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The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an Americanmarker heavy bomber, built by Consolidated Aircraft. It was produced in greater numbers than any other American combat aircraft of World War II and still holds the record as the most produced U.S. military aircraft. It was used by many Allied air forces and every U.S. branch of service during the war, attaining a distinguished war record with its operations in the northern European, Pacific and Mediterranean theaters.

Often compared to the better known B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 was a more modern design with a higher top speed and greater range and a higher bomb load. Nevertheless, popular opinion among aircrews and general staff tended to favor the B-17's rugged qualities above all other considerations. The B-24 was notorious among American air crews for its tendency to catch fire. The placement of the B-24's fuel tanks throughout the upper fuselage and its lightweight construction, designed to increase range and optimize assembly line production, made the aircraft vulnerable to battle damage. The B-24 was more difficult to fly as well, with heavy control forces and poor formation flying characteristics. The B-24 nevertheless provided excellent service in a variety of roles thanks to its large payload and long range.

Development

XB-24 in flight


The Liberator originated from a United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) request in 1938 for Consolidated to produce the B-17 under license. This was part of "Project A", a program to expand American industrial capacity for production of the key components of air power. After company executives including President Reuben Fleet visited the Boeing factory in Seattle, Consolidated decided instead to submit a more modern design of its own. In January 1939, the USAAC, under Specification C-212, formally invited Consolidated to submit a design study for a bomber with greater range, higher speed, and greater ceiling than the B-17.

The contract for a prototype was awarded in March 1939, with the requirement that a prototype be ready before the end of the year. The design was simple in concept but advanced for its time. Compared to the B-17, the proposed Model 32 was shorter and had 25% less wing area, but a 6 ft (1.8 m) greater wingspan and a substantially greater carrying capacity. Whereas the B-17 used 9-cylinder Wright R-1820 Cyclone engines, the Consolidated design used twin-row, 14-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radials of 1,000 hp (746 kW). The 70,547 lb (32,000 kg) maximum takeoff weight was one of the highest of the period. Consolidated also incorporated innovative features: the new design would be the first American bomber to use tricycle landing gear and it had long, thin wings with the efficient "Davis" high aspect ratio design (also used on the projected Model 31 flying boat) promising to provide maximum fuel efficiency. The aircraft also had a distinctive twin tail.
YB-24.


Wind tunnel testing and experimental programs using an existing Consolidated Model 31, a twin-engined commercial flying boat, provided extensive data on the flight characteristics of the Davis airfoil.

Consolidated finished the prototype, by then known as the XB-24, and had it ready for its first flight two days before the end of 1939. Seven more YB-24 development aircraft flew in 1940 and Consolidated began preparing production tooling. Early orders—placed before the XB-24 had flown—included 36 for the USAAC, 120 for the French Armée de l'Air and 164 for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Most of the first production B-24s went to Britainmarker, including all those originally ordered by the Armée de l'Air after Francemarker collapsed in 1940. The name, "Liberator" was initially assigned by the RAF and subsequently was adopted by the USAAC as the official name for the type.

Design

The B-24's spacious slab-sided fuselage (which earned the aircraft the nickname "Flying Boxcar") was built around a central bomb bay that could accommodate up to 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) of bombs. The bomb bay was divided into front and rear compartments and had a central catwalk, which was also the fuselage keel beam. A universal complaint arose over the extremely narrow catwalk. The aircraft was sometimes disparaged as "The Flying Coffin" because the only entry and exit from the bomber was in the rear and it was almost impossible for the flight crew and nose gunner to get from the flight deck to the rear when wearing parachutes. An unusual set of "roller-type" bomb bay doors retracted into the fuselage with a minimum of aerodynamic drag, keeping speed high over the target area.

Like the B-17, the B-24 had an array of .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in the tail, belly, top, sides and nose to defend it from attacking enemy fighters. Unlike the B-17, the ball turret could be retracted into the fuselage when not in use.

Operational history

Initial deployment

Doomed B-24 over Europe


Liberator GR I in British service were the first B-24s to be used operationally. The very first use of a Liberator I in March 1941 was as a long-range transport, when used to ferry pilots back from the United Kingdom.

The most important role for the first batch of the Liberator GR Is was in service with RAF Coastal Command on anti-submarine patrols in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Later in 1941, the first Liberator IIs entered RAF service. This model introduced self-sealing fuel tanks and powered gun turrets. At the same time, Consolidated added a 2 ft 7 in (79 cm) plug in the forward fuselage to create more space for crew members. The Liberator IIs were divided between Coastal Command, Bomber Command, and BOAC. Two RAF squadrons with Liberators were deployed to the Middle East in early 1942, in the first use of the Liberator as a bomber.

America enters the war



The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) took delivery of their first B-24As in 1941. Like the British, they used them as transports first. American B-24s entered combat in June 1942. On 6 June, in the Pacific, four B-24s staging through Midwaymarker tried to attack Wake Islandmarker (they could not find the target).On 12 June, 13 B-24s flying from Egyptmarker attacked the Axis-controlled oil fields and refineries around Ploieştimarker, Romaniamarker.

Over the next three years, B-24 squadrons deployed to all theaters of the war: Africa, Europe, India, the Atlanticmarker, and the Pacific. In the Pacific, the B-24 was designated the standard heavy bomber to simplify logistics, replacing the shorter-range B-17.

Later development and production

Continued development work by Consolidated produced a handful of transitional B-24Cs with turbocharged instead of supercharged engines. The turbocharged engines led to the flattened oval nacelles that distinguished all subsequent Liberator models.

The first mass-produced model was the B-24D (or Liberator III in British service), in service in early 1943. It had turbocharged engines and increased fuel capacity. Three more 0.50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns brought the defensive armament up to ten machine guns. At 59,524 lb (27,000 kg) maximum takeoff weight, it was one of the heaviest aircraft in the world; comparable with the British "heavies" the Stirling, Lancaster and Halifax.

B-24s under construction at Ford's Willow Run plant.


B-24 production increased at an astonishing rate through 1942 and 1943. Consolidated tripled the size of its plant in San Diegomarker and built a large new plant outside Fort Worth, Texasmarker. More B-24s were built by Douglas in Tulsa, Oklahomamarker. North American built a plant in Dallas, Texasmarker, which produced B-24Gs and B-24Js. None of these were minor operations, but they were dwarfed by the vast new greenfield factory built by Ford at Willow Runmarker near Detroitmarker, which opened in August 1942 and began mass production in August 1943. This was the largest factory in the United States, and the largest anywhere outside the USSRmarker. It had the largest assembly line in the world (3,500,000 ft²/330,000 m²) at the time of completion. At its peak, Willow Run produced 428 B-24s per month. Many pilots slept on cots at Willow Run while waiting for 'their' B-24s to roll off the assembly line.

Each of the B-24 factories was identified with a production code: Consolidated/San Diego, CO; Consolidated/Fort Worth, CF; Ford/Willow Run, FO; North American, NT; and Douglas/Tulsa, DT.

In 1943, the model of Liberator considered by many the "definitive" version was introduced. The B-24H was 10 inches (25 cm) longer, had a powered gun turret in the nose to reduce vulnerability to head-on attack and was fitted with an improved bomb sight, autopilot and fuel transfer system. Consolidated, Douglas and Ford all manufactured the B-24H, while North American made the slightly different B-24G. All five plants switched over to the almost identical B-24J in August 1943. The later B-24L and B-24M were lighter weight versions and differed mainly in defensive weaponry.



As the war continued, the complexity of servicing the B-24 grew greater and greater. The B-24s made by the different companies were slightly different, so repair depots had to stock many different parts to support various B-24 models. Fortunately, this problem was eased in the summer of 1944, when North American, Douglas, and Consolidated/Fort Worth stopped making B-24s, leaving only the Consolidated plant in San Diego and the Ford plant in Willow Run.

In all, 18,482 B-24s were built by September 1945. Twelve thousand saw service with the USAAF. The U.S. Navy operated about 1,000 PB4Y-1s and almost 800 PB4Y-2 Privateers, which were derived from the B-24. The Royal Air Force flew about 2,100 B-24s in 46 bomber groups and 41 squadrons, the Royal Canadian Air Force 1,200 B-24Js, and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) 287 B-24Js, B-24Ls and B-24Ms. (Liberators were the only heavy bomber used by the RAAF in the Pacific.) Two squadrons of the South African Air Forcemarker deployed in the Mediterranean flew B-24s.

Strategic bombing

The B-24 was one of the workhorse bombers of the U.S. Eighth Air Force in the Combined Bomber Offensive against Germany. Thousands of B-24s, flying from bases in Englandmarker, dropped hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs and incendiaries on German military, civilian and industrial targets.


B-24s of the Ninth Air Force, operating from Africa and Italy, and the Fifteenth Air Force, operating from Italy, also took a major role in strategic bombing. 13 of the Fifteenth AF's 18 bombardment groups flew B-24s.

The first B-24 lost over German territory occurred on 26 February 1943. By a cruel twist of fate there had been eleven men aboard the aircraft. For some time newspapers had been requesting permission for a reporter to go on one of the missions, and on this date Robert B. Post, and five other reporters of the The New York Times were granted permission. Mr Post was the only reporter assigned to a B-24 equipped group, the 44th Bomb Group, and flew in the B-24 41-23777 Maisey on Mission No. 37 to Bremenmarker. Intercepted just short of the target the B-24 came under attack from JG 1's Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Leutnant Heinz Knoke (who finished the war with 31 kills) shot down the Liberator, only two of the 11 men survived. Neither was Post. Knoke reported:

The fire spread out along the right wing.
The inboard propeller windmilled to a stop.
And then, suddenly, the whole wing broke off.
At an altitude of 900 metres there was a tremendous explosion.
The bomber had disintegrated.
The blazing wreckage landed just outside Bad Zwischenahnmarker airfield


A total of 178 B-24s carried out the famous second attack on Ploieştimarker, Operation Tidal Wave, on 1 August 1943.

RAF Bomber Command did not use B-24s as bombers over Europe. No. 223 Squadron RAF, one of Bomber Command’s 100 Group squadrons, used twenty Liberator VIs to carry electronic jamming equipment to counter German radar.

Other roles

The B-24's long operating range made it suitable for other duties including maritime patrol, anti-submarine patrol, reconnaissance, tanker, cargo hauler, and personnel transport. Winston Churchill used a refurbished Liberator II as his personal transport aircraft. Each Liberator group employed a war-weary bomber known as an assembly ship or Judas Goat. These aircraft were brightly painted and decorated with individual psychedelic colors in stripes, checkers, or polka dots enabling easy recognition by their flock of bombers.

Formation assembly

"First Sergeant" was a war-weary B-24D used to assemble large formations.
Once the formation was formed up, this aircraft returned to base.


In February 1944, the 2nd Division authorized the use of war-weary aircraft specially fitted to aid assembly of individual group formations. Known as Assembly or Formation Ships, they featured distinctive paint schemes, signal lighting and provision for quantity discharge of pyrotechnics. The aircraft used in the first allocation were B-24Ds retired by the 44th, 93rd and 389th Groups. Arrangements for signal lighting varied from group to group, but generally consisted of white flashing lamps on both sides of the fuselage arranged to form the identification letter of the group. All armament and armor was removed, and in some cases the tail turret. In the B-24Hs used for this purpose, the nose turret was removed and replaced by a Carpetbagger type nose. Following incidents when flare guns were accidentally discharged inside the rear fuselage, some Formation Ships had pyrotechnic guns fixed through the fuselage sides. As these aircraft normally returned to base once a formation had been established, a skeleton crew of two pilots, navigator, radio operator and one or two flare discharge men were carried. In some groups an observer officer flew in the tail position to monitor the formation. These aircraft became known as Judas Goats.

Operation Carpetbagger

Between August 1943 until the end of the war in Europe, specially modified B-24Ds were used in classified missions. A joint venture between the Army Air Force and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) code named "Operation Carpetbagger", pilots and crews flew the specially modified B-24Ds painted with a glossy black anti-searchlight paint to supply friendly underground forces throughout German occupied Europe. They also flew C-47s, A-26 Invaders, and British De Havilland Mosquitos. They flew spies called "Joes" and commando groups prior to the Allied invasion of Europe on D-Day and afterwards and retrieved over 5,000 officers and enlisted men who had escaped capture after being shot down. The low altitude, night-time operation was extremely dangerous and took its toll on these airmen. The first aircrews chosen for this operation came from the anti-submarine bomb groups because of their special training in low altitude flying and pinpoint navigation skills. Also, because of their special skills, they were called upon to fly fuel to General George Patton's army when they outran their fuel supply. When this mission was completed, it was recorded that 822,791 gal (3,114264 l) of 80 octane gasoline had been delivered to three different airfields in France and Belgium.

Maritime patrol



The B-24 made a massive contribution to Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic against German U-boats. The decision to allocate some Liberator Is to Coastal Command in 1941 produced immediate results. The Very Long Range (VLR) Liberators "almost doubled the reach of Britain's maritime reconnaissance force". This added range enabled Coastal Command patrols to cover the Mid-Atlantic gap, where U-boats had operated with near impunity.

For twelve months, No. 120 Squadron RAF of Coastal Command, with its handful of much patched and modified early model Liberators, supplied the only air cover for convoys in the Atlantic Gap.

The Liberator was the only aircraft with the range for this. The VLR Liberators sacrificed some armor and often some gun turrets to save weight while adding extra fuel in bomb bay tanks. Liberator Is were equipped with ASV Mark II radar. Radar and the Leigh light gave them the ability to hunt U-boats by day and night.

They were operated from both sides of the Atlantic with the RCAF to the west and the RAF from the UK and Icelandmarker. This role was dangerous, especially after many U-boats were armed with extra Flak guns and adopted a policy of staying on the surface to fight.

The sudden and decisive turning of the Battle of the Atlantic in the Allies' favor in May 1943 was the result of many factors. However, it was no accident that it coincided with the long delayed arrival of many more VLR Liberators for maritime patrol. Liberators were credited in full or part with 72 U-boat kills.

In addition to very long range patrols, the B-24 was vital for patrols of a radius less than 1,000 mi (1,600 km), in both the Atlantic and in the Pacific where USAAF B-24s and USN PB4Y-1s took a heavy toll of German submarines and Japanese shipping, respectively.

The Consolidated PB4Y Privateer was a World War II United States Navy patrol bomber derived from the USAAF Consolidated B-24 Liberator. The Navy had been using unmodified B-24s as the PB4Y-1 Liberator, and the type was considered very successful. However, a fully navalized design was desired, and Consolidated developed a dedicated long-range patrol bomber in 1943, designated PB4Y-2 Privateer, the latter aircraft being distinguishable from the B-24 and PB4Y-1 by incorporating a single vertical stabilizer versus the twin tail of the former aircraft.

Transport

Early model Liberators were used as unarmed long-range cargo carriers. They flew between Britainmarker and Egyptmarker (with an extensive detour around Spainmarker over the Atlantic) and were used in the evacuation of Javamarker. Liberator IIs were converted for this role and used by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) for trans-Atlantic service and other assorted long-range transport duties. This variant was designated LB-30A by the USAAF.

In early 1942, a B-24 Liberator damaged in an accident was converted into a cargo transport aircraft by elimination of the transparent nose and installation of a flat cargo floor. In April 1942, the C-87 Liberator Express transport version entered production at Fort Worth. The C-87 had a large cargo door, less powerful supercharged engines, no gun turrets, a floor in the bomb bay for freight and side windows. The navigator's position was relocated behind the pilot. Early versions were fitted with a single .50 caliber (12.7 mm) Browning machine gun in the tail, and a few C-87s were also equipped with two .50 caliber (12.7 mm) fixed machine guns in the nose, operable by the pilot, though these were also eventually eliminated. A more elaborate VIP transport, the C-87A, was also built in small numbers.

The C-87 was also designated the RY-2 or Liberator Cargo VII. The U.S. only made about 300 C-87s but they were nevertheless the backbone of the Army Air Force’s heavy transport operation. The C-87 flew in many theaters, including much hazardous duty in flights from Labrador to Greenland and Iceland in the North Atlantic. The aircraft proved extremely vulnerable to icing conditions, and was prone to fall into a spin with even small amounts of ice collected on the Davis wing.

In the China Burma India Theater (CBI), the C-87 was used to transport cargo and fuel over the Hump from India to China. The C-87 was not popular with either the military or the civilian transport crews assigned to fly them. The aircraft had a distressing habit of losing all cockpit electrical power on takeoff and landings, while engine power and reliability with the less-powerful superchargers often left much to be desired. The plane was designed as a bomber that dropped its loads while airborne. So the C-87's nose gear was not designed for landing with heavy loads, and frequently collapsed from the strain. Fuel leaks from the transport's hastily-modified fuel system were a common occurrence. In his autobiography, Fate is the Hunter, author Ernest K. Gann reported, while flying cargo in India, he barely avoided crashing a severely overloaded C-87 into the Taj Mahal. As Douglas C-54 transports became available, the C-87 was rapidly phased out of service.

The USAAF also converted 218 B-24Ds and B-24Es into C-109 tankers. These tankers were used in all theaters but they were most heavily employed transporting fuel in the CBI theater. C-109s flew from India to B-29 bases in China. With all armor and military equipment removed to save weight, a C-109 could carry almost 2,905 gal (11,000 l) of fuel, over 22,000 lb (10,000 kg). However, while a combat-loaded B-24 could safely take off with room to spare from a runway, a loaded C-109 required every foot of such a runway to break ground, and crashes were not uncommon. With its forward fuel tank filled to capacity, the C-109 tanker version proved to be longitudinally unstable while airborne as well.

The B-24 was also used heavily in the Pacific after the war to transport cargo and supplies during the rebuilding of Japan, China, and the Philippines.

In addition, a large number of unmodified B-24s were pressed into transport duties. Qantas Empire Airways used Liberators on the Perthmarker-Colombomarker route, at the time the longest non-stop route in the world at 3,580 mi (5,761 km), until they were replaced by Avro Lancastrians.

Variants and conversions

U.S. Army Air Force Variants

XB-24 (Consolidated Model 32): Designed in 1938 as an improvement on the B-17 Flying Fortress, at the request of the Army Air Corps. It had a wing specially designed for a high aspect ratio, tricycle landing gear, and twin vertical stabilizers. The XB-24 was ordered in 1939 March, and first flew on 29 December 1939. (Total: one)
YB-24/LB-30A Preproduction prototypes: Six examples were sent to Great Britain under lend-lease, under the designation LB-30A.
B-24: Service test version of the XB-24, ordered on 27 April 1939, less than 30 days after the XB-24 was ordered, before the XB-24 design was complete. A number of minor modifications were made: elimination of leading edge slots, addition of de-icing boots. (Total: seven; only one used for actual testing)
B-24A/LB-30B: Ordered in 1939, the B-24A was the first production model. Due to the need for heavy bombers, the B-24A was ordered before any version of the B-24 flew. The main improvement over the XB-24 was improved aerodynamics, which led to better performance. Some sent to Great Britain under Lend Lease as LB-30B. (Total: 38,20 LB-30Bs, nine B-24Cs)
XB-24B: When the XB-24 failed to reach its projected top speed, the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33 radials rated at 1,000 hp (746 kW) it carried were replaced with R-1830-41 turbo-supercharged radials rated at 1,200 hp (895 kW), increasing its top speed by 37 mph (59 km/h). The addition of the turbo-superchargers made the engine cowlings elliptical. The XB-24B version also lacked the engine slots of the original. (Total: one converted XB-24)
B-24C: Conversion of the B-24A using turbo-supercharged R-1830-41 engines. To hold the supercharger and the intercooler intake, the cowlings were made elliptical and the new items added on the sides. The tail air gunner position was improved by adding an Emerson A-6 power turret with twin .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns; a Martin power turret was added to the forward fuselage. (Total: nine converted B-24As)
B-24Ds of 93rd Bomb Group in formation.
Nearest aircraft is Joisey Bounce (s/n 41-24226), wingman is The Duchess, (s/n 41-24147), and next higher is Bomerang (s/n 41-23722).
B-24D: First model produced on a large scale; ordered from 1940 to 1942, as a B-24C with better engines (R-1830-43 supercharged engines). During the production run, the tunnel gun in the belly was replaced by a remote-sited Bendix belly turret; this was later replaced by a Sperry ball turret. In late B-24Ds, 'cheek' guns were added. (Total: 2696, 2381 Consolidated, San Diegomarker; 305 Consolidated, Fort Worthmarker, ten Douglas, Tulsa, Oklahomamarker).
B-24E: A slight alteration of the B-24D built by Ford, using R-1830-65 engines. Unlike the B-24D, the B-24E retained the tunnel gun in the belly. The USAAF used the B-24Es primarily as training aircraft since this model was not current in armaments and other technology as the aircraft being produced by Consolidated / San Diego (CO). Ford also built sub-assemblies for Douglas; these sub-assemblies were identical to Ford-built B-24Es, except that they used the same engines as the B-24D (R-1830-43 radials). These sub-assemblies were called PK ships and were shipped by truck from Willow Run to the final assembly in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Total: 801)
XB-24F: A prototype made to test thermal de-icers, instead of the standard inflatable rubber "boots." (Total: one converted B-24D)
B-24G: Sperry ball turret, three .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns in nose. All B-24Gs were built by North American Aviation, which was contracted in 1942. (Total: 25)
B-24G-1: Modified Emerson A-6 tail turret in nose instead of two- three .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns in earlier models. The B-24G-1 was based on the design of the B-24H (Total: 405)
B-24H: Because of obvious vulnerability of the B-24 to head-on attack, the B-24H design made by Ford used a nose turret, generally a modified Emerson A-6 tail turret. The entire aircraft was redesigned to better fit the turret; 50 airframe changes were made, including a redesigned bombardier compartment. The tail turret was given larger windows for better visibility, the top turret a higher bubble, and the waist gunner positions were offset, to reduce their interference during battle. (Total: 3100)
Consolidated B-24J-55-CO Liberator, Serial number 42-99949 belonged to 93rd BG, 328th BS; lost 21 September 1944 over Belgium.
B-24J: The B-24J was very similar to the B-24H, although the defensive improvements made in the B-24H were not incorporated in the B-24J. The B-24J featured an improved autopilot (type C-1) and a bombsight of the M-1 series. B-24H sub-assemblies made by Ford and constructed by other companies and any model with a C-1 or M-1 retrofit, were all designated B-24Js. (Total: 6678)
XB-24K: An experimental aircraft, made by Ford by splicing a B-23 Dragon tail empennage onto a B-24D airframe. The aircraft was more stable and had better handling than other models, but changing the B-24 design was too expensive to do at the time. (Total: one converted B-24D)
B-24L: Because of the immense weight of the B-24J, the Army pushed for a lighter version. In the B-24L, the ball turret was replaced by a floor ring mount with two .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns, and the A-6B tail turret by an M-6A. In later aircraft, no tail armament was installed, and when it arrived at its airfield, either an A-6B, an M-6A, or a dual-mount manual .50 caliber (12.7 mm) gun was field-installed. (Total: 1,667)


B-24M variant


B-24M: An enhancement of the B-24L with further weight-saving devices. The B-24M used a more lightweight version of the A-6B tail turret; the waist gunner positions were left open. For better visibility, the windshield was replaced by a "knife-edge" dual pane versions. The B-24M became the last production model of the B-24; a number of the B-24s built flew only the course between the factory and the scrap heap. (Total: 2593)
XB-24N: A redesign of the B-24J, made to accommodate a single tail. It also featured improved nose and tail turrets. While 5168 B-24Ns were ordered, World War II ended and there was no longer any need for them. (Total: one)
YB-24N: Pre-production service test version of the XB-24N. (Total: seven)
XB-24P: A modified B-24D, made by Sperry Gyroscope Company to test airborne fire control systems. (Total: one converted B-24D)
XB-24Q: A General Electric conversion of the B-24L, using radar-controlled tail turrets. (Total: one converted B-24L).
XB-41: Because there were no fighters capable of escorting bomber formations on deep strike missions early in World War II, the Army authorized tests for heavily armed bombers to act as escorts for bombing missions. It was completed in 1942. The results of 1943 testing were very negative and the project was quickly cancelled. Performance changed drastically with the addition of more turrets. The escorts were also unable to keep up with bomber formations once the bombs had been dropped.
The XB-41 had 14 .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns, through the addition of a Bendix chin turret and a dorsal Martin power turret on the mid-fuselage.

(Total: one converted B-24D)
AT-22 or TB-24: C-87 used for flight engineer training.
  • ;RB-24L: Developed for training B-29 gunners on an identical remote gun system installed on a B-24L.
  • ;TB-24L: As with the RB-24L, but with additional radar equipment.
Experimental B-24J with B-17 nose section, containing chin turret, grafted on; modification not adopted for production.


C-87 Liberator Express: Passenger transports with accommodation for 20 passengers.
  • ;C-87A: VIP transports with R-1830-45 instead of -43 engines and sleep accommodations for 16 passengers.
  • ;C-87B: Projected armed transport variant with nose guns, dorsal turret, and ventral tunnel gun; never produced.
  • ;C-87C: U.S. Army Air Force/Air Force designation for the RY-3.
XC-109/C-109: Tankers with specialized equipment to help prevent explosions, used to ferry fuel from India to China to support initial B-29 raids against Japan.
XF-7: Photographic reconnaissance variant developed from the B-24D.
F-7: Photographic reconnaissance variant developed from the B-24H; -FO block.
F-7A: Photographic reconnaissance variant developed from the B-24J; three cameras in the nose and three in the bomb bay.
F-7B: Photographic reconnaissance variant developed from the B-24J; six cameras in the bomb bay.
BQ-8
A number of worn out B-24D and B-24Js were converted as radio-controlled flying bombs to attack Japanese islands. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. was killed in a BQ-8 during Operation Aphrodite.


U.S. Navy nomenclature and sub-variants

PB4Y-1: B-24D with different nose turret for U.S. Navy. Designation later applied to all G, J, L and M models received by the U.S. Navy.
;PB4Y-1P
Photographic reconnaissance variant developed from the PB4Y-1.
PB4Y-2 Privateer: See Main Article
P5Y: Proposed twin engined patrol version of PB4Y-1. Unbuilt.
RY-1: U.S. Navy designation for the C-87A.
RY-2: U.S. Navy designation for the C-87.
RY-3: Transport variant of the PB4Y-2.


British nomenclature and sub-variants

Liberator B Mk I: B-24A (Total: 20), direct purchase aircraft for the RAF. Consider unsuitable for combat, some rebuilt as the GR.1 and used in British anti-submarine patrol squadrons.
Liberator B Mk II: The first combat ready B-24. The modifications included a three foot nose extension as well as a deeper aft fuselage and wider tailplane–there was no direct B-24 equivalent but similar to the B-24C - built to meet British specifications with British equipment and armament. A small series of B Mk IIs were reconstructed as unarmed transports, designated the LB-30 with the USAAF. (Total production: 165)
Liberator B Mk III: B-24D variant with single .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine gun in the nose, two in each beam position, and four in a Boulton Paul tail turret - similar to that on contemporary British heavy bombers such as the Lancaster - as well as other British equipment. The Martin dorsal turret was retained. (Total: 156)
  • ;Liberator B Mk IIIA: Lend-Lease B-24Ds with American equipment and weapons.
Liberator B Mk IV: Reserved for the B-24E, but there is no record of the RAF actually receiving any.
Liberator B Mk V: B-24D modified for extra fuel capacity at the cost or armor, with the same armament fit as the Liberator Mk III.
Liberator B Mk VI: B-24Hs in RAF service fitted with Boulton Paul tail turrets, but retaining the rest of their armament.
Liberator B Mk VIII: RAF designation for B-24Js.
Liberator GR Mk V: B-24D modified by RAF Coastal Command for the anti-submarine role with search radar and Leigh Light. Some were fitted with eight zero-length rocket launchers, four on each wing.
Liberator GR Mk VI: B-24G/H/J type used as a long-range general reconnaissance aircraft by RAF Coastal Command.
Liberator GR Mk VIII: B-24J modified by RAF Coastal Command for the anti-submarine role.
Liberator C Mk VI: Liberator B Mk VIII converted for use as a transport.
Liberator C Mk VII: British designation for C-87.
Liberator C Mk VIII: Liberator G Mk VIII converted for use as a transport.
Liberator C Mk IX: RAF designation for the RY-3/C-87C


Late in the war RAF Liberator aircraft modified in England for use in South East Asia had the suffix "Snake" stenciled below the serial number to give them priority delivery through the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Operators

  • (captured aircraft)


Survivors

There are only three flying B-24s in the world, a B-24J named Joe of Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida; a B-24A named Ole 927 of Commemorative Air Force in Addison, Texas; and a B-24J named Witchcraft of the Collings Foundation in Stow, Massachusetts. There are five complete airframes on static display in the U.S., five complete airframes on static display outside of the U.S. and nine partial airframes/wrecks in the world.

Currently, the B-24 Liberator Restoration Australia Group are in the process of Restoring one of Australia's American purchased B-24 to a flight-ready state .The group use a old hanger on the Old Geelong Road, Werribee, for the construction.

Specifications (B-24J)

B-24 photographed from above.


Notable B-24 crew

  • Don Herbert, television pioneer "Mr. Wizard", flew 56 missions as a Liberator pilot over Northern Italy, Germany, and Yugoslavia, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross.
  • American Senator and 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern served as a B-24 pilot in missions over Italy as a member of the 455th Bomb Group of the Fifteenth Air Force; his wartime exploits and some of the characteristics of the B-24 are the focus of Stephen Ambrose's book The Wild Blue.
  • Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart USAF Reserve, flew B-24s as commanding officer of the 703rd BS, 445th BG out of RAF Tibenhammarker, UKmarker, before a promotion to operations officer of the 453rd BG. From 1943–44, Stewart was credited with 20 combat missions as a pilot, including one over Berlin. Stewart flew several more (possibly as high as 20 additional) uncredited missions, filling in for pilots as duties and space would allow. Stewart's leadership qualities were highly regarded; the men who served under him praised his coolness under fire. He entered service as a private in early 1941 and rose to the rank of colonel by 1945.
  • Former Speaker of the House, Jim Wright, served as a B-24 bombardier in the Pacific. He recounts his experience in his book The Flying Circus: Pacific War–1943–as Seen Through a Bombsight.
  • William Charles Anderson, author of BAT-21 and Bomber Crew 369, piloted the Liberator based in Italy as a member of the 451st Bomb Group of the 15th AF.


Popular culture

  • The book One Damned Island After Another (1946) contains the official history of the 7th Bomber Command of the Seventh Air Force. It describes B-24 operations in the Central Pacific. B-24s from the Seventh Air Force were the first B-24s to bomb the Japanese home islands.
  • The story of the "Lady Be Good" inspired a television movie titled The Sole Survivor , with a B-25 Mitchell playing the B-24D role.
  • In the young adult novel Under a War-Torn Sky, the main character Henry Forester co-pilots Out of the Blue, a U.S. B-24 Liberator serving in the Royal Air Force.
  • The B-24 is featured in the video game "Call of Duty: Big Red One", fifth mission: "Liberators".


See also



References

Notes
  1. Birdsall 1968, p. 3.
  2. Winchester 2004, p. 56.
  3. Green 1975, p. 83.
  4. Taylor 1969, p. 462.
  5. Baugher, Joe. "The Consolidated XB-24." USAAC/USAAF/USAF Bombers. Retrieved: 16 February 2007.
  6. Donald 1997, p. 266.
  7. Birdsall 1968, p. 40.
  8. Wagner 1968, pp. 127–128.
  9. Taylor 1968, p. 463.
  10. A Brief History of the 44th Bomb Group
  11. Green 195, p. 84.
  12. Birdsall 1975, p. 5.
  13. Lord 1967, p. 279.
  14. Nolan, Jenny. (compiled). "Willow Run and the Arsenal of Democracy." The Detroit News. Retrieved: 30 March 2009.
  15. Weal 2006, p. 16.
  16. Corgi 1/72 Consolidated B-24 Liberator You Cawnt Miss It 448th BG (AA34007) | Antics Online
  17. Freeman 1984, p. 176.
  18. Parnell 1993, pp. inside cover, p. 91.
  19. Green 1975, p. 85.
  20. Winchester 2004, p. 57.
  21. CAF's "Diamond Lil" back to B-24A configuration
  22. Andrade 1979, p. 60.
  23. Baugher, Joe. American Military Aircraft. 18 August 1999. Consolidated PB4Y-1. Retrieved: 19 August 2007.
  24. Wegg 1990, p. 90.
  25. Robertson 1998
  26. wrecks
  27. [1]
Bibliography


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  • Birdsall, Steve. Log of the Liberators. New York: Doubleday, 1973. ISBN 0-385-03870-4.
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External links



Naval Liberator and Privateer




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