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Lady Be Good Monument, Lake Linden, MI

Lady Be Good Monument, Lake Linden Michigan. (

In a little town in Upper Michigan, named Lake Linden, there is a monument for a plane from World War Two. At the top of this monument, there is a propeller from that plane, with the tips of each blade bent. This is because the plane crashed. The monument is there not only in remembrance of the plane, but also in remembrance of the crew. Once of those crew members was from Lake Linden, so a piece of the plane was sent back so a monument could be erected. War is full of sad stories, no matter what conflict you are thinking of. Plans fail, equipment fails, and lives are lost. This is just one story of a story where many things went wrong, and lives were lost. This is the story of “Lady Be Good”.


The crew of Lady Be Good. (

The “Lady Be Good” was a B-24 (bomber) aircraft from World War Two. The B-24 was the most produced bomber in history according to (Bryan Swopes, This Day In Aviation). It was a brand new plane, and it was accompanied by a brand new crew. The crew was made up of Pilot, William J. Hatton, Copilot Robert F. Toner, Navigator Dp Hays, Bombardier John S. Woravka, Flight Engineer Harold J. Ripslinger, Radio Operator Robert E. LaMotte, Gunner and Assistant Flight Engineer Guy E. Shelley, Gunner and Assistant Radio Operator Vernon L. Moore, and Gunner Samuel R. Adams. This story from history is important and relevant to the great lakes area, because Robert E. LaMotte, the radio operator was from Lake Linden Michigan. There is a monument in Lake Linden Michigan in remembrance of the crew. A propeller from the plane is on the monument, as shown in the photo above.

The reason that I chose to write about this story is because it isn’t a story that is very well known. This is a story that I feel more people should know about. I was told about the story of this monument when I was very young by my dad, so I thought this would be something cool that I could research more about. When I told my dad that I would be writing about this monument, he mentioned something that came as a surprise to me, which was that I am actually related to Robert E. LaMotte, the crew member that is from Lake Linden, so this story got even more exiting to learn about for me. The story behind this monument and the crew members is very sad, but also something that is very interesting. I feel terrible for the things that they had to go through. They did everything that they could to survive, and it still was not enough. One thing is for sure though, this crew never gave up.

Lady Be Good and it’s crew was based out of Soluch, Libya. The allies had an airbase there that was used to launch bombers on their way to the lower Europe Region. It was April 4th, 1943, in the heart of world war two. The mission that the crew was assigned was to bomb the naval facilities that were located about 1,000 miles away in Naples, Italy. This was the first mission that the plane and crew would fly in, as well as it’s last. The relative inexperience of the crew would definitely play a big role in what happened in the end.


Plagued from the start, this mission would turn out to be a disaster for many of the planes, especially Lady Be Good. The weather was much less than ideal for flying, and there was a large “tail wind” that they were flying in, basically speeding them up. During the flight on the way to their target, many planes dropped out and aborted their mission due to various issues with their planes, due to issues caused by the weather or other things, leaving Lady Be Good in command. By this time the sun had set, leaving the crews with no light to work with and still over an hour of flying time away from their target. The Pilot of Lady Be Good, Hatton called off the mission and ordered the planes to return back to base in Soluch, in order to mitigate any further damage to planes and crews.

The remains of Lady Be Good. (WikimediaCommons)

On their way back to Soluch, changes in wind which were now giving them a tail wind back towards Soluch, and the fact that it was dark did not help the crew’s attempt to make it back. According to,  (John Lowery, Aviation History, The Saga of The Lady Be Good), the other planes landed back at their base in Soluch between 9:00 pm and 10:30 pm. At 10:12 pm, a tower received a call from Hatton. He was requesting a direction finding in order to help them find their way back. The tower just assumed that they were still on their way back from Naples so it gave them directions based off of that. What really hurts to say is that they had actually just flown past the base, and were now flying into the desert. They had made it back to base but didn’t even know it. They ended up flying for many hours, adding up to hundreds of miles into the desert.

The error that is believed to have sealed Lady Be Good’s fate was the navigator’s failure to use the radio compass. Soluch field had a limited range, low frequency, nondirectional beacon. Using frequency 311kc could have easily resolved the RDF ambiguity. However, it was apparently not used. (The ADF (automatic direction finding) unit was removed from Lady at the crash site and installed in a search-and-rescue Douglas SC-47 whose ADF had failed. The unit still worked perfectly.) With the radio compass in the COMP mode, the bearing pointer would have swung 180 degrees to the tail, indicating that the B-24 had already passed the station. As a result of its collective inexperience, however, the crew doggedly maintained a 150-degree course for more than two hours, misled by the RDF information.

(John Lowery, The Saga of The Lady Be Good, 2004)

Thinking that they were over the Mediterranean Ocean, and out of fuel, the crew bailed out of their plane. The plane, which only one engine was still running, flew about another sixteen miles further South and had a fairly decent landing on the desert sand. Using any means that they could, such as their firearms and flares, the crew located each other, all except for one member. It was later found out that this airman’s, (Woravka, the Bombadier), parachute malfunctioned on the jump, and he died on impact. The crew immediately started walking North West, the direction they came from, hoping that they would find their base that they missed. Little did they know, they were hundreds of miles into the desert and away from that base. They would spend the next eight days in terrible conditions, with next to no water, finding nothing but more desert sand.


For over a week, with very little water, the crew wandered North West trying to find civilization or make it back to base. They had very little water, not to mention their complete lack of shelter against the soaring temperatures of the desert. They traveled over eighty miles, eventually finding nothing but a terrible death due to the harsh conditions of the desert. Although eighty miles is a long way, they were still nowhere close to anywhere or anything. Towards the last leg of their journey, according to the logs kept by one of the soldiers, some of them stayed behind while other kept on moving forward. They were just too weak to continue and were hoping the others could find help to come back for them. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful, finding no help. The crew was also leaving markers in the sand that would help search crews find them. One of these markers they left was a parachute that they cut up in the shape of an arrow pointing the direction that they were going. They also left other things behind such as this leather glove pointing the direction that they went.

One of these markers they left was a parachute that they cut up in the shape of an arrow pointing the direction that they were going. They also left other things behind such as this leather glove pointing the direction that they went.

The next day they sent out search parties looking for the missing bomber, which was the only plane not accounted for. Thinking that the crew was still over the Mediterranean, that is where they sent the parties out looking for them. They had no idea that they had flown past the base and into the desert, but neither did the crew, so it wasn’t their fault. Obviously they found no trace of the missing Lady Be Good, and this became one of the biggest mysteries that the military ever had.


The plane or crew was not found until fifteen years later. During a search for oil in the Sahara, a plane spotted Lady Be Good from the air. In 1959, after the plane was recovered, the U.S. Air Force and Army conducted a search for the crew members remains. This was not very easy, since they didn’t know where the crew bailed out at. They did end of finding them though, with the help of oil exploration crews. Most of the crew was found North West of the crash site, since that was the direction that they were walking. Woravka was finally found, he was not far from the plane since his parachute malfunctioned. One of the saddest parts of this story is that they never found the body of Vernon L. Moore. He was one of the members of the group who continued North West, leaving behind a group that was too tired to continue. Most of the plane was still intact, with the equipment inside perfectly preserved and much of it still functioning as if it were new. The plane was in such good shape because when the crew jumped, only one engine was running due to the plane being out of fuel, making the plane glide gracefully down as it slid on landing. Journal logs kept by one of the survivors was recovered, bringing to life the true horror that these men went through during their fight for survival.

The navigational error that led to Lady’s downfall clearly speaks for itself. But the subsequent behavior of all eight surviving crew members testifies to both good training and discipline, as well as an exceptional will to survive. Most noteworthy was their obvious discipline. They never gave up and remained rational to the very end. They obviously followed their aircraft commander in an orderly fashion. And in the best survival tradition, they left behind a trail to be followed by anyone who might search for them. Then, while the majority were going blind from the sun’s glare and blowing sand, too weak to continue, they allowed the three who were still mobile to continue ahead in a desperate-albeit futile-attempt to find help. Their eight-day survival in the Sahara Desert without shelter, food or water defies all estimates of human capability by an unbelievable margin. Despite torturous conditions, they continued in the best traditions of the military airman. They died trying.

(John Lowery, The Saga of The Lady Be Good, 2004)

War is full of sad stories. A lot of them happen due to actions of soldiers, and others happen due to mistakes made by these soldiers. The Lady Be Good is an example of one of these sad stories. The young and inexperienced crew was on a mission that was plagued from the start. Even before takeoff, the weather was not ideal for flying conditions. The unpredictable weather also lead to the inability for the crew to navigate it’s way back, getting lost in the sky. If only a few more things could have gone their way, the outcome of this story might be totally different, and you probably wouldn’t be reading about it.

The remains of the eight crewmembers which were found were all returned to the United States. Today the wreckage of the plane is stored in a compound in Libya, but many of the crew’s personal effects and a few parts from the plane are on display at the Army Quartermaster Museum at Fort Lee, Virginia.

(Alan Bellows, The Remains of Lady Be Good, 2006)

Primary Sources

  1. Van Pelt and Opie Library: Michigan Technological University.” Van Pelt and Opie Library | Michigan Technological University.
  2. Van Pelt and Opie Library: Michigan Technological University.” Van Pelt and Opie Library | Michigan Technological University.
  3. Van Pelt and Opie Library: Michigan Technological University.” Van Pelt and Opie Library | Michigan Technological University.

Secondary Sources

  1. Person. “The Remains of Lady Be Good.” Damn Interesting, Damn Interesting, 4 Apr. 2014.
  2. Swopes, Bryan. “Robert E. LaMotte Archives.” This Day in Aviation, 4 Apr. 2019.
  3. Lost and Found: The Story of ‘Lady Be Good’ and Her Crew.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration.

For Further Reading