Consolidated B-24D Liberator
The B-24D was the first version of the Liberator to be mass produced and the first version of the aircraft to enter combat in large numbers with the USAAF. It was similar to the B-24C which had been used to prepare the Consolidated factory at San Diego for full production. It was also the first version of the aircraft to be built by members of the Liberator Production Pool.
The B-24D saw a minor change of engine, from the 1,200hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-41 to the R-1830-43. Later in the production run this was changed to the R-1830-65, starting with San Diego block 140-CO and Fort Worth block 25-CF. All ten Tulsa aircraft used the later engine.
The nose, upper turret, waist and tail guns remained the same, but the belly gun was changed three times. Early aircraft were produced with the same tunnel gun position used on the B-24C. This saw a single .50in machine gun placed in the belly of the aircraft. It could fire down and backwards, and was difficult to aim.
On the 77th production aircraft this single gun was replaced by a retractable remotely sighted Bendix turret, previously used on the B-17E Flying Fortress. This was not a great success, causing motion sickness amongst the gunners. It was also difficult to aim the gun, and after 287 aircraft had been completed with the Bendix turret it was removed and the tunnel gun restored.
Finally, in block 140-CO a retractable Sperry ball turret was installed on the Liberator. This was the same turret that had been adopted on the B-17 Flying Fortress and would remain standard on the majority of B-24s. The B-24 ball gunner had one big advantage over his B-17 colleagues. The bicycle landing gear of the B-24 made it much safer to land when the ball turret was stuck in the lowered position.
Some effort was made to improve the nose guns of the B-24. From block 15-CO a pair of .50in machine guns were added in cheek positions, just as in the B-17. They were not a great success. There was not enough space in the nose of the B-24 for the bombardier and gunners. The cheek gunners had limited visibility and couldn’t fire directly forward. The B-24D also saw the original nose gun moved down from its original high position into a lower position, because the original position had been found to interfere with the bomb sight.
A field modification carried out by the Fifth Air Force began to point the way towards solving the forward firepower problem. They placed a Consolidated A-6 tail turret in the nose, moving the bombardier’s position below the turret. This was a great success and became a common field modification. It became a standard feature of the aircraft on the Ford built B-24H and on the standard B-24J.
A total of 2,696 B-24Ds were built, 2,383 of them at the Consolidated factory at San Diego. The Consolidated factory at Forth Worth became the first member of the Liberator Production Pool to produce aircraft in May 1942. A total of 303 B-24Ds were built at Fort Worth. In July 1942 the Douglas factory at Tulsa began production, assembling ten B-24Ds from components produced at San Diego. Production at both sub-assembly plants then moved on to the B-24E, built with Ford components.
The first B-24Ds were delivered to the Army Air Force at the end of January 1942. Ford built similar aircraft as the B-24E while North American at Dallas produced the B-24H. The B-24D was replaced by the B-24J in the summer of 1943.
Consolidated B-24 Liberator Part II
Mass production of the Consolidated Liberator was brought into full force by 1943 with the aid of the Ford Motor Company through its newly constructed Willow Run facility, where peak production had reached one B-24 per hour and 650 per month in 1944. Other factories soon followed. The B-24 ended World War Two as the most produced Allied heavy bomber in history, and the most produced American military aircraft at over 18,000 units, thanks in large measure to Henry Ford and the harnessing of American industry. It still holds the distinction as the most-produced American military aircraft. The B-24 was used by several Allied air forces and navies, and by every branch of the American armed forces during the war, attaining a distinguished war record with its operations in the Western European, Pacific, Mediterranean, and China-Burma-India Theatres.
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 which brought forth a whole range of variants and subtypes, some with official designations,
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 March 1939 and first flew on 29 December 1939.
YB-24/LB-30A Pre-production prototypes – Only six were built, to virtually the same standard as the YB-24, including the short nose. The aircraft had originally been ordered by the French, but after the fall of France that order had been taken over by the Royal Air Force. The first six aircraft were delivered as the LB-30A. This aircraft was powered by the 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33C4-G engine, giving it a top speed of 280 mph and a service ceiling of 27,000 ft. The six LB-30As were provided with six 0.303in machine guns in the nose, waist and tail positions. However, they lacked self sealing fuel tanks.
The first LB-30A made its maiden flight on 17 January 1941 before being delivered to the RAF at Montreal, the first machine reaching the UK on 14 March 1941. The RAF decided that the lack of self sealing fuel tanks meant that the aircraft could not be used over Western Europe, and so all six were handed over to Ferry Command. Their guns were removed and cabin heaters and a passenger oxygen supply were installed. They were then used to ferry RAF pilots west across the Atlantic, from where they would return at the controls of American produced aircraft. The first westwards flight began on 14 May 1941.
B-24 – Service test version of the XB-24, ordered on 27 April 1939, less than thirty days after the XB-24 was ordered and before its completion. A number of minor modifications were made, including elimination of leading edge slots, addition of de-icing boots.
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 were sent to the UK under Lend-Lease as LB-30B.
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 engine cowlings were made elliptical to accommodate the addition of the turbo-superchargers. The XB-24B version also lacked the engine slots of the original.
B-24C – Conversion of the B-24A using turbosupercharged 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 a hydraulically powered Consolidated A-6 turret with twin .50 calibre machine guns a Martin power turret was added to the forward fuselage. were the aircraft being produced by Consolidated.
B-24D – First model produced on a large scale ordered from 1940 to 1942, as a B-24C with R-1830-43 supercharged engines. The D model was initially equipped with a remotely operated and periscopically sighted Bendix belly turret, as the first examples of the B-17E Flying Fortress had used, but this proved unsatisfactory in service and was discontinued after the 287th aircraft. Production aircraft reverted to the earlier manually operated ‘tunnel’ mounting with a single .50 calibre machine. The tunnel gun was eventually replaced by the retractable Sperry ball turret, which had also been adopted by the later B-17Es. In late B-24Ds, ‘cheek’ guns were added.
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 B-24G-1 – Designation for North American-built version of the B-24H. Most B-24G aircraft were delivered to the 15th Air Force in Italy.
B-24H – Because of obvious vulnerability of the B-24 to head-on attack, the B-24H design incorporated an electrically powered Emerson A-15 nose turret. Approximately 50 other airframe changes were made, including a redesigned bombardier compartment. The tail turret was given larger windows for better visibility and the Martin A-3 top turret received an enlarged ‘high hat’ dome. The waist gunner positions were enclosed with plexiglas windows and offset to reduce mutual interference between the gunners during battle. Most H model aircraft were built by Ford at the Willow Run factory.
B-24J – The B-24J was very similar to the B-24H, but shortages of the Emerson nose turret required use of a modified, hydraulically powered Consolidated A-6 turret in most J model aircraft built at Consolidated’s San Diego and Fort Worth factories. 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-24J. The J model was the only version to be built by all five factories involved in B-24 production.
XB-24J – The deterioration of the B-24’s operational suitability concerned the USAAF sufficiently for them to launch a priority project to improve the Liberator’s performance. Air Materiel Command undertook the ‘B-24 Weight Reduction Program’, with the objectives of improving the speed and altitude capabilities of the aircraft, and also of solving the poor forward visibility and crew quarters problems.
In March 1944, at Wright Field, the Weight Reduction Committee considered a range of options. Among these were more powerful turbo superchargers to improve the ceiling, a faired Bell power boost tail turret, and a single tail assembly calculated to add 10 mph to the B-24’s speed.
The B-17 nose was better streamlined, and provided adequate working space for the navigator and excellent visibility for the bombardier. It was at first used as a bench-mark by which to measure any B-24 modification. The suggestion was made to put a Fortress nose onto a Liberator airframe.
On 25 May 1944, Air Materiel Command assigned the experiment a First Priority Project rating. A preliminary study at Wright Field reported that a completely new nose design would be more practical, but conceded that fitting a B-17 nose was feasible. The actual conversion was scheduled to begin in June, at Air Service Command’s Middletown, Ohio, facilities.
It was agreed that the project should be finished 20 days after receiving a new B-17G nose section from the Douglas plant at Long Beach, California. The airframe was to be B-24J serial 42-73130, made available by Aircraft Test Control and flown to Middletown on 5 June. The aircraft was weighed, and work began on removing the nose and making a mock-up mating structure.
As the project looked for ways to shorten their 20-day time-frame, they found that an accident at Langley Field, Virginia, had considerably damaged B-17G serial 42-97772, but the nose section was still fairly intact. It was requisitioned and reached Middletown on 11 June. The nose section from California arrived five days later and was used to replace damaged parts on the section from Langley.
Now began a complex mating of the two major components. Not only were these of quite different cross sections, but installed equipment did not match up. Side structural fairings were formed by a continuation rearwards of the side components of the B-17 nose section, to end at a point on the B-24 fuselage just forward of the bomb bay doors. The reverse happened on the upper fuselage, where the B-24 was faired forwards onto the B-17 nose.
The modification was completed on 2 July. Whilst not over-attractive, the new nose did at least appear to be an aerodynamic improvement. One problem was that the new nose not only added about two feet to the overall length of the aircraft, but it also increased its weight by 437 lb.
It was sent to Wright Field for a check-out flight on 6 July by the Flight Section of Materiel Command. With a gross takeoff weight of 56,000 lb and after speed, power and stability tests at 10,000 ft the test crew concluded the aircraft performance was ‘…essentially the same as other B-24 airplanes’, but with an airspeed ‘… apparently eight and a half miles an hour faster’. The aircraft was sent to the AAF Proving Ground at Eglin Field, Florida, via Bolling Field, Washington, DC, for the edification of Pentagon representatives.
Three flights were scheduled. The first, at low altitude, was for familiarisation and instrument calibration. The next two flights would be identical except that, on the third, the aircraft would carry the weight of a fully-loaded B-24J.
The missions were flown during August. On both altitude flights, the aircraft was only able to reach a ceiling of 18,500-19,000 ft – about two thirds that of an ordinary B-24. At that point cylinder head temperatures soared and the cowl flaps had to be opened, adding to drag, preventing any further climbing, and producing a mild tail buffeting.
The Eglin report condemned the modified aircraft as ‘operationally unsuitable’. They pointed to weight increase, stability problems, the poor ceiling and generally poor performance, and recommended the project be discontinued.
Finally the Engineering Division of Air Materiel Command admitted that it would be better simply to redesign the B-24J nose. Most of the added weight was due to ammunition for the B-17 nose and cheek guns, almost a third of a ton. This weight did offset the aerodynamics problems of the forward-stretching nose somewhat, which apparently would otherwise have been worse.
There was some dispute that the head temperatures which prevented climbing to a higher ceiling could be blamed on the B-17 nose. They had allegedly been reported in other B-24Js. The test crews agreed that the crew space in the nose had been vastly improved.
XB-24K – An experiment 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, leading to the decision to incorporate a single tail in the PB4Y-2 and B-24N.
B-24L – Because of the excessively high gross weight of the B-24J, the Army pushed for a lighter version. In the B-24L, the Sperry ball turret was replaced by a floor ring mount with two .50 calibre machine guns, and the A-6B tail turret by an M-6A. Later aircraft were delivered from the factory without tail armament. An A-6B, M-6A, or a manually operated twin .50 calibre mounting was then installed at a depot before arrival at operational units. The L model was built only at Willow Run and Consolidated’s San Diego factory.
B-24M – An enhancement of the B-24L with further weight-saving devices. The B-24M used a lightweight version of the A-6B tail turret the waist gunner positions were left open. For better visibility from the flight deck, the windshield in Ford-built aircraft was replaced by a version with less framing from Block 20 onward. The B-24M became the last production model of the B-24 a number of those built flew only the course between the factory and the scrapyard.
XB-24N – A redesign of the B-24J, made to accommodate a single tail. It also featured an Emerson 128 ball turret in the nose and a stationary tail gunner’s position. While 5,168 B-24Ns were ordered, the end of the war resulted in cancellation of all contracts before production could begin.
YB-24N – Pre-production service test version of the XB-24N.
XB-24P – A modified B-24D, used by Sperry Gyroscope Company to test airborne fire control systems.
XB-24Q – a General Electric conversion of B-24L-15-FO 44-49916 modified by replacing the standard tail armament with a radar controlled tail turret. This turret was being tested for use on the Boeing B-47 Stratojet.
XB-41 – As there were no fighters capable of escorting bomber formations on deep strike missions early in war, the Army authorized tests for heavily armed bombers to act as escorts. The XB-41 had fourteen .50 calibre machine guns, including a Bendix chin turret and a second Martin A-3 turret on the upper fuselage. A single aircraft was completed in 1942. 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 results of 1943 testing were very negative and the project was cancelled.
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.
C-87 Liberator Express – Passenger transports with accommodation for 20 passengers.
C-87A – VIP transports with R-1830-45 instead of – 43 engines and sleeping accommodations for 16 passengers.
C-87B – Projected armed transport variant with nose guns, dorsal turret, and ventral tunnel gun never produced.
C-87C – USAAF/AF 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 German targets.
Consolidated B-24D Liberator - History
Monogram's 1/48 scale
Consolidated B-24D Liberator
HyperScale is proudly supported by Squadron.com
Here is my 1/48th Scale Revell-Monogram B-24D built as the The Blue Streak.
The Blue Streak was originally named Florine Jo Jo, SN# 411163. She was a member of the HALPRO group that eventually became the 376th Bomb Group. I believe the aircraft was a veteran of the first high level Ploesti mission in 1942. It was not part of the 1943 low level raid. The Blue Streak went on to survive 110 missions with the 376th bomb group and was sent home for a war bond tour. This must have been quite a feat considering most missions were flown from primitive airfields in the desert. She survived 19 months of battle overseas, and 1,058 combat hours. Her scoreboard reads one destroyer, one merchant vessel, one tanker, and 23 enemy aircraft destroyed. She dropped 297 tons of bombs, and never lost a man. The ship required 19 engines, two new wings, one new rudder, and many aluminum patches during her career. As a youngster the Blue Streak captured my imagination.
I remember seeing the colorful old 72nd Revell kit on my uncle&rsquos shelf, and taking it down for a few unauthorized missions over Ploesti. Needless to say it contributed to my love for modeling today. So go easy on those young flyers.
The Revell/Monogram kit is the only game in town for a 1/48th Liberator. The kit has mostly pros and a few cons to deal with.
The biggest problems are the transparencies. The turrets have seams through them and the cockpit glass ends up looking a bit shallow. The clear parts can be improved with vacuform sets from Squadron and Bill Koster.
Some argue that the vertical stabilizers tilt back more than the 2.5 degrees on the real aircraft. The open bomb bay doors also need attention. The kit is based on the earlier B-24J release and has some inaccurate features for early Liberators. D model Liberators did not have the left aileron trim tab or the fuel vents on the top of the wings. Also the rudder trim tabs were shorter on the D at 2&rsquo10 and 5/8 inches. I did not correct these tabs. The rear turret is an A6B model and should be an A6A with offset guns and no breech covers. The bomb sight mount location is not correct if installed per the kit instructions. The kit has raised panel lines.
Depicting an early B-24D requires a few modifications. I also wanted to add additional detail. The left cheek window was filled in. The original Halpro aircraft carried two fixed 50 caliber guns mounted in the lower nose that could be fired by the pilot. The unused cheek guns were used for the fixed mount. The pitot tubes were moved from the high to the early mid mounted position. The paddle blade props were modified to the early narrow type.
I started construction with the fuselage. First up I removed the raised area around the cockpit in preparation for the vac canopy. The dark dull green interior areas were painted Polly Scale medium green with the remainder painted in neutral gray, and zinc chromate. In hindsight, it may have been more common for the tail section to have aluminum skin with longerons and stringers primed in yellow chromate. Next various details were added from scratch. I tend to use stuff that&rsquos cheap and readily available, sprue, styrene, aluminum, and wire. Many of the interior parts I used have been scratch built, molded and cast in resin from a previous B-24 project. The cockpit, greenhouse nose, and waist area are very visible. I also chose to open the top inward opening hatch. Adding detail in these areas was worthwhile.
Stringers and bulkheads were added to the nose area using styrene strip. Various intercom gear, oxygen bottles, hoses, regulators, ammo boxes, and radios were added throughout. I chose to add a ceiling to the bomb bay along with the center I beam structure. The ceiling was simplified a bit from the real thing to ease construction.
Armor plate, floor structure and a tunnel gun mount were added in the waist area. I reinforced the nose gear bulkhead with sprue and closed the fuselage.
The ball turret insert did not fit well, requiring a course file and filler. I chose to place a crate under the tail skid instead of adding weight to the nose. Next up were the vac canopy parts. I find that adding a ledge made of fine styrene rod around the nose opening helps to align the parts. The dual 50&rsquos were mounted in the nose and new holes drilled through the glazing. A rib support was added to move the bomb sight to the correct position. The vac canopies were then attached with 5 minute epoxy and masked off. Next up I attached the rudders to the stabilizer and attached the assembly to the fuselage. I used a spreader bar and a shim to fill a small gap. The joint was then reinforced with sprue.
Next up were the wings. The rear of the engine nacelles were hollowed out, and the closed cowl flaps removed using a Dremel tool. Sheet plastic and rough details were added to the nacelle to prevent see through. The cowl flap master was made with aluminum and cast in resin. The passing light in the leading edge was made using a shaped and polished clear sprue. The wing halves were then glued together. The nacelles sides do not fit well and require filler. Care is needed to fit and align the cowling fronts. I had to remove the alignment tabs and sand both mating surfaces to get a good fit. The left aileron was filled in and ribbing detail was restored with stretched sprue and putty. The wings were then sprayed rattle can silver as an undercoat for paint chipping.
I improved the landing lights, friend or foe lights on the belly, passing light in left wing, and a bomb release light under the rear turret. Lenses were punched from clear sheet and glued in place with future tinted with food coloring. The landing gear was cleaned up and detailed with wire, and foil tape. The True Details wheels were used minus some of the flat tire bulge. The bomb bay door edges were thinned, and a 1/8&rdquo strip of styrene added on the bottom edge. This gives more of a curve to the door. I applied decals to the door edge to simulate the corrugated ends. The ribs on the back of the doors were sanded down. This allows the doors to fit tightly to the fuselage.
Painting and Markings
The Blue Streak was most likely painted in OD 41 with light blue undersides. Pictures show the ship to be heavily weathered at the time of the bond tour markings. I drew up the markings in Adobe Illustrator and sent them to Joe at Fireball Models where they were printed.
New pictures came to light after I had finished the build. They show an additional legend under the horizontal stabilizer, and black and white stripes on the lower rudders. I may add these markings later.
Blends of Model Master Olive Drab ANA613 with a touch of RAF Dark Green and Azure Blue mixed with Neutral Gray were used.
For weathering I used black and brown pastels and washes on the wing areas. Future was then applied with a brush in preparation for the decals.
The decals were applied and a wash of burnt umber was applied along panel lines.
Areas along the leading edge of the wings and cowlings were chipped using my fingernail or toothpicks. A silver pencil was also used. The bomb bay doors were chipped using silver paint and a sponge. Once the finish was dry another coat of flat acryl was applied. A very thin mix of black brown was then sprayed over the decals to tone them down. A heavier mix of black brown was gradually built up to simulate exhaust staining.
Finally the turrets were set in place, and the pitot tubes and antennas were attached. The wings have a tight fit to the fuselage, and can be removed for easier storage.
All photos were taken with a Canon Powershot A80.
Projects of this size can be exhausting, but also very rewarding to finish. Kits of this size usually languish in the stash.
The big Monogram kits look great out of the box and are a great value. They are also nice for sharpening your modeling skills to bring them up to today&rsquos standards. Next time reach for that visible B-17 instead of that mustang, and enjoy the ride.
My thanks go out to the HyperScale community for inspiration, motivation, techniques, and information. Thanks Brett for a great resource.
Consolidated B-24D & -J Liberator
In 1938, Consolidated Aircraft received the request to produce B-17s. The chief engineer, David Davis, however, came with its own wing design with a 15% reduction in air resistance. A rough draft was made of a four-engine aircraft with this wing.
The USAAC ordered in March 1939 the construction of a prototype of the Consolidated Model 32, USAAC designation XB-24. The aircraft with two tailfins had a unique construction of the bomb bay, which consisted of two parts, they rolled up like garage doors. The crew went through the bomb bay inside the aircraft. Equipped with four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33 Twin Wasp engines of 1100 hp each unit had a maximum speed of around 440 km/hr. Furthermore, it was the first heavy bomber of the USAAF with a nose wheel undercarriage.
Even before the first flight was made Consolidated received an order to built seven test aircraft, designated YB-24. France also placed an order, which later went to the RAF.
Mid 1939 the USAAF ordered 120 units of the B-24, of which 20 examples were handed over to the RAF as Liberator I, which used them, equipped with radar and four 20mm cannons used in the nose , for anti submarine warfare.
Because the performance was disappointing, the XB-24 was ordered with four turbo-charged engines, Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 of 1200 hp each, which gave the aircrfat, now designated XB-24B a top speed of nearly 500 km/hr. The XB-24B was equipped with self-sealing fuel tanks, and a larger span.
The stability and maneuverability of the B-24, would be improved with one vertical tail fin in place of the standard double tail. The B-24ST and XB-24K were equipped with a single fin and demonstrated this fact. The B-24N was the first version with a single tail that would enter production, but the order was canceled because of the end of the war. Only the B-24 derivative PB4Y Privateer went into production.
The B-24C was the first version in which the war experiences of the British were processed, though just nine examples were ordered which didn't enter operational service.
The first operationally deployable version was the B-24D, of which over 2700 were produced in a variety of sub-variants or production blocks.
In order to meet the demand for more firepower the B-24H was released with an Emerson A-15 nose turret and an improved tail and dorsal turret.
The B-24J appeared and was different from the B-24H especially the applied Convair A-6A nose turret, because the A-15 turret was not sufficiently available. Furthermore, the B-24J had an improved C-1 autopilot, new M-series bomb aim system, an improved fuel supply and an electronic control system of the turbo-superchargers.
The weight of the B-24 rose during development which had a negative impact on performance because the engines remained the same. A total of over 6600 examples of the B-24J were produced on all production lines.
- Liberator B Mk I : 20 examples. Proved to be unusable for operational use. Some were modified to GR.I and used for anti submarine patrol missions.
- Liberator B Mk II : 165 examples for RAF comparable with B-24C First version suitable for operational use. Extended nose and enlarged fuselage and British equipment.
- XF-7 : photo recce version of the B-24D.
- Liberator B Mk III : British version with .303 inch Browning machine guns, Boulton Paul tail turret and other British equipment. The Martin dorsal turret was maintained. 156 examples built.
- Liberator B Mk IIIA : Lend-Lease B-24Ds with US equipment and armament.
- Liberator B Mk V : B-24D version with enlarged fuel capacity and same armament as Liberator Mk III.
- Liberator GR Mk V : Modified B-24D for RAF Coastal Command for anti submarine warfare equipped with search radar and a search light.
- Liberator B Mk IV : never delivered RAF version of the B-24E.
- B-24G-1 : As B-25G but with a A-6 nose turret 405 examples built
- F-7 : photo recce version of the B-24H.
- Liberator B Mk VI : RAF version with Boulton Paul tail turret, same armament as B-24H.
- F-7A : photo recce version of the B-24J with three cameras in the nose and three ind the bomb bay.
- F-7B : Idem with six cameras in the bomb bay.
- Liberator B Mk VIII : RAF version to the B-24J.
- Liberator C Mk VI : transport version of the Liberator B Mk VIII.
- Liberator GR Mk VIII : Modified B-24J for RAF Coastal Command use for Anti submarine warfare.
- Liberator C Mk VIII : RAF modified transport version of the Liberator GR Mk VIII.
- Liberator GR Mk VI : RAF Coastal Command designation to the B-24G/H/J type for long distance patrol.
- RB-24L : trainer for B-29 air gunners with same armament as B-29.
- TB-24L : idem with added radar equipment.
- AT-22 or TB-24 : C-87 version for training of flight engineers.
- RY-2 : U.S. Navy designation of the C-87.
- Liberator C Mk VII : RAF designation of the C-87.
- RY-1 : U.S. Navy designation of the C-87A.
- PB4Y-1P : photo reconnaissance version.
- RY-3 :transport version of the PB4Y-2.
- Liberator C Mk IX : RAF designation for RY-3/C-87C
- C-87C : USAAF designation for the RY-3.
Technical information Consolidated B-24D Liberator Mk.III
Dimensions: Length: 20,45 m Wingspan: 33,52 m Height: 5,46 m Wing area: 97,35 m 2 Weights: Empty weight: 16 780 kg Max. start weight: 28 123 kg Performances: Max. speed: 434 km/hr Cruising speed: 382 km/hr Range: 3684 km Service ceiling: - m Miscellaneous: Engine type: Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 Twin Wasp rated 1200 hp each. Crew: Nine men Armament: About nine machine guns. Bombs.
Technical information Consolidated B-24J Liberator GR.Mk.VI
Dimensions: Length: 20,45 m Wingspan: 33,52 m Height: 5,46 m Wing area: 97,35 m 2 Weights: Empty weight: 17 236 kg Max. start weight: 27 240 kg Performances: Max. speed: 482 km/hr Cruising speed: 447 km/hr Range: 2465 km Service ceiling: - m Miscellaneous: Engine type: Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-65 Twin Wasp rated 1200 hp each. Crew: Eight men Armament: About ten machine guns. Bombs..
These aircraft were used at 321 squadron, RNlNAS and succeeded the old Catalina’s.
During 1942 the fresh crews educated at RNMFS, Jackson, requested more action than the rather passive patrols with the Catalina's. Admiral Helfrich agreed with this and tried to find a more offensive role for 321 squadron.
Because of the structure of the defence system this was not possible. 321 squadron was a maritime patrol unit, resorting under 222 General Reconnaissance Group, RAF India.
At the end of 1943 this structure was revised because of the changed situation and Air Command South East Asia was raised. The British would provide a unit with four engined bombers. They should receive about two thousand Liberators.
Because of the high demand for this bomber it took a long time to carry out the plans. In 1944 the Liberators were delivered to the British. After a lot of discussions in November 1944 at last permission was given to raise a Dutch Liberator unit.
Several crew were detached temporarily at No. 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit, Kolar and at 160 squadron RAF, Kankesanturai, Ceylon. Several surplus Catalina’s were returned to RAF. The first delivered (ex British) Liberators were in very poor condition. It took the technical crew a lot of work to get these aircraft in flying condition.
Twelve aircraft should delivered to the unit, but it took until May 1945 before seven new aircraft were sent by the British head quarters.
Now the training program could continue and in July six crew were completely trained. Squadron 321 was now assigned a new air base, at Cocos-islands. Its task was to prevent the Japanese navigation as much as possible.
During the night of 8 to July 9, 1945 the first three aircraft departed for the new base. Alas KH296/J crashed in sea just after take off, killing six of the crew. Fortunately five men could be saved. Some days later two other aircraft were flown to the Cosos Islands.
July 15, 1945 the first ‘anti shipping sweep’ was flown. Such flights were flown regularly until the Japanese capitulation on August 11, 1945. The last flight was at August 11, 1945.
The task of squadron 321 changed. Because of the situation in the prison camps the Liberators were used for supply in September 1945 and food en medicines were dropped.
In September 1945 a memorable flight was made with “Z”. Squadron leader OVL1 A.J. de Bruyn was allowed to fly the liberated Gouverneur-Generaal of Dutch East Indies, Jonkheer Mr. A.W.L Tjarda van Stakenborgh Stachouwer and the commander of the army General H. ter Poorter to the Netherlands.
They started in New Delhi and flew via Karachi, Caïro, Lydda, Istres and Hartfor Bridge to Eindhoven. October 8, 1945 they started to fly back to Dutch East Indies, but they were forced to stop at Colombo, because of the tumultuous situation at Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies.
Despite the need for transport aircraft, the crew were set aside. Just in January 1946 the message was spread that the Liberators had te be returned to the RAF.
Because air base Perak was unsuitable for the large Liberator and air base Merauke was crowded with aircraft parked there, the aircraft could leave China Bay just in April 1946 to air base Morokrambangan. Liberator Y was left behind, and Liberators “A”, “B”, “M”, “P” and “W” were flown to Morokrembangan and were parked there until the end of May 1946, when these aircraft were handed over to the RAF.
Consolidated B-24D Liberator - History
Hasegawa's 1/72 scale
by Evan &ldquoLacquer Man&rdquo Smith
The B-24 never had the looks or publicity of the B-17 but still turned in the work, often paying a high price. I&rsquove wanted to build a B-24 for a long time: hoarding several of the Hasegawa kits (#00932) in preparation. When I came across the history of one B-24D christened &ldquoLil&rsquo De-Icer&rdquo my mind was made up.
This particular aircraft participated in Operation Tidal Wave: the infamous raid against the Ploesti oil fields on August 1st 1943. Serving with the 98th BG, she and her crew returned from Ploesti and continued to serve well into 1944 when she was sent back to the states in exchange for newer aircraft. &ldquoLil De-Icer&rdquo met her end on the scrap heap in 1946.
Fortunately, markings for &ldquoLil&rsquo De-Icer&rdquo are available on the excellent and well-researched decal sheet from Lifelike Decals (#72-029). A desert-pink B-24D with a notable history and nose art: I couldn&rsquot say no.
Two major inaccuracies needed correcting right out of the box. The most obvious is the configuration of the starboard side front window. The kit molds this as a separate window, while photo references clearly show a smooth panel on Lil&rsquo De-Icer and other aircraft of the same production run. This was fairly simple to rectify, as it only required a light bit of filling to level out the detail then a quick re-scribing.
The second issue was much easier to correct, but rather puzzling given the quality of the kit. On the 1:1 B-24D, the front landing gear doors retracted into the wheel well, and are not visible when the plane is on the ground. Hasegawa would have you use the doors from a later version if you follow their instructions. This is an extremely easy fix, as I simply left the doors off.
Finally the positioning of the nose guns took a bit of research and comparisons to other aircraft in the squadron where photos were available. From what I could gather the single machine gun in the very front of the nose was omitted on Lil&rsquo De-Icer, either to save weight or to clear the line of sight for the bombardier.
The kit instructions suggest adding 90 grams of weight to the nose. Initially I assumed this was an error. Not so, as I wound up using even more than that from my trusty roll of lead. Due to the open nature of the nose, the front wheel bay and the fuselage underneath the top turret were crammed full of lead in an effort to bring about the correct stance. Fortunately the kit landing gear is extremely robust and was up to the task of supporting this beast!
Painting and Markings
With the aid of a set of masks from Eduard and my trusty supply of Mr. Paint (MRP) USAAF colors the actual painting of this beast was rather straightforward. All of the demarcations between the Neutral Grey underside and Desert Sand top color were done free hand. This was made easy by the large and quite soft edges on the real aircraft. Only masking of the more complex shapes around the bottoms of the engine nacelles was required for painting.
Decals, Weathering and the Logic Behind The Exhaust Stains
Decals were laid down with a substantial amount of cursing and gnashing of teeth due to the fragile nature of the Microscale-printed sheet. My most grievous error came from the use of Tamiya&rsquos Matte Clear XF-86 thinned with their acrylic X-20A thinner. This mixture attacked my decals and caused Thankfully I was able to freehand the corrections and touch ups with Vallejo acrylics. After this, I sprayed a coat of Dullcote to seal everything in and prepare for the various washes.
Weathering was a straightforward affair thanks to a mix of Mig and AK Interactive enamel washes. I used AK&rsquos Africa Dust Effects (AK 022) to replicate the harshness of service in the Libyan Desert. This is more of an armor technique wherein the wash is applied, allowed to dry, and then lightened with a soft brush moistened with odorless thinner. I attempted to keep the effect light so as to not spoil the scale effect by overdoing things.
The Consolidated Aircraft Corporation was founded in 1923 by Reuben H. Fleet in Buffalo, New York, the result of the Gallaudet Aircraft Company's liquidation and Fleet's purchase of designs from the Dayton-Wright Company as the subsidiary was being closed by its parent corporation, General Motors.
The Consolidated B-32 Dominator (Consolidated Model 34) was an American heavy strategic bomber built for United States Army Air Forces during World War II, which had the distinction of being the last Allied aircraft to be engaged in combat during World War II.
Consolidated B-24D Liberator - History
The wreckage of a B-24D "Liberator", a Consolidated San Diego-built B-24D, block 145 (B-24D-145-CO), Serial number #42-41205) (nickname "St. Quentin Quail") rests on the lagoonside of Jab'u, Arno Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. The plane, part of the of the 98 th Bomb Squadron, 11 th Bomb Group, flying under the command of Capt. Morse, crashed on 2 January 1944, as a result of damage incurred during an attack on the Japanese airbase of Taroa on Maloelap Atoll. Another B-24 of the same squadron, the Homesick Angel, also returning from Taroa reported the landing, took photos (see below) and dropped emergency rations. Apparently the bomber crews had been briefed that Arno Atoll was a safe place to land in case of an emergency, but when a "Dumbo" plane, a Navy PBY flying boat went into the lagoon early next morning at dawn and reported that there was no trace of the crew. It was believed that were captured and taken away.
Above: Photographs of the B-24 wreck at Jab'u, taken immediately after crash by officers on board of the B-24 Homesick Angel (Photos courtsey G.Kurz). Right: Photograph of the Arno B-24 wreck taken on 28 January 1944 by a PBY (Courtesy Bishop Museum, Honolulu). Two of the crew members died during or as a result of the crash and were buried on Arno. Eight of the crew members survived and were housed and fed by the Marshallese on Arno Atoll from January 3 to January 16, 1944, on which date a Japanese patrol boat arrived from Taroa and captured them. The airmen were taken to Maloelap Atoll where they remained until January 20, 1944.
Left: Arno B-24 wreck. The starboard wing. Photograph: Dirk H.R. Spennemann. The last we know of the airmen is that they were on a Japanese vessel entering Kwajalein lagoon on January 22, 1944, when the vessel was attacked by U.S. bombers. One airman was killed during this attack. The remaining seven perished without a trace on Kwajalein between then and the U.S. conquest of that atoll on February 3rd.
The perished crew comprised of: Lt. Roger W.Morse, Pilot Lt. Herbert S. Evans, Co-Pilot Lt. Robert H. Wirostek, Navigator Lt. William F. Carpen, Bombardier Sgt. Marion L. Farmer, Flight Engineer TSgt. John W. Horman, Radio-operator SSgt. I.L.Stowe, Gunner SSgt. Paul H. VanBuskin, Gunner SSgt. Henry R. Wyka, Gunner and Pvt. Robert T. McTwigan, Gunner.
The two crew members buried on Arno (Henry R. Wyka and Marion L. Farmer) were exhumed after the U.S. landings on Majuro on 31 January 1944 and re-interred at the war cemetery on Garra Island ("Demon Island"). After the war they were removed and interred at their final resting places in the U.S.A.
Right: Plan view of the Consolidated B-24 D "Liberator" bomber resting at a beachrock spur on the lagoon side of Jab'u Island, Arno Atoll, showing the parts of the plane still preserved. The plane wreck rests in the intertidal zone off a beachrock spur off Jab'u Island in 1 to 1.5m of water at low tide, some 30-40m from the present high-tide mark. Extant are the port wing, a large part of the starboard wing, the central fuselage section between the wings, and all four engines. Only one propeller was seen, although the others may well rest buried in the sand, somewhere to the rear of the plane, ripped off duirng the crash landing. The tip section of the port wing from the port No.2 engine onwards is snapped off and twisted backwards. The bottom of the lagoon shows a few isolated pieces of aluminum, among them the ring of the central Martin turret. No pieces of the pilots cockpit or the entire rear fuselage including rear ailerons could be located.
From the pattern of the wreckage and debris it is clear that the plane landed at the beach in an eastward direction, against the prevailing tradewinds, and that it came to an abrupt halt at the beachrock spur, which may well have been partialy submerged at the time.
The aluminum is on the whole in good condition and it can be expected that as long as no untoward actions happen, the plane will be around for some time. The plane, resting on the reef has been utilized by the Arno people in the 1940s and 1950s as a resource for aluminum to manufacture coconut-grater blades, husking-stick points and other artifacts for daily use.
The plane wreck is a significant cultural resource at it is tangible evidence of the US long range bombing mission against the Japanese bases in the Marshall Islands
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1994) The last flight of the 'St. Quentin Quail'. Investigations of the wreckage and history of Consolidated B-24 'Liberator' aircraft #42-41205 off Jab'u Island, Arno Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. The Johnstone Centre for Parks, Recreation and Heritage Report No 17. The Johnstone Centre for Parks, Recreation and Heritage, Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW., 1994.
Consolidated B-24 Liberator - Variants and Conversions - U.S. Army Air Forces Variants
&ldquo Ah! how much a mother learns from her child! The constant protection of a helpless being forces us to so strict an alliance with virtue, that a woman never shows to full advantage except as a mother. Then alone can her character expand in the fulfillment of all lifes duties and the enjoyment of all its pleasures. &rdquo
&mdashHonoré De Balzac (1799)
&ldquo Here was a great woman a magnificent, generous, gallant, reckless, fated fool of a woman. There was never a place for her in the ranks of the terrible, slow army of the cautious. She ran ahead, where there were no paths. &rdquo
&mdashDorothy Parker (1893)
&ldquo There is an air of last things, a brooding sense of impending annihilation, about so much deconstructive activity, in so many of its guises it is not merely postmodernist but preapocalyptic. &rdquo
&mdashDavid Lehman (b. 1948)
Consolidated B-24 Liberator
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/28/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator became a major player for Allied forces during World War 2. Its exploits ranged the world over - as did her users- and she saw action in a variety of roles in all major theaters. Designed to overtake the mythical Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and appearing as a more modern design in 1941, the Liberator fell short of this goal but instead operated side-by-side with her contemporary to form a powerful hammer in the hand of the Allied bombing effort. Though the B-17 ultimately proved the favorable mount of airmen and strategic personnel, one cannot doubt her impact in the various roles she was assigned to play in. The Liberator went on to become the most produced American aircraft of the entire war.
The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) issued a new specification in 1935. This specification required the development of a new multi-engined, long-range heavy bomber capable of exceeding a top speed of 300 miles per hour, besting a range of 3,000 miles, maintaining a service ceiling of at least 35,000 feet and taking on an internal bombload minimum of 8,000lbs. Production of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was well underway and, in 1938, Consolidated was requested to help in its production. As part of the production initiative, Consolidated executives were brought to Boeing's plant in Seattle, Washington to visit the factory. It was this meeting that prompted Consolidated to submit their own heavy bomber design with a more modern flair. The USAAC granted Consolidated a design study in January of 1939 under C-212 with the intent that this new aircraft exceed the performance specifications (speed, range and ceiling) of the B-17 and be ready in time for production before the end of the war.
Consolidated wasted no time in developing their design - the Model 32 - and brought about a few revolutionary changes in the approach of American bomber designs. Model 32 sported a tricycle undercarriage - the first American bomber to do so - doing away with the traditional "tail-dragging" design as utilized by the B-17. The monoplane wings were also held in a high shoulder-mounted position, themselves made wide and holding two engines to each wing leading edge in underslung nacelles. The high wings were of less surface area but promoted a higher fuel efficiency standard than the low-mounted assemblies on a B-17. Of note here was Consolidated's Model 31 (XP4Y Corregidor) foray which utilized the same "Davis" high aspect wing (or "Davis Wing"). This aircraft was of a twin-engine sort and designed as a flying boat. Ultimately, the design fell by the wayside when an order for 200 examples was cancelled by the United States Navy due to program delays and a lack of available Wright engines.
The Davis Wing emerged from the mind of David R. Davis, an aeronautical engineer working on a new wing planform, a planform utilizing a short chord and high aspect ratio along with thickness suitable to fit engines and fuel while maintaining efficiency. His meeting in the summer of 1937 with Consolidated President Reuben H. Fleet allowed the wing design to flourish as one of the most utilized wing planforms of World War 2. The new wing was intended for use on the company's new flying boat design - the Model 31. Despite the Model 31's cancellation (only one example emerged from development), the wing was seen as a good step forward in the design of the upcoming B-24 Liberator and became a major Consolidated design mainstay thereafter.
Other features of the Model 32 included the selection of 14-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial piston engines, deep bomb bay fuselage and a twin vertical fin tail assembly. The development process culminated in an offered contract on March 30th, 1939, for a flyable prototype under the designation of XB-24. The XB-24 was made available and achieved first flight on December 29th, 1939, from Lindberg Field in California with 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33 radial piston engines of 1,000 horsepower each. The aircraft failed to reach the projected top speed of the original design intentions but, overall, the first flight was a success. To help iron out the prototype design, a further six YB-24/LB-30A evaluation/pre-production models were ordered, built and delivered. These were followed by the B-24, seven examples of which only one was used for service testing. The B-24 featured de-icing boots and deleted the leading edge slots of previous forms.
Orders were beginning to pile up for the new Consolidated design, an amazing feat considering these were being received before the XB-24 had yet to fly. Production began at Consolidated's San Diego plant of which the first six systems were earmarked for the French Air Force as LB-30A models. With the fall of France in 1940, these aircraft made it to British Royal Air Force hands via Lend-Lease. The RAF found their early production forms to be unsuitable for the rigors of combat for they were not even fitted with self-sealing fuel tanks - a valuable characteristic of all military aircraft by the end of the war - and relegated them to ferry type duties. The USAAC called for 36 of the aircraft while the British ordered 164 for the RAF. Upon reception of the aircraft, the British bestowed the name of "Liberator" and the legacy of this multi-engined bomber was now born. Like other British-named American goods (the M3 Lee/Grant medium tank for example), the United States military accepted the British name of Liberator as part of the official designation from then on. First production models became the B-24A/LB-30B.
The XB-24B was designed to exceed the projected top speed of the XB-24. This included replacing the original Pratt & Whitney radials with turbo-supercharged versions in the R-1830-41 of 1,200 horsepower each. The XB-24 prototype served as the conversion model, which now gained a top speed increase equal to 37 miles per hour. The new engines and their turbo-superchargers also forced a revision of the engine cowlings. The XB-24B went on to become the first definitive operational Liberator forms in service with Britain and the United States. Early definitive and quantitative models in general became the B-24D, B-24E and the B-24G.
Liberators were crewed (depending on the model) by 7 to 10 personnel. The pilot and co-pilot were situated in the high-mounted stepped flight deck with views forward, to the sides and above. Of the two seats in the cockpit, the pilot occupied the left hand seat while the co-pilot sat to his right. The pilot was essentially the overlord of the Liberator and ultimately held responsible for the actions and relative well-being of the rest of his crew. The pilot maintained the Liberator's position in flight and was called upon to deliver the aircraft to the target area and back or make split-second decisions based on actions to keep his crew alive. The co-pilot was equally trained in the systems afforded the pilot and was, for all intents and purposes, the pilots right-hand man. He participated in the operation and controls of the Liberator to help alleviate the responsibilities of the pilot. Like the pilot, the co-pilot could be called upon to fully operate the aircraft to and from the target area and, like the navigator, was skillfully trained in the fine art of navigation.
The nose gunner, bomber and navigator were housed under a glazed nose well forward in the design. The nose gunner was perhaps afforded the most stunning (and oft-targeted) position in the Liberator, watching every bombing mission unfold like no other crewman. The nose gunner had access to the powered nose turret if the model of Liberator called for one, fitting 2 x 12.7mm machine guns. Since the front of the Liberator was most susceptible to incoming enemy fighters, this position was also one of the more dangerous on the aircraft.
The bombardier held the most important job in the flight crew. For the Liberator's were designed with bombing in mind, a flight crew without a trained bomber crewmember was ultimately useless in the Allied air campaign. Bombardiers and pilots shared a common role for the bombardier would be called on to take flight control of the bomber when engaging in the bombing run via auto-pilot. Calculations were necessary to unleash payloads directly over target areas, thus requiring bombardiers to maintain a certain level of mettle while blocking out enemy fighters, flak, structural damage or personal combat wounds. Lead bombers were also the elements that triggered the rest of the formation to drop their bombs. Later advances in airborne technologies allowed bombardiers to achieve direct hits even through cloud and smoke coverage.
The navigator was given the important responsibility of getting the crew to the target and back home. This was particularly important of the lead bomber in a given flight group but all navigators needed exceptional know-how of their position to lead a bomber through should the aircraft become displaced from his group. The navigator could utilize the forward-mounted Plexiglas dome to get his bearings as well as relying on physical landmarks down below and his training in the fine art of navigation. Essentially, the pilot and navigator needed to maintain a close working partnership to get everyone to the target area and back home. If "cheek" machine guns were fitted on a Liberator model, the navigator could man one.
The dorsal turret gunner also doubled as the flight engineer and probably maintained the best defensive vantage point, offering an exceptional firing arc when compared to all other available gunner positions. The turret mounted 2 x 12.7mm machine guns. As the aircraft's in-flight mechanic, these individuals maintained a certain level of expert knowledge on the inner workings of the aircraft. His primary duty - along with defense of the upper hemisphere of the bomber - also lay in assisting the pilots on the engine condition and fuel usage.
The radioman was situated within the upper portion of the Liberator's deep fuselage, positioned just behind the cockpit and not aft of the wings as in a B-17. His positioned required him to stay hours on his headset listing for friendly communications, reporting updates to the navigator, reporting situational updates at intervals and communicating with headquarters on mission results. Radiomen were required to keep logs of all pertinent actions and could be called upon to man one of the waist guns if needed.
The forward flight crew was removed from the rear flight crew, with access between the two sections of the bomber made via a thin scaffold running the length of the two bomb compartments. Entry and exit to the aircraft was through a door positioned towards the rear which made for harrowing emergency exits. Forward crewmen were expected to exit the aircraft by walking across the bomb bay scaffold and make their way to the rear all the while fitted with their parachutes and bulky warming flight suits.
The smallest bomber personnel were generally enlisted for operation of the ball turret fitting 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns. These fellows wore no parachutes (the small size of the ball turret necessitated this) and made their way inside their turrets after the aircraft was in flight. The ball turret - unlike that on the B-17 - could be retracted into the Liberator's fuselage during take-off and landing. The ball turret was perhaps the coldest position on a given B-24 with many a crewmember reporting frostbite through those frigid high-altitude sorties. At any rate, the ball turret gunner held a distinct view of the action like no other crew member.
Waist gunners were charged with the defense of the Liberator's vulnerable sides through use of single 12.7mm machine guns. As such, these positions aboard Liberators suffered the most casualties by incoming fighters ready to strafe the large profile sides of the bomber. These two positions - left and right - were later staggered to compensate for each gunners firing arc. Unlike other turreted positions in the B-24, spent shell casings at these waist positions were not jettisoned from the aircraft automatically, forcing crewmembers to clear their areas themselves. Since firing from these side-perspective positions required a great deal of hand-to-eye coordination via tracer rounds while taking into account target speed and the Liberator's airspeed itself, waist gunners relied on simple targeting sights in the early years. Only later did they receive assistance in the form of compensating sights to help improve accuracy.
The tail gunner was given perhaps the most important defensive position aboard the Liberator, manning a powered 2 x 12.7mm machine gun turret. Afforded a spectacular view, the tail gunner was charged with defense of the aircraft's "six", a position most often to encounter trailing enemy fighters eager for the easy kill. One point of note here is that if the Liberator were traveling through a rain of flak bursts, the tail gunner would most often times be the safest position aboard the aircraft, with the aircraft already having flown through the exploding shell burst. It was not unheard of for aircrews to bring aboard their own personal forms of protection (plates of steel for instance) against such flak dangers.
The combat box utilized the strengths of individual Liberator firepower and crews. Gunnery crews could work together and bring to bear the power of multiple machine guns against crossing enemy fighters. Though sound in theory, the heat of battle made for something more. Coordinated gunnery was not always possible - especially between bomber crews - but communications within individual bombers were ultimately important.
The final production appearance of the Liberator fell well in line with the original Consolidated design. The wings were held high on the fuselage sides and mounted forward of the fuselage enter. The forward fuselage was stepped with a good amount of glazing while the profile of the fuselage sported broad area sides. The wings were of a long span with engines an equal distance apart. The empennage formed into the characteristic double vertical wing arrangement with rounded vertical fins. As this was America's first tricycle-equipped undercarriage bomber, the aircraft sported a nose wheel just aft of the nose cabin area and forward and under the flight deck floor. Main landing gears were situated outboard of the inner engines and sported large donut-type wheels each. Interestingly, the undercarriage system as a whole was positioned forward of the fuselage center, showcasing all its weight in the forward portions of the aircraft. While on the ground, the Liberator sported a distinctly low sitting profile which played well into the belly turret having the ability to be retracted during such actions. The bomb bay was positioned in the center of the design and divided into two compartments. The first compartment began aft of the cockpit flight deck with the second compartment ending just forward of the belly turret position.
While the B-17 Flying Fortress made heavy use of electrics, the B-24 utilized a great deal of hydraulics with such systems spanning nearly every internal inch of the aircraft. Fuel on the B-24 was situated in the wings, just inboard of the inboard set of engines as well as in the upper portion of the bomb bay. As such, any direct hit could easily set the entire aircraft on fire in seconds. This tendency was oft-remembered by many-a-Liberator-aircrew as a major drawback of the series. In contrast to the B-17 and her inherent dogged ruggedness to absorb similar punishment, the Liberator fell short in this area.
The B-24A model represented the first production runs of the Liberator. Despite any previous versions of the B-24 yet to fly, there was such a desperate need for Allied heavy bombers that the A-model was ordered regardless. Britain was included in the deliveries of these A-models under the Lend-Lease agreement and operated them under the designation of LB-30B. The A-models themselves differed slightly from the XB-24 prototype, offering up improved performance specifications due to some slight altering of aerodynamic components. Nine B-24A models became B-24C models.
B-24C models were essentially A-models but fitted with R-1830-41 series turbo-supercharged engines for increased performance. These engines also featured revised cowlings to differentiate the type further from her origins. Additionally, improvements of the this aircraft fell into the category of defense for a Martin powered turret (2 x 12.7mm machine guns) was installed to the forward portion of the fuselage and an Emerson A-6 powered turret completed the armament in the rear tail gun position.
The B-24D became the first quantitative production run of the Liberator series. These were somewhat similar in nature to the B-24C models before them but fitted improved R-1830-43 supercharged radial piston engines. Improvements to defense were made yet again, with the ventral machine gun position replaced by a remote Bendix-brand belly turret during production. This was still further improved upon with the addition of the Sperry ball turret with 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns and a wider firing arc. Late production D-models were given 12.7mm heavy machine guns in their "cheek" positions to protect the forward left and right side angles of the aircraft.
Ford Motor Company produced the B-24E model series, these being fitted with R-1830-65 series radial piston engines. Despite the removal of the ventral machine gun in the improved D-models, these E-models retained them over the Bendix/Sperry ball turrets. Due to the limitations in armament, these Liberators primarily served the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) as pilot, bombardier, gunnery and crew trainers.
The XB-24F was a single prototype modified from a B-24D model and used for de-icing testing.
B-24G models were North American Aviation-produced Liberators of which 25 examples were built. These Liberators featured the Sperry ball turret and up to 3 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns in the nose for forward-based protection. The B-24G-1 was a modified G-model form sporting a new Emerson A-6 tail turret. 405 examples of this model were ultimately produced.
The B-24H was produced by Ford Motor Company to the tune of 3,100 examples with the main emphasis once again on defense of the Liberator, especially when contending with head-on attacks. As such, the fuselage was revised with a new bombardier's compartment to make room for the placement of an Emerson A-6 nose turret. This turret was nothing more than a modified version of the tail turret utilized in previous production examples. A revised tail turret greeted the tail gunner and offered up better views through larger windows. The waist gunners were now positioned in a staggered arrangement to offset their firing arcs and prevent onboard collisions of the two gunners in the heat of combat. The top turret was slightly revised with a higher canopy providing for better visibility for the gunner.
The B-24J was produced in 6,678 examples and were based on the B-24H models sans the defensive armament revisions. Nevertheless, these J-models were given a much-improved autopilot and bombsight system.
The XB-24K was a proposed Liberator derivative by Ford. The idea revolved around fitting the empennage of a Douglas B-23 Dragon twin-engine bomber to the existing airframe of the Liberator. A single prototype was produced as such by converting a B-24D. Though the new aircraft flew with promise - providing for improved handling - such a project during the thick of wartime was deemed much too expensive to undertake and thusly was dropped from serious production consideration. Ford would have handled production of this new B-24N but the order was cancelled on May 31st, 1945. The XB-24K did, however, set the stage for the PB4Y-1 navalized production version of the United States Navy's Liberator fleet and ultimately led up to the definitive fully-navalized PB4Y-2 "Privateer" model.
The B-24L appeared as a result of the USAAF wanting the weight of the B-24J models reduced. Revisions to this model included the removal of the ventral ball turret and the replacement of the A-6B tail turret with a lightweight M-6A turret or no tail armament at all. The ventral gun turret was replaced by a ring-mounted system sporting 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns. 1,667 examples of this model were produced.
The B-24M was another attempt to lighten the B-24.This included the use of a lighter A-6B tail turret and uncovered waist gunner positions. The 2,593 M-models represented the last Liberator production models to see the light of day, with a good number never even being delivered to frontline units and instead scrapped.
The Liberator was evolved into a variety of developmental forms. These included the XB-24N with its single vertical tail fin (would have been produced as the B-24N) and the seven pre-production forms of the N-model in the YB-24N. The XB-24P was a single converted B-24D model used by the Sperry Gyroscope Company to evaluate various in-flight armaments and related systems. The XB-24Q was another single prototype examples, this time produced by General Electric, to showcase radar-controlled turrets. The XC-109/C-109 became a fuel ferry transport in support of Boeing B-24 Superfortress missions over Japan. These Liberators were fitted with special modifications to assist in prevention of onboard explosions of fuel during transport.
The XB-41 was an interesting concept to provide flights of B-24 bombers with similar Liberators armed to the teeth as floating gunship escorts. Though promising on paper, in actual practice the system proved unusable with substantial drops in performance. A single prototype was completed for evaluation and sported no less than 14 x 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns. Instead of a bombload, the bomb bay was fitted with up to 11,000 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition. Power was derived from 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 Twin Wasp radial piston engines of 1,250 horsepower. When evaluated in-flight as escorts alongside the base Liberator bomber, this particular Liberator was unable to keep pace while the aircraft also propagated stability issues and, as such, the proposition for such a machine was ultimately axed in 1943.
The Liberator airframe was utilized for training of various flight crew. These were known by the designations of AT-22 (TB-24), RB-24L, TB-24L and C-87. The RB-24L deserves note here for they were utilized to train Boeing B-29 gunnery crews on remote gun systems as found on the B-24L. The TB-24L was similar to the RB-24L with an increase to radar equipment carried aboard. Base C-87s were used for the training of future Liberator engineers.
The C-87 "Liberator Express" was a 20-passenger transport and appeared in A- (16-passenger VIP transports with R-1830-45 radial engines and sleeping berths), B- (proposed armed passenger transport), and C-models (RY-3 of the USAAF).
Photographic reconnaissance versions of the Liberator were in no short supply. The XF-7 represented the prototype based on the B-24D model. The F-7 was the initial reconnaissance platform developed from the B-24H. The B-24J was the basis of the F-7A while the F-7B was of a similar mold, though sporting up to six cameras in the bomb bay as opposed to the previous type's three.
The BQ-8 were converted B-24D and B-24J models at the end of their useful operational lives, outfitted to serve as radio-controlled flying bombs.
Liberators for the US Navy
The Liberator served with the United States Navy in a handful of varied forms. These became the PB4Y-1 (based on the B-24D) and sported the previous type's twin vertical finned tail. PB4Y-1 also served to cover all future G-, J-, L- and M-models of the Liberator in USN service. The PB4Y-P became a photographic reconnaissance variant based on the PB4Y-1. The P5Y was a proposed twin-engine version of the PB4Y-1 but never produced. The C-87 transport version became the RY-1 (C-87A), the RY-2 (C-87 base) and the RY-3 (a dedicated transport alternative of the PB4Y-2 "Privateer").
The PB4Y-2 "Privateer" was a truer "navalized" and dedicated form of the Liberator and based on Ford's B-24K idea which fitted the tail section of a Douglas B-32 Dragon and its single vertical tail fin for improved stability. The USN made good on 739 examples of this type of which served on even into the Korean War, ultimately retired in 1954.
As mentioned above, the United Kingdom made use of the Liberator in their various air campaigns of World War 2. As always, they saw fit to re-designate the received American systems to follow a more "British" nomenclature. Early Liberators were the LB-30A and LB-30B models of which very few were constructed and delivered, these via Lend-Lease. LB-30A's were originally intended for French use and fell into British hands in six examples with the fall of France. The Liberator B.Mk I's (LB-30B) were B-24A's of which 20 were delivered to the Royal Air Force. These were eventual initial disappointments for the RAF which saw fit to give them new life as Liberator GR.1s used in anti-submarine sorties.
The Liberator B.Mk II was next and were closest in nature to B-24C models. These Liberators had their fuselages extended by three feet with a revised deeper fuselage and expanded tail plane unit. 165 examples of these Liberators were produced and became the first "combat-worthy" British Liberators. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used a refurbished Liberator II as his personal transport.
The Liberator B.Mk III were based on B-24D models fitting appropriate British-requested internal systems. Defense was handled by a single machine gun in the nose (.303 caliber), a twin-gun dorsal turret, two waist gun positions and a 4 x machine gun battery located in an Avro Lancaster-type tail turret. At least 156 of the type were delivered. The Liberator B.Mk IIIAs were nothing more than B-24D models retaining their American-based equipment and armament.
The Liberator B.Mk V were D-models revised to carry more fuel with less armor while retaining the defensive armament capabilities of the Liberator B.Mk III models. The Liberator B.Mk VI were B-24H models with the defensive armament of H-models but Boulton Paul tail turrets. B-24J models were represented as Liberator B.Mk VIIIs.
RAF Coastal Command modified several B-24D models for the anti-submarine role complete with the Leigh Light 22-million candela search light (carried underwing), search radar and air-to-surface rockets. Coastal Command also made use of the Liberator GR.Mk VI (B-24G/H/J models) as long-range reconnaissance forms and B-24J models under the Liberator GR.Mk VIII designation for the anti-submarine role.
The Liberator C.Mk IV were B.Mk VIII models modified to serve as transports while Liberator C.Mk VII was the designation used to cover C-87s. Liberator C.Mk VIII models were nothing more than G.Mk VIII modified to be used as transports.
The Royal Air Force designated their RY-3/C-87Cs as Liberator C.Mk IX.
Like most other early-war American-designed implements, the Liberator saw first combat action with British air forces. First operational B-24's became the Liberator GR.I (RAF Coastal Command) with the first use of Liberators becoming Liberator B.Mk I's utilized as pilot ferry transports starting in March of 1941. This was followed into service by the improved B.Mk IIs in late 1941. The following year saw first use of the system as a bomber with missions encompassing the Middle East Theater.
The Americans also received their first (B-24A models) Liberators in 1941. Like the British, the aircraft was not used as a bomber until 1942, utilized in the interim instead as a transport. As the war developed, the B-24 became a star player in all major theaters of war, bombing logistical targets in Europe and Asia while containing naval operations in the Pacific and the Atlantic. The Liberator's reach touched North Africa as well and proved a better long-range component to the Allied war effort than the fabled B-17 Flying Fortresses. As the war progressed, the Liberator was evolving into a critical facet of all Allied actions. Though previous models proved serviceable enough, the series was solidified with the definitive B-24H. In the end, production of Liberators was so substantial (a reported 18,482 were produced) that production was handled not only by Consolidated and Ford but also by North American and Douglas. As one can surmise, the birth places of these Liberator groups inevitably led to inherent differences in each aircraft complicating their repairs once out in the field. As such, airfields were forced to carry differing components for which to repair these aircraft and keep them flying.
Like the B-17 before it, the B-24 proved critical for the US 8th Air Force and its bombing raids across German-held strongholds. Attacks initially emanated from bases within England but territorial gains by the Allies opened up points of origin from North Africa and Italy with the 9th and 15th Air Forces. Before long, the Third Reich could be assaulted from every which direction and their logistical infrastructure collapsed with each passing month. The first B-24 was lost to combat on February 26th, 1943.
Perhaps the best remembered B-24 sortie in Europe encompassed no fewer than 178 B-24 Liberators (other sources state 177) charged with the destruction of the nine Ploiesti oil refineries in Romania on August 1, 1943. The sortie was characterized under the title of "Operation Tidal Wave" and was afforded the goal of destroying the Romanian fields oil production in half a year. Oil was (and still is) an important component to any army worth their weight and the Allies and Axis both knew the price of losing such a vital asset. Allied forces were already battling Axis powers in Sicily at this time and the Axis losing Ploesti - an area fulfilling an estimated 60% of Germany's oil needs- would have been a decisive blow.
The attack consisted of the 98th and 376th Bombardment Group of the 9th Air Force along with the 44th, 93rd and 389th Bombardment Groups of the 8th Air Force emerging from their air base in Libya. Bomb and fuel laden aircraft took off on the morning of August 1st, 1943 (already 9 Liberators were lost in take-off accidents) and began their 1,000 mile long journey deep into enemy territory. Heavy cloud coverage over Bulgaria immediately posed a visibility threat, forcing wide separations in the B-24 flight group. Radio silence was also the order of the day and any Liberator found without his formation was essentially on his own. Separation of entire bombing groups forced the attack to commence in staggered waves, giving the prepared Axis ground defenses time to adjust and further prepare for the ensuing waves. The B-24 flights arrived flying at tree-top altitude and expected by their enemy foes.
Fifty-three aircraft (some sources state 54) were lost in the ensuing action totaling 660 airmen (some sources stating 532) in all (440 KIA and 220 POW from a total of 1,726 airmen were ultimately involved). Despite their valiant efforts, the German air defense - made up of hundreds of coordinated anti-aircraft artillery guns in the area along with on-call air support from fighters with German surveillance "eyes and ears" already on alert as early as Athens, Greece - proved fatal and the end result was devastating for all involved. Confusion on the part of the Allied aircrews added insult to injury and bombardiers attacked target areas through smoke caused by attacks that had already commenced by other bombers earlier in the assault. Late exploding ordnance on the ground also wreaked havoc on passing Liberators in the air. Essentially, the oil refineries - though largely hit - remained largely in production after the assault and those that were damaged were back in business in a few short weeks. The raid, even to this day, remains one of the more costly US Air Force sorties. Medal of Honor Recipients for actions committed in the Ploesti assault mission were Colonel Leon W. Johnson, Colonel John R. Kane, Lieutenant Colonel Addison E. Baker, Major John L. Jerstad and 2nd Lieutenant Lloyd H. Hughes.
Most often times overlooked was the contribution of the B-24 in the Atlantic Theater in combating Hitler's lethal U-boat herd. The Liberator proved sound for the role thanks to its well low-flying capabilities and - more importantly - extended range. The range of these aircraft finally allowed air protection for the Allied Atlantic convoys deep in the target area for the first time in the war. Liberators charged as such were fitted with bombs and specialized ASV Mark II radar systems and could operate in both day and night with effectiveness. As submarines of the time had to surface to periscope depth to fire their torpedoes, the bird's eye view provided by these Liberators proved a God-send to all Allied sea-going vessels. By the end of their actions in the Atlantic, Liberator crews were credited with no fewer than 72 confirmed U-boat kills.
Even more "under the radar" for the Liberator's long and illustrious history was its use in secret missions all across Europe. The B-24D model served this purpose and was modified for the role to serve both American and British interests. Missions included supplying Allied-friendly "underground" forces and Allied forces in need of fuel and supplies, dropping off spies and commando parties and recovering escaped Allied prisoners of war. These seemingly small contributions paid exceedingly large dividends for major events of the war including the D-Day invasion and Patton's famous race to Berlin in which he often times out-distanced his fuel supplies.
B-24 Liberators operating in the Pacific enjoyed a better return on investment in thanks to the aircraft's inherent long range capability surpassing that of the B-17. Not facing the dogged anti-aircraft defenses of Hitler's Germany or squaring off daily against a hornet's nest of German fighters, these aircraft achieved better results with the different demands imposed on them. In contrast to their European presence, where General Doolittle refused to take on more B-24's in favor of B-17's for the 8th Air Force, these Pacific titans assisted in returning control of the various collection of Pacific islands back to Allied hands. British Liberators made many-a-bombing run against Japanese forces in Burma from Allied bases in India.
To go along with American and British use of the Liberator, other operators included Australia, Brazil, Canada, China (Taiwan), Czechoslovakia, Nazi Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Soviet Union (via Lend-Lease), South Africa and Turkey.
Today, only three B-24 Liberators are air-worthy with several on display as museum pieces throughout the world. A B-24D is on display at the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, USA. Hollywood actor Jimmy Stewart flew at least 20 sorties as pilot in a B-24 Liberator.
Throughout its operational life, the B-24 earned such nicknames as "The Flying Boxcar" for its slab-sided broad fuselage surface area and "The Flying Coffin" for its only method of entry/exit being located to the rear of the craft. At one time during its tenure, the Liberator was one of the heaviest aircraft ever produced.
In the end, the B-24 found a rightful place in the vast history that became World War 2. When compared to the B-17, it lacked in overall stability, fuel efficiency, service ceiling and bomb load. Where it did best its friendly rival was in range and sheer numbers. Despite the limitations, the Liberator made a name for itself throughout the world and truly became part of the "liberating" presence encountered in Europe, the Pacific, Asia, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
The B-24 was officially retired as soon as the war ended - this occurring in 1945. A single Liberator unit cost American taxpayers between $297,627 and $336,000 US at the time of her production. Production years ranged from 1940 until 1945.
One particular B-24D, "Lady be Good" was of note. The aircraft, part of a 25-strong flight of similar Liberators of the 376th Bomb Group, took off from Soluch, Libya to attack a target in Naples, Italy on the afternoon of April 4th, 1943. Of the 25 aircraft, all but Lady Be Good returned home, mysteriously vanishing without incident. It wasn't until November 9th, 1958 - some 16 years later - that the lady was found in the Libyan desert 400 miles south of Soluch with no trace of her crew. Positive identification of the aircraft occurred in March of 1959 and it was deemed that the crew had lost its way in the dark of night. The crew bailed out as their Liberator ran out of fuel and attempted to foot it across the sun-baked Libyan desert. It was not until 1960 that any remains of the crewmembers were located, one as far as 109 miles from the crash while at least five were within 80 miles. it was surmised that the crew lived a full eight days with little water, if any. Parts of the wreckage were later sent back to the United States for further study and later reused as repair spares on other aircraft. In a bizarre series of seemingly inexplicable incidents, many of these aircraft later crashed just as mysteriously as the Lady Be Good.
B-24 Liberator veteran Jack B. responded to us via email. He began his career in the B-24 and graduated to a B-17. This was his recollection of his B-24 days:
"My own memory (involving about 65 years) of B-24s is the smell of hydraulic fluid and of 100 octane fuel. The 24s used hydraulics for nearly everything in contrast to "17s", which relied on electricity and small collections of electrical lines. The hydraulic lines were everywhere in "24s" and they leaked. You can imagine the mess when even one line was struck by flak or bullets. The 24s had a bunch of smaller fuel tanks spread between the inboard engines, even in the top of the bomb bays. and those connections leaked as well. The smell of gasoline doesn't contribute much to one's feeling of well-being."
The Consolidated B-24D Liberator was employed in operations in every combat theater during World War II. Because of its great range, it was particularly suited for such missions as the famous raid from North Africa against the oil industry at Ploesti, Rumania, on Aug. 1, 1943. This feature also made the airplane suitable for long over-water missions in the Pacific Theater. More than 18,000 Liberators were produced.
The B-24D seen here which is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force flew combat missions from North Africa in 1943-1944 with the 512th Bomb Squadron. It was flown to the museum in May 1959. It is the same type airplane as the "Lady Be Good" -- the world-famous B-24D that disappeared on a mission from North Africa in April 1943 and was found in the Libyan Desert in May 1959.
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Captured last month on our trip to the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, the iconic Incom T-65 X-Wing Starfighter cockpit (replica.) A special Thank You to Adam Burch and Hangar B Productions, LLC for hosting out trip!
The Incom T-65 X-wing starfighter was the primary all-purpose starfighter of the Rebel Alliance and its successor governments. Known for its versatility and exceptional combat performance, it was a favorite with Rebel and New Republic pilots. Possessing deflector shields, a hyperdrive, an R2 astromech for repairs and navigation, and a complement of proton torpedoes, the X-wing allowed the Rebellion to launch raids in Imperial space with improved odds of a successful mission.
The X-wing played a major role in the Galactic Civil War following its capture on Fresia and the defection of its designers to the Alliance. It was most heralded as the fighter that destroyed the Death Star at the hands of Luke Skywalker. Later in the war, it would form the backbone of the Alliance Starfighter Corps, defending Alliance ships and leading attacks on Imperial vessels and installations. Most importantly, it could perform on near equal terms with the Empire's high-performance TIE fighters when handled by an experienced pilot.
Pilots of Rogue Squadron favored using the multi-role X-wing fighter, flying it as often as they could on most missions they only employed other craft for highly specialized missions, such as missions that required ion cannons. The X-wing was so predominantly flown by Rebel and New Republic forces that it became a symbol of their faction, much like the TIE fighter and Star Destroyer were symbols of the Galactic Empire.
Thanks to continued upgrades to the basic design and improved tactics, the X-wing series remained one of the galaxy's predominant multi-role starfighters for over 40 years.