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Gola Goifield Gibby


SSgt. Gola G. Gibby took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1-Aug-43, as engineer and top turret gunner on the B-24, 41-24229, named, Buzzin' Bear. 1-Aug-43.

On a later mission over Foggia, Italy, Sgt. Gibby was killed in action (KIA), when Buzzin' Bear was shot down by a German ME-109 fighter. The attack was on the Foggia airfields, under TDY to the 9th Air Force in, 41-24229. Buzzin' Bear failed to return. FTR). 16-Aug-43.

Gola G. Gibby was the son of Donlad 'Doc' H. and Esther Gibby of Nantahala, Swain County, North Carolina. His mother died before his third birthday and he lived with his father and grandparents in Nantahala, North Carolina. Gola attended grammar school and worked on the farm raising livestock. He joined the US Army Air Corps on 21-Nov-41 in Missoula, Montana and listed his hometown as Madisonville, Tennessee.

Staff Sergeant Gola Gibby was trained as a flight engineer assigned to the B-24D Liberator bomber, serial number 41-24229, named, Buzzin' Bear. He was assigned to the 67th Bomb Squadron, the 44th Bomb Group, in the 8th Air Force, stationed in Shipdham, England, and on temporary assignment (TDY) to the 9th Air Force in North Africa. The B-24, in which he was a flight engineer, was named, Buzzin’ Bear, also, Seeds Of Satan, and Miss Delores. He would serve with the same crew until the crash of Buzzin' Bear, which killed four of his ten man crew (KIA) and left the other six, prisoners of war (POW) in Italy under German occupation. However, two crew members were able to escape captivity and returned to duty.

Sgt. Gibby was involved in the large bombing mission to destroy the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. He had made previous bombing raids on several locations in Europe and Italy including targets at Foggia, Italy.

After surviving the Ploesti mission, on Mission 45, his bomber, in Squadron 67, returned to Foggia to strike the enemy airfield there again when the, Buzzin’ Bear, was shot down by a German Messerschmitt 109 fighter. Gibby tried to bail out but did not get clear of his B-24 and was killed in action (KIA). 16-Aug-43.

The following is an account from the 44th Bomb Group Roll of Honor and Casualties:

“Lt. Leighton C. Smith, flying, Buzzin' Bear, a plane which was almost as famous as the B-24D, Suzy Q, in the 44th Bomb Group from Britain, the Flying Eight Balls, and was the third 67th Squadron ship lost on August 16, 43. Like, Suzy Q, the Bear was lost with hardly anyone observing her end. But, unlike Suzy Q, there were some survivors from Buzzin' Bear. During the mission, Lt. Smith began having difficulty maintaining formation due to turbulence, heavy flak explosions, and the fierce, persistent fighter attacks that were inflicting considerable damage on the 67th Bomb Squadron. "The fighters knocked out our our flight controls on their second pass. Soon, it became obvious to me that bailout was our only solution. At that instant, Smith gave the bailout signal."

“Then one of the fighters hit our 400 gallon bomb bay tank of 115 octane gas. Four chutes were observed from the other planes around us, all from the front of the plane, while those in the rear continued to shoot at the German fighters. Those rear gunners never got out, riding their aircraft to the ground. Two of these gunners were former ground crewmen, killed in action (KIA). 16-Aug-43.

The co-pilot, Lt. Milliner, wrote, “Up the coast of Italy, our formation was loose and relaxed. This changed on the approach to the target. Everyone tightened up and prepared to drop their bombs. At that moment, heavy flak started coming up at us concentrated on the lower aircraft. The 67th Squadron was flying high cover, so we did not get much flak, immediately, but the flight behind us picked up some. The lower flight consisted of Hager, Batemen, and Curelli. At that moment, my mind wandered, and I started thinking about what the mess hall might serve for dinner when we got back. Everything seemed to be okay, and we were having a fine day until the fighters appeared, just after we left the target, when I snapped back to reality. Our gunners opened up on them, and holes began to appear in our wings. Our #2 and #3 engines started taking hits. The fighters were accurate and determined. The enemy planes I saw were all 109s, and they were attacking Austin and Whitlock from the rear."

“But, I was trying to spot the fighters attacking us. No one came in at us from our front side. They all came in from 6 and 4 o’clock. I couldn't see these, but I knew they were there because small caliber rounds were glancing off my windows at about 45 degree angles up. These had to be coming from the attacks from 4 o’clock low under the Bear. After the first couple of attacks, the intercom must have been shot out because it got real quiet. I took my off my earphones and looked back at the flight deck. McCabe was sitting up on the deck with a scared look on his face. I didn't have time to question him, but I thought that he was supposed to be at the waist guns.

“Then, I looked over at Lt. Hill's plane and saw him push his nose into a steep dive. Evidently, my pilot, Lt. Smith, missed seeing this maneuver and wanted to know where Hill went. I figured Hill wasn't hit that bad, but was taking evasive action. I leaned over and told Smith to give the Buzzin' Bear everything it had and emphasized, ‘Whadya say, let's get the hell out of here ?’ Smith throttled up just as another AA burst hit us from 4 o’clock. I heard a pop in the bomb bay and turned to look. McCabe was now gone from the deck. A fire broke out at the base of the bomb bay fuel tank and started to spread. Then, another German 109 unloaded his guns into us from about 1000 feet and 6 o’clock. It seemed like a wall of lead was hitting us. And that wasn't good !"

“The Bear shuddered. I heard it groan and creak like airplane structures do when they're stressed. Our nose was moving upward. I looked at Leighton Smith. He was trying to make sure his chute harness was okay. So, I grabbed the controls and pushed the yoke forward to push the nose back down and pushed the bail out alarm because I wasn’t sure Smith had hit it. I shouted for Smith to go out of the top hatch because the bomb bay doors were closed, and the fire in the bomb bay was so intense, I couldn't even see the it ! About that time, Smith dived for the back door and I saw him disappear into the fire. I was sure that, no way, he could make it out of that fire alive. But, he did, suffering second degree burns on his face, hands and neck for his trouble. Finally, getting my own wits together and realizing there was no saving the Bear, I reached for the latch on the top hatch and dropped it immediately. The suction from the opening caused the fire to fill up the flight deck and go up and out of the top hatch. This, I hadn't counted on ! But, it was too late to do any more counting. I dove for the opening and hung there and then swung my feet out on top of the fuselage and toward the rear of the plane. My right leg was hanging over the leading edge of the wing, but I had no problem running and jumping off the rear side of the wing just past the number two engine. My clothes were on fire when I left the hatch, but once out of the hatch, the rush of air put the flames out, leaving me with burns on my face, neck, armpits, and legs. My clothes, especially my shirt, crumbled and fell apart. Big blisters had popped up on my neck as l bailed off the back of the left wing. This wasn't turning out to be a very good day. l had completely forgotten about what the mess would serve for dinner that night."

“Once on the ground, I met an Italian Count who could speak English. He had visited the crash site and confirmed the number of men killed with the aircraft. He also watched the air battle from the ground and said that the Bear had spun in from a great height, which I kind of already knew."

Many of the crewmen lost with, Buzzin’ Bear, were from Bill Cameron’s original crew. Cameron recalls: “In late March, 1943, with so many airmen killed and missing, there was a desperate search for people to form new crews in the 67th Bomb Squadron. In a few days, I soloed in the B-24, Little Beaver. Shortly after, an officer, recently transferred from the RAF, was assigned to me as my co-pilot, Bill Dabney. Another was assigned as my navigator, Tom Clifford. Five volunteers from the ground crews, who had worked as mechanics on the flight line, were sent off to gunnery school. On their return, I had my two flight engineers in Winters and Gola Gibby, my two waist gunners, Ernest McCabe, Jerry Grett, and a tail gunner, Frank Maruszewski. A real character, a reject from a B-17 outfit, was given to us as our radio operator, Gerald Sparks. The last to join our crew was our bombardier, “Gentleman” Jim DeVinney. This was my new crew, a fine, eager bunch of kids !"

After having been killed in action over Foggia, SSgt. Gola Gibby was returned to the United States after the war to be laid to rest at the Memphis National Cemetery, Memphis, TN, on 1-Dec-49. SSgt. Gibby was buried in a common grave with his fellow gunners, Ernest G. McCabe and Gerald L. Grett.

In his childhood home of Whittier, NC, Gola Gibby was honored by having the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8013 named in his honor.



  • Leighton Smith

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24 Command Pilot | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs
    1stLt. Leighton Smith was the command pilot of, 41-24229, Buzzin' Bear, shot down by fighters over the Foggia enemy airfields, under TDY to the 9th Air Force in, 41-24229, Buzzin' Bear. Following a successful bail out, although he was burned by his...

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Units served with

  • 8th Air Force

    8th Air Force

    Eighth Air Force Bomber Command became the Eighth Air Force on February 1944, it oversaw bombardment of strategic targets in Europe until 1945. ...

  • 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs

    44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs

    The 44th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated 15-January-1942 at McDill Field, Florida and equipped with B-24Cs. The Group moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana and acted as a training unit for the 90th 93rd and 98th Bomb Groups and flew anti...

  • 67th Bomb Squadron


  • 41-23778 Jenny - Lady Luck

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator bomber, 41-23778, renamed, Lady Luck, from, Jenny, - Survived Operation Tidal Wave over Ploesti Romania, August 1, 1943. ...

  • 41-24229 Buzzin' Bear - Seeds of Satan - Miss Delores

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, 41-24229, last named, Buzzin' Bear, was assigned to the 8th Air Force, the 44th Bomb Group, and the 67th Bomb Squadron in North Africa based at Benghazi Libya. Buzzin' Bear was flown by Col. William Roderick Cameron on Operation Tidal Wave...


  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B-24D Liberators attack the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. The bombers flew low to avoid radar detection and dropped time delayed bombs. Out of the 177 B-24s that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57...

Associated Place

  • Shipdham

    Military site : airfield
    Shipdham was built in 1941-1942, the first US heavy bomber airfield in the English county of Norfolk. It was a standard design, with T2-type hangars and a domestic site dispersed to the south east. Improvements were carried out to increase the number...


Event Location Date
Born Bryson City, Swain County, NC 22 August 1918

Son of Donald 'Doc' H and Esther Gibby.

Enlisted Missoula, MT 21 November 1941

Missoula, Montana

Based 1943 – 16 August 1943

Assigned to 67BS, 44BG, 8AF USAAF. TDY 9AF USAAF.

Died Foggia, Italy 16 August 1943

Attack was on airfields north of Foggia, under TDY to the 9th AAF. Buzzin' Bear was shot down by enemy fighters. SSgt Gibbey (KIA).

Buried Memphis National Cemetery Memphis, Shelby County, TN 1948

Memphis National Cemetery
Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee


Date Contributor Update
01 September 2021 18:00:05 Al_Skiff Changes to middlename, biography and events

Date Contributor Update
01 September 2021 11:18:14 Kickapoo Changes to biography

The Great Ground-Air Battle of 1 August 1943 - James Dugan & Carroll Stewart

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2021 15:51:39 Al_Skiff Changes to surname, biography, events, unit associations and place associations

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2021 11:49:51 Kickapoo Changes to nickname

FindAGrave Memorial - SSgt, Gola G. Gibby

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2021 11:31:40 Kickapoo Changes to biography

FindAGrave Memorial - SSgt, Gola G. Gibby

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2021 11:27:31 Kickapoo Changes to biography

FindAGrave Memorial - SSgt. Gola G. Gibby

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2021 11:01:34 Kickapoo Changes to biography and awards

FindAGrave Memorial - SSgt. Gola G. Gibby

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2021 08:56:50 Kickapoo Changes to role, biography and events

Best Web - B-24 - Buzzin' Bear

Date Contributor Update
31 January 2020 12:34:42 general ira snapsorter Changes to surname, biography, events and mission associations

Ploesti Sortie Reports, 44th Bomb Group

Date Contributor Update
15 July 2015 12:29:13 general ira snapsorter Changes to role

Merged with duplcate record to include details from:
'Ploesti' by Dugan & Stewart;
The records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:11:35 AAM AAM ingest

44th BG Roll of Honor and Casualties by Will Lundy pp. 109-112, MACR 15858, Losses of the 8th & 9th AFs Vol I by Bishop & Hey p. 235 / Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia