ARMSTRONG CIRCLE THEATRE: "Ghost Bomber: The Lady Be Good" 1960
ARMSTRONG CIRCLE THEATRE was an American anthology series that was broadcast for 406 episodes between 1950 and 1963. The first five seasons had a 30 minute runtime with the remaining seasons clocking in at an hour. Quite a few up and coming actors received their starts on the series. These would include, Grace Kelly, Lee Remick, Jack Lemmon, Martin Sheen, Paul Newman, Robert Duvall and many others.
This episode from 1960 is about the discovery of a U.S. Air Force B-24 bomber in the Libyan Desert in 1959. The B-24, "The Lady Be Good" had been missing since April 5th 1943. It had been part of a bombing mission with the 376th Bomber Group attacking Naples from an airbase at Soluch Libya.
The episode, part documentary, part drama, tells the story of what is believed to have happened during the mission, the bomber's first. The story starts with the crew, led by pilot, William Hatton (played by Conrad Fowkes) being briefed on the mission. The crew is part of a group of 25 aircraft sent to bomb the docks at Naples.
The mission is a bust with most of the aircraft turning back with assorted engine problems etc. Only 4 out of the original 25 make it to Naples and it is too dark to pick out the targets. The ships head back to North Africa where 3 of the bombers make safe landings, but "The Lady Be Good" is not one of them.
Several hours later the base receives a radio call asking for a direction bearing. The bearing is broadcast and the aircraft acknowledges. That is the last that is heard from the aircraft.
The episode now changes to straight up documentary style. Various U.S. Air Force types explain how the aircraft was found 16 years later, 470 miles south of Soluch Airbase by men exploring for oil. The Air Force flies out in a C-47 to inspect the wreck.
Although the plane was broken into two pieces, it was well preserved by the dry desert air. The machine guns were functioning, the radio worked and there were supplies of food and water on board. There were no bodies in or around the aircraft, so it was assumed that the crew had bailed out sometime before the crash.
The Air Force figured that the aircraft had over flown the base and continued on the radio bearing they had been given. The Air Force started a ground search that turned up discarded flight boots as well as several parachutes laid out like an arrow. These all pointed north toward the sea. It is assumed that the crew set off on foot not knowing they were 500 miles from the coast.
Several months after this episode aired, the remains of the crew were discovered in a line towards the coast. A diary recovered from one of the remains recorded the crew's suffering on their trek north. It also indicated that the crew were unaware they had been flying over land when they bailed out.
The cast includes, Conrad Fowkes, Don Gantry, George Segal and Nicholas Pryor. The director was long-time television man, William Corrigan. Elements of the story were used for the 1970 television film, SOLE SURVIVOR, starring Richard Basehart William Shatner and Vince Edwards.
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