The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was employed in operations in every combat theater during World War II. Its extended range made it particularly well suited for long over-water missions in the European and Pacific Theaters. For that reason, the B-24 was selected for the daring and dangerous 178 plane Ploesti Raid. A task force of five bomb groups flew their B-24 Liberators 1,350 miles from Benghazi, Libya (North Africa) against the German oil industry at Ploesti, Romania on 1 August 1943. The Ploesti Raid, the most decorated operation in U.S. military history, was the first large-scale, low-level daytime attack on a heavily defended target conducted by U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.
A B-24 Liberator flying over the German oil refinery near Ploesti, Romania, 1 August 1943.
Consolidated B-24 Liberator in World War II
The Consolidated XB-24 (Model 32) was designed in 1938 as a performance improvement of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. The XB-24 incorporated a new wing design optimized for high-lift and low drag, a tricycle landing gear (the first on a U.S. Army heavy bomber) and twin vertical stabilizers. The resulting B-24 achieved a higher top speed, greater range and service ceiling without diminishing the bombload or defensive armament.
The B-24 was used in large numbers by the U.S. Army Air Corps, by the Royal Air Force (RAF), the air forces of British Commonwealth countries, and by the U.S. Navy as the PB4Y-1 Liberator long-range patrol aircraft. It excelled in all theaters of the war, fighting German submarines in the Atlantic and as a strategic bomber in campaigns in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. The B-24 was also produced in the cargo version, C-87 Liberator Express, and a tanker, the C-109.
B-24 Liberator Production History
The B-24 Liberator prototype was ordered in March 1939 and had its first flight on 29 December 1939. The pressure of the on-coming World War and confidence in the design led the Army to order seven test aircraft in April 1939, to be built as YB-24 before the final design of the XB-24 was complete. Further, 38 B-24As were ordered in August 1939 before the XB-24 had its first flight. After variants B-24A through B-24C, the Consolidated B-24D was the first Liberator model to enter large scale production with an order for 2,698 planes in 1940-1942.
The B-24D was essentially a B-24C with improved engines and some minor production differences. Initially, the B-24D was armed with eight .50-cal. machine guns: the A-6 tail turret, Martin top turret, and one each at the nose (some aircraft had two nose guns positions), waist (left and right) and tunnel positions. The tunnel gun (lower aft fuselage) was replaced by a remote-controlled Bendix belly turret, and it was soon replaced by a Sperry ball turret. The single nose gun was augmented by left and right cheek mounted guns for late model B-24Ds.
The B-24H introduced the chin turret and other defensive changes. The B-24H and similar B-24J models were produced in large numbers, along with the B-24L and the final mass produced version, the B-24M. For details on the many models, consult Fact Sheet: 1930s Bomber Aircraft from the USAF Museum.
B-24s were produced by Consolidated (San Diego, CA and Fort Worth, TX), Ford (Willow Run, Ypsilanti, MI), North American (Fort Worth, TX) and Douglas (Tulsa, OK). Consolidated became Consolidated-Vultee in March 1943. Production variations continued to the XB-24Q which replaced the B-24L tail armament with a radar controlled tail turret. Across all model variants, the B-24 Liberator was produced in greater numbers than any other aircraft during the Second World War, with a total of 18,190 manufactured.
B-24 Liberator Characteristics
||Eleven .50-cal. machine guns: nose, left & right cheek, two top turret, two ball turret, left and two right waist and tail
|Normal bomb load
||Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830s of 1,200 horsepower each
||66 feet 4 in.
||17 feet 11 in.
||56,000 lbs. maximum
B-24 Liberator Photo Gallery
B-24 Liberator in flight during WW II.
Consolidated B-24D Liberator during WW II.
Consolidated B-24 Liberator during WW II. From the personal photos of Master Sgt. Willis L. McCurdy, 353rd Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Forces, Raydon Airfield, England, submitted courtesy of his son Dennis as a tribute.
Mechanics give a Consolidated B-24 Liberator a complete overhaul before flight, Laredo Army Air Field, TX, 8 February 1944.
Consolidated B-24M-20-CO, serial number 44-42151, in flight during WW II.
Restored B-24 Liberator exhibited at Offutt AFB, near Omaha, NE, 1995. Photo courtesy of James Jubinski.
Consolidated B-24D "Strawberry Bitch" on display at the National Museum of the USAF, Dayton, OH. This B24D flew combat missions from North Africa in 1943-1944 with the 512th Bomb Squadron. It arrived at the USAF museum in May 1959.
Cockpit photo, Consolidated B-24D "Strawberry Bitch" on display at the National Museum of the USAF, Dayton, OH.
Recommended Books about the Consolidated B-24 Liberator