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The Diaries

Both Co-Pilot Robert F. Toner and Tech. Sgt. Harold J. Ripslinger possessed small pocket-sized date-book type journals in which daily entries were kept. These items were found in association with their remains and faithfully chronicle the crews actions from the day of the mission until 8 to 9 days after bailout.

It can never be known for certain exactly how long any or all of the crew lived... but their condition as described in the last few entries indicate this was not much longer than shortly after the entries cease. Both LBG authors McClendon and Martinez, (for well executed and understandably interpretive literary reasons), added a bit of dialogue and some likely behaviors for the crew during these days in their books. Though well researched and useful in enriching the story of the LGB's crew, the hard fact remains that these few diary entries, along with the artifacts found with the crew's remains and along the path of their trek, are the only hard evidence we have of the thoughts, activities, and theoretical interactions or dialogue of the crew during their desert ordeal.

We may ponder such things as... What did they talk about to break the monotony while walking or resting? What was the mood of the men and how did it change as they went along? Did they tell jokes, talk of home, or just remain silent to conserve energy? Was there any conflict of interest about the ways to proceed, or animosity for instance toward navigator Hays for for some real or imagined lack of performance during the mission...and a thousand more. There is no evidence in the journals or artifacts recovered to disprove that they acted in any way other than that of a cool, co-operative team, focusing simply on their immediate survival... but there is no evidence to prove it either. The comment and two questions found scribbled in John Woravka's notebook when his body was recovered intimate there may have been some kind of conflict during the mission, so one must keep an open mind. We shall never really know.

"He was beeching about something...what's going to happen?...are we going home?"

All that can be known is what can be analyzed or extracted from these fleeting but valuable pieces of information. One thing is certain. When first released to the press, these brief yet descriptive entries, written by these two hopeful, haunted, but ultimately doomed men, did more to propel the LGB saga into that of legend than perhaps anything else.

Diary of Co-Pilot Robert F. Toner:

Toner Transcript:

SUNDAY, APR. 4, 1943
Naples- 28 planes. Things pretty well mixed up- Got lost returning. out of gas, jumped. landed in desert at 2:00 in morning, no one badly hurt, can't find John, all others present.

Start walking N.W., still no John. a few rations, 1/2 canteen of water, 1 cap full per day. Sun fairly warm. good breeze from N.W. Nite very cold, no sleep. Rested & walked.

Rested at 11:30, sun very warm, no breeze, spent P.M. in hell, no planes, etc. rested until 5:00 P.M. walked & rested all nite, 15 min. on, 5 off.

Same routine, every one getting weak, can't get very far, prayers all the time, again P.M. very warm, hell. Can't sleep. Every one sore from ground.

Hit Sand Dunes, very miserable, good wind but continuous blowing of sand, everybody now very weak, thought Sam & Moore were all gone. LaMotte eyes are gone, everyone else's eyes are bad. Still going N.W.

Shelley, Rip, Moore separate and try to go for help, rest of us all very weak, eyes bad. Not any travel, all want to die, still very little water. nites are about 35, good N. wind, no shelter, 1 parachute left.

SATURDAY, APR. 10, 1943
Still having prayer meetings for help. No signs of anything, a couple of birds; good wind from N. Really weak now, can't walk, pains all over, still all want to die. Nites very cold, no sleep.

Still waiting for help, still praying, eyes bad, lost all our wgt. aching all over, could make it if we had water; just enough left to put our tongue to, have hope for help very soon, no rest, still same place.

No help yet, very (unreadable) cold nite.


Diary of Flight Engineer Harold J. Ripslinger:

Ripslinger Transcript:

Mission to Naples, Italy. T.O. 3:10 and dropped (sic) bombs at 10:00. Lost coming back. Bailed out at 2:10 A.M. on dessert (sic).

All but Woravka met this A.M. Waited awhile and started walking. Had 1/2 sandwhich (sic) & piece of candy & cap of water in last 36 hr.

Started out early walking & resting. It's now sundown and still going. One teaspoon of water today. The rest of the boys are doing fine.

Started early A. M. and walked til about near spent. Terrible hot afternoon. Started again at 6 P.M. and walked all night. One spoon full of water is all.

Tired all out. We can hardly walk. Our 4th day out. A few drops of water each. Can't hold out much longer without aid. Pray.

5th day out & we all thought we're gone. All wanted to die during noon it was so hot. Morn & nite okay. 2 drops of water!

Walked all day and night. Suggested Guy, Moore and I make out alone.

Palm Sun. Still struggling to get out of dunes and find water.


Some Final Thoughts:

What conversations, interactions, or lack there of that transpired between the crew while attempting to walk out of the desert are beyond history's reach...those details are lost to time. Nobody will ever know. Yet both diaries exhibit similarities that illuminate a few things that can be assumed have been experienced by the group as a whole:

("Day 1" is herein considered to be Monday, April 5th, their first actual "day" in the desert.)

1. Initial Hope of Rescue
In the first three days the entries seem relatively routine in their matter of fact way of recording simply what the group DID, not how they FELT, as if it were assumed (or hoped at least) it was going to be a matter of time before they were either rescued or were able to make it back to the coast by walking. When or how their initial assumption of their probable location and how it may have changed in terms of their presumptive distance from their base at Soluch, and when and how that may have eventually altered their hope for rescue is unclear. By Day 4 however, they were beginning to physically deteriorate at a rapid pace and must have begun to consider rescue as being a potentially forgone hope.

2. Mutual Consensus of Physical Resignation
Both diaries indicate that by the 4th day out, Thursday the 8th, serious exhaustion was taking place among the group. Both diaries mention "all wanting to die" by day 5, Friday the 9th, the first mention of this being in relation to an excruciatingly hot afternoon on that day. How both Toner and Ripslinger came to understand the "mutual" nature of this wish among the group can only be surmised. One may assume they were able to vocalize their collective misery to each other in a way that was brutally frank.

3. Growing Awareness of Predicament
Ripslinger mentions "Can't hold out much longer without aid" on day 4, Thursday the 8th...and Toner mentions on day 7, Sunday the 11th, "could make it if we had water" clearly illustrating that as early as day 4 they were fully aware of the potentially fatal predicament the were facing.

4. Call to Faith
On day 3, Wednesday the 7th, Toner mentions "prayers all the time". He twice again refers to prayers, and Ripslinger writes simply "Pray" at the end of Thursday the 8th's entry. Toner's entry, "Still having prayer meetings for help" on Saturday the 10th, comes after Friday's mention of Shelley, Ripslinger and Moore separating from the rest. Since Ripslinger doesn't mention that he, Shelley, and Moore separated until his Saturday the 10th's entry, it's unclear if the "prayer meetings" were first initiated by the group as a whole or were performed only by the five remaining behind after they had left. Note however that the word "Still" in Toner's entry indicates they were meeting in prayer before the entry occurred. It seems tempting if not logical to therefore conclude they had all participated in at least one if not more formal prayer meetings before the separation.

5. “Routine” use of Allotted Diary Space
Throughout the pages of both diaries no more than the allotted space for each days entry was used. Even toward the end, both Toner and Ripslinger did not write more than what could fit in the allotted diary space for that days entry. Even when the hope of rescue seems to have been all but foregone, they kept their entries short and to the point. Though each had ample room, and presumably many extra pages to write a "farewell" message to loved ones, or other personal thoughts toward the end, both seemed to have resisted writing outside the margins of each days allotted few lines. One could argue that the hope for, or at least the "idea" of rescue, was always very much in their minds. Or just perhaps, they consciously (or subconsciously) felt that writing anything else besides the daily entries they'd been accustomed to, indeed writing anything outside the current day's alloted space would somehow doom them, would in effect "jinx" the possibility of rescue, even if only through the simple act of literary self resignation. Whatever the case may be, given the intensity of emotions and personal interactions they must have experienced individually and as a group in their final days, it makes their all to brief descriptions of each days experiences frustratingly cryptic to those wishing to unravel the story at length.