Lt. Gilbert Hadley's plane, the B-24D he named, Hadley's Harem, serial number 41-24311. - 1943.
Lt. Gilbert "Gib" Hadley's B-24D, Hadley's Harem, - Istanbul Turkey, 2018
First Lieutenant Gilbert "Gib" Hadley, the well liked young pilot in the 344th bomb Squadron of the 98th Bomb Group, and 9th Air Force. He named his airplane, Hadley's Harem, to denote how many women, he said, were fond of him. Hadley flew on Operation Tidal Wave to Ploesti, Romania, with his friends in the 344th Bomb Squadron of the 98th Bombardment Group. His plane took two direct flak hits in the nose, approaching his target, White IV, one killing his bombardier, Lt. Leon Storms, and the other damaging two of his engines, before he approached and bombed his target, White IV. He survived attacking Ploesti and had joined up with Col. John Kane and Lt. John Young in, Hail Columbia, South of Ploesti, in order to fly to safety with company for his crippled ship. He made it as far as just past the the south Turkish coast close to Nicosia, Cyprus, but had to turn back from the group of straggler B-24s in the darkness with low engine oil and fuel. Hadley finally lost his fight with his failing, Harem, and crashed into the Mediterranean sea after losing his last two engines, just off the Turkish coast. Both "Gib" Hadley and his copilot. Lt. James Lindsey, were trapped in the plane's collapsed cockpit and drowned. Aug 1, 1943.
The B-24D, named, Hadley's Harem, was Lt. Gilbert Hadley's personal airplane and the one he flew, with his CoPilot, Lt. James Lindsey, on the mission to destroy Hitler's oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. As Hadley was approaching his target refinery, code named, "White IV", his plane, Hadley's Harem, took two direct flak hits, killing his bombardier. Lt. Leon Storms, instantly, badly damaging his plane's nose section and number two engine, which caught on fire. “We were two to three miles from our target, flying about 50 feet off the ground when we got hit,” one of the gunners, SSgt. Newton, remembers. “We couldn’t turn because we were in a tight formation with the other planes next to us and behind us in our flight, Flight 1, so we kept flying straight ahead, powering up to climb over and clear the 200 foot tall smokestacks ahead of us."
As they were leaving the refinery area behind them, Lt. Hadley and Copilot James Lindsey of Texarkana, Texas, pointed their damaged airplane south toward Turkey and Cyprus. They jettisoned their bombs and ordered their crew to jettison everything else, ammunition, fire extinguishers, Mae West life preservers, parachutes, anything to lighten the airship, which was struggling to stay in the air on only three good engines. South of Ploesti, they joined up with another group of shot up straggler B-24s, like themselves, Robert Sternfels' B-24D, The Sandman, led by the 98th Bomb Group's Leader, Col. John R. "Killer" Kane, in his B-24D that he had twice named, Hail Columbia, and Lt. Royden Lebrecht in, The Squaw, flying with the other planes for cover, relatively intact, and continued following the entire group of planes south, first, to make it out of the greater Ploesti area alive, and, then, if possible, to make it all the way to the British airbase at Nicosia, Cyprus.
Lt. Hadley made it all the way past, the southern coast of Turkey in his badly crippled plane. But, almost out of gasoline and engine oil for the three big Pratt & Whitney engines, still running, he had to break away from Hail Columbia, The Squaw, and, The Sandman. Hadley radioed a goodbye to the group of his friends and turned his plane back in the darkness toward the Turkish coast. “We got 25 miles off the coast of Turkey and were flying barely above stall speed,” SSgt. Newton recalled. “Hadley had turned left toward land. It was about 8 o’clock at night, and we were losing oil pressure and altitude.”
Newton remembers Hadley asking his fellow crew members, “You want to bail out, or try for the beach or the water ?” Shortly thereafter, two of the three remaining engines failed and froze, out of gas and engine oil, and the ship plunged 150 feet, hitting the water, nose first, breaking into pieces, in the sea off the coast of Antalya in Turkey. Neither Lt. Hadley, nor CoPilot Lt. Lindsey, emerged from the sinking wreckage. They were caught, trapped in their collapsed cockpit and drowned. Seven of the crew of ten escaped their sinking B-24D after crashing while trying to ditch, and were able to swim to shore. The seven survivors were captured by the Turks, and survived the war, interned. 3 KIA. 7 INT-TURK. ~ Aircraft Failed To Return (FTR) - 1 Aug 1943.
All crewmen who flew on the Ploesti mission received DFCs for flying the mission. Both pilots, Lt. Gilbert Hadley, Lt. James Rex Lindsey, and Bombardier Lt. Leon M. Storms, received their Distinguished Flying Crosses and Purple Hearts, posthumously, for their valor and sacrifice over Ploesti. August 1, 1943. MACR 167.
The Crew on Hadley's Harem On The Ploesti Mission :
Pilot Gilbert B. Hadley - KIA -
CoPilot James R. Lindsey - KIA -
Bombardier Leon Storms - KIA -
Navigator Harold Tabacoff - INT-TURKEY-WIA -
Top Turret Gunner Russell B. Page - INT-TURKEY -
Ball Turret Gunner William F. Leonard - INT-TURKEY -
Tail Gunner G. Frank Nemoth - INT-TURKEY -
Gunner Pershing W. Waples - INT-TURKEY -
Waist Gunner Leroy Newton - INT-TURKEY -
Waist Gunner Christopher N. Holweger - INT-TURKEY -
B-24D - 41-24311 - Hadley's Harem
23 Nov 42 through 5 Dec 42 - Built in San Diego
10 Dec 42 - 2 Test Flights
12 Dec 42 - ACC AAF
13 Dec 42 - Delivered
24 Dec 42 - Flown to Fort Worth for MOD
01 Jan 43 - MODs Completed
12 Jan 43 - ACC again by AAF
26 Mar 43 - Went Overseas
09 Jun 43 - Cairo
15 Jul 43 - Flew First 98th BG Mission (Flew 10 missions including last)
01 Aug 43 - Crashed off Turkish Coast - MACR 167
1995 - 2 Crew Recovered
1996 - Cockpit and forward aircraft section recovered from the sea
Dec 1997 - Installed in Rahni M. Koc Museum (Istanbul, Turkey)
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||1 August 1943
Failed To Return - Ploesti oil refinery raid. Pilot Gilbert B Hadley. MACR 167
Approaching the target, the A/C was hit by a shell, causing a fatality and serious damage. The crew managed to drop their bombs and then set course for home. Subsequent engine problems led to a decision to divert to Cyprus, but the aircraft couldn’t maintain flight and it ditched in the sea off the coast of Antalya in Turkey.
344th BS 98th BG 9th AF.