The B-24 Liberator
The design of the B-24 went back to the beginning of 1939 with a specification for a more modern heavy bomber with a better performance than the B-17 which was in production at the time. Specifically, special emphasis was placed on speed, range and operational altitude. Consolidated Aircraft Corporation’s design included a high-wing monoplane with twin tail fins, tricycle landing ear and deep fuselage with roomy bombbays fitted with bomb-door actuation track and rollers, and improved wing design that improved carrying capacity and performance at high altitude.
However, the B-24 were not always popular with crews. In contrast to the B-17, the B-24 was not able to take much punishment. The wing design was weak and if hit in crucial places would give way completely. Photos showed some B-24s plummeting from the sky with their two wings folded upwards like those of a butterfly.
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was delivered in June 1941 with the first combat version, the B-24D, in the Pacific theater in April 1942.
On Jun 11, 1942, B-24s conducted the first American Bombing of Europe in a raid on the oil refineries in in Ploesti, Romania. The raid started from the Middle East. Later, Liberators operated out of northeast Africa. Another Ploesti raid consisting of 177 Liberators departed Libya in August 1943, but only 120 returned with a loss of 532 crewmen.
B-24J Liberators joined the B-17 Flying fortresses in Britain during the autumn of 1942 to carry out daylight raids over the European continent. It was not until March 6, 1944 that B-24s made their first run on Berlin, Germany requiring cover by P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs. The largest B-24 daylight raid on Berlin occurred on March 18, 1945 when 1,250 aircraft hit targets in and around the city.
During the war B-24 Liberators dropped 635,000 tons of ordnance on their targets and shot down 4,200 attacking enemy interceptors.
B-24s were not only used as bombers, but carried troops, carried fuel, were used as reconnaissance aircraft, looked for submarines, and served as a flying classroom for crew chiefs.
The total production of the Liberator was the highest of any bomber aircraft produced in the United States: 18,188 models were manufactured by Consolidated Aircraft Corporation, Ford, Douglas and North American. The production ended with the B-24M in October 1944. The B-24N was to have had a single tail fin, but its production was cancelled. The B-29 Superfortress was being produced, and it was planned that this bomber would replace the B-24s and B-17s stationed in England.
By 2009, only 2 of the B-24 Liberators were still flying. See the B-24 photo gallery in Appendix 7.