Friday, January 31, 2014

The Friday Flyby - 31 January

B-24 Witchcraft, operated by the Collings Foundation
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and a small number of early models were sold under the name LB-30, for Land Bomber. The B-24 was used in World War II by several Allied air forces and navies, and by every branch of the American armed forces during the war, attaining a distinguished war record with its operations in the Western European, Pacific, Mediterranean, and China-Burma-India Theaters.

Often compared with the better-known Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 was a more modern design with a higher top speed, greater range, and a heavier bomb load; it was also more difficult to fly, with heavy control forces and poor formation-flying characteristics. Popular opinion among aircrews and general staffs tended to favor the B-17's rugged qualities above all other considerations in the European Theater. The placement of the B-24's fuel tanks throughout the upper fuselage and its lightweight construction, designed to increase range and optimize assembly line production, made the aircraft vulnerable to battle damage. The B-24 was notorious among American aircrews for its tendency to catch fire. Its high fuselage-mounted "Davis wing" also meant it was dangerous to ditch or belly land, since the fuselage tended to break apart. Nevertheless, the B-24 provided excellent service in a variety of roles thanks to its large payload and long range and was the only bomber to operationally deploy the United States' first forerunner to precision-guided munitions during the war, the 1,000 lb. Azon guided bomb.

The B-24's most infamous mission was the low-level strike against the Ploiești oil fields, in Romania on 1 August 1943, which turned into a disaster because the enemy was underestimated, fully alerted and attackers disorganized.

The B-24 ended World War II as the most produced heavy bomber in history. At over 18,400 units, half by Ford Motor Company, it still holds the distinction as the most-produced American military aircraft. - Wikipedia
The "other" bomber from the 8th Air Force, the B-24 Liberator made up roughly a third of the Mighty Eighth's heavy bomber strength (the other 2/3s were B-17s). The B-24 saw action in nearly every theater of World War II. There was even a version used by the Navy.

US Navy PB4Y Privateer

Note the single vertical stabilizer of the PB4Y as opposed to the twin-tail configuration of the B-24. I first learned of the Navy version while on a quest for WWII memorabilia in my home town back in the day. A guy who worked at the same factory as I brought me a Japanese sword (one of the mass produced ones, not a family heirloom) and pistol (Nambu Model 14).

After we had haggled over price (well, the Nambu was in the original holster and who knows what the sword could be worth) and eventually settled on a figure to his liking (which I bemoaned would destitute me and all of my descendants) we got to talking about how he acquired this items.

Seems he had been a Naval Aviator during the war (I immediately conjured up visions of carriers and Hellcats, but no. His job was less glamorous. But in many ways, very vital to the war effort.). He flew the PB4Y. Which caused my face to go blank. When he described the aircraft I remember thinking (much like Buck) "I had no ideer!" But it did exist and later that night after digging through the archives I knew what one looked like.

Maritime patrol. Over the Pacific. And yes, he told me, you needed buns of steel to fly those missions. Still do. Ask any P-3 (soon to be P-8) crewman about that!

The first time the B-24 popped up on my radar was when I read a book about the Ploești raid. (Note that Ploești is the old way to spell the name. The modern spelling is Ploiești. For those who care about such things. Also, try as I might, I can't recall the name of the book. Or find it on the web of world-wideness. There are many more books about this raid now than there were back then. Should still be in the archives, somewhere. Maybe it's still in The Olde Vermonter's basement. Oh yeah, I do believe that Ploești is pronounced ploh-yesht.)

Speaking of Ploești -

A B-24 Liberator called "Sandman" during a bomb run over the
Ploiești Astra Romana refinery during Operation Tidal Wave.

Yes, they went in low. Really low. After flying there from North Africa!

Libya to Romania
(and back!)

These guys redefined the term "low level"!

At least the bastards can't get under us!

Into the Fire and Fury

The price was high...


Wherever the Liberator flew, good men were lost...

Clarence Lokker's B-24
(The link has the full story.)




The One-Two Punch of the Mighty Eighth

The Warbirds of the Collings Foundation

14 comments:

  1. Another fine job, Sarge!
    We probably read a lot of the same books as kids, cause I recall reading a book on the Raid when i was young. As I used my highly accurate pointer finger - thumb measuring tool on the map above, I figured about 1000 miles each way. At maybe 200mph, that translates to a 10 hour mission, at low level, with people shooting at you and battle damage. I gave a lot of grief to the bomber guys in my UPT class, but their predecessors had BALLS!

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    1. There's an old saying: "Fighter pilots make headlines, bomber pilots make history."

      (I'd still rather be a fighter pilot...)

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  2. The Ploești raid was one of the first WW II accounts I read as a child. I was amazed then and remain amazed now. More so now, actually, now that I'm older and appreciate the nerve required to execute the mission.

    It must be said: the Fort is a LOT prettier than the Liberator.

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    1. That was one Hell of a fight.

      I think, for me anyway, it's a toss-up as to which aircraft is better looking. But to go there and back? I'd take the Fort. Those birds could take a beating and still get you home. The Liberator? That high wing always made me nervous. I've seen too many photos of B-24's breaking up right at the wing roots.

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  3. Low and slow just seems excessively dangerous to me- too close to the bad guys, and way too close to the frag pattern for a bomber.

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    1. As I recall from the unremembered titled book on the subject, a lot of the damages aircraft were from flying through the frag pattern, both their own and the aircraft in front of them. Got a very vivid lesson on frag pattern on my first live Maverick shot at a Red Flag. It involved the hood of a late 70's pick up truck, a royal blue color with a silver Ram on the front of it.

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    2. I take it you did get the Maverick on target then?

      (Be interesting to know how the details of that truck's hood are seared into your memory!)

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    3. Not only that juvat, but one element got lost, by-passed the tgt, came back the opposite direction 180 and flew thru the bomb formation of the main element going the other way w.o. a single mid-air. The German gunners thought it had been by design to throw them off and in professional admiration sang the praises of the courage of the aircrews to do so..

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    4. The airmanship on that mission was amazing.

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  4. Another fine post well done and bravo.

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  5. IIRC the original msn was so tough that the Wing CO "Killer" Kane battlefield promoted EVERYONE--off & enlist--one rank and awarded everyone a single-msn air medal and all pilots a single msn DFC as well..

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