|Primary Role||Heavy Bomber|
|Maiden Flight||29 December 1939|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseThe B-24 Liberator heavy bombers were the response to the United States Army Air Corps' 1938 request for production expansion of the B-17 bombers, but it later evolved into a project of its own. The contract was awarded in Mar 1939, and the prototype took flight before the end of that year. As seven more development aircraft were being tested, orders were already flowing in from the air forces in the US, Britain, and France. Most of the first production B-24 bombers went to the Royal Air Force, including those ordered by France but did not take delivery due to German occupation. The British named the design Liberator, which was adopted by the USAAC as well.
ww2dbaseThe B-24 design was fairly simple, and the fuel consumption was highly efficient, although the narrow interior due to the positioning of the bomb racks limited movement within the aircraft, which led to the nickname "the Flying Coffins".
ww2dbaseBy Mar 1941, over 200 Liberator bombers were in service in Britain. Many of them served as personnel transports at first, but their capability as effective submarine hunters was quickly recognized. Converted versions for this duty sacrificed armor and sometimes even turrets for the additional fuel tanks that extended range. Operating by the British and Canadians on the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean, B-24 bombers made significant contributions in the Battle of the Atlantic. Nicknamed "VLR" for "Very Long Range", these converted Liberator bombers were involved with 72 U-boat sinkings.
ww2dbaseConsolidated Aircraft was by then manufacturing one B-24 bomber a day, but it was not enough. In Apr 1941, Ford Motor Company unveiled US' largest assembly line at Willow Run and began producing B-24 bombers, promising dramatic increase in supply for the British Allies.
ww2dbaseIn late 1941, Consolidated introduced the new variant labeled II, featuring self-sealing fuel tanks and powered gun turrets. It was around that time the USAAC began taking delivery of these bombers, first using them as transports just like the British did. Although the British had already been using them in Europe and the Middle East, the first American Liberator bombers did not see action until Jun 1942 due to US' late entrance into the war; during that mission, American B-24 bombers attacked the Romanian oilfields at Ploieşti, and later made a return visit to the same target during Operation Tidal Wave in Aug 1943.
ww2dbaseBetween the two raids, the production numbers grew dramatically with the joint production effort by Consolidated Aircraft, Douglas Aircraft Company, North American Aviation, and Ford Motor Company; they were being mass produced so efficiently that B-24 crews were being sent to sleep outside Willow Run facility on cots, so that as soon as a B-24 bomber is completed, they could get in, get oriented in the new craft, and take off. More variants were also being produced. In Apr 1942, the C-87 Liberator Express and C-109 tanker variants of the B-24 design began production at Consolidated's Fort Worth facility; that design featured a large cargo hold in lieu of the bomb bay and gun turrets, which was quickly recognized as a transport that could make a difference to help China's supply situation. Later in the war, one of the B-24 variants, LB-30, was furnished for Winston Churchill as his personal transport. In summer 1944, only Consolidated and Ford continued to manufacture these bombers, thus reducing the production numbers but it also made the warehousing of standard replacement parts a bit easier for bomber squadrons.
ww2dbaseBy the end of the war, a stunning 18,482 aircraft were built, making them the most produced Allied aircraft in the war. They were used by every Allied service in every theater. 2,100 of them served in with the British, 1,200 with the Canadians, 287 with the Australians, a few served in the Mediterranean Sea with the South Africans, while the vast majority served with the American forces.
B-24 Liberator Timeline
|29 Dec 1939||The prototype Consolidated XB-24 heavy bomber made its maiden flight from Lindbergh Field, San Diego, California, United States.|
|10 Sep 1941||The first B-24 Liberator bombers were en route for Britain.|
|3 Apr 1942||Aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh began working on Ford's B-24 Liberator production line at Detroit, Michigan, United States as a consultant.|
|4 Dec 1942||B-24 bombers of US 12th Air Force bombed Naples, Italy; they were the first American aircraft to operate against Italy. The Church of Santa Chiara was damaged in the attack, damaging much of the interior decorations put in between 1742 and 1762.|
|22 Dec 1942||26 American B-24 Liberator bombers flew 4,300 miles to attack Wake Island.|
|Machinery||Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 14-cyl turbocharged radial engines rated at 1,200hp each|
|Armament||10x12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns, bomb load of 1,200kg for very long range missions, 2,300kg for long range, and 3,600kg for short range|
|Wing Area||97.40 m²|
|Weight, Empty||16,590 kg|
|Weight, Loaded||25,000 kg|
|Weight, Maximum||29,500 kg|
|Speed, Maximum||470 km/h|
|Speed, Cruising||346 km/h|
|Rate of Climb||5.20 m/s|
|Service Ceiling||8,540 m|
|Range, Normal||3,540 km|
|Range, Maximum||6,000 km|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939