Lt. Gilbert Ben Hadley was the command pilot of his B-24D, that he named, Hadley's Harem. Lt. Hadley and his copilot, Lt. James Rex Lindsey were KIA, after taking two devastating flak hits approaching their target at White IV, over Ploesti, Romania. They drowned after their last two engines failed as they were trying to ditch the, Harem, in the Mediterranean Sea off the Turkish coast. 1 Aug 1943.
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.
1st Lt. US Air Force
World War II
1st. Lt. Gilbert Ben Hadley - 0-661482. Son of Mr. & Mrs. Perry Hadley. Hometown: Arkansas City, Kansas.
The 22 year old pilot of his disabled bomber, damaged by flak over Ploesti, Romania, crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, after the low level bombing of the Ploesti, Romanian oil refineries. Lt. Hadley was killed in action in the crash of his plane as he was attempting to ditch it in the water just off the Turkish coast. - KIA. 1 Aug 1943.
Gilbert Ben "Gib" Hadley was born and raised in Arkansas City, Kansas. He was the son of Perry Arthur Hadley and Beulah Pearl Bacastow, born 6-May-21. Kansas was his home and enlistment state, and Cowley County was included within the archival record.
Gilbert Hadley enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force and served during World War II. as a B-24D pilot in the MTO attached to the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron. Lt. Hadley flew his B-24D bomber, Hadley's Harem, with his Co-pilot Lt. James Lindsey, on Operation Tidal Wave, the large mission to destroy the German held oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. On August 1, 1943, Lt. Hadley and co-pilot Lt. Lindsey took off from their base at Benghazi, Libya, to bomb the oil refineries and facilities at Ploesti, Romania. This was an especially dangerous mission, with the bombing to be accomplished at very low levels, as low as 20 feet, up to 250 feet over their target refineries, to clear the smoke stacks. Their B-24D bombers made for relatively easier targets for the anti aircraft flak guns at such low levels over the well defended oil refineries. Lt. Hadley sustained two direct flak hits approaching his target, White IV, killing his bombardier, Lt. Leon Storms, badly wounding his navigator, Harold Tabacoff, and setting his number two engine on fire. His flight engineer, Russel Page, immediately jettisoned their bombs to lighten the airplane, and Hadley feathered his burning number two engine, as they fought to keep their damaged airplane flying and to stay alive.
Hadley was able to fly his damaged plane south through, and away from, the flak guns south of the city, and joined up with Col. John Kane's shot up straggler Lead B-24D, Hail Columbia, along with Walter Stewart in, Utah Man, with Lt. Royden LeBrecht undamaged and flying cover for them. Hadley knew his plane couldn't make it all the way home to his airbase at Benghazi. But, he was able to nurse his crippled, Harem, as far as, just past the south Turkish coast, nearing the safety at Cyprus. But, as they were nearing Cyprus, Hadley, seeing he was out of gas and, probably, engine oil, too, radioed a goodbye to his friends, Col. Kane, Royden LeBrecht, Johnny Young, and Bob Sternfels, and turned his airplane back toward Turkey in the darkness. But, before he could nurse his failing, but beloved, airplane, the B-24D, Hadley's Harem, and his crew, back to the Turkish coast, Hadley's three working engines suddenly seized and failed, out of fuel and engine oil. He crashed into the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast of Turkey, as he was descending to try for a ditching in the shallow water close to the Turkish beach. Lt. Hadley and his copilot, Lt. James Lindsey, were trapped in their crushed cockpit and drowned in the sinking plane with their bombardier, Lt. Leon Storms, previously killed by the flak round (KIA) that hit them square in the forward nose section. Seven of their crewmen, who survived the mission and the crash, swam to shore and were interned by the Turks (INT-TURKEY).
First Lieutenant Hadley was reported missing (MIA) and ultimately declared dead (KIA) later in August, 1943. Recorded circumstances attributed his death to: Missing in Action. Presumed Dead. Incident location: Mediterranean Sea, south coast of Turkey. Lt. Gilbert Hadley was just 22 years old when he gave his life for freedom and his country.
Lt. Gilbert Hadley, and his lost B-24D, were both located under the shallow water close to the Turkish coast in 1966. His remains and some personal items were recovered from the, Harem's, cockpit, including his aviator sunglasses, his wristwatch, and one of his pearl handled Colt M-1911 .45 caliber pistols. Lt. Hadley was brought home and laid to rest near his family at Riverview Cemetery in Arkansas City, Kansas.
Three casualties were identified that are related to the, 41-24311, crash incident on August 1, 1943 :
◼Gilbert B. Hadley :: Pilot (KIA)
◼James R. Lindsey :: Co-Pilot (KIA)
◼Leon M. Storms :: Bombardier (KIA)
Gilbert Ben Hadley is memorialized at Tablets of the Missing at North Africa American Cemetery, Carthage, Tunisia. This is an American Battle Monuments Commission location.
★ Distinguished Flying Cross
★ Air Medal
★ Purple Heart
★ United States Aviator Badge Army
★ World War II Victory Medal
★ American Campaign Medal
★ Army Presidential Unit Citation
★ Army Good Conduct Medal
★ European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign
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||Cowley County, KS
||6 May 1921
Son of Perry Arthur and Beulah Pearl [Bacastow] Hadley.
||1943 – 1 August 1943
Assigned to 344BS, 98BG, 9AF USAAF.
||1 August 1943
Crashed into sea off Cyprus. Killed in Action (KIA)
||North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial
Tablets of the Missing
North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial
||Riverview Cemetery in Arkansas City, KS
Riverview Cemetery in Arkansas City, Kansas