Liberator file photo [130]

B-24 Liberator

CountryUnited States
ManufacturerConsolidated Aircraft
Primary RoleHeavy Bomber
Maiden Flight29 December 1939

Contributor:

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.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

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.

SPECIFICATIONS

B-24J
MachineryFour Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 14-cyl turbocharged radial engines rated at 1,200hp each
Armament10x12.7mm 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
Crew11
Span33.50 m
Length20.60 m
Height5.49 m
Wing Area97.40 m
Weight, Empty16,590 kg
Weight, Loaded25,000 kg
Weight, Maximum29,500 kg
Speed, Maximum470 km/h
Speed, Cruising346 km/h
Rate of Climb5.20 m/s
Service Ceiling8,540 m
Range, Normal3,540 km
Range, Maximum6,000 km

Photographs

Cockpit of a B-24 Liberator bomber, date unknownCockpit of a B-24J Liberator bomber, date unknownAn American-built B-24 Liberator bomber en route to the United Kingdom as part of the Lend-Lease program, 18 Nov 1940B-24 bombers under construction at Ford Motor Company
See all 183 photographs of B-24 Liberator Heavy Bomber

Videos

B-24M bomber 44-42058 shot down over Koror, Palau Islands




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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. donna ashmore says:
9 Nov 2007 09:42:59 PM

was one of the ten raf men who i am looking for
2. Mark says:
2 Aug 2009 06:23:34 PM

In no other reference to B-24s have I seen this bomber called a "flying coffin." This is an error and should be corrected.
3. bill blake says:
28 May 2010 01:53:57 PM

Mark, being a veteran of the air corps in world war 2 I belive that the B-26 was refered to as the "flying coffin".
4. JB says:
13 Oct 2014 04:14:10 PM

Mark, the USAF's official page on the B-24 makes mention of the nickname and ties it to the single rear exit.
5. Anonymous says:
26 Oct 2014 04:11:19 PM

what replaced the b-24 after it was officially retired?
6. JB says:
5 Nov 2014 02:31:30 PM

Anonymous, the B-17 and B-24 were the first true strategic bombers of WWII. In that sense, you could say they were "replaced" by the B-29 but all 3 models served together. More accurately, the B-24 and its brethren were replaced by post-war strategic bombers - the B-36 and the jet-powered B-47.
7. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
16 Apr 2015 01:36:05 PM

LADY BE GOOD: One of the most famous B-24 Liberators of WWII was the "Lady Be Good". She was part of a formation of twenty-five B-24s to bomb Naples, Italy on April 4, 1943. All aircraft except the Lady Be Good returned from that mission. VANISHED WITHOUT A TRACE: Bomber and crew reported as missing, or was she lost to enemy action? reports list the sound of an aircraft flying over its base at Soluch, Libya were heard. MYSTERY SOLVED: SIXTEEN YEARS LATER November 9, 1958 the Lady was found by accident in the desert 400 miles from its wartime base no trace of crew was found. Ground party reached the crash site March 1959. After searching for remains of the crew some were found 190 miles from crash site, five more crew remains found 80 miles from crash and one man's remains were never found. Remains of crew found, were returned to United States for burial. MOVIES OF INTEREST: Twilight Zone: Fans will remember Episode 37, Season 1: Titled "King Nine Will Not Return" aired 1960 Made For TV Movie: Sole Survivor 1970 Both film were similar in story lines after the discovery of the Lady Be Good.
8. Anonymous says:
9 May 2015 11:59:13 AM

They have been called the flying coffins many times
9. Anonymous says:
14 Dec 2015 09:39:52 AM

im looking for how many of these planes where made so i have an idea for how rare they are. my plan is to restore one and hopefully fly it
10. Anonymous says:
15 Mar 2016 03:24:20 PM

thank you so much, this helped with homework!!!
11. B Bjork says:
15 Jul 2017 10:48:54 PM

Have crew photo in front of B-24 w/ nose number 633. Cannot make out the serial number - any information about this particular bomber would be appreciated.
12. Anonymous says:
25 Oct 2017 03:11:16 AM

B Bjork, almost every B-24 crew had their photo taken while in training in front of one of the ships assigned to that training command. These trainers usually had a three digit number on the fuselage that was the last three of the serial number. I came up with three possibilities - 42-78633, 44-49633 & 44-50633. Telling me you can't make out the serial means you can at least see it. Does it look like any of the three I listed?

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Cockpit of a B-24 Liberator bomber, date unknown
See all 183 photographs of B-24 Liberator Heavy Bomber




Famous WW2 Quote
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939