Formation of B-24 Liberators over England

B-24 Liberator Units of the Eighth Air Force, Robert F. Dorr. Although the Eighth Air Force is famous for operating the B-17, even at the end of the Second World War the B-24 still equipped one third of all Eighth Army Bombardment Groups. Here Dorr looks at the role the Liberator played with the Eighth Army, from its tiny beginnings in 1942 to the final massive air armadas of 1944 and 1945. Dorr also looks at the sizable detachments sent to North Africa during 1943, and the famous Ploesti mission.

93rd Bomb Group

Second Lieutenant Glenn A. Tessmer of the 93rd Bomb Group. Tessmer's handwritten caption on reverse: 'Me! Glenn Tessmer 329Sq, 93rd BG.

Master Sergeant George E Ewald, a crew chief of the 93rd Bomb Group, changes the engine of a B-24 Liberator (serial number 41-23722) nicknamed "Bomerang". Image stamped on reverse: '50664C' [Censor no]. Handwritten caption on reverse: '[Illegible] 31 March 44 from 8 P R. War Theatre #12 (England) - maintenance. M/Sgt George C Ewald [sic] of Norfolk, Va, Bomerang's crew chief is shown putting the finishing touches on Bomerang's 16th engine change.'

King George VI meets the crew of a B-24 Liberator during his first official visit to the 93rd Bomb Group at Alconbury. 11 November 1942. In front from left to right: Colonel E.J. Timberlake King George VI Lieutenant L.F. Schmidt, from New Hampton, New York Captain C.A. Culpepper, from Poplarville, Missouri Captain C.D. Lee, from Spartansburg, South Carolina. In back from left to right: Sergeant Phillip Salamon, from Archibald, Pennsylvania Sergeant Oda A. Smathers, from Ashville, North Carolina Sergeant A.S. Bell, from Detroit, Michigan Sergeant Johny Brown, from Hot Springs, New Mexico. Printed caption on reverse: 'SC 152156 His Majesty, King George VI, during his first visit to U.S. Bomber Forces somewhere in England. L-R: Col E J Timberlake H.R.H. Lt L F Schmidt, New Hampton, N.Y., Captain C A Culpepper Poplarville, Miss., Capt C D Lee, Spartonsburg. S.C. crew of the Liberator, In back L-R: Sgt Phillip Salamon, Archibald, Pa Sgt Oda A Smathers, Ashville, N.C. Sgt A S Bell, Detroit, Michigan Sgt Johny Brown, Hot Springs, New Mexico 93rd Bomber Command, Alconbury,England. 14 November 1942. Please credit U.S. Army Photograph.' Handwritten caption on reverse: 'Crew of Teggie Ann.' The man with his back to the camera is Lieutenant Harold J. Mann, Scranton, PA.

A B-24 Liberator (serial number 41-23667) nicknamed "Ball of Fire (Barber Bob)" of the 93rd Bomb Group used as a flight assembly ship.

Ground personnel of the 93rd Bomb Group drag a bomb towards a B-24 Liberator (serial number 41-23745) nicknamed "Katy Bug" at Alconbury. Image stamped on reverse: 'Passed for publication 30 Oct 1942' [stamp].' 229829' [Censor no]. Printed caption on reverse: .'FIRST PICTURES OF THE "LIBERATOR" IN ACTION Oct 1942. First photograph of the giant "Liberator" American bomber to be taken at a US Army Air Corps Station in England. Already famous as being the craft in which Mr Churchill flew to Russia and the Near East, and which for months has been patrolling the Atlantic against U-Boats, this fine type gained laurels when, flying with "Forts" to the daylight arrack on Lille, 107 hun planes were destroyed or damaged without loss to the bombers. The picture shows a scene as "Liberators are bombed up with 1,000 pounders made in America. Incidentally, American made bombs are now being used for the first time, and they also had also not previously been photographed.'

Ground crew of the 93rd Bomb Group prepare to load bombs into a B-24 Liberator (serial number 41-23737) nicknamed "Eager Beaver" at Alconbury. Image stamped on reverse: 'Passed for publication 30 Oct 1942' [stamp].' 229840' [Censor no]. Printed caption on reverse: .'FIRST PICTURES OF THE "LIBERATOR" IN ACTION Oct 1942. First photograph of the giant "Liberator" American bomber to be taken at a US Army Air Corps Station in England. Already famous as being the craft in which Mr Churchill flew to Russia and the Near East, and which for months has been patrolling the Atlantic against U-Boats, this fine type gained laurels when, flying with "Forts" to the daylight arrack on Lille, 107 hun planes were destroyed or damaged without loss to the bombers. The picture shows American-made 1,000-pounders at their Station in England. These bombs had previously not been photographed.'

A bomber crew of the 93rd Bomb Group, with their B-24 Liberator (serial number 44-49321) nicknamed "Herby". Copy of 328th Bomb Squadron order attached to back of print (signed Lieutenant-Colonel John R Downswell): 'Type and series B-24L A/C serial No: 44-49321. L to R standing:- 1st Lt Merle L King (Pilot) 1st Lt John K Ellis (Co-pilot) 2nd Lt Thomas A Dooley (Navigator) 1st Lt Jerome M Stedman (Mickey Operator) 1st Lt Roger J Probert ( Bombardier). L to R kneeling:- T/Sgt Robert P Young (Eng) T/Sgt Raymond R Wells (Radio Op) S/Sgt William O Herrell (N Gunner) S/Sgt Vernon R Swaim (T Gunner) S/Sgt Robert G Boyer (Crew Chief)'

A bomber crew of the 93rd Bomb Group don their flight gear before a mission, flying a B-24 Liberator (41-23717) nicknamed "Exterminator". 3 April 1943. In the centre are pilot Hugh Roper and gunner Earl Lemoine. Image via BL Davies Image stamped on reverse: 'passed for publication 20 Apr 1943[stamp] . 'Return to P.I.D'[stamp]. Printed caption on reverse: 'ETO HD 43 2859 Moore 8 Apr 43. The martian appearance of these clothes give these combat flyers an even grimmer appearance. Climbing into high altitude uniforms are the crew of a Liberator just about to leave its station in England for another mission over enemy territory.' Handwritten caption on reverse: '2508/RF 93 BG air crew suiting for mission.'

A formation of B-24 Liberators of the 93rd Bomb Group. Handwritten caption on reverse: '13/6/43, 93BG. Practice formation at 1600hrs. Arched. A/C: B, C, L_, J_, H_.'

93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated 1-March-1942 at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. On 15-May-1942 the Group moved to Ft. Myers, Florida to continue advanced flight training and also to fly anti-submarine patrols over the Gulf of Mexico they claimed 3 U-Boats destroyed. Between 2-15-August-1942 the Group moved to Fort Dix, New Jersey to prepare for deployment overseas. The ground echelon departed for the UK on the Queen Elizabeth on 31-August-1942 and the air echelon moved to Grenier Field, New Hampshire and was refitted with B-24Ds. The group was first located at Station 102, Alconbury between 6-Sep-1942 and 6-Dec-1942. The Group flew 396 missions in 8,169 sorties and dropped 19,004 tons of bombs with 100 aircraft MIA.

93rd Bomb Group was one of the three 8th Air Force B-24 groups that were sent TDY to North Africa in support of 12th Air Force on 12-Dec-1942. The 329th Bomb Squadron remained behind and took up residence at Hardwick. The 328BS, 330BS and 409BS flew to the initial station at Tafarouri, Algeria but the field there was not suited for the heavy bombers and they only conducted two missions from that field. They were then moved Gambut Main, Libya, a field assigned to 9th Air Force. They remained there until 22-February 1943 at which time they returned to Hardwick until 26-Jun-1943.

In late June 1943 the Group was once again sent TDY to 9th AF at Bengazi, Libya for Operation TIDAL WAVE. On 1 August 1943 they participated in the famous mission against the oil targets at Ploesti, Romania. The Squadrons then returned to Hardwick on 27-Aug-1943 and the Group flew missions from that station until the unit Group sent back to the United States on 12-Jun-45.

Oldest B-24 Bomb Group in 8th Air Force
Flew most missions of any Group in 8th Air Force
First Bomb Squadron (329th) to penetrate German airspace 2-Jan-43
Most traveled Bomb Group in 8th Air Force
First heavy bomber to fly 25 missions: B-24 41-23728 'Hot Stuff' 330BS
First B-24 to complete 50 missions 'Boomerang'
Only wartime unit in the USAF that has not been inactivated since its original formation.

Browse 93rd Bomb Group photographs and other documents in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library digital archive here:

US Air Force Combat Units of World War II Description

Constituted as 93d Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 28 Jan 1942. Activated on 1 Mar 1942. Prepared for combat with B-24’s. Engaged in antisubmarine operations over the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, May-Jul 1942. Moved to England, Aug-Sep 1942, and assigned to Eighth AF. Entered combat on 9 Oct 1942 by attacking steel and engineering works at Lille. Until Dec 1942, operated primarily against submarine pens in the Bay of Biscay. A large detachment was sent to North Africa in Dec 1942, the group receiving a DUC for operations in that theater, Dec 1942-Feb 1943, when, with inadequate supplies and under the most difficult desert conditions, the detachment struck heavy blows at enemy shipping and communications. The detachment returned to England, Feb-Mar 1943, and until the end of Jun the group bombed engine repair works, harbors, power plants, and other targets in France, the Low Countries, and Germany. A detachment returned to the Mediterranean theater, Jun-Jul 1943, to support the invasion of Sicily and to participate in the famous low-level attack on enemy oil installations at Ploesti on 1 Aug. Having followed another element of the formation along the wrong course to Ploesti, the 93d hit targets that had been assigned to other groups, but it carried out its bombing of the vital oil installations despite heavy losses inflicted by attacks from the fully-alerted enemy and was awarded a DUC for the operation. Lt Col Addison E Baker, group commander, and Maj John L Jerstad, a former member of the group who had volunteered for this mission, were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for action in the Ploesti raid: refusing to make a forced landing in their damaged B-24, these men, as pilot and co-pilot of the lead plane, led the group to bomb the oil facilities before their plane crashed in the target area. After the detachment returned to England in Aug 1943, the group flew only two missions before the detachment was sent back to the Mediterranean to support Fifth Army at Salerno during the invasion of Italy in Sep 1943. The detachment rejoined the group in Oct 1943, and until Apr 1945 the 93d concentrated on bombardment of strategic targets such as marshalling yards, aircraft factories, oil refineries, chemical plants, and cities in Germany. In addition it bombed gun emplacements, choke points, and bridges near Cherbourg during the Normandy invasion in Jun 1944 attacked troop concentrations in northern France during the St Lo breakthrough in Jul 1944 transported food, gasoline, water, and other supplies to the Allies advancing across France, Aug-Sep 1944 dropped supplies to airborne troops in Holland on 18 Sep 1944 struck enemy transportation and other targets during the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945 and flew two missions on 24 Mar 1945 during the airborne assault across the Rhine, dropping supplies to troops near Wesel and bombing a night-fighter base at Stormede. Ceased operations in Apr 1945. Returned to the US, May-Jun 1945.

Addison Baker

Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Commanding Officer | 93rd Bomb Group
Lieutenant Colonel Addison Baker was the Commanding Officer of the 93rd Bomb Group from May 17, 1943, he was killed in Action over Ploesti during Operation Tidal Wave on 1 August, 1943. .

The B-24 was quickly declared obsolete by the USAAF and the remaining stateside aircraft were flown to desert storage in the US Southwest. In the Pacific theatre, many were simply parked, the oil drained from their engines and the aircraft left for reclamation by scrappers. By 1950, except for one B-24D held for preservation, the vast fleet of Liberators was gone. The last flight of a B-24 in US military service was on 12 May 1959 when Strawberry Bitch left Bunker Hill Air Force Base (now Grissom Air Force Base), in Peru, Indiana following an Armed Forces Open House. It was bound for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it is now displayed.

Lend-Lease Edit

While at the end of the war both the British Royal Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force were willing to continue operating the B-24, the terms of Lend-Lease agreements stipulated that these aircraft had to be either paid for or returned to the US, and vast graveyards of aircraft accumulated in India as well as Tarakan and Australia. [ citation needed ]

India Edit

When India gained independence in 1947, 37 abandoned Liberators were refurbished for the Indian Air Force and served until their retirement in 1968. It is to this that six of the remaining thirteen B-24s owe their existence. [1]

Gallery (4), B󈞄s

Consolidated B-24 Liberator cockpit.
(Yankee Air Museum, Willow Run Airport, Michigan - photo by Janet Pickel)

8th Air Force, 93rd Bomb Group, 409th squadron. Hardwick, England, June 1943.

A FABULOUS photo: click on it to see it enlarged, it's massive.
Thanks to Michael Graves. A visit to his WWII gallery is a MUST!

First a few words about about the .

The B-24 was employed in operations in every combat theater during World War II. Because of its great range, it was particularly suited for such missions as the famous raid from North Africa against the oil industry at Ploesti, Rumania on August 1, 1943. This feature also made the airplane suitable for long over-water missions in the Pacific Theater. More than 18,000 Liberators were produced.

The B-24D on display flew combat missions from North Africa in 1943-44 with the 512th Bomb Squadron. It was flown to the U.S. Air Force Museum in May 1959. It is the same type airplane as the Lady Be Good, the world-famous B-24D which disappeared on a mission from North Africa in April 1943 and which was found in the Libyan Desert in May 1959.

Span: 110 ft. 0 in (33.53m).
Length: 66 ft. 4 in (20.22).
Height: 17 ft. 11 in (5.46m).
Weight: 56,000 lbs (25 UK tons, 25.4 tonnes). loaded
Armament: Eleven .50-cal. machine guns [nose, left & right cheek, top turret (2), ball turret (2), left and right waist and tail (2)] plus a normal maximum load of 8,000 lbs (3.571 UK tons, 3.629 tonnes). of bombs
Engines: Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830s of 1,200 hp (882.6kW). ea.
Cost: $336,000
Serial Number: 42-72843

Maximum speed: 303 mph (488 km/hr).
Cruising speed: 175 mph (282 km/hr).
Range: 2,850 miles (4587km).
Service Ceiling: 28,000 ft (33.5m). "

(NB - All text within quotes " " is from other sites and has not been amended, although links and comments may have been added.
Source: .)

'Naughty Nan',
taxiing at Hardwick (Thanks to England on Flickr). Salvaged after a mid-air collision with 42-94969 on the 21 Sep 44 mission to Koblenz and crashing with bomb load which exploded on a farm near Ingelmunster, Belgium. WikipediA.

'Lucky Luke',
is 'bombed up' for its 28th mission from Hardwick, England in April 1943. (Thanks to WW2 Total.

In Hardwick, England, A B-24 Liberator crew of the 93rd Bomb Group prepares for a mission. (Thanks to B24bestoweb).

'Miss Lucky',
B-24 Liberator. 93rd bomb group, 409th squadron. Hardwick, England.

B-24 Liberators in formation, returning from mission. 93rd. bomb group. Hardwick, England.

B24 Liberator Audio and Video files at Marshall Stelzriede's Wartime Story site.

Google search for more B-24 Liberator images.

M ore pix and vids to come. In the meantime join our Facebook group.
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Incredible pictures of damaged B-24 Liberators that made it home

“T’ings Is Tuff” – Douglas-Tulsa B-24H-15-DT Liberator – s/n 41-28931
724th Bomb Squadron, 451st Bomb Group, 15th Air Force.
Shown making a belly-landing at it’s base in Southern Italy after being damaged by flak on a mission to Ploesti,Rumania. [Via]

Consolidated B-24J-90-CO Liberator – Serial number 42-100353
703rd Bomb Squadron, 445th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force.
Crash landed in a field near Metfield,Norfolk,England on March 8,1944 and salvaged two days later. [Via]

Ford B-24L-5-FO Liberator – s/n 44-49279 – 564th Bomb Squadron, 389th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force
Crashlanded at Ashwellthorpe, Norfolk, England on Feb. 6,1945 after returning from mission to Magdeburg,Germany. [Via]

Battle damage resulted in this brand new 34th BG B-24 Liberator being written off at Manston, June 14, 1944. [Via]

Daisy Mae down on the beach at Midway after a harrowing raid against Wake Island. Landed with no brakes- you can see hydraulic fluid blown back on the fuselage. [Via]

Thumper, crashed on take-off from Kualoa overloaded for a photo-recon mission. #2 propeller slashed through the cockpit before cartwheeling over the plane and broke the pilot’s wrist [Via]

This B-24 didn’t make it home, but at least it landed safely. Damaged by flak, Piccadilly Pete of the 448th BG was brought to rest on her tail skid when her pilots sought the sanctuary of Bulltofta airfield in Sweden on April 9, 1944. [Via]

Not sure if this one made it home [Via]

B-24 flak damaged over Philippines, belly-landed Anguar island, Carolines [Via]

Named “Shack Rat,” B-24H-15-FO Liberator, s/n 42-52566, with the 786th Bomb Squadron, 446th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force. Damaged by flak on mission to bomb airfield at Gutersloh on 19 April 1944, she was totally destroyed in the crashlanding at Attlebridge. [Via]

B-24D 42-41142, “THUNDERBIRD II”, 308th/375th Chengkung, China 1 Apr 44, the result of a runaway propeller, on takeoff, that cut into the flight deck. The Pilot, John Z. McBrayer, lost his left leg. [Via]

The damage in the photo occured on the December 20,1943 mission to Bremen,Germany. It is still not completely known what happened other than a propeller from another plane sliced away the tail turret,right rudder and part of the horizontal stabilizer and killing the gunner.

There are two stories about this mishap. One says it was a prop which came off another plane another says “El Lobo” slowed, suddenly, and was hit by another aircraft.

The tail gunner – S/Sgt. Donald D. Pippitt – died as a result, and the plane returned to the 392nd a month later. She was later reported as MIA [missing in action] on an April 29,1944 mission to Berlin. [Via]

BA2 #14 41-23858 GREMLIN’S DELIGHT aka FRIGID FRANCES of 28CG. Crash landed 30 miles south of Ladd Field AK flew for 3 hours observing and photographing a solar eclipse when the B-24 suffered the loss of engines No. 1 and No. 2. The inability to feather the props compounded problems and ultimately led to the aircraft crashing. All 14 aboard survived. [Via]

Lt. Colonel Leon Vance and the Cambridge American Cemetery

A few days ago I had the privilege to walk the hallowed grounds of the Cambridge American Cemetery with an expert on the history of the U.S. Armed Forces’ staging, presence, and forward operations from Cambridgeshire and southeast England. This gentleman works for the American Battle Monuments Commission, an agency of the U.S. Government that maintains and preserves the 25 overseas cemeteries from the Philippines to Tunisia, from Omaha Beach to the Meuse-Argonne. One cannot visit an overseas U.S. Memorial or Cemetery and not be touched by the stories and sacrifice of these men and women. Although some stories are heroic and some more simple, all were serving their country in a desperate time and found themselves far from their home and their family, and never returned. The historian I was walking with told me the heroic story of Lt. Colonel Vance.

Francis Scott Bradford designed the glorious mosaic that covers the ceiling of the Cambridge American Cemetery Chapel. Ghostly aircraft and mournful angels cover the ceiling in his moving tribute to the 3,811 buried and 5,126 missing who are memorialized at the Cemetery.

His story needs to be told. It is the story of an American airman, a 27-year-old Lieutenant Colonel, who had rapidly risen through the ranks in a way that can only happen during a desperate war. Colonel Leon Robert “Bob” Vance, had arrived at West Point in 1935 and graduated in 1939, becoming a young lieutenant as America warily watched the Second World War beginning in Europe. Marrying Georgette Brown the day after his graduation, Bob and Georgette had a daughter in 1942, Sharon, whom he would name his B-24 Liberator after: The Sharon D.

After several years as a flight instructor, he was transferred to England. Lt. Colonel Vance was assigned to the 8th Air Force, 95th Combat Bombardment Wing, 2nd Bomb Division at RAF Helesworth in Suffolk. On 5 June 1944, the day before the allied landings in Normandy, Lt. Colonel Vance led the 489th Bomb Group on a diversionary bombing mission to the Pas-de-Calais to target German coastal defenses as part of the Atlantic Wall. Lt Colonel Vance was in the lead plane as on observer on the flight deck, flying in a pathfinder to ensure the bombs of all the following aircraft hit their target.

After the short flight to France, the Liberators were over their target when the lead aircraft’s bombs failed to release. Instead of ordering the bombers to drop their ordnance into the Channel, Lt. Colonel Vance ordered all the aircraft to circle and re-approach the target.

A photo of LTC Bob Vance, courtesy of the US Army. The photo is in the public domain.

On the second approach to the target, the bombers came under intense anti-aircraft fire. Vance’s lead bomber was severely damaged by flak: four crewmen were wounded, three engines disabled, fuel lines ruptured within the aircraft. Despite the damage, the B-24 continued and dropped its bombs over the target although one did not release. Immediately after the bombs were dropped, a flak burst in front of the aircraft that killed the pilot and almost severed Bob’s right foot, trapping him within the bent metal of the mangled cockpit. With only one engine still functioning and severe damage to the airframe, the copilot began to dive the aircraft to maintain airspeed, and Vance, losing blood and suffering from shock, worked the engineering of the aircraft to feather the engines and save the aircraft as one of the crew applied a tourniquet to his foot.

Amazingly, the aircraft returned to the English coast and Vance took the controls, ordering the men to bail out. Knowing it was impossible to land the aircraft, he aimed to get the crew safely away. As the crew departed, he discovered that not only was he trapped, but in the confusion thought that one of the crewmembers was also trapped and unable to bail out. He decided the only option was to ditch the B-24 in the Channel — the B-24 was a notoriously difficult aircraft to safely ditch in water.

Stuck in a prone position between the pilot and co-pilots’ seats, trapped in the mangled cockpit and losing blood, Lt. Colonel Vance could only see out the side window of the cockpit and could only access some of the plane’s controls. Remarkably, he landed the aircraft safely in the water, believing that the other crewmember would have a fighting chance to live. As the water flooded into the cockpit — Vance was still trapped — he had a slim hope that air-sea rescue might reach the aircraft before it sank. However, the one bomb that had failed to release but was still armed detonated at this moment, blowing the B-24 to pieces and amazingly sending Vance flying through the air, now dislodged from the metal. He hit the water and was just able to inflate his life vest, clinging to consciousness and life.

In a moment of self-sacrifice that is difficult to believe, Vance then spent the next 50 minutes searching for his last crewmember in the sinking debris of the B-24 before he was rescued by the RAF.

Colonel Vance had survived the ordeal, but tragically was lost at sea two months later as the C-54 Skymaster carrying him on a medical evacuation flight back to the United States disappeared between Iceland and Newfoundland.

On 4 January 1945 it was announced that Lieutenant Colonel Vance would receive the Medal of Honor posthumously, but the presentation was delayed until 11 October 1946, so that his daughter Sharon — whom he had named his B-24 after — could be awarded her father’s medal.

5-year-old Sharon Vance is presented with her father’s Medal of Honor in 1946. US Army Photograph.

For some more information on the Cambridge American Cemetery see this publication:

The citation for Lt. Colonel Vance’s Medal of Honor reads:

Aviation History Book Review: B-24 Liberator Units of the CBI

The story of Maj. Gen. Claire L. Chennault’s Flying Tigers is familiar to most aviation buffs. But the contribution by B-24 Liberators of the Fourteenth Air Force under Chennault in the China-Burma-India Theater receives far less attention. I wrote about the 308th Bomb Group in Chennault’s Forgotten Warriors: The Saga of the 308th Bomb Group, chronicling a group that did some of World War II’s most accurate bombing, while also incurring the highest casualty rate. Now Edward Young widens the focus to include the Tenth Air Force’s 7th Bomb Group, which carried the war over some of the world’s most difficult terrain. Young includes a collection of B-24 color plates with commentary, colorful nose art and in-flight photos.

This book is a keeper for those who want to fill in the gaps about strategic operations in an almost forgotten theater.

Originally published in the November 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.

Formation of B-24 Liberators over England - History

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The RAF, like the US, found global war increased the need for air transports and early type bombers and seaplanes were converted or completed as cargo carriers and transports. LB-30As were assigned to transatlantic flights by RAF Ferry Command, between Canada and Prestwick, Scotland. The first Liberators in British service were ex-USAAF YB-24s converted to Liberator GR Is (USAAF designation: LB-30A). The aircraft were all modified for logistic use in Montreal. Changes included the removal of all armament, provision for passenger seating, a revised cabin oxygen and heating system. Ferry Command's Atlantic Return Ferry Service flew civilian ferry pilots, who had delivered aircraft to the UK, back to North America.

The most important role, however, for the first batch of the Liberator GR Is was in service with RAF Coastal Command on anti-submarine patrols in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Later in 1941, the first Liberator Is entered RAF service. This model introduced self-sealing fuel tanks, a 2 ft 7 in (79 cm) plug in the forward fuselage to create more space for crew members and more vitally, ever more equipment such as ASV MkII radar including (anticipated early in the Liberator's development when Reuben Fleet told the engineering team he had a gut feeling the nose was too short) . The Mark II was the first Liberator to be equipped with powered turrets, one machine having them installed in San Diego, the remainder installed in the field: a four Browning Boulton Paul A-type Mk IV with 600 rounds of .303 in the dorsal position and a Boulton Paul E-type Mk II with 2200 rounds in the tail (later increased to 2500 rounds), supplemented by pairs of guns at the waist position, a single gun in the nose and another in the belly, for a total of fourteen guns. The offensive armament was slightly raised to 64,250 pounds, the maximum altitude lifted from 21,200 to 24,000 feet but the maximum speed was reduced to 263 mph, largely as a result of increased drag.

The Liberator II (referred to as the LB-30A by the USAAF) were divided between Coastal Command, Bomber Command, and British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). Both BOAC and the RAF used converted Liberator IIs as unarmed long-range cargo carriers. These aircraft flew between Britain and Egypt (with an extensive detour around Spain over the Atlantic), and they were used in the evacuation of Java in the East Indies. BOAC also flew trans-Atlantic services and other various long-range air transportation routes.

Two RAF bomber squadrons with Liberators were deployed to the Middle East in early 1942. While RAF Bomber Command did not use B-24s as strategic bombers over mainland North West Europe, No. 223 Squadron RAF, one of Bomber Command's 100 (Bomber Support) Group squadrons, used 20 Liberator VIs to carry electronic jamming equipment to counter German radar.

In October 1944, two RAF Liberator squadrons (357 and 358) were deployed to Jessore India in support of British SAS, American OSS and French SIS underground operations throughout SE Asia. The aircraft were stripped of most armaments to allow for fuel for up to 26-hour return flights such as Jessore to Singapore.

Liberators were also used as anti-submarine patrol aircraft by RAF Coastal Command. RAF Liberators were also operated as bombers from India by SEAC and would have been a part of Tiger Force if the war had continued. Many of the surviving Liberators originated in this Command. Consolidated Liberator Mk.I of 120th Squadron Coastal Command RAF, used since December 1941

Antisubmarine and maritime patrols
AAF Antisubmarine Command (AAFAC) modifications at the Consolidated-Vultee Plant, Fort Worth, Texas in the foreground in the olive drab and white paint scheme. To the rear of this front line are partly assembled C-87 "Liberator Express Transports".

The Liberators made a significant contribution to Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic against German U-boats. Aircraft had the ability to undertake surprise air attacks against surfaced submarines. Liberators assigned to the RAF's Coastal Command in 1941 to patrol the eastern Atlantic Ocean in an offensive anti-submarine role produced immediate results. The introduction of Very Long Range (VLR) Liberators vastly increased the reach of Britain's maritime reconnaissance force, closing the Mid Atlantic Gap where a lack of air cover had allowed U-boats to operate without risk of aerial attack.

For 12 months, No. 120 Squadron RAF of Coastal Command with its handful of much-patched and modified early model Liberators supplied the only air cover for convoys in the Atlantic Gap, the Liberator being the only warplane with sufficient range. The VLR Liberators sacrificed some armor and often gun turrets in order to save weight, while carrying extra aviation gasoline in their bomb-bay tanks. Liberators were equipped with ASV (Air to Surface Vessel) Mark II radar, which together with the Leigh light, gave them the ability to hunt U-boats by day and by night.

These Liberators operated from both sides of the Atlantic with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command and later, the US Navy conducting patrols along all three American coasts and the Canal Zone. The RAF and later American patrols ranged from the east, based in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, and beginning in mid-1943 from the Azores. This role was dangerous, especially after many U-boats were armed with extra anti-aircraft guns, some adopting the policy of staying on the surface to fight, rather than submerging and risking being sunk by aerial weapons such as rockets, gunfire, torpedoes and depth charges from the bombers. In addition to flying from the US coasts, American Liberators flew from Nova Scotia, Greenland, the Azores, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Panama, Trinidad, Ascension Island and from wherever else they could fly far out over the Atlantic.

The rather sudden and decisive turning of the Battle of the Atlantic in favor of the Allies in May 1943 was the result of many factors. The gradual arrival of many more VLR and in October, PB4Y navalized Liberators for anti-submarine missions over the Mid-Atlantic gap ("black pit") and the Bay of Biscay was an important contribution to the Allies' greater success. Liberators were credited in full or in part with 93 U-boat sinkings.

In addition to very long range anti-submarine sorties, the B-24 was vital for missions of a radius less than 1,000 mi (1,600 km), in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters where U.S. Navy PB4Y-1s and USAAF SB-24s took a heavy toll of enemy submarines and surface combatants and shipping.

Introduction to service, 1941–42
The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) took delivery of its first B-24As in mid-1941. Over the next three years, B-24 squadrons deployed to all theaters of the war: African, European, China-Burma-India, the Anti-submarine Campaign, the Southwest Pacific Theater and the Pacific Theater. In the Pacific, to simplify logistics and to take advantage of its longer range, the B-24 (and its twin, the U.S. Navy PB4Y) was the chosen standard heavy bomber. By mid-1943, the shorter-range B-17 was phased out. The Liberators which had served early in the war in the Pacific continued the efforts from the Philippines, Australia, Espiritu Santo,Guadalcanal, Hawaii, and Midway Island. The Liberator peak overseas deployment was 45.5 bomb groups in June 1944. Additionally, the Liberator equipped a number of independent squadrons in a variety of special combat roles. The cargo versions, C-87 and C-109 tanker, further increased its overseas presence, especially in Asia in support of the XX Bomber Command air offensive against Japan.

Consolidated C-109.
[Source: USAF Photo]

So vital was the need for long range operations, that at first USAAF used the type as transports. The sole B-24 in Hawaii was destroyed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. It had been sent to the Central Pacific for a very long range reconnaissance mission that was preempted by the Japanese attack.

The first USAAF Liberators to carry out combat missions were 12 repossessed LB-30s deployed to Java with the 11th Bombardment Squadron (7th Bombardment Group) that flew their first combat mission in mid-January. Two were shot up by Japanese fighters, but both managed to land safely. One was written off due to battle damage and the other crash-landed on a beach.

US-based B-24s entered combat service in 1942 when on 6 June, four B-24s from Hawaii staging through Midway Island attempted an attack on Wake Island, but were unable to find it. The B-24 came to dominate the heavy bombardment role in the Pacific because compared to the B-17, the B-24 was faster, had longer range, and could carry a ton more bombs.

Strategic bombing, 1942–45
On 12 June 1942, 13 B-24s of the Halverson Project (HALPRO) flying from Egypt attacked the Axis-controlled oil fields and refineries around Ploiești, Romania. Within weeks, the First Provisional Bombardment Group formed from the remnants of the Halverson and China detachments. This unit then was formalized as the 376th Bombardment Group, Heavy, and along with the 98th BG formed the nucleus of the IX Bomber Command of the Ninth Air Force, operating from Africa until absorbed into the Twelfth Air Force briefly, and then the Fifteenth Air Force, operating from Italy. The Ninth Air Force moved to England in late 1943. This was a major component of the USSTAF and took a major role in strategic bombing. Fifteen of the 15th AF's 21 bombardment groups flew B-24s.

B-24D Liberator/41-11819/Raunchy of 344th BS/98th BG.
[Source: USAF Photo]

For much of 1944, the B-24 was the predominant U.S. Strategic Air Forces (USSTAF) formerly the Eighth Air Force in the Combined Bomber Offensive against Germany, forming nearly half of its heavy bomber strength in the ETO prior to August and most of the Italian-based force. Thousands of B-24s flying from bases in Europe dropped hundreds of thousands of tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs on German military and industrial targets.

The 44th Bombardment Group was one of the first two heavy bombardment groups flying the B-24 with the 8th Air Force in the fall/winter air campaigns in the European Theater of Operations. The 44th Bomb Group flew the first of its 344 combat missions against the Axis powers in World War II on 7 November 1942.

The first B-24 loss over German territory occurred on 26 February 1943. Earlier in the war, both the Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force had abandoned daylight bombing raids because neither could sustain the losses suffered. The Americans persisted, however, at great cost in men and aircraft. In the period between 7 November 1942 and 8 March 1943, the 44th Bomb Group lost 13 of its original 27 B-24s. For some time, newspapers had been requesting permission for a reporter to go on one of the missions. Robert B. Post and five other reporters of The New York Times were granted permission. Post was the only reporter assigned to a B-24-equipped group, the 44th Bomb Group. He flew in B-24 41-23777 ("Maisey") on Mission No. 37 to Bremen, Germany. Intercepted just short of the target, the B-24 came under attack from JG 1's Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Leutnant Heinz Knoke (who finished the war with 31 kills) shot down the Liberator. Post and all but two of the 11 men aboard were killed. Knoke reported: "The fire spread out along the right wing. The inboard propeller windmilled to a stop. And then, suddenly, the whole wing broke off. At an altitude of 900 metres there was a tremendous explosion. The bomber had disintegrated. The blazing wreckage landed just outside Bad Zwischenahn airfield," which would later be used for some of the first Messerschmitt Me 163B Komet rocket fighter operations.

B-24J-175-CO Liberator/44-40686.
[Source: Jack Cook Collection]

A total of 177 B-24s carried out the famous second attack on Ploiești (Operation Tidal Wave) on 1 August 1943. This was the B-24's most costly mission. Flying from their bases in northwestern Libya. In late June 1943, the three B-24 Liberator groups of the 8th Air Force were sent to North Africa on temporary duty with the 9th Air Force. The 44th Bomb Group was joined by the 93rd and the 389th Bomb Groups. These three units joined the two 9th Air Force B-24 Liberator groups for the 1 August 1943 low-level attack on the German-held Romanian oil complex at Ploiești. This daring assault by high altitude bombers at tree top level was a costly success. The attack became disorganized after a navigational error which alerted the defenders and protracted the bomb run from the initial point. The 44th destroyed both of its assigned targets, but lost 11 of its 37 bombers and their crews. Colonel Leon W. Johnson, the 44th's commander, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his leadership, as was Col. John Riley "Killer" Kane, commander of the 98th Bomb Group. Kane and Johnson survived the mission but three other recipients of the Medal of Honor for their actions in the mission—Lt. Lloyd H. Hughes, Maj. John L. Jerstad and Col. Addison E. Baker—were killed in action. For its actions on the Ploiești mission, the 44th was awarded its second Distinguished Unit Citation. Of the 177 B-24s that were dispatched on this operation, 54 were lost.

Radar and Electronic warfare
The B-24 advanced the use of electronic warfare and equipped Search Bomber (SB), Low Altitude (LAB) and Radar Counter Measure (RCM) squadrons in addition to high altitude bombing. Among the specialized squadrons were the 20th RS (RCM), 36th BS (RCM), 406th NLS, 63rd BS (SB) SeaHawks, 373rdBS (LAB) and 868th BS (SB) Snoopers.

The 36th Bombardment Squadron was the Eighth Air Force's only electronic warfare squadron using specially equipped B-24s to jam German VHF communications during large Eighth Air Force daylight raids. In addition, the 36th BS flew night missions with the Royal Air Force Bomber Command 100 Group at RAF Sculthorpe. Radar Counter Measures (RCM) was code named CARPET, however, this should not be confused with agent and supply drops, code named "Carpetbaggers".

The B-24 controlled Azmuith Only Azon, a pioneering Allied radio guided munitions during World War II. The ordnance of 1,000 lb weight, was deployed operationally by USAAF B-24s in both Europe and the CBI theaters. The Eighth Air Force's 458th Bombardment Group deployed the guided Azon ordnance in Europe between June and September 1944, while the Tenth Air Force's 493rd Bomb Squadron employed it against Japanese railroad bridges on the Burma Railway in early 1945, fulfilling the intended original purpose of the Azon system.

Assembly ships
In February 1944, the 2nd Division authorized the use of "Assembly Ships" (or "Formation Ships") specially fitted to aid assembly of individual group formations. They were equipped with signal lighting, provision for quantity discharge of pyrotechnics, and were painted with distinctive group-specific high-contrast patterns of stripes, checkers or polka dots to enable easy recognition by their flock of bombers. The aircraft used in the first allocation were B-24Ds retired by the 44th, 93rd and 389th Groups. Arrangements for signal lighting varied from group to group, but generally consisted of white flashing lamps on both sides of the fuselage arranged to form the identification letter of the group. All armament and armor was removed and in some cases the tail turret. In the B-24Hs used for this purpose, the nose turret was removed and replaced by a "carpetbagger" type nose.

B-24D-30-CO Liberator assembly ship First Sergeant, 458th Bomb Group.
[Source: USAF Photo]

Following incidents when flare guns were accidentally discharged inside the rear fuselage, some assembly (formation) ships had pyrotechnic guns fixed through the fuselage sides. As these aircraft normally returned to base once a formation had been established, a skeleton crew of two pilots, navigator, radio operator and one or two flare discharge operators were carried. In some groups an observer officer flew in the tail position to monitor the formation. These aircraft became known as Judas goats.

The Colorful Formation Ships of The Mighty Eighth

Assembly ships were retired bombers that were still flyable. They were painted in unique paint schemes so large groups of bombers could find them in the air and form up their flight formations on a bombing run.

Once the bomb group formed up, the Assembly ships returned to base.

We’ve searched the web for the best pictures we could find, in color where possible!

The Little Gramper, a B-24D, was the first Lead Assembly Ship of 491st Bombardment Group. She wore one of the brightest and most visible schemes of all the assembly ships. [Via]

B-24H Liberator bomber ‘Lil’ Cookie’, Lead Assembly Ship of 489th Bomber Group, US 845th Bomber Squadron, RAF Halesworth, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom, Apr-Nov 1944 [Via]

An ex 389th BG and originally 44th BG aircraft. The Group’s first Assembly ship, it was salvaged at Rackheath in October 44 following a landing accident with the nose wheel retracted. [Via]

B-17F Flying Fortress aircraft ‘Spotted Cow’, assembly ship of 384th Bomber Group, 547th Bomber Squadron, based in RAF Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire, England, UK, 1943. [Via]

Spotted Ape , Spotted Ass Ape , or Wonder Bread were but a few of the names for the 458th Bomb Group’s second assembly ship. [Via]

Spotted Ass Ape leads Liberators of the 458th Bombardment Group. [Via]

B-24D Liberator aircraft ‘Wham Bam’ lead assembly ship of the 453rd Bomber Group, US 735th Bomber Squadron based at RAF Old Buckenham, Norfolk, England, UK, Jan-Apr 1945 [Via]

B-24D Liberator bomber ‘Striped Ape’, lead assembly ship for the 448th Bomber Group, US 712th Bomber Squadron based at RAF Seething, Norfolk, England, UK, Oct 1944-Feb 1945 [Via]

B-24D-30-CO assembly ship First Sergeant, 458th Bomb Group [Via]

A nice colour shot of a worn B-24D (USAAC Serial No. 41-24109) by the name of Silver Streak, the assembly ship for the Liberator crews of the 466th Bombardment Group, based at RAF Attlebridge [Via]

B-24J Liberator bomber ‘Tubarao’, lead assembly ship of the 491st Bomber Group, US 855th Bomber Squadron based at RAF North Pickenham, Norfolk, England, UK, 1945 [Via]

B-24D Liberator Lead Assembly Ship ‘Green Dragon’ of 389th Bomber Group, US 566th Bomber Squadron, RAF Hethel, Norfolk, England, Feb-Jul 1944 [Via]

B-24D Barber Bob (USAAC Serial No. 41-23667) was originally called Ball of Fire while in service with the 328th in North Africa. She participated in the famous raids on the Romanian oil refinery facilities at Ploesti. Ball of Fire, AKA Barber Bob, had alternating red, white and pale blue stripes. [Via]

B-24D Liberator aircraft ‘Pete the POM Inspector’, Lead Assembly Ship of 467th Bomber Group, US 790th Bomber Squadron, RAF Rackheath, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom, Mar-Oct 1944 [Via]

B-24D Liberator ‘Lemon Drop’, Lead Assembly Ship for 44th Bomb Group, US 68th Squadron, RAF Shipdam, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom [Via]

B-24D Liberator aircraft ‘Wham Bam’ lead assembly ship of the 453rd Bomber Group, US 735th Bomber Squadron based at RAF Old Buckenham, Norfolk, England, UK, Jan-Apr 1945 [Via]

Boeing B-17E formation aircraft of the 379th Bomb Group, 525th Bomb Squadron (FR-U), 8th Air Force, July 24, 1944. Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress (SN 41-9100). [Via]

Formation of B-24 Liberators over England - History

The 379th Bomb Group was activated November 26, 1942, at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho. It consisted of four squadrons of B-17s, the 524th, 525th, 526th and 527th. Overseas movement began in April, and in May the 379th arrived at Kimbolton, England, AAF Station 117. Its first combat mission was the bombing of German U-boat pens at St Nazaire, France, on May 29, 1943. Colonel Maurice A. Preston was the original commanding officer until October 10, 1944, when he became the commander of the 41st Combat Wing headquartered at Molesworth. Colonel Lewis E. Lyle then assumed command of the 379th Bomb Group until May 5, 1945, when he became commander of the 41st Combat Wing. Lt. Col. Lloyd C. Mason was then named commander of the 379th Bomb Group, and was followed by Lt. Col. Horace E. Frink.

Like many B-17 bases in England, the airfield at Kimbolton was originally a fighter base for the British. When it became evident Germany was not going to invade England, the RAF decided it didn't need many inland fighter bases and was happy to lease most of them to the United States as airfields for heavy bombers. The runways and perimeter ramps were too thin to accommodate the weight of our Flying Fortresses and Liberators, so the United States paid the British to repair and replace the runways to meet necessary specifications.

Click on the photo to enlarge picture and see planes taking off

The attached photo of the airfield as it was submitted by one of our associate members, Mark Ellis of Los Angeles. Some of the only remaining structures from years ago can be seen in the cluster of buildings in the low-center-right of the picture, not far from the road where the memorial to the 379th is located.

Click on the photo to enlarge the colored picture.

The 379th Bomb Group was one of 12 heavy Bombardment Groups in the First Bombardment Division of the United States 8th Air Force. All B-17s of every Group within the 1st Bombardment Division had a large triangle painted at the top of the vertical stabilizer. Each Group's assigned code letter was painted in the triangle. The 379th's planes were assigned the letter K, and were known as the Triangle K Group.

The 379th Bomb Group flew its first 300 missions in less time than any other heavy Bombardment Group. During all of its 330 bombing missions, it dropped 26,640 tons of bombs on enemy targets, shot down 315 enemy aircraft and lost 141 of its B-17s to enemy action.

Eighty of those 141 Fortresses were shot down between May 29, 1943, and March 31, 1944. The other 61 Fortresses were lost between April 1, 1944, and April 25, 1945. One record lists 345 Fortresses assigned to the 379th Bomb Group during World War II. It is very startling that more than 43% of those 345 Fortresses were lost to enemy fighters and anti-aircraft guns.

Information in the 8th Air Force News indicates the 379th Bomb Group lost one B-17 to enemy action for every 70 sorties flown, for a loss rate of one bomber for every 22 missions. This compares to 1 bomber lost per 30 sorties by the Group with most bad fortune, and 1 bomber lost per 230 sorties for the Group with the least bad fortune. The average loss rate for the 40 Bomb Groups was 1 bomber per 88 sorties.

The 379th led the 8th Air Force in bombing accuracy, flew more sorties than any other heavy Bomb Group and had a lower loss and abortive ratio than any unit in the 8th Air Force for an extended period of time. Some of its other accomplishments include: development of the 12-plane squadron formation and 36-plane integral Group, and use of a straight-line approach on the entire bomb run.

In May 1944 it was announced that the 379th had made an unprecedented "8th Air Force Operational Grand Slam" during the preceding month. This meant that during April the 379th was first in every phase of bombing in which Bomb Groups of the 8th Air Force were graded. The 379th Bomb Group was the only unit ever awarded the 8th Air Force Grand Slam, a very unique honor that included recognition of the following achievements:

1 - Best Bombing results (greatest percent of bombs on target)
2 - Greatest tonnage of bombs dropped on target
3 - Largest number of aircraft attacking
4 - Lowest losses of aircraft
5 - Lowest abortive rate of aircraft dispatched.

The 379th received two Presidential Unit Citations for its accomplishments in combat. The Group flew its last combat mission on April 25, 1945. The 379th Bomb Group remained active for two years, seven months and 29 days. During this period approximately 6,000 personnel were assigned to the Kimbolton airfield. The Group was deactivated on July 25, 1945, at Casablanca, Morocco, Africa.

(Data about the 379th Bomb Group is from "Screwball Express" and is printed here with the permission of Ken Cassens, author of the book, with all rights reserved)

524th Bombardment Squadron
525th Bombardment Squadron
526th Bombardment Squadron
527th Bombardment Squadron

Assigned 8th AAF: April 1943 - Wing/Command Assignment:
8th AF, 1st Bomb Division, 103 PCBW: May 1943
8th AF, 1st Bomb Division, 41st Combat Wing: 13 Sept.1943
1st Bomb Division, 41st Combat Wing: 8 Jan 1944
1st Air Division, 41st Combat Wing: 1 Jan 1945

Combat Aircraft:

Group COs: Col. Maurice A. Preston 26 November 1942 to October 1944
Col. Lewis E. Lyle 11 October 1944 to 5 May 1945

First Mission: 29 May 1943, St. Nazaire, France
Last Mission: 25 April 1945, Pilsen, Czechoslovakia
Total Sorties: 10,492
Total Bomb Tonnage: 26,460
Tons Aircraft MIA: 149

Kimbolton 20May43 To 12Jul45 (Air Ech Bovingdon 24Apr43 to 21May1943

Claims to Fame:
Flew more sorties than any other Bomb Group in the 8th AF
Dropped a greater bomb tonnage than any other Group
Lower abortive rate than any other Group in action from 1943
Pioneered the 12-plane formation that became standard during 1944
"Ol Gappy" a B-17G, flew 157 missions, more than any other bomber in the 8th AF

Major Awards:
Distinguished Unit Citations - 28 May 1943 to 31 July 1944
Operations this period 11 Jan 1944 to all 1st Bomb Division
8th Air Force Operational Grand Slam - May 1944

Early History:
Activated 26 November 1942 at Gowen Field, Idaho. The Group assembled at Wendover Field, Utah on 2 December 1942. They trained there until 2 March 1943 then moved to Sioux City AAF, Iowa on 3 February 1943 until their departure 9 April 1943. The ground unit moved for final processing at Camp Douglas, Wisconsin and then to Camp Shanks, New York. They sailed on the Aquitania on 10 May 1943 and arrived at Clyde on 18 May 1943. The Aircraft left Sioux City, Iowa on 9 April 1943 and flew to Bangor, Maine via Kearney, Nebraska and Selfridge, Michigan. They commenced overseas movement on 15 April 1943 by the North Atlantic ferry route.

Subsequent History:
Scheduled to transport US troops from Europe to Casablanca. The unit moved to Casablanca in early June with the last aircraft flown back to the States and the Group inactivated at Casablanca on 25 July 1945. The unit was activated once again as a Strategic Air Command wing and assigned the first B-52H aircraft in 1962. Activated 379th Air Expeditionary Wing and converted to provisional status on 4 December 2001. The 379th AEW is also referred to as the Grand Slam Wing.

Watch the video: Unbroken - B-24 Liberator Bombing Scene (January 2022).