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.
Left: "Little Buddies" chase off an ME 262
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.
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 UBoat.net
B-24J - Statistics