4 April 1943: A brand-new crew with a brand-new airplane, assigned to the 514th Bombardment Squadron, 376th Bombardment Group, Ninth Air Force, departed Soluch Field (now, Benina International Airport) on their first combat mission, a night attack on Naples, Italy. First Lieutenant William J. Hatton, U.S. Army Air Corps, and his crew of eight men were flying Lady Be Good, a Consolidated B-24D-25-CO Liberator long-range heavy bomber, serial number 41-24301. They would never be seen alive again.
High winds and poor visibility broke up the 25-plane formation, and eventually only two made it all the way to Naples, arriving over the city at about 7:50 p.m. Bad weather made bombing difficult, so the B-24s dropped their bombs into the Mediterranean Sea and started home. By this time, Lieutenant Hatton and his men were alone.
The flight crew became lost on the return flight and overflew their home base. They continued south into the darkness of the desert night. Eventually, the bomber began to run out of fuel. When two of the four engines stopped, the nine men bailed out into the darkness. The pilots had trimmed the bomber to fly with just two engines operating before abandoning their airplane. The B-24 continued south on its own.
Fifteen years later, an oil exploration team discovered the wreckage of 41-24301 in the Calanscio Sand Sea (سرير كلنسيو الرملي الكبير, Kalanshiyū ar Ramlī al Kabīr, Sarīr) of the Libyan Sahara Desert. The Lady Be Good had come to earth 440 miles (708 kilometers) south of its base at Soluch.
The wreckage of Lady Be Good is stored at Gamal Abdul El Nasser Air Base, Libya.
The Consolidated B-24D Liberator was a four-engine long-range heavy bomber. It had a high “shoulder-mounted” wing, twin vertical fin/rudders, and retractable landing gear. The bomber was operated by a flight crew of two pilots, bombardier, navigator, radio operator, flight engineer and four gunners. It was 66 feet, 4 inches (20.218 meters) long, with a wingspan of 110 feet, 0 inches (33.528 meters), and overall height of 17 feet, 11 inches (5.461 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 32,605 pounds (14,789 kilograms), and maximum takeoff weight of 64,000 pounds (29,030 kilograms).
The B-24D was powered by four air-cooled, turbosupercharged, 1,829.389-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liters) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp TSC4-G (R-1830-43) two-row, fourteen-cylinder radial engines. The R-1830-43 had a compression ratio of 6.7:1 and required 100-octane aviation gasoline. The turbocharger was limited to 21,300 r.p.m. The engine’s Normal Power rating was 1,040 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,100 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. from 6,200 to 25,000 feet (1,890 –7,620 meters). Takeoff Power was 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. This was also its Military Power rating, which it could maintain to 23,400 feet (7,132 meters). The R-1830-43 drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed, full-feathering propellers through a 16:9 gear reduction. The engine was 3 feet, 10.56 inches (1.183 meters) in diameter, 5 feet, 2.59 inches (1.590 meters) long and weighed 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms).
The B-24D had a maximum true airspeed of 307 miles per hour (494 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) with Military Power. The service ceiling was 34,000 feet (10,363 meters) when lightly loaded, and it could reach that altitude in 40 minutes, 6 seconds. Its maximum range was 2,380 miles (3,830 kilometers) at 210 miles per hour (338 kilometers per hour).
Various combinations of Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns were installed for defense. The standard arrangement was 1 in the nose, 2 in a power-operated dorsal turret, two at the waist, 1 in a ventral position and 2 in the tail turret. (In later models, a ball turret similar to that of the B-17, replaced the ventral gun.)
The B-24D could carry eight 1,100 pound (499 kilogram) bombs in the bomb bay, or one 4,000 pound (1,814 kilogram) bomb in an external rack under each wing.
The B-24 was the most produced bomber in history, with a total of 18,482 airplanes built by Consolidated at San Diego, California, and Fort Worth, Texas; North American at Dallas, Texas; Douglas at Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Ford at Willow Run, Michigan. 2,378 of these were B-24Ds. Ford built 6,972 B-24s, and produced kits for another 1,893 to be assembled by the other manufacturers.
26 November 1943: At sunset, Lieutenant Commander Edward Henry O’Hare, United States Navy, Commander Air Group 6, took of from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) as part of an experimental three-plane night fighter team. The U.S. Navy task force was operating in the waters northeast of Tarawa, supporting Operation Galvanic.
Two Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat fighters of Fighting Squadron TWO (VF-2), piloted by O’Hare and Ensign Warren Andrew Skon, flew formation with a radar-equipped Grumman TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bomber, call sign “Tare 97,” flown by Lieutenant Commander John C. (“Phil”) Phillips, commander, Torpedo Squadron 6 (VT-6).
Butch O’Hare was flying his personal airplane, Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Bu. No. 66168. The Hellcat was marked with “00” in white on both sides of its fuselage, the traditional identification of an air group commander’s (“CAG”) airplane.
The Avenger’s radar operator would guide the two fighters to intercept the groups of Japanese Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” torpedo bombers that had been making nightly attacks against the ships of Task Force 50.2.
The night fighter team engaged several enemy bombers, with the TBF’s pilot, Phillips, credited with shooting down two G4Ms with his Avenger’s two forward-firing .50-caliber machine guns. O’Hare and Skon both fired on other enemy bombers with their Hellcats’ six machine guns.
At about 7:30 p.m., the TBF was flying at about 1,200 feet (365 meters), staying below the cloud bases, while the two F6Fs rejoined the formation. The TBF’s gunner, Al Kernan, saw both Hellcats approaching to join on the the Avenger’s right wing. When O’Hare was about 400 feet (120 meters) away, the gunner saw a third airplane appear above and behind the two fighters.
A Japanese G4M opened fire on O’Hare’s fighter with it’s 7.7 mm (.303-caliber) nose-mounted machine gun. Kernan returned fire with the TBF’s turret-mounted .50-caliber machine gun. The G4M quickly disappeared into the darkness.
Butch O’Hare’s F6F was seen to turn out of the formation, passing to the left underneath Skon’s fighter. Skon called O’Hare by radio but there was no response. The CAG’s Hellcat went into a dive then disappeared in the darkness. Skon tried to follow O’Hare, but had to pull out at about 300 feet (90 meters) to avoid crashing into the ocean.
Neither O’Hare or his airplane were ever seen again. He is believed to have gone into the water at 7:34 p.m., 26 miles (42 kilometers) north-northwest of the carrier Enterprise.
Lieutenant Commander Edward H. O’Hare was listed as Missing in Action. One year after his disappearance, the status was officially changed to Killed in Action.
One of the best known fighter pilots in the United States Navy, Butch O’Hare was a hero to the people of America. He had been awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat during the early months of the war, nominated for a second Medal of Honor, and awarded the Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart.
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army Air Corps.
Place and date: L’Isle Adam railroad bridge over the Seine in occupied France, 9 August 1944.
Entered service at: Storm Lake, lowa. Birth: Jefferson, lowa.
G.O. No: 43, 30 May 1945.
Citation: On 9 August 1944, Capt. Lindsey led a formation of 30 B-26 medium bombers in a hazardous mission to destroy the strategic enemy held L’lsle Adam railroad bridge over the Seine in occupied France. With most of the bridges over the Seine destroyed, the heavily fortified L’Isle Adam bridge was of inestimable value to the enemy in moving troops, supplies, and equipment to Paris. Capt. Lindsey was fully aware of the fierce resistance that would be encountered. Shortly after reaching enemy territory the formation was buffeted with heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire. By skillful evasive action, Capt. Lindsey was able to elude much of the enemy flak, but just before entering the bombing run his B-26 was peppered with holes. During the bombing run the enemy fire was even more intense, and Capt. Lindsey’s right engine received a direct hit and burst into flames. Despite the fact that his ship was hurled out of formation by the violence of the concussion, Capt. Lindsey brilliantly maneuvered back into the lead position without disrupting the flight. Fully aware that the gasoline tanks might explode at any moment, Capt. Lindsey gallantly elected to continue the perilous bombing run. With fire streaming from his right engine and his right wing half enveloped in flames, he led his formation over the target upon which the bombs were dropped with telling effect. Immediately after the objective was attacked, Capt. Lindsey gave the order for the crew to parachute from the doomed aircraft. With magnificent coolness and superb pilotage, and without regard for his own life, he held the swiftly descending airplane in a steady glide until the members of the crew could jump to safety. With the right wing completely enveloped in flames and an explosion of the gasoline tank imminent, Capt. Lindsey still remained unperturbed. The last man to leave the stricken plane was the bombardier, who offered to lower the wheels so that Capt. Lindsey might escape from the nose. Realizing that this might throw the aircraft into an uncontrollable spin and jeopardize the bombardier’s chances to escape, Capt. Lindsey refused the offer. Immediately after the bombardier had bailed out, and before Capt. Lindsey was able to follow, the right gasoline tank exploded. The aircraft sheathed in fire, went into a steep dive and was seen to explode as it crashed. All who are living today from this plane owe their lives to the fact that Capt. Lindsey remained cool and showed supreme courage in this emergency.
Darrell Robbins Lindsey was born 30 December 1919 at Jefferson, Iowa. He was the second of two sons of Jesse Lyle Lindsey, a civil engineer, and Grace Alice Puffer Lindsey. Darrell Lindsey grew up in Iowa, where he attended Fort Dodge High School, graduating in 1938. He then studied at Buena Vista College at Storm Lake, before transferring to Drake University in Des Moines.
Immediately following the United States’ entry into World War II, 16 January 1942, Lindsey enlisted as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He trained as a pilot and on graduating from flight school, was commissioned as a second lieutenant, 27 August 1942.
Following his commissioning, Lieutenant Lindsey married Miss Evelyn Scott of Storm Lake, Iowa.
Lieutenant Lindsey next trained as a bombardier at Kirtland Field, New Mexico. He was promoted to first lieutenant and was assigned to a Martin B-26 Marauder operational training unit, the 314th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), at MacDill Army Airfield, near Tampa, Florida. He was promoted to captain in December 1943.
Captain Lindsey was assigned to the 585th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 394th Bombardment Group (Medium), as a B-26 aircraft commander and flight leader. The unit deployed to Europe in February 1944. The 585th was initially stationed at RAF Boreham (AAF-161) in Essex, but in July 1944, moved to RAF Holmsley South (AAF-455), Hampshire, England.
The bombing mission against the L’Isle-Adam Railroad Bridge on 9 August 1944 was Captain Lindsey’s 46th combat mission. Army Air Corps records indicate that at the time of his death, he had flown a total of 1,497:00 hours. 143 hours were in combat.
Captain Lindsey’s remains were buried at an unknown location. In 1959, a cenotaph memorializing Captain Lindsey was placed at Jefferson Cemetery, Jefferson, Iowa.
The Medal of Honor was presented to Captain Lindsey’s widow, Mrs. Evelyn Scott Lindsey, 9 August 1945, by Major General Robert B. Williams, commanding Second Air Force. In November 1946, Lindsey Air Station at Wiesbaden, Germany, was named in his honor.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Captain Lindsey was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters (nine awards), and the Purple Heart.
Captain Lindsey’s B-26 was a Glenn L. Martin Company B-26B-55-MA Marauder, serial number 42-96101, built at Baltimore, Maryland. It carried the squadron identification markings 4T N on its fuselage.
The Martin B-26 first flew 25 November 1940. The B-26 was a twin-engine medium bomber designed with high speed as a primary objective. Production of the new airplane was considered so urgent that there were no prototypes. All aircraft were production models.
The B-26B was 58 feet, 3 inches (17.755 meters) long with a wingspan of 71 feet, 0 inches (21.641 meters) and overall height of 21 feet, 6 inches (6.533 meters). It had an empty weight of 24,000 pounds (10,886 kilograms) and gross weight of 37,000 pounds (16,783 kilograms).
The B-26B-55-MA was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 2,804.461-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter), Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp 2SB-G (R-2800-43) two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.65:1. The R-2800-43 had a Normal Power rating of 1,600 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. to 5,700 feet (1,737 meters), 1,450 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters). Its Takeoff Power rating was 2,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. The Military Power rating was the same as Takeoff Power up to 2,700 feet (823 meters), and 1,600 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. to 13,500 feet (4,115 meters). They turned 13 foot, 6 inch (4.115 meter) diameter four-bladed Curtiss Electric propellers through a 2:1 gear reduction. The R-2800-43 was 6 feet, 3.72 inches (1.923 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.50 inches (1.334 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms). All R-2800-43 engines were built by the Ford Motor Company.
The B-26B had a maximum speed of 270 miles per hour (435 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 282 miles per hour (454 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The airplane’s service ceiling was 21,700 feet (6,614 meters). It’s maximum ferry range was 2,850 miles (4,587 kilometers).
The B-26B was armed with 11 air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. One was at the nose on a flexible mount, two fixed guns were on each side of the nose in “blister packs,” there were two flexible guns in the waist. A power-operated dorsal gun turret had two, as did the tail turret.
A maximum of four 2,000 pound (907 kilograms) bombs could be carried in the bomb bay.
When the B-26 entered service, it quickly gained a reputation as a dangerous airplane and was called “the widowmaker.” The airplane had relatively short wings with a small area for its size. This required that landing approaches be flown at much higher speeds than was normal practice. With one engine out, airspeed was even more critical. Some changes were made, such as a slight increase on wingspan and the size of the vertical fin and rudder, and an emphasis was made on airspeed control during training. The Marauder had the lowest rate of combat losses of any American bomber.
The Glenn L. Martin Co. produced 5,288 Marauders between 1941–1945. It served in the Pacific, Mediterranean and European combat areas. When it was removed from service at the end of World War II, the “B-26” designation was reassigned to the Douglas A-26 Invader, a light twin-engine bomber.
31 July 1944, famed French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint Exupéry), flying for the Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres (the Free French Air Force), departed Borgo Airfield on the island of Corsica. He on a reconnaissance mission of the Rhône Valley. His aircraft was a Lockheed F-5B-1-LO Lightning, serial number 42-68223, an unarmed photo reconnaissance variant of the P-38J Lighting twin-engine fighter.
Saint-Exupéry was never seen again.
In 1998 a fisherman found his silver identity bracelet on the sea floor south of Marseilles. Parts of the aircraft were recovered in 2003.
“Saint-Ex” wrote Night Flight, Flight to Arras, Wind, Sand and Stars and The Little Prince, as well as many other works. He was a gifted writer.