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Given the massive commitment the United States made to the B-24, it is interesting to note that the US initially showed little interest in the aircraft, and it was France which, in 1940, placed the first production order for 139 of these bombers, to be called LB-30. France surrendered long before any could be delivered, so the order was taken over by the RAF. Twenty were taken by Coastal Command as the Liberator I. These were very early B-24s with armor, extra machine guns, and self-sealing fuel tanks added. They were followed by 140 of the Liberator II, with fuselage lengthened to equal that of the B-24D, but with Hamilton Standard propellers. These were the last of the contract Liberators for the RAF, as all subsequent RAF Liberators were procured through lend-lease. The Liberator III and IIIA were based on the B-24D, the Liberator IV was derived from the B-24E, and the Liberator V was a conversion of the B-24G. The Liberator VI came form the B-24H and B-24J. The Liberator VII was a transport based on the C-87 cargo variant of the Liberator. The Liberator VIII was an improved Liberator VI, while the Liberator IX was another Cargo variant based on the US Navy's R3Y.

One B-24A was parked at Hickam field on the morning of December 7, 1941. This aircraft, 40-2370, was so large that it attracted immediate attention from Japanese bombers and became the first American aircraft destroyed by enemy action in the Second World War.

Little Buddies chase of an ME 262Left: "Little Buddies" chase off an ME 262

Service over Europe
The most famous Liberator mission was made from the Benghazi area of Libya on 1 August, 1943 by 179 B-24s of the USAAF IX Bomber Command. The targets were seven refineries near Ploesti, Rumania, well out of reach of any other Allied bomber at that time. While the target was badly damaged, it was quickly repaired. Two bombers crashed on or shortly after take-off, 12 aborted, 43 were shot down by the enemy, 56 others received significant battle damage, and 8 were interned in Turkey. Only 99 returned to their own bases, while 15 others managed to land in other Allied-controlled areas.

The US 8th Air Force used Liberators along with B-17s to attack strategic targets in Europe from English bases. Loss rates were initially very high for both bomber types, but eased considerably as Luftwaffe resistance collapsed in the face of long-range fighter escort in the first half of 1944. The accurate German flak was always a serious threat and the Liberators, because they flew a few thousand feet lower than the Fortresses, became known as "flak magnets". A positive aspect of the lower altitudes was improved bombing accuracy.

Service in the Atlantic Ocean
The Liberator contributed heavily in the Atlantic battles. According to one author, RAF Coastal Command Liberators sank, or assisted in sinking, 70 U-boats, starting with U-597 sunk off Iceland 12 October, 1942 by No. 120 Squadron. Four of these kills were made by Czech pilots of RAF No. 311 Squadron. Some of No. 311 Squadron's Liberators were equipped with four 5-inch rockets on airfoil-shaped mounts forward of the bomb bays, and such rockets were used in sinking one U-boat.
USAAF Liberators participated in sinking 10 U-boats, while US Navy Liberators added 13 more.

Liberators were also operated by the RAAF (in the Pacific), the South African Air Force (over Southern Europe), the Dutch Air Force (in the Pacific), and by India and France post-war.

Partly reprinted from


The B-24J - Statistics
Nation: USA
Manufacturer: Consolidated Aircraft Corp.
Type: Bomber
Year: 1943
Engine: 4 Pratt & Whitney R-1830-65 Twin Wasp 14 Cylinder air cooled radial, 1,200 hp (895 kW) each
Span: 110 ft (33.53 m)
Length: 67 ft 2 in (20.47 m)
Height: 18 ft (5.49 m)
Loaded Weight: 65,000 lb (29483 kg)
Max Speed: 300 mph at 25,000 ft (483 km/h at 7620 m)
Ceiling: 28,000 ft (8534 m)
Range: 2,100 miles (3380 km)
Crew: 8-12
Armament: 10 M2 .50 machine guns, 8,800 lb (3992 kg) of bombs

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