B-24 Liberator

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The Lend-lease program in 1942 allocated Britain 164 B-24Ds designated Liberator III, and 204 Liberator GR. V with Coastal Command radar and equipment. Deliveries began with early B-24Ds rushed in March 1942, followed by a flow thru modification centers and other transfer, losing about six in transit by 1943. The anti-submarine patrols of 120 Squadron was soon joined by seven more squadrons scoring kills in the Atlantic.

A nine-place B-24D-60-CO, GR. V, was loaded with 3,393 U.S. gallons of fuel and eight 270-pound depth charges to a gross weight of 62,169 pounds. A 16.45-hour patrol was flown at an average speed of 160 mph and an altitude of 2,500 feet. Equipment included an APS-15 radar in the nose, a Boulton Paul tail turret with four .303-caliber guns, and three .50-caliber guns in the nose and waist, but no upper or belly turret, armor, or oxygen were carried.

Another B-24D-21-CF version had the radome in place of the belly turret, a Leigh light outboard of the right engines, and carried the same weapons with 3,193 gallons. Gross weight for a 15.5-hour patrol was 60,981 pounds. CONSOLIDATED B-24L-5-CO

Nose turrets were provided on the Liberator B.VI (1,049 B-24J and 164 B-24L), Liberator GR.VI (287 B-24J), and Liberator B.VIII (38 B-24J and 72 B-24L), and Liberator GR.VIII (182 B-24J and 130 B-24L) bombers, while 24 Liberator C-VII (C-87) and 48 Liberator C-IX (RY-3) were provided as cargo versions. When the LB-30 versions are included, the RAF gained 2,015 Liberators, less those lost in transit.

In addition to the anti-submarine, transport, and special units in Britain, about 900 were flown to heavy bomber units in the Middle East and India. A special RAF unit for ECM work, Nr. 223 Squadron, had 18 B-24H and 10 B-24J-30s transferred from the Eighth Air Force, and their modifications were also incorporated into some AAF aircraft.

Australia received 13 B-24D, 144 B-24J, 83 B-24L, and 47 B-24M Liberators, for a total of 287. Canada’s Nr. 10 Squadron at Gander replaced its B-18As with 15 GR VIs in May 1943, equipped with APS-15 radar, usually in the chin radome, and six .50-caliber guns, mounted in the nose, waist, tunnel, and Convair tail turret. Another four B-24D, 38 B-24J, 16 B-24L, and four B-24M bombers were added by 1945. An operational training squadron at Boundary Bay also borrowed 40 RAF Mk. VIs in 1944.


An AAF Ferry Command B-24D was stranded at Yakutsk in November 1942, and the USSR also got a 404th Bomb Squadron B-24D-10-CO that made an emergency landing in Kamchatka in September 1943. That Liberator was placed in the 45th Long-Range Bomber Air Division, the only VVS group with Pe-8 four-engine bombers, on October 23, 1943. In April 1944, the VVS requested 540 B-24 or B-17 bombers, but the AAF preferred that American units operate any strategic bombers from Soviet bases. Neither side was granted its wish.

As more American crews landed damaged bombers in Soviet-held territory, the 45th BAD-DD added aircraft to replace Pe-8s. By July 1, 1945, that division included 19 B-24s with the 25th Guards ADD Regiment and 17 B-17s with the 890th BAP, as well as 44 B-25s and 26 surviving Pe-8s. Then the 203rd Guards Bomber Air Regiment was assigned all the B-24s for long-range training, with 21 of the 29 salvaged still in flying condition in October 1945, after the war ended. CONSOLIDATED XB-24N

China received 37 B-24Ms in 1945, too late to fight Japan, but they were used in the civil war. On June 26, 1946, a B-24M flown to Yenan became the first of 26 aircraft with 69 Nationalist pilots to defect to the Communists. A Taiwan-based B-24M raid on Communist-held Shanghai on February 6, 1950, killed over 1,400 civilians, and caused the first request to Stalin for a VVS MiG-15 regiment to block more attacks from Taiwan. Soviet MiGs and pilots arrived, and a Liberator shot down on May 11 ended the last combat missions.

Most Liberators, of course, were processed for scrap metal after the war. Some survived many transfers, but the last Liberators in service were among 42 ex-RAF B-24Js flown by two Indian Air Force reconnaissance squadrons from 1948 to 1968.

Flying alone on anti-sub patrols, or in mass formations deep into enemy territory, Liberators were seen from Alaska to the Indian Ocean, and often their missions were as dangerous and violent as the famous low-level attack on Ploesti on August 1, 1943. Their service has been recorded in many wartime histories, and a Liberator enthusiasts’ club still publicized its career a generation after the war.