Consolidated Aircraft B-24 "Liberator"
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 Ploieti 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.
The following images are the work of many years of collecting, searching, reserarching, investigating, and doing more research. Hundreds of emails have gone around the world to try and identify those planes assigned to the 445th Bomb Group; how many missions they flew; the name (if one was given by a crew); and what became of the plane. Sadly, none of the planes that flew with the 445th survived the RFC's scrap reclaimation. Of the 19,256 B-24 Liberators, in all variants, only 2 aircraft are currently flyable. The Commemorative Air Force has a B-24A/LB-30, tail number 40-2366 that was aircraft #18 off Consolidated's San Diego assembly line. The other aircraft is a B-24J obtained from the Indian Air Force and is being flown by the Collings Foundation of Stow, MA
The other flyable B-24 is a 'J' model that was recovered from the Indian Air Force. This B-24J is the only one flying in a 'combat ready' configuration to allow passengers to see what it was like in flight.