Flight Suit Jacket – Lady Be Good
This Army Air Service flight jacket was worn by 1st Lieutenant William J. Hatton, the pilot of the B-24 bomber known as the “Lady Be Good” during World War II. This bomber and its crew were made famous by the unfortunate circumstances surrounding their tragic demise. Tasked with a bombing run targeting Naples, Italy, in April, 1943, the crew set off from an Allied base in Libya, North Africa. As the crew attempted to return back to the base following the raid, a combination of navigation error and bad weather made finding their way very challenging. Unable to locate their base, the plane ultimately ran out of fuel, and the crew was forced to bail out. Of the nine Soldiers aboard, one was killed during the bail out, but eight survived. Unbeknownst to the rest of the Allied Forces, these Soldiers would wander through the desert for eight days searching for their base before losing their lives, only to have them and any traces of the event lost for the next 16 years. It was not until 1959 that a British oil expedition, followed by a formal US Army and Air Force search mission a year later, would discover this jacket, a diary, and the other artifacts that would ultimately reveal the story of the Lady Be Good crew.
The jacket featured here is a World War II-era flight jacket made of sheepskin. A bomber flown at altitude could subject its crew to cold temperatures, so flight jackets needed to provide significant insulation. As the jacket is obviously in very poor condition, it is not on display at the Museum. However, many other artifacts recovered from the wreckage of the Lady Be Good can be viewed in an exhibit detailing the events surrounding this fascinating story.