Damaged B-24 Liberators

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator, along with its sleeker brother the B-17, was the workhorse heavy bomber of the United States Army Air Forces. It was used in every theater of the war, whether that be helping to bomb Germany into submission, hunting submarines in the Atlantic ocean or bombing Japanese targets in the Pacific, it did it all.

The B-24 is a significant aircraft in many ways, but is often overshadowed by the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

It was originally conceived in 1938, when the United States Army Air Corps requested Consolidated build the B-17 under license, an aircraft originally designed with long range to attack and sink a naval invasion force while it was still many hundreds of miles from the US coast. However after further inspection they believed they could build a better aircraft.

The B-24’s brother, the B-17.
The B-24’s brother, the B-17.

A large focus was placed on aerodynamic efficiency and minimising drag. A shoulder mounted ‘Davis Wing’  designed by David R. Davis. was used, which was a very long but thin wing design, and was very modern for the time. The idea behind this efficient wing was to improve air speed and range by decreasing drag and increasing lift. The wing could also provide good lift even at low angles of attack.

While the wing design did provide these advantages for the B-24, it suffered at high speeds or altitudes, and was susceptible to icing over. After the war the design was immediately shelved, as it was already obsolete on faster aircraft.

The B-24 had two bomb bays, with doors that retracted into the fuselage when open; a clever design that reduced drag compared to conventional bomb bay doors like on the B-17, and enabled them to be opened on the ground.

A B-24 dropping its bomb load. Note the lack of bomb bay doors externally on the aircraft, and the deployed belly turret.
A B-24 dropping its bomb load. Note the lack of bomb bay doors externally on the aircraft, and the deployed belly turret.

Like the B-17s, they were armed to the teeth, featuring a tail turret, waist guns, a dorsal turret in the B-24H onwards, and a retractable ball turret all containing .50 caliber machine guns. The ball turret retraction was required due to the low clearance of the fuselage when on the ground. It also enabled the turret to be retracted in flight to reduce drag.

The aircraft is regarded as less resilient to damage compared to the B-17, which could infamously return home with huge holes in the airframe. However this is somewhat untrue, as there are many cases of B-24s returning with just as much damage, including one that had lots both of its vertical stabilizers and made it home.

Where this is true however is the wing spar of the aircraft (the load bearing point where the wings connect to the fuselage). The B-24s thinner wing was much more susceptible to damage, and hits here from cannon rounds would often result in the entire wing shearing off. This however was slightly remedied in return by the smaller target of this wing.

Overall the B-24 could carry slightly more bomb load than the B-17, while maintaining a higher cruise speed, although at a lower altitude.

Where the B-24 wins however is in outright production quantities. A total of 18,482 B-24s were built in all variants, 12,000 of which served with the United States Army Air Force alone. This peaked in September 1944 at 6,043 active B-24s in service. At its maximum output, Ford’s Willow Run factory was finishing a B-24 every 60 minutes! In comparison, there were 12,731 B-17s built, not too shabby either.

These numbers make the B-24 Liberator the most produced bomber aircraft in history, and the most produced US military aircraft ever.

What follows is a haunting collection of photographs of B-24’s, some made it back to base and some didn’t. Let this be a tribute to the bravery of the crews who day in, day out, risked their lives in an effort to shorten the war.

 

Crew member examines wing of a Consolidated B-24 “Liberator” which was badly-damaged during pre-invasion raid over Iwo Jima. Marianas Islands
Crew member examines wing of a Consolidated B-24 “Liberator” which was badly-damaged during pre-invasion raid over Iwo Jima. Marianas Islands

 

Damaged B24 at Manston after emergency landing 15 June 1944
Damaged B24 at Manston after emergency landing 15 June 1944

 

B-24J-1-DT Liberator s/n 42-51250 701st Bomb Squadron, 445th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force. Damaged over Coblenz, Germany on the return flight from bombing the marshalling yards at Hanau, Germany on November 11,1944. She crash landed at her home field of Tibenham.
B-24J-1-DT Liberator s/n 42-51250 701st Bomb Squadron, 445th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force. Damaged over Coblenz, Germany on the return flight from bombing the marshalling yards at Hanau, Germany on November 11,1944. She crash landed at her home field of Tibenham.

 

Fire spreads rapidly across a damaged B-24
Fire spreads rapidly across a damaged B-24

 

Inspection of a damaged B-24 after being hit by the 1000-pound bombs. March 14, 1945
Inspection of a damaged B-24 after being hit by the 1000-pound bombs. March 14, 1945

 

The Consolidated B-24 bomber “The Chambermaid” after an emergency landing
The Consolidated B-24 bomber “The Chambermaid” after an emergency landing

 

The terrible end of a B-24 and her crew.
The terrible end of a B-24 and her crew.

 

458th Bomb Group B-24 Liberator crash. This is an assembly ship. These planes were painted bright colors to assist in assembling the large bomber formations.
458th Bomb Group B-24 Liberator crash. This is an assembly ship. These planes were painted bright colors to assist in assembling the large bomber formations.

 

“T’ings Is Tuff”, the Douglas-Tulsa-built Consolidated B-24H-15-DT Liberator, s/n 41-28931, 724th Bomb Squadron, 451st Bomb Group, 15th Air Force making a belly-landing at its base in Apulia Southern Italy after being damaged by Flak on a mission to Ploesti/Romania
“T’ings Is Tuff”, the Douglas-Tulsa-built Consolidated B-24H-15-DT Liberator, s/n 41-28931, 724th Bomb Squadron, 451st Bomb Group, 15th Air Force making a belly-landing at its base in Apulia Southern Italy after being damaged by Flak on a mission to Ploesti/Romania

 

A damaged B-24 Liberator “Burma Bound”, of the 451st Bomber Group returns to base after a raid on Munich.
A damaged B-24 Liberator “Burma Bound”, of the 451st Bomber Group returns to base after a raid on Munich.

 

A damaged B-24 Liberator from the 376th American bombardment in flight over Toulon 1944.
A damaged B-24 Liberator from the 376th American bombardment in flight over Toulon 1944.

 

B-24 after an emergency landing
B-24 after an emergency landing

 

B-24 Belly landing The Hellcat 7 Dec 43
B-24 Belly landing The Hellcat 7 Dec 43

 

B-24 caught just at the moment of crashing during Operation Market Garden, Holland Sept 1944.
B-24 caught just at the moment of crashing during Operation Market Garden, Holland Sept 1944.

 

B-24 flying through thick FLAK, one engine has been hit and is smoking
B-24 flying through thick FLAK, one engine has been hit and is smoking

 

B-24 hit by FLAK and explodes in mid air
B-24 hit by FLAK and explodes in mid air

 

B24 Liberator Hit by Flak
B24 Liberator Hit by Flak

 

B-24H-1-CF, 392nd BG, 579th BS, “Last Frontier” crash landed at Wendling, UK, after three engines stopped. 1 killed.
B-24H-1-CF, 392nd BG, 579th BS, “Last Frontier” crash landed at Wendling, UK, after three engines stopped. 1 killed.

Another Article From Us: The Top 10 Most Produced Aircraft of WWII

 

Crashed on take off from San Giovanni Field,Italy on April 12,1945 killing 6 of the crew.
Crashed on take off from San Giovanni Field,Italy on April 12,1945 killing 6 of the crew.