Consolidated-Vultee B-24M Liberator (USA)

Consolidated-Vultee B-24M Liberator military aircraft WWII bomber at Castle Air Museum in California's Central Valley.


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United States
Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Company
Model 33
8-10 Crew
4 - Pratt & Whitney R-1830-65 radial engines producing 1,200 hp each
300 mph
30,000 ft.
2,100 mi.
Empty: N/A
Maximum: 64,350 lbs.
110 ft.
67 ft. 2 in.
18 ft.
10 - .50 caliber machine guns and 8,800 lbs. of bombs
$297,627.00 (at time of manufacture)

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was used by the 93rd Bomb Group, the predecessor of Castle Air Force Base's 93rd Bomb Wing, during World War II. The 93rd was the first of the 14 B-24 groups in the 2nd Air Division of the Eighth Air Force. 16 of the 22 heavy bomb groups of the 15th Air Force also flew the Liberator. After mid-1943,  the 11 heavy bomb groups in the Pacific and the China-Burma-India theaters were equipped with  the B-24, primarily because of its longer range with a bomb load.

The B-24M was the last of the Liberators produced. A later version, the B-24N with a single fin and rudder,  was cancelled just after the end of the war, but a modification of it, the PB4Y-2 Privateer was built and served in Navy Patrol Squadrons for several more years. B-24s and B-17s were withdrawn from service within weeks of the end of the war and almost all were scrapped. Only about a dozen B-24s survive in museums. There is only one flyable B-24, operated by the Collings Foundation, which tours the country in company with a B-17. The Confederate Air Force (recently renamed Commemorative Air Force) flies a LB-30, AM927, originally built for the RAF. Only one of the survivors saw combat service with the U. S. Army Air Forces, the B-24D "Strawberry Bitch" on display at the USAF Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB. Five of the other survivors came from the Indian Air Force, which got them from RAF Lend-Lease aircraft. Some or all may have flown combat missions with the RAF in the China-Burma-India Theater.

Beginning in mid-1943, the Liberator became the mainstay of the RCAF's airborne battle against the U-boats in the Atlantic. Their "long legs" enabled the Allies to effectively close the air gap between Iceland and Newfoundland where convoys were at the mercy of Doenitz's wolf packs, concentrations of German submarine forces which preyed on Allied shipping.

Consolidated-Vultee B-24M Liberator military airplane heavy bomber at Castle Air Museum, Atwater and Merced side view.

More B-24 Liberators were made than any other American aircraft during World War II, and were more widely used than even the B-17. It was the only combat aircraft to see service in every theater of operations in World War II. There were 18,188 Liberators produced during World War II, 6,600 of them by Ford Motor Co. at Willow Run, Michigan. They were also built by North American Aviation in Dallas, Douglas Aircraft Co. in Tulsa and at a 2nd Consolidated plant in Fort Worth in addition to the original Consolidated plant in San Diego. The B-24M differed from earlier Liberators only in armament. It had a lighter tail turret and the waist gun windows were enclosed. The latter feature had been incorporated on Ford-built Liberators since the B-24H.

The first B-24 flew in 1939 and Liberators were first used by Britain as maritime patrol aircraft. The Army Air Corps delayed their delivery of these early B-24's so they could receive  newer, more capable aircraft. The first American B-24's were delivered on July 10, 1941. The first B-24 to be lost to enemy action was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The first mass produced version of the B-24 was the D model, first delivered in January of 1942.  The 93rd Bomb Group and four other groups, the 98th, 376th, 44th and 389th, flew B-24Ds on a famous raid over the Ploesti oilfields in Romania on August 1, 1943. The attack was made at low level (100-150 feet) in an unsuccessful attempt to surprise the defenses. The Groups incurred very heavy losses, but the importance of depriving the enemy of vital petroleum products was thought to justify the losses.

The B-24M-5-CO at Castle Air Museum was delivered to the Navy as a PB4Y-1, BuAer No. 90165. It was assigned as a patrol aircraft based at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina where it was converted into a transport for the Commandant of the Marine Corps. After the war,  it was sold to a private firm for a proposed trip around the world. Later, it carried cattle carcasses and other cargo in South America. It was recovered in La Paz, Bolivia and shipped by surface transport to Castle. Extensive restoration work by museum volunteers was required to return the aircraft to its present World War II era bomber configuration. It displays the early 1944 markings of the 329th Bomb. Squadron, 93rd Bomb. Group, 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force.