2LT Robert F Toner

2LT Robert F Toner

Birth
Woonsocket, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA
Death 13 Apr 1943 (aged 27)
Libya
Burial North Attleboro, Bristol County, Massachusetts, USA
Plot Bethlehem Section, Lot 3
Memorial ID 180930931 · View Source
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Robert was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, but raised in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. He tried to join the U.S. Army Air Corp as early as the spring of 1940, but was turned down. Not one to give in, he went to Canada and was accepted into the Royal Canadian Air Corp. He had logged over 200 flying hours when Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. He left the Canadian Air Corps and re-applied in the United States. This time, he was accepted. He became part of a flight crew assigned to a B-24 Liberator bomber named the Lady Be Good, stationed at a makeshift airbase at Soluch, Libya. Their first assignment was as part of a 25-plane, high altitude bombing raid over Naples, Italy. Their nighttime, radio-silenced return flight caused them to miss the base, located on the Mediterranean coast of Libya, and unknowingly fly 350 miles into the desert. Against all odds, 8 of the 9 crewman (one, John Woravka, died on impact after they bailed out of the plane), made the perilous trek sharing 1/2 a canteen of water among them all, through 130° F daytime temperatures and freezing temperatures at night, and made it an astonishing 130 miles before perishing.
The nearly intact Lady Be Good was discovered in the Libyan desert by an oil research company in 1959.
The crew's remains were not discovered until early 1960. The total lack of moisture had preserved personal possessions, among them a diary that Robert had kept. As per a March 1960 Life Magazine feature, the entries read:

April 4, 1943
Naples: 28 planes. Things pretty well mixed up. Got lost returning, out of gas, jumped, landed in desert at 2 in morning. No one badly hurt. Can't find John, all others present.
Monday 5.
Start walking NW. Still no John. A few rations, 1/2 canteen of water, 1 cup full per day. Sun fairly warm, good breeze from N.W. Nite very cold. No sleep. Rested and walked.
Tuesday
Rested at 11:30, sun very warm, no breeze. Spent P.M. in hell. No planes, etc. Rested until 5 P.M. Walked and rested all night, 15 min. on, 5 off.
Wednesday
Same routine, everyone getting weak, can't get very far, prayers all the time, again P.M. very warm, hell. Can't sleep. Everyone sore from ground.
Thursday
Hit sand dunes, very miserable, good wind but continuous blowing of sand, everybody now very weak, thought Sam and Moore were all gone. LaMotte's eyes are gone, everyone else's eyes are bad. Still going N.W.
Friday 9.
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.
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. Nights very cold, no sleep.
SUNDAY 11.
Still waiting for help, still praying, eyes bad, lost all our wgt., aching all over, could make it if we had some water, just enough left to put our tongue to, have hope for help very soon, no rest, still same place.
MONDAY 12. No help yet. Very cold night.

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"The dauntless courage and tenacity of these men in the face of danger, their suffering and unthinkable deprivation, will remain a high point of human achievement against the most severe adversities. The men of the Lady Be Good have given desert survival schools a new gauge with which to indoctrinate their students; a measuring stick that may save other lives."
- excerpt from Mystery Bomber of World War II The Lady Be Good by Dennis E. McClendon, Lt. Col. USAF, Ret.


At the request of family, Robert's body was flown back to Massachusetts for burial in St. Marys Cemetery near Arthur Toner and Annie Carr Toner. His name is also on a memorial monument, the Tablets of the Missing on North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial, but with a rosette next to his name, indicating his remains have been located.

Lady Be Good crew members:
1st Lieut. William J. Hatton, Pilot
Whitestone, New York;
2nd Lt. Robert Toner, Co-pilot
North Attelboro, Massachusetts;
2nd Lt. Dp Hays, Navigator
Kansas City, Missouri;
2nd Lt. John S. Woravka, Bombardier
Cleveland, Ohio;
T/Sgt. Harold S. Ripslinger, Flight Engineer
Saginaw, Michigan;
T/Sgt. Robert E. LaMotte, Radio Operator
Lake Linden, Michigan;
S/Sgt. Guy E. Shelley, Gunner/Asst Flight Engineer
New Cumberland, Pennsylvania;
Staff Sergeant Vernon L. Moore, Gunner/Asst Radio Operator
New Boston, Ohio;
S/Sgt. Samuel E. Adams, Gunner
Eureka, Illinois.


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  • Created by: tbickellb
  • Added: 2 Jul 2017
  • Find A Grave Memorial 180930931
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for 2LT Robert F Toner (5 Aug 1915–13 Apr 1943), Find A Grave Memorial no. 180930931, citing Saint Marys Cemetery, North Attleboro, Bristol County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by tbickellb (contributor 47136488) .