the gist

THE goods

Past and Present

The Liberator was the most-produced military aircraft in American history: 18,482 copies were built by Ford and Consolidated Aircraft in plants from Willow Run, MI to Fort Worth, TX to San Diego, CA.

Today, only two 24s remain airworthy: "Diamond Lil," a B-24A operated by the Commemorative Air Force out of Texas, and "Witchcraft," a B-24J flown by the Collings Foundation of Masasachusetts.  The video at right uses archival footage combined with video of "Witchcraft," giving the public a chance to ride in a B-24 for a steep but worthwhile ticket price.

Though much of the airborne combat footage in this video was taken in a B-17, it still gives a heart-pounding idea as to the excitement and danger associated with flying in a heavy bomber in WWII.

Flying the Liberator

"This is a serious film. It is not entertainment." So begins this nevertheless fascinating training film, obviously intended to demystify training in the B-24D, which at the time was the most complex machine ever created: over 1.5 million parts made up an incredibly powerful aircraft with a four ton payload, a 3000 mile range, and a maximum speed of 300 mph. At the time it cost $300,000 to build.

The B-24 was reputedly hard to fly (the Davis wing had marvelous flight characteristics) but it required several men to do so: while the pilot steered, the co-pilot manned the gauges and the engineer scanned the fuel and flight systems. The navigator sighted the sun or stars and the bombardier armed his bombs and literally flew the aircraft the last few minutes on a bomb run utilizing a control system linked to his top-secret Norden bombsight.

B-24 Liberator

David Davis believed he could create a wing that would greatly increase the load-carrying capability of a heavy bomber without increasing its weight and thus decreasing its range.

No one believed him until a mock-up of the wing was tested in the USC wind tunnel and everyone was surprised at the astonishing characteristics. Except Davis, who accepted thereafter the name for his wing as the "Davis Wing."

Thus the crucial characteristic of the next generation bomber was born. The B-17 Flying Fortress was a great plane, for sure, but it lacked range. It would do for the short sorties in the European conflict, but in the Pacific, the Army Air Force needed an aircraft with a 3,000 mile range, long enough to take the war to the enemy and return safely. Only the B-24 could do that.