were installed had propeller trouble and made a safe landing only by throwing cargo overboard. A C-47 in which a radio receiver was installed ditched in the Mediterranean, and a U.S. Army "Otter" airplane in which a "Lady Be Good" seat armrest was installed crashed in the Gulf of Sidra with 10 men aboard. No trace was found of any of them; one of the few pieces washed ashore was the armrest of the "Lady Be Good."