|The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was produced in even greater numbers than the B-17 Flying Fortress.
With over 18,000 aircraft built the
Consolidated B-24 Liberator was produced in even greater numbers than the other famous Second World War US bomber, the B-17 Flying Fortress. The Liberator gained a distinguished war record with its operations in the European, Pacific,
African and Middle Eastern theaters. One of its main virtues was a long operating range, which led to it being used also for
other duties including maritime patrol, antisubmarine work, reconnaissance, tanker, cargo and personnel transport. Winston
Churchill used one as his own transport aircraft.
The aircraft was originally designed to a United States Army Air
Corps requirement, and the prototype first flew on December 29,1939. Meanwhile, orders for production aircraft had also been
received from Great Britain and France, who had tried desperately to build up and modernize their air forces for the war which
had been inevitable. However, the Liberator was not available to France by the time of its capitulation, and French-ordered
aircraft were diverted to Britain.
Among the first Liberators to go into British service were six used as transatlantic
airliners with BOAC, while others went to Coastal Command as patrol aircraft. As production in the States continued to expand,
taking in other manufacturers to help build the type, versions appeared with varying armament and other differences. Liberators
also found their way into the United States Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the armed forces of other countries. In
Europe, Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force concentrated mainly on night bombing, while the United States Army Air Force
operated mainly as a day bombing force. On December 4,1942 US Liberators of the 9th Air Force attacked Naples, recording their
first raid on Italy, followed on July 19,1943 by the first raid on Rome by 270 Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses of the USAAF casualties among the US day bombing forces were high, until the perfection of formation
flying and the support of long-range escort fighters. This was well illustrated on August 17,1943 when 59 bombers were shot
down while attacking German ball-bearing factories, followed by 60 losses in a similar raid in October. In March 1944 a large
force of US Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses attacked Berlin in daylight, the first of several such raids.
|The B-24J Liberator was the variation produced in the largest quantity.
|The B-24J Liberator was the variation produced in the largest quantity; a total
of 6,678 being constructed. It was so similar to the G and H models that the latter were modified to become B-24Js by changing
the autopilot and bombsight. Armed with twin .50-cal. Brownings in the nose, upper, lower ball, waist, and tail turrets, a
total of 5,200 rounds of ammunition were carried. The top speed of 290 mph was provided by four Pratt & Whitney supercharged R-1830-65's with 1,200 hp each. Cruise was 215 mph and landing speed was 95 mph with its Fowler flaps. Rate
of climb was 1,025 feet per minute, and service ceiling was 28,000 feet. Empty, the B-24J weighed 36,500 pounds and grossed
out at 56,000 pounds. Maximum range extended 3,700 miles. The Wing span was 110 feet; wing area, 1,048 square feet; length,
67 feet 2 inches; height, 18 feet. Fuel capacity was 3,614 gallons. |
The 1,667 B-24Ls and 2,593 B-24M models varied
only slightly in armament fixtures from their predecessors. Several B-24s were used as transports under the Air Force designation
of C-87 Liberator Express and a few became C-109 fuel tankers.
|A B-24 was hit by antiaircraft fire. A few moments later the whole plane exploded.
More Than Perseverance
And A Prayer.
During 1943 the Allies increased their air
attacks on key points in Hitler's Fortress Europe. In July British bombers turned Hamburg into an inferno. Dropping strips
of tin foil to confuse the German radar system, the RAF dumped tons of incendiary and high-explosive bombs on the city. When
the ten days of sustained raids were over, 70,000 people were dead, and Hamburg as a city had almost ceased to exist.
Luftwaffe, however, was still able to inflict punishing losses on bombers that attacked strategic targets farther inland,
beyond the range of escorting fighters. Almost one-third of the B-24s that made a low level raid on the oil refineries of
Ploesti, Rumania in August were shot down. Sixty planes and their crews were lost on August 17 in raids against Schweinfurt
and Regensburg, and in October, 148 bombers were lost in six days. The Combined Bomber Offensive was damaging Germany, but
the cost was high.
|A damaged bomber of the Fifteenth Air Force falls away from its companion.
Liberator Variations Liberator 11 (LB-30). Had no B-24 counterpart
(LT3-30 designation signifies Liberator built to British specifications). Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4G engines with two speed superchargers and driving Curtiss Electric full-feathering propellers. Armed with
eleven .303 in. guns, eight in two Boulton Paul power turrets, one dorsal and one tail, one in the nose and two in waist positions.
XB-24B. The first B-24 to be fitted with turbo-supercharged engines, self-sealing tanks, armor, and other modern refinements.
B-24C. Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-41 engines with exhaust-driven turbo-superchargers. Armament augmented to include two power-driven turrets,
one dorsal and one tail, each fitted with two .50-cal. guns. In addition, there was one .50-cal. nose gun and two similar
guns in waist positions.
B-24D (PB4Y-l and Liberator B.III and G.R.V.). Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 engines. Armament further increased by the addition of two further nose guns and one tunnel gun, making
a total of ten .50-cal. guns. Fuel capacity increased by the addition of auxiliary self-sealing fuel cells in the outer wings
and there was provision for long-range tanks in the bomb-bay. The first model to be equipped to carry two 4,000 lb. bombs
on external racks, one under each inner wing. The Liberator G.R.V. was used as a long-range general reconnaissance type by
RAF Coastal Command. Fuel capacity was increased at the expense of amour and tank protection. Armament consisted of one .303-in.
or .50-cal. gun in the nose, two .50-cal. guns in the upper turret, four .303 -in. or two .50-cal. guns in waist positions
and four .303-in. guns in a Boulton Paul tail turret. Bombs or depth charges 5,400 lbs.
B-24E (Liberator IV). Similar
to B-24D except for minor equipment details. Built by Consolidated (Forth Worth), Ford (Willow Run) and Douglas (Tulsa).
An experimental version of the B-24E fitted with exhaust-heated surface anti-icing equipment on wings and tail surfaces.
B-24H and B-24J (PB4Y-l and Liberator B.VI and G.R.VI). Similar except for details of equipment and minor differences associated
with different manufacturing methods. B-24J built by North American (Dallas). B-24H built by Consolidated (Forth Worth), Ford
(Willow Run) andDouglas (Tulsa). B-24J built by Consolidated (San Diego and Fort Worth), Ford, Douglas and North American
(Dallas). Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 or 65 engines. Armament further improved to include four two-gun turrets, in
nose and tail and above and below the fuselage (details below). Later models of the B-24J were fitted with exhaust-heated
anti-icing equipment. The Liberator G.R.VI was used as a long-range general reconnaissance type by RAF Coastal Command. Armament
consisted of six .50-cal. guns, two each in nose and dorsal turrets and in waist positions, and four .303-in. guns in a Boulton
Paul tail turret. Bombs or depth charges 4,500 lbs. (2,045 kg.).
XB-24K. The first Liberator to be fitted with a single
fin and rudder. An experimental model only.
B-24L. Similar to the B-24J but fitted with a new tail turret with two
manually-operated .50-cal. guns. The two guns had a wider field of fire and the new turret, which was designed by the Consolidated
Vultee Modification Center at Tucson permitted a saving of 200 lbs. (91 kg.) in weight.
B-24M. Same as the B-24L except
fitted with a new Motor Products two-gun power-operated tail turret. A B-24M was the 6,725th and last Liberator built by Consolidated
Vultee at San Diego.
B-24N. The first production single-tail Liberator. Fitted with new nose and tail gun mountings.
Only a few were built before the Liberator was withdrawn from production on May 31,1945.
of B-24 bombers withdrawn from operational flying in the European Theater of Operations were stripped of all armament and
adapted to various duties, including utility transport, etc. Painted in distinctive colors and patterns, they were also used
as Group Identity Aircraft to facilitate the assembly of large numbers of bombers into their battle formations through and
above overcast weather. All these carried the designation CB-24.
TB-24 (formerly AT-22). A conversion of the B-24D
for specialized advanced training duties. All bombing equipment and armament removed and six stations provided in the fuselage
for the instruction of air engineers in powerplant operation, essentially for such aircraft as the Boeing B-29 and the Consolidated
Vultee B-32, which are the first large combat aircraft in the USAAF to have separate completely equipped engineer's stations.
C-109. A conversion of the B-24 into a fuel-carrying aircraft. The first version, modified by the USAAF had metal
tanks in the nose, above the bomb-bay and in the bomb-bay holding a total of 2,900 US gallons. Standard fuel transfer system
for loading and unloading through single hose union in side of fuselage. Inert gas injected into tanks as fuel pumped out
to eliminate danger of explosion. Developed for transporting fuel from India to China to supply the needs of the B-29s operating
therefrom. Later version modified by the Glenn L. Martin Company, fitted with collapsible Mareng fuel cells.
|Consolidated B-24J Liberator |
||110 ft 0 in (33.53 m) |
||67 ft 2 in (20.47 m) |
||18 ft 0 in (5.49 m) |
||37,000 lb. (16,798 kg) |
||65,000 lb (29,510 kg) |
||290 mph (467 km/h) |
||28,000 ft. (8,540 m) |
||2,200 miles (3,540 km) |
|Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 or 65 1,200 hp 14 cylinder radial engines. |
|Six .50-calibre guns, two each in nose and dorsal turrets and in waist positions,
and four .303-in. guns in a Boulton Paul tail turret. Internal bomb load of 8,000 lbs. (3,632 kg) with optional external bomb
Click here for The Aviation History On-line Museum! Thank you!
As US bomber squadrons deployed, the B-24 became the standard American heavy bomber in the Pacific
Theater due to its longer range, while a mix of B-17 and B-24 units were sent to Europe. Operating over Europe, the B-24 became
one of the principal aircraft employed in the Allies' Combined Bomber Offensive against Germany. Flying as part of the Eighth
Air Force in England and the Ninth and Fifteenth Air Forces in the Mediterranean, B-24s repeated pounded targets across Axis-controlled
Europe. On August 1, 1943, 178 B-24s launched a famous raid against Ploesti as part of Operation Tidal Wave.
Departing from bases in Africa, the B-24s struck the oil fields but lost 53 aircraft in the
process. While many B-24s were hitting targets in Europe, others were playing a key role in winning the Battle of the Atlantic. Flying from bases in Britain and Iceland, VLR (Very Long Range) Liberators played a decisive
role in closing the "air gap" in the middle of the Atlantic and defeating the German U-boat threat. During the war, B-24s
were credited in the sinking of 72 U-boats. The aircraft also saw extensive maritime service in the Pacific where B-24s and
its derivative, the PB4Y-1, wreaked havoc on Japanese shipping.
Joe Baugher's B-24 Report
The USAAF was not destined
to receive the B-24 until the Royal Air Force had received the first few production examples, owing to the urgency of the
British need. Only one of the seven service-test YB-24s was ever delivered to the USAAC. The remaining six were diverted to
Great Britain. The last YB-24 (serial number 40-702) ended up being delivered to the USAAF. It had armor and self-sealing
fuel tanks and was accepted by the Army in May of 1941. The USAAC YB-24 was later redesignated simply B-24 and spent its entire
career with the Army Air Corps Ferry Command Training School.
The USAAF took delivery of
its first B-24As in June of 1941. Only nine B-24As were actually delivered, all between June 16 and July 10, 1941. The serials
were 40-2369/2377. The remainder of the B-24As on the original order were either diverted to Britain or were converted on
the assembly line to later variants such as the B-24C and B-24D. The B-24A was generally similar to the RAF's Liberator I,
except for its armament of six 0.5-inch machine guns plus twin 0.3-inch guns in the tail.
These aircraft were used
by the USAAC in much the same role as the RAF used the LB-30A--primarily as long-range transports. The Ferry Command B-24s
were painted in the early RAF-style camouflage of dark earth and dark green over black undersides.
However, during this immediate
pre-war era, these planes carried large American flags painted on the sides of their forward fuselages and on the top of the
fuselage, hopefully indicative of neutrality should they enter a combat zone. Two B-24As (40-2373 and 40-2374) were used to
transport the Harriman Mission to Moscow in September of 1941 via the United Kingdom. The last leg of the flight to Moscow
involved a nonstop distance of 3150 miles, and from Moscow one of the USAAC B-24As continued on around the globe via the Middle
East, India, Singapore, Darwin, Port Moresby, Wake Island, Hawaii, and back to Washington. The other B-24A returned to the
USA via Cairo, Africa, the South Atlantic, and Brazil.
Two other USAAF B-24As
had been earmarked for a secret spy flight over Japanese bases in the South Pacific while enroute to the Philippines. However,
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took place before this flight could be carried out. One of the B-24As (ser no 40-2371)
earmarked for this flight was, in fact, destroyed on the ground at Hickham Field during the attack.
The Liberator II was the
designation assigned to a version of the Liberator ordered for the RAF in 1941 directly from the Consolidated production line
rather than being diverted from USAAC production orders. It was designed specifically for British requirements and had no
direct USAAF counterpart. 165 were ordered under RAF serials AL503/AL667, but only 140 were actually built. They served with
three Coastal and two Bomber Command squadrons. Immediatedly after Pearl Harbor, the USAAF requisitioned 75 of the Liberator
IIs from the RAF order. For some reason, they were carried on USAAF rosters under the designation LB-30 (the original export
designation for the Liberator) rather than as B-24, and they retained their RAF serial numbers.
Fifteen USAAF LB-30 bombers
were deployed in Java in early 1942 to reinforce the B-17-equipped 19th Bombardment Group in a vain attempt to stem the Japanese
advance. These USAAF LB-30s were hastily re-equipped with a Martin power turret armed with two 0.50-inch machine guns in the
dorsal position behind the wing instead of the four-gun Boulton-Paul turret of the RAF version. The tail position was fitted
with a pair of hand-held 0.50-inch machine guns mounted behind sliding doors. Single hand-held 0.50-inch machine guns were
installed in the nose, ventral tunnel, and each waist position. The tunnel gun was located on the belly of the rear fuselage,
and pointed in the aft direction. It was fired downward through the rear entrance hatch. Small scanning windows for the gun
were located along the lower sides of the fuselage. The Dark Earth and Dark Green over Black camouflage scheme of the RAF
was retained, but the roundels were painted over with USAAF insignia.
The Java-based LB-30s would
be the first US-flown Liberators to see action. One was lost in a crash in the USA before delivery, another ditched en route,
and a third was delayed as a result of damage incurred in an accident in the USA. Those Liberators which did reach the Java
front participated in numerous attacks against Japanese targets in the Celebese, in Sumatra, and against shipping during the
Japanese invasion of Bali. By late February, the position of Allied forces in Java had become untenable, and the surviving
LB-30s were evacuated to Australia. Two LB-30s survived in Australia until 1944 after having been converted to C-87 transport
Another 17 LB-30s were equipped
with Canadian-built radar and deployed to Latin America with the 6th Bombardment Group to provide defense for the Panama Canal.
Three LB-30s were sent to Alaska to join the 28th Composite Group. These saw action against Japanese shipping during the Aleutian
Those LB-30s that were not
used as bombers were converted as transports and were assigned to the 7th Air Force in the Pacific and used to ferry men and
supplies. All of their armament was removed, and the transparent nose and tail positions were faired over. Windows were cut
into the sides of the fuselage, and a cargo door was installed in the rear fuselage where the waist positions used to be.
46 of the requisitioned LB-30s saw active service with the USAAF, either as bombers
or as transports. Of the remaining 29, six were lost in accidents during the first six weeks of their service, and 23 were
eventually returned to the RAF.
The B-24C was the production
breakdown aircraft used to finalize the production line for mass production of a fully-combat capable Liberator. The nine
B-24Cs were delivered to the USAAF at the end of 1941. No B-24Cs were to see combat, all nine planes being used for crew training
and various tests. They were redesignated RB-24C, where the R stood for "restricted from combat use". The B-24C was immediately
followed off the line by the B-24D, the first fully combat-capable version.
first B-24Ds to go abroad were the Liberators of the so-called Halverson Provisional Group (HALPRO), which consisted of 23
planes commanded by Col. Harry A. Halverson. The purpose of this group of picked aircrew was to begin bombing operations against
Japan from bases in China in June of 1942. They were to fly to their Chinese bases by way of Africa, the Middle East, Iraq,
and India. However, this force was held over in the Middle East to help defend against Rommel's advancing Afrika Korps. While
there, the decision was made for the force to carry out a single raid against the Ploesti oil refineries in Rumania. Thirteen
planes of the Halverson Detachment carried out the first Ploesti raid on June 11-12, 1942, which was also the first strategic
attack of any significance of the war to be carried out by land-based aircraft of the USAAF. The Liberators took off from
the RAF base at Fayid in Egypt and flew across the Mediterranean, Greece, and Bulgaria to reach Ploesti. Complete surprise
was achieved, and the planes dropped their 4000-pound bombloads through cloud at 10,000 feet. Seven of the planes reached
their intended base in Iraq, two landed in Syria, and four landed in Turkey, where they were interned. Unfortunately, the damage to Ploesti was minimal and the raid only
succeeded in alerting the German High Command to the vulnerability of one of its primary fuel sources.
The Halverson Detachment
never did reach China. After the first Ploesti raid, it remained in the Middle East to fight against Rommel, eventually being
absorbed by the 1st Bomb Group in October of 1942.
Perhaps the most memorable
mission flown by the Liberator was the August 1, 1943 raid on the oil refineries at Ploesti in Rumania. For this mission,
the 44th, 93rd and 389th Bombardment Groups of the 8th AF were sent to Libya to join two other B-24D-equipped groups of the
9th Air Force, the 98th and 376th. A total of 177 B-24Ds from these five groups were assembled for the mission. The Ploesti
target was over a thousand miles from the USAAF bases at Bengazi. Each plane would carry 3100 US gallons of fuel and 5000
pounds of bombs and incendiaries. The mission plan called for the entire flight to be carried out at extremely low level (50-300
feet) in order to avoid detection. An extra nose gun was provided for each lead aircraft, and the dorsal turrets were slightly
modified to make it easier to fire the guns at targets on the ground. The radio operator and flight engineers were even given
Thompson sub-machine guns to fire out the the waist position windows. The commander of the mission, General Lewis Brereton
(who had been General Douglas MacArthur's air chief in the Philippines), warned his airmen to expect losses of 50 percent!
The force of 179 B-24Ds
took off on August 1, 1943. Things began to go bad right from the start. The plane carrying the lead navigator for the mission
suddenly spiraled out of control and fell into the sea, and the backup navigator's aircraft had to abort because of mechanical
problems. Weather over Greece was worse than expected and forced the Liberators to break up their tight defensive formations.
The lead force made a wrong turn over an incorrect Initial Point, sending it toward Bucharest. This threw the entire plan
off, and made the second wave late over the target, losing the element of surprise. The flak over Ploesti was heavy and accurate.
The Liberators were so low that their gunners often got into duels with antiaircraft crews on the ground. Smoke and fire from
the exploding refinery complex blackened and scorched many of the Liberators that flew through it. Luftwaffe Bf 109 and Rumanian
IAR-80A fighters were now alerted and made numerous successful attacks.
When it was all over, out
of the original 179 B-24Ds that that had taken off, 14 had aborted, 43 had been shot down, 15 had been forced down at auxiliary
fields, and eight had been forced to land in Turkey where they were interned. Only 99 had returned to base. Of these, 56 of
them had some sort of major combat damage. Out of the seven refinery complexes targeted, two were heavily damage, two were
put out of action for at least six months, two had only light damage, and one was not hit at all. Five Medals of Honor were
awarded for heroism during the mission, three of them awarded posthumously.
It was to be in the Pacific
Theatre where the Liberator was to be most widely used. The early LB-30s were replaced by the first B-24Ds to reach the Pacific
in late 1942. By 1943, the Liberator had almost entirely replaced the B-17 Fortress as the primary long-range heavy bomber
in the theatre. It reigned supreme in the Pacific until the arrival of the B-29 Superfortress in mid-1944.
Following the end of
the Second World War, the Liberator was rapidly withdrawn from USAAF service. Literally thousands of Liberators were flown
to various disposal units where they were cut up for scrap. Some brand-new B-24Ms were flown directly from the factory door
to the scrapyards. Only a few Liberators were still around when the USAF was formed in 1947, most of them being used for various
research purposes. The last USAF Liberator, an EZB-24M serial number 44-51228 used for ice research, was struck off the rolls
in 1953. This plane is now on display at Lackland AFB in Texas.
A lot of you have questions
about relatives or friends who flew in B-24s during the war. There is a good website which gives lots more information on
B-24 squadron assignments than is listed here. It is known as Heavy Bombers. They also have indexes to web sites operated by veterans which point to
information about specific planes and specific squadron histories and perhaps pointers to specific veterans themselves.
Click here for Joe Baugher's website! Thank you!
"Under optimum conditions and for brief
periods, the B-24 had a top speed of about 300 miles per hour, could carry 8,800 pounds of bombs 3,000 miles at altitudes
of up to 30,000 feet. However, standard operational procedure in actual combat operations with the 8th and 15th Air Force
in Europe called for 155 miles per hour indicated, 25000 feet altitude with a bomb load of 5500 pounds and a maximum total
range of 1200 miles. In the Pacific, Liberators gradually replaced the B-17 in the heavy bomber role, largely because of the
B-24's greater range. During the early part of the war, the B-24 and PB4Y were the only American heavy bombers covering the
seas from Alaska to India.
In Europe's flak-filled skies, the aircraft
quickly earned its reputation. The U.S. Eighth Air Force flew B-24s from England to France in 1942 and deep into Germany in
1943. B-24s also led the bombing raid that opened the decisive air battle over Berlin.
American B-24s flew in waves on D-Day, bombing the beaches of Normandy in the predawn darkness to pave the way for Allied
has never been given for the outstanding performance of the B-24 in every theater of war. This aircraft was used to haul fuel,
transport VIPs, patrol for submarines, and drop supplies by parachute. It also flew for naval recon, weather flights, and
even freezing ice cream for local messes. Until the B-29, the B-24 was the most modern aircraft with the latest equipment.
Without detracting from the B-17, it should be made part of the enduring record that the B-24 did its fair share and was an
outstanding success at the work for which it was created."
---- Colonel John R. Kane, leader of the 98th Bomb Group ("The Pyramiders") in the Ploesti Air Raids