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The LBG Crash Area Map - Map Notes and Data Sources

The Coordinates Used

LGB Crash Site: 26*42’45.7”N   24*01’27”E
Woravka: 26*54’N   24*08'E
Hatton, Toner, Hays, LaMotte, Adams: 27*50’N   23*34'E
Ripslinger: 28*05’N   23*13'E
Shelley: 28*10’N   23*05'E
Rally Point Position:
Extrapolated from Woravka's position; see "Rally Point Position Determination" below.

The above coordinates were obtained from both McClendon and Martinez's manuscripts, and Myron Fuller's original investigation report notes. McClendon, on page 163 erroneously gives Shelley's coordinates that that of Ripslinger's, and on Page 155 of his book erroneously gives Woravka's coordinates as the location of the group of five (though on page 166 attributes these same coordinates, correctly, as those of Woravka). Martinez's coordinates match these, but he correctly attributes them to the correct crew members, and includes other coordinates (Ripslinger) that McClendon didn't even mention. As Martinez has included a number of other accurate details (azimuth headings, etc.) that McClendon didn't cover either, and his bibliography is extensive, he seems to have confirmed these coordinates from independent sources, such as the original investigation reports, etc. Interestingly, the exact position of the group of five is not stated in either of these books; but we have obtained the coordinates that were hand written by Capt. Myron C. Fuller's in his original notes for the group of five site. The location of the LGB is taken from Martinez, and attributed to Bowerman, Sheridan, and Martin's original astro-fix at the crash site on February 27th and 28th, 1959. If we obtain any evidence to indicate any of these various positions are in error we will update the map accordingly.

Some Notes on Ripslinger and Shelley

Many published and online accounts have contained considerable variation in the number of miles traveled by Ripslinger and Shelley after they left the group of five and continued on their own into the Calanscio Sand Sea. These accounts not only vary but early mistakes seem to have been compounded by later ones, an example of which is:

In 1962, in his book "The Lady Be Good", McClendon wrote: Ripslinger: 21 miles, Shelley: 6 miles further. (This as it turns out is probably a very low estimate, see below). Then, it appears the Quartermaster Graves Web Site, using these same figures, inadvertently reversed Ripslinger and Shelley's positions: Shelley: 21 miles, Ripslinger: 6 miles further. This compound mistake then appears to have been widely copied into a number of other online accounts of the story at such sites as: Damned Interesting,  B29's over Korea, Marshall Stelzriede's Wartime Story, and probably countless others, including perhaps, any of a number of magazine publications featuring the story. In this way these errors seem to have have been perpetuated for some time.

In 1994, James W. Walker in "The Liberandos" reported the distances as: Ripslinger: 26 miles, Shelley: 11.5 miles further. In 1995, Mario Martinez, in "Lady's Men" repeated these figures. These estimates extended the distance that Shelley was previously thought to have traveled by more than eleven miles over what McClendon and others as far back as least 1962 had been reporting, and increased Ripslinger's distance by at least another 5 miles. Were they right? As it turns out, our measurements support Walker and Martinez's numbers. Assumedly, they had charted these distances anew from the original position reports, or at least obtained them from more accurate source material than McClendon had, and they are surprisingly close to the results we obtained independently. Our results were: Ripslinger: 27.46 miles, Shelley: 9.96 miles further. The only difference is they place Ripslinger 1.46 miles closer to Hatton's group than our estimate and awards the difference to Shelley. When combined, their total mileage (37.5) and ours (37.42) only vary by 8/100s of a mile, which seems to persuasively corroborate the two. The bottom line is, we feel confident that these estimates are indeed very close to the minimum distance these men actually covered after leaving Hatton and the others. If one considers the near impossibility of traveling through the labyrinthian pattern of dunes in a strait line, combined with the difficulty of climbing the dunes to traverse them, they obviously must have walked considerably farther than the "strait line" mileages indicate. Given their likely condition, the incredible endurance they mustered seems even all the more astonishing. Unfortunately, as his remains have never been found, Sgt. Vernon Moore's travel distance is still a matter of speculation.

Rally Point Position Determination:

As we have yet to obtain precise field coordinates for the Rally Point position (if any were originally obtained at the location near Woravka where the pile of parachute harnesses and spent flares were discovered), we have therefore placed it with the following considerations in mind: McClendon mentions it was “a little over a mile south” of Woravka, and Martinez says “about four tenths of a mile” from Woravka in the direction of the LBG. Walker also states it was 0.4 miles SW of Woravka's position. We have opted for Martinez as Walker, as other positions in their books have shown to be more reliable than McClendon. Thus the rally point has been placed at four tenths of a mile southwest Woravka on a heading of 220 degrees for all calculations. This is not a "verified" position, but it can be assumed (without further evidence to the contrary) that it's still very likely to be within a small margin of error from the actual site the crew rallied. How scattered they originally became at the bail out, and how long it took for them to rally is of course unknown. For the record, that puts our currently charted rally point for the crew at: 26°53'43.94"N 24° 7'44.95"E.

Azimuth Readings:

All azimuth measurements on the map reflect true (rather than magnetic) north. The magnetic declination in central Libya, as it does everywhere on Earth, changes over time. Today the variation in central Libya is approximately plus 2 degrees. In 1943 it was minus 2 degrees. In 1960 it closely matched that of true north. Because of this variation, we were at first unsure of how accurately chart the crew's path and vehicle tracks so as to match the investigation reports distance and azimuth readings of certain elements, etc. In laying out the map we found that if we placed the Italian tracks at a true 340 degrees and the British tracks at true 20 degrees (the headings mentioned in the Army investigation reports), and then plotted the crew's true headings as indicated by the evidence found in the field, that the distances for the crew's trek and several other mentioned distances between points did not line up quite right. Shifting everything 2 degrees clockwise however, allows all elements of the map to not only intersect at their expected locations, but perfectly corresponded with the distance measurements reported in the investigation reports and published accounts. This makes sense when viewed from the perspective of the 1943 minus 2 degree magnetic variation. For had the crew followed a magnetic compass heading of 325 degrees at a given leg of their trek, their actual true heading would have been 327 degrees. We have thus plotted the map this way because the crew headings and vehicle tracks triangulate perfectly at the intersects expected of them, and the distances subsequently measure correctly as required by the known evidence.

Possible Variables / Assumptions of Accuracy:

The robustness of the map results are inherently dependent on the following assumptions: (1). That the positions used, as stated in the published source material are correct. (2). That the above positions as originally obtained in the field were accurate to within a margin of 1 arc minute (a reasonable standard of error). (3). That the positions as taken in the field were rounded either up or down to the nearest arc minute (often done in such field work). (4). That a 1 arc minute reasonable error in the field, results in an error of approximately one mile (in Libya and arc minute is 1.15 miles in latitude and 1.02 miles in longitude). (5). That assuming the above factors have not been not exceeded, plotting the map markers at exactly the positions as listed above should not therefore introduce an error of more than 1.5 miles in any single position, ( i.e.1 minute of reasonable error + 30 seconds of rounding up/down the minute). (6). That even if two positions had the maximum error as stated in 5 above, the combined maximum error between these two points would therefore not exceed +/- 3 miles. (7). That if original positioning is in error, it is to be understood that the actual distance and azimuth measurements between any two points will of course vary accordingly.

Walking "Timeline" Calculations

Question: How good a time did the crew make in the first days, as opposed to a few days later when in a more weakened state, and when did they reach specific points along their trail?

The following mathematical calculations attempt to roughly estimate and explore the likelihood of the number of miles the crew were able to cover from the morning they bailed out until arriving at the southern edge of the Calanscio Sand Sea. These daily figures correspond to the yellow "Timeline" markers on the LBG Crash Area Map, each of which is positioned to approximate the position at which the crew would have been found (and stopped to shelter themselves from the sun) around noon on the day specified. The calculations were intended to test if the places that McClendon ("The Lady Be Good" 1962) and Martinez ("Lady's Men" 1994) portrayed the crew as having passed in a specific timeline could be supported by calculating the likelihood of their ability to be there at that time. The formulas assume Monday April 5th starts with healthy men able to walk 2 MPH on average, over a long distance, while factoring in non-walking considerations such as their mid-day rests, the "walk and rest" pattern they adopted on their second day out (5 min. break every 15 min. walking), time to construct parachute markers, and the inevitable deterioration that was chronicled so succinctly in their diary entries.

In doing this analysis, one issue that became immediately apparent was the time at which the crew likely encountered the wide set of British vehicle tracks that crossed the Italian tracks they'd been following. Both McClendon and Martinez have the crew encountering the British tracks in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning after they had walked through much of Tuesday evening and into the night. The problem with this scenario becomes apparent when examining the map. The distance from the rally point to the place where Hatton and his 4 crew mates could go no further at the edge of the sand sea is approximately 74 miles which they appear to have walked in around 103 hours or so. However, the distance to the British tracks from the rally point is less than half this distance at about 31.5 miles. It is known from the diaries that they crew encountered the beginnings of the sand dunes sometime Thursday, and were already at the place where Hatton and the other 4 came to a stop by at least mid-day on Friday afternoon. Thus, if the McClendon and Martinez timelines were correct, the crew would have had to have moved at the same speed, if not faster, in the last 55 hours of their trek from the British tracks to the stopping place at the edge of the dunes than they made in the first 48 hours from the rally point to the British tracks. After running a few numbers as chronicled below, it seems likely that the crew encountering the British tracks somewhere in the mid-morning hours of Tuesday, a few hours after dawn. As you can see by the timeline equations, even when the allotted time for constructing parachute markers and sheltering themselves for 5 to 6 hours in the heat of the afternoons are factored in, the crew, still in reasonable good enough condition in the first two days or so, could have easily made it to the British tracks in the time space allotted.

Ultimately of course, the estimates below are just that, estimates. Neither diary mentions either of the vehicle tracks, or even the placing of markers, so the definitive answer of "where and when" may never be ascertained with any quantum of certainty. One fact to consider is that all eight men were together until they reached the sand sea. Thus, they could only move as fast as their weakest member, so the estimates of average MPH and FT/SEC as illustrated below seem reasonable when considered in the context the rapidly deteriorating physical conditions they experienced from Wednesday thru Friday. The Google Earth KMZ file available for download in the LBG.net Map Room has a variety of imbedded information that further examines the timeline issue. It also explores some of the possible factors that may have influenced the crew to place certain markers where they did, and where and why they may have rested at certain points along their route.

Monday April 5th

Distance Covered: 13 miles

Time Spent Walking: 6.5 hrs walking
(5am to 12pm = 7 hrs, minus 0.5 hr for 1 parachute marker assembly)

Walking Speed Calculation:
13 miles x 5,280 ft/mi. = 68,640 ft.
68,640 ft / 6.5 hrs = 10, 560 ft/hr
10, 560 ft/hr / 5,280 ft. = 2 MPH
10, 560 ft/hr / 3,600 sec/hr = 2.93 FT/SEC

Assumes walking continued after hot afternoon rest period at 5pm.

Tuesday April 6th

Distance Covered: 19.38 miles

Time Spent Walking: 12.38 hrs
(5pm, [Monday] to 11:30am = 18.5 hrs, minus 2.5 hrs for 5 parachute marker assemblies, Minus .25 of total time for 5 min. break every 15 min.)

Walking Speed Calculation:
19.38 miles x 5,280 ft/mi. = 102,326 ft
102,326 ft / 12.38 hrs = 8,265 ft/hr
8,265 ft/hr / 5,280 ft. = 1.57 MPH
8,265 ft/hr / 3,600 sec/hr = 2.29 FT/SEC

Walking continued at 5pm after hot afternoon rest period.
Toner Diary: "Rested at 11:30..... rested until 5:00 P.M. walked & rested all nite"

Wednesday April 7th

Distance Covered: 17.0 miles

Time Spent Walking: 14.25 hrs
(5pm [Tuesday ]to 12pm = 19 hrs, minus .25 of total time for 5 min. break every 15 min.)

Walking Speed Calculation:
17 miles x 5,280 ft/mi. = 89,760 ft
89,760 ft / 14.25 hrs = 6,299 ft/hr
6,299 ft/hr / 5,280 ft. = 1.19 MPH
6,299 ft/hr / 3,600 sec/hr = 1.74 FT/SEC

Walking continued at 6pm after hot afternoon rest period and continued all night.
Ripslinger Diary: "Started again at 6 P.M. and walked all night"

Thursday April 8th

Distance Covered: 13.3 miles

Time Spent Walking: 13.25 hrs
(6pm [Wednesday] to 12pm = 18 hrs, minus .25 of total time for 5 min. break every 15 min.)

Walking Speed Calculation:
13.3 miles x 5,280 ft/mi. = 70,224 ft
70,224 ft / 13.25 hrs = 5,300 ft/hr
5,300 ft/hr / 5,280 ft. = 1.00 MPH
5,300 ft/hr / 3,600 sec/hr = 1.47 FT/SEC

Assumes walking continued at 6pm after usual hot afternoon rest period and continued all night.

Friday April 9

Distance Covered: 10.44 miles

Time Spent Walking: 13.25 hrs
(6pm [Thursday] to 12pm = 18 hrs, minus .25 of total time for 5 min. break every 15 min.)

Walking Speed Calculation:
10.44 miles x 5,280 ft/mi. = 55,123 ft
55,123 ft / 13.25 hrs = 4,160 ft/hr
4,160 ft/hr / 5,280 ft. = 0.78 MPH
4,160 ft/hr / 3,600 sec/hr = 1.15 FT/SEC

Assumes they had arrived at place where (travel stopped in afternoon) first 5 bodies were found:
Toner Diary: "Not any travel, all want to die, still very little water."
Ripslinger Diary: "All wanted to die during noon it was so hot"

Saturday thru Monday April 10 -12

The distances and timeline positions for Shelley, Ripslinger, (and Moore) after they separated from the other five are mostly conjecture, but based on the fact that Ripslinger was at least still able enough to make his last "Palm Sunday" entry on the 11th, and Shelley was found just shy of ten miles beyond Ripslinger. That Shelley could have survived until the Tuesday the 13th or even longer cannot be verified of course, but considering the considerable difficulty of navigating the dunes, their already weakened conditions, and the complete lack of water by Friday the 9th, it is probably unlikely.