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If the above picture looks blank to you, you’re not missing something. This is what the Sahara Desert looks like from about 16 miles up–a blank, featureless void. But this blank spot on the map, which is located in western Libya, is actually one of the most famous aircraft crash sites of World War II.
On the afternoon of April 4, 1943, a B-24D Liberator called the “Lady Be Good” took off from Soluch Field, an American air base which later became Benina International Airport, serving Benghazi. The plane was headed for a bombing run over Naples, Italy and for the crew of nine it was their first combat mission. They made it to Naples, dropped their bombs and headed back to their home field. It was now nighttime. The pilot called Soluch and informed them that his directional finder wasn’t working. The airfield gave him directions and even set out flares to guide the “Lady Be Good” home, but for some reason the crew never saw them. The plane overshot the airfield and continued flying, hopelessly lost, deep into the Sahara desert.
At about 2AM the crew made a decision to bail out. One of them, Lt. John Woravka, had a fatal bit of bad luck–his parachute didn’t open and he did not survive the landing. The eight others did, and apparently met up with each other. They walked nearly 100 miles through the desert trying to get to an oasis or some dot of civilization. None of them made it.
The “Lady Be Good” herself, in the meantime, flew on for 16 miles with no one on board and crashed here, in this desolate spot in the sand dunes. The crash site was so remote that it remained undiscovered for 15 years. In 1958 a British oil exploration team first found the wreckage but were unable to visit it; prospectors finally reached it the following year. The intense heat and dryness of the Sahara preserved the plane perfectly. A thermos full of tea was found still aboard–and the tea was still drinkable.
A U.S. military expedition set out to find the bodies of the crew, which they did in 1960, with the exception of one man who was never found. The wreckage of the “Lady Be Good” was salvaged piece by piece over the years, with the final pieces being removed from this site in 1994. There are evidently still pieces of the plane that exist and are in storage at a Libyan Air Force base. The artifacts managed to survive the violent 2011 Libyan Revolution.
In the meantime, this desolate spot in the desert retains no trace of what happened here 70 years ago, or the harrowing fate of the “Lady Be Good’s” crew.