Nose view of Liberator VI

Nose view of Liberator VI

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Nose view of Liberator VI

This view of the nose of a Liberator VI gives a good view of the nose turret with the bomb aimer's position below, the nose wheel, the vision dome above the navigator's position, the main cockpit and the upper gun turret.

Many thanks to Ken Creed for sending us these pictures, which were taken by his wife's uncle Terry Ruff during his time with No.357 Squadron, a special operations unit that operated over Burma, Malaya and Sumatra.

22 Stunning Pictures of the Legendary Me-262, the First Jet Aircraft!

The Messerschmitt Me-262 was the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. and also the world’s first mass-produced jet fighter. The first successful flight of a jet Me-262 occurred on the 18th of July, 1942.

The aircraft had two nicknames: Schwalbe (“Swallow”) for the fighter version, or Sturmvogel (“Storm Bird”) for the fighter-bomber version.

Design work started before World War II began, but engine problems, metallurgical problems and top-level interference kept the aircraft from operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944.

The Me-262 was faster and more heavily-armed than any Allied fighter, including the British jet-powered Gloster Meteor.

Pilots of this aircraft claimed a total of 542 allied kills, though claims for the number are often higher than what was actually shot down.

Captured Me 262s were studied and flight tested by the major powers, and ultimately influenced the designs of a number of post-war aircraft such as the North American F-86 Sabre and Boeing B-47 Stratojet.

German Scout Messerschmitt Me-262 A-Ia/U3 “Lady Jess IV”, captured by the Americans. In the background is visible a part of another Messerschmitt ME-262 [Via] Underground manufacture of Me 262s [Bundesarchiv, Bild 141-2738 / CC-BY-SA 3.0] Captured by the British, Messerschmitt Me-262 at the airfield in Lubeck. In the background, on the right – a German Junkers Ju-88 [Via] Technicians inspect a German jet fighter Messerschmitt Me-262V7, serial number 130303 at the airport in Germany after the surrender of Germany [Via] Damaged German fighter Messerschmitt Me-262, captured by US Army in Salzburg. The engine fighter is set with the German anti-tank mine Tellermine 42. Probably this machine was prepared for demolition. Rauchen Verboten means “no smoking” [Via] A pair of Messerschmitt Me-262A-1a, 1st Squadron 51th Bomber Squadron (1.KG51) on the sidelines of the route Munich – Salzburg [Via] Test pilot and an engineer, Lieutenant Colonel Andrei Kochetkov conduct test flights jet aircraft Me-262 [Via] Photo of the same Me-262 as above during the start [Via]

Me-262 is ready to fly [Via]

Jet fighter Messerschmitt Me-262A-1a (III / EJG 2) [Via] Me-262 A, circa 1944 [Bundesarchiv, Bild 141-2497 / CC-BY-SA 3.0] Me-262B-1a/U1 night fighter, Wrknr. 110306, with Neptun radar antenna on the nose and second seat for a radar operator [Via] Pilots of the 44th Fighter Division (Jagdverband 44) and jet fighters Messerschmitt Me-262A-1a [Via] Cockpit of the Me-262 [Via] German experimental fighter Messerschmitt Me-262 A-1a / U4 (serial number 170083), captured by US troops at the factory in Augsburg. This one was equipped with Rheinmetall Mauser BK5 50mm gun 940 rounds per minute, 22 projectile ammunition) [Via] German fighter jets Messerschmitt Me-262B-1a/U1. The first two visible aircraft have installed “Neptun” radar antenna FuG 218. Photo taken after the surrender of Germany [Via] This airframe, Wrknr. 111711, was the first Me-262 to come into Allied hands when its test pilot defected in March 1945. It was subsequently lost in August 1946, the US test pilot parachuting to safety [Via] US Staff Sergeant inspects a crashed German fighter Me-262A-1a bearing the number 󈬆 White” from the 44th Fighter Group (Jagdverband 44, JV 44). The group is a special fighter unit and manned by the best fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe during the last months of World War II [Via] A Jumo 004 engine is being investigated by Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory engineers of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1946 [NASA – GPN-2000-000369] Destroyed by Allied bombing, jet fighters Messerschmitt Me-262 [Via] American officers and dismantled Messerschmitt Me-262 at the airfield near Frankfurt. Note the shells of MK-108 gun next to the aircraft [Via] American bomber B-24 “Liberator” (serial number 44-50838) of the 448th Bombardment Group, shot down by R4M missiles of a Messerschmitt Me-262. Only one member of the crew survived, he landed on the enemy territory and was captured [Via] Photo of Luftwaffe Me-262 being shot down by USAF P-51 Mustang of the 8th Air Force, as seen from the P-51’s gun camera [Via]

Orthographically projected diagram of the Messerschmitt Me 262 [Via]

Article written by Forest Garner

An American B-24 Liberator in flight.

First flown on 29 December 1939, the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation's B-24 Liberator came along more than four years after the famous and popular Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, and showed somewhat improved range and payload capabilities over the Fortress. Still, the performance was in most respects quite comparable, and one might question why the B-24 was built at all. Most, but not all, of the missions flown by B-24s were feasible with B-17s with comparable bomb loads. The B-24 was more difficult to fly, especially with one or more engines out, and much less survivable when forced to ditch in the ocean. The B-24 was also noticeably more expensive than the B-17 (averaging $295,516 per B-24 versus $223,742 per B-17) and all other major USAAF combat aircraft of the war, excepting only the much more advanced Boeing B-29 ($619,000).

More of the B-24 and its derivatives were built than any other multi-engine aircraft of the Second World War, and more than any other American aircraft in history. Sources seem to disagree on how many Liberators were built, with totals usually quoted between 18,188 and 19,203, making the Liberator about six percent of total American wartime production. The differences in the totals are probably due to the extremely complex production program. First production was at the Consolidated factory in San Diego, California. As orders increased, this factory was rapidly expanded until it employed 45,000 people and eventually built 6,724 examples of the complex B-24. Demand for the B-24 was such that even this impressive production was inadequate. Convair (Consolidated merged with Vultee in 1941 to form Convair) set up an additional factory in Fort Worth, Texas, and 30,000 workers built 3,034 additional Liberators there. Additionally, Douglas Aircraft Corporation built about 964 B-24s in its factory in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and North American Aviation built about 966 in Dallas, Texas. The largest Liberator factory was Ford's huge new factory built at Willow Run, Michigan, which turned out 6,792 completed aircraft and 1,893 disassembled, crated airframes for final assembly elsewhere. In 1944, the Willow Run factory alone turned out 92,000,000 pounds (42,000,000 kg) of airframes, nearly equaling the production of the entire Japanese aircraft industry that year, or almost half of the entire German output. Peak production by all factories produced a B-24 every 55 minutes. These factories and several major depots also performed many conversions, often of hundreds of aircraft. This lead to more than sixty different designations for variations of the B-24 airframe. There were bomber, patrol bomber, reconnaissance, cargo, tanker, trainer, experimental, civil, and other variants.

All versions of the Liberator were powered by the Pratt and Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp, a 14-cylinder air cooled radial engine. The XB-24 prototype and the six LB-30A models had R-1830-33 engines without superchargers. Subsequent versions of the B-24, including bomber, cargo, and trainer variants and the US Navy's PB4Y-1 had General Electric turbo-superchargers to enhance performance at high altitudes. The PB4Y-2 dispensed with turbo-superchargers because their patrol bomber missions were expected to be strictly low-altitude operations.

The aircraft featured a high-mounted full-cantilever wing spanning 33.5 m, and most had twin tail. The last aircraft variants based on the B-24 airframe, the XB-24K, XB-24N, YB-24N, and PB4Y-2, had a large single tail fin. The wing was called the Davis Wing after David R. Davis, the man who conceived the wing's advanced profile. When first tested in a wind tunnel at the California Institute of Technology, CalTech's engineers were hesitant to report the results because the wing showed efficiency that exceeded what was thought possible, and exceeded that of other contemporary wings by about 20 percent. Though the wing, stabilizers, and fins were all-metal, the ailerons, elevators, and rudders were fabric-covered. All versions of the Liberator had tricycle undercarriage.

The semi-monocoque fuselage had a boxy cross section. Bomber crews took full advantage of the flat sides, often painting extravagant artwork, and usually including a provocative female on the nose of the aircraft. The bomb bay doors were a unique design which rolled up the sides to reveal two racks in each of the two bays. A narrow catwalk between the racks allowed brave crewmen to transit between the forward and aft fuselage sections, or to service the bombs and racks.

Early versions of the B-24 were heavily armed by pre-war standards, the B-24A having two .30 caliber machine guns in the tail and six .50 caliber weapons (one in the nose, one in a ventral position, two in an upper turret, and one on each side at the waist positions). Early in the war, both the RAF and the USAAF found this armament inadequate, and additional machine guns were added in subsequent versions.

The first major production variant was the B-24D, of which 2,738 were built. This aircraft was 20.2 m in length, spanned 33.5 m, weighed 15,413 kg empty and 27,216 kg loaded. Powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 (later R-1830-65) engines of 1,200 hp, the maximum speed was 303 mph. Armament was initially 9 .50 caliber machine guns. Late B-24Ds received a retractable Sperry ball turret instead of the single ventral gun, giving a total of ten .50 caliber weapons. Officially, the B-24D could carry up to 8,000 pounds of bombs internally. Potential maximum internal loads were 20 100-pound bombs, 12 500-pound bombs, 8 1,000-pound bombs, or 4 2,000-pound bombs. Over Europe, B-24s delivered an average of about 4,600 pounds (2,090 kg) of bombs per sortie, as did B-17s. In comparison with the contemporary B17F, the B-24D cruised a little faster, but also a bit lower.

The USAAF and US Navy quickly perceived a need for vast numbers of B-24s, and five large factories were eventually set up for B-24 construction. The B-24D was built by Consolidated Vultee in San Diego, California (2,425 built) and in Fort Worth, Texas (303 built), and by Douglas Aircraft Corporation in Tulsa, Oklahoma (10 built).

The B-24E was very similar to the B-24D, but had different propellers. Consolidated produced 144 of the B-24E, while Douglas built 167, and Ford built 490 in its huge, newly constructed factory at Willow Run, Michigan.

The next major production variant was the B-24G, which was also similar to the B-24D, but introduced a power-operated nose turret. North American built 430 of these in its Dallas factory.

The B-24H added detail improvements, including Emerson electric nose and tail turrets and improved waist gun mounts. Consolidated, Douglas, and Ford built 3.100 of these.

The B-24J was the most numerous production variant, with 6,678 being produced by all four manufacturers. It included improved nose and tail turrets, jettisonable waist gun mounts, a new autopilot, and an improved bombsight. Ford and Consolidated also built 1,667 of the B-24L, and 2,593 of the B-24M, which featured variations in the tail gun turrets.

The US Navy acquired many B-24Ds from the USAAF for anti-submarine operations, and also 977 of the PB4Y-1, which were either converted from the B-24D with the addition of an Erco nose turret, or from the B-24J, B-24L, or B-24M with a Consolidated nose turret. Later came 736 of the much-modified PB4Y-2, with unsupercharged engines, single tail, two upper turrets, no ball turret, twin guns in each waist position, an extra 2.1 m added to the length of the fuselage, and many other improvements. The PB4Y-2 was so modified that it got a different name, being called Privateer.

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.

Service in the Atlantic Ocean

The Liberator contributed heavily in the Atlantic battles. According to one author, RAF Coastal Command Liberators sank, or assisted in sinking, 70 U-boats, starting with U-597 sunk off Iceland 12 October, 1942 by No. 120 Squadron. Four of these kills were made by Czech pilots of RAF No. 311 Squadron. Some of No. 311 Squadron's Liberators were equipped with four 5-inch rockets on airfoil-shaped mounts forward of the bomb bays, and such rockets were used in sinking one U-boat.

USAAF Liberators participated in sinking 10 U-boats, while US Navy Liberators added 13 more.

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.

Service over Europe

The most famous Liberator mission was made from the Benghazi area of Libya on 1 August, 1943 by 179 B-24s of the USAAF IX Bomber Command. The targets were seven refineries near Ploesti, Rumania, well out of reach of any other Allied bomber at that time. While the target was badly damaged, it was quickly repaired. Two bombers crashed on or shortly after take-off, 12 aborted, 43 were shot down by the enemy, 56 others received significant battle damage, and 8 were interned in Turkey. Only 99 returned to their own bases, while 15 others managed to land in other Allied-controlled areas.

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.

There are many who believe the Liberator was not as tough as the B-17 against the fierce opposition over Europe. There are various arguments as to the validity of this assessment. One might point out that the highest losses of any 8th Air Force bomb group was achieved by a B-17 unit, but this is not entirely fair because B-17 and B-24 groups often did not hit the same targets. It is enough to say that both types did the job they had to do.

U-boats sunk by this aircraft type (B-24)

Oct U-597, U-216, U-599, Dec U-611,

Feb U-529, U-623, Mar U-524, Apr U-635, U-632, U-189, U-332, May
U-109, U-456, U-258, U-304, Jun U-200, Jul U-628, U-535, U-951,
U-514, U-435, U-506, U-558 +, U-598, U-404 +, Aug U-706 +, U-84,
U-468, Sep U-341, Oct U-389, U-419, U-643, U-470, U-844, U-964,
U-540, U-274 +, Nov U-848 +, U-966 +, U-508, U-280, U-849, Dec U-391,

Jan U-271, Feb U-177, May U-990, U-292, Jun U-629, U-373, U-740,
U-821 +, U-988, U-971 +, U-317, U-441 +, U-478 +, Jul U-319, U-347, Aug
U-608 +, U-618 +, Sep U-867, U-863, Oct U-256 +,

Feb U-1279 +, Mar U-681, U-1106, Apr U-1017, U-1107, May U-534, U-579 +,
U-1008, U-3523,

72 U-boats lost to B-24 aircraft. + means that the B-24 shared the credit for the sinking.

Selected media links

World War II’s Most Famous Ghost Plane

“Still waiting for help, still praying.” It’s one of the last entries in the diary of Lieutenant Robert F. Toner, co-pilot of the Consolidated B-24D known as Lady Be Good. The Liberator and its crew disappeared on the crew’s first combat mission, following a raid on Naples on April 4, 1943. But the wreck wasn’t discovered until 1958, in Libya, by an exploration team employed by D’Arcy Oil Company (later British Petroleum). No human remains were found at the crash site, which increased the mystery. When members of a follow-up expedition, in 1959, “found water, still fresh enough to drink, coffee that still had coffee flavor, machine guns and radios still in working order” (reported the Atlanta Constitution), the aircraft’s disappearance and subsequent recovery captivated the public, and legends sprang up regarding the fate of the aircraft and crew.

The history of Lady Be Good was the topic of a recent talk at the National Air and Space Museum, given by Roger Connor, of the Aeronautics Department. Connor discussed the history of the aircraft’s discovery and the fate of the crew, who bailed out before the crash. (The remains of eight of the nine airmen were recovered at varying distances from the crash site—they survived eight days in the desert with virtually no supplies Toner’s diary, which chronicles their last days, was found in his pocket.)

In a nod to Halloween, Connor covered some of the more fanciful legends about the crew (one of which has them captured by Bedouins and enslaved), and recounted the rumor that parts from the crashed B-24 were installed in other aircraft, which then also mysteriously crashed (a nice story, but not true). A couple of items from Lady Be Good are in the Museum’s collection, including the aircraft’s directional gyro and artificial horizon, and its turn and bank indicator.

You can watch Connor’s entire talk below, and read our story about the Lady That Didn’t Come Home (and other aviation mysteries).

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, built by Consolidated Aircraft. It was produced in greater numbers than any other American combat aircraft of WW II.

The Consolidated B-24 WWII Liberator Heavy Bomber

Towards the end of the war, Rosie and friends were knocking out a B-24 Liberator Heavy Bomber every 100 minutes AND they built over 18,000 in all!! You'll enjoy about twice as much time of modeling fun building this one. Cyber Model is best when printed on sheets of aluminum colored paper with a laser printer.

B-24 Liberator Heavy Bomber

History of these beautiful birds.
In time of war, the finest bomber design is of little value unless it can be produced easily and in sufficient numbers. Mass production became the order of the day and American Industry excelled at it! At the Consolidated Vultee facility at San Diego, CA. Liberators were moving along at 8 1/2 inches per minute. This plant turned out more than 6,500 of these bombers. Altogether, 18,482 Liberator bombers were built- nine major variants- a vastly greater number than any other heavy bomber type.

This is the Consolidated B24 model that won the FG Modeling Madness (FGMM) 2010 best in class prize.
Thanks to Kevin Stephens who donated his $20 prize money toward modeling materials for hospitalized vets!!

My friend Raymond Dugdale, who has fought in both WWI and the Korean War, told me a story about his encounter with David R. Davis, the engineer who designed the Davis wing section. This design was used in the B-24 made by Consolidated. When Raymond was young he made model airplanes, and also silhouettes used for aircraft recognition by the War pilots. He lived in Butte, Montana, and mowed lawns, one of which was for Mr. Owsley, the druggist. Mr. Owsley’s daughter was in one of Raymond’s classes. She was also a friend of Mr. Davis’s daughter, whom she invited for a visit. Word got out that Raymond was making models, and Mr. Davis came out to talk to Raymond. He offered to give him the specs for his wing section, which he claimed was much better than others. Raymond accepted his gracious offer, especially since he was entered into a model airplane competition for the next day. Raymond worked that night to replace his model’s wings with wings of the same size of Mr. Davis’s dimensions. He entered his new model into the competition the following day. His airplane flew high, and kept on flying until it was out of sight. It never was seen again. Needless to say, Raymond won that competition. - by Tama Genovese

As you know, many B-24's were made here in Michigan at Willow Run, about an hour's drive from where I live now near Selfridge ANG Base in Mt. Clemens. We Michigainians have a soft spot for B-24's, I remember as a young lad watching hundreds fly over our house after leaving the assembly plant at Willow Run

With a little altering of the nose, it would be easy to make B-24J's as well. Just think of all the different nose art models one could fit on a CD. And don't forget assembly ships, their to colorful to leave out. Just going to have to buy the CD when it comes out. It will be just like waiting for the DVD of the Aviator. Thanks Don Kenske Thanks for the help with the B-24 model. I downloaded it and it looks great. (I have already started on "Strawberry" of course. :-) You guys are the best. -Mark Just a few lines to say thanks for the B-24s, I'm new to card modeling and 'Gramps' was only my second attempt, so my effort doesn't look fantastic (down to me) but my 2 1/2 year-old daughter thinks it's great! (get them while they're young) Gets hours of amusement 'flying' around the house, I also think she uses it to beat the dog, then brings it into me for rapid repair - so far new port wing, tail and nose - all good practice - couldn't see myself letting her lose with a plastic kit. Regards-nick

These '24's are REALLY smooth and classy. Cliff in Odessa, TX

Thank you for the B-24! As usual, John Dell at his best. Hope to see more 'big aircraft' either military or civilian version. Keep it up. Regards. Kit

Chip, Thank you! These are beautiful! --David

How about the B-24's turned into cargo aircraft flying over the Hump into China? My father-in-law road on them a few times. They took off the guns and closed things up. Not a very fun mission, but a lot of people depended on the supplies. Dennis

. You know, I just remembered that it's thanks to paper models that I've become lots closer to my father-in-law in the last several years. He's a very conservative, closed mouth guy, and for a long time we both assumed that we had absolutely nothing in common. One summer while visiting I pulled out the FG model of the B-24 and started to work on it. Stan, my father-in-law, looked over my shoulder and said that he was a ground-crew chief for B-24's during WWII here in the US. "Really? Tell me more!" Well, he started talking about the planes, unauthorized flights around the field, company buddies, trips to town, etc. Turned out he was a treasure trove of experiences and stories, most of which my wife had never heard before! As a young man from coal country in rural Pennsylvania, where Polish was spoken at home and at church, the war was quite an eye-opener for him. Further, he was thrilled to have found someone eager to listen to these dusty old tales. Over the next few days he pulled out old photo albums, citations, and a box full of memorabilia he had not looked at in nearly 50 years. We had a grand old time, and in the last few years the two of us have gone to the New England Air Museum several times times together. Planes turned out to be the common ground we needed on which to build a friendship, and now we get along quite nicely. (I gave him the B-24 when I was finished, and for a long time it hung from the ceiling over the dining room table.) Kell Black (12/16/01)

Thanks for the liberator model, it looks great with clear windows as a mobile with ww2 fighters hanging from wings, nose and tail, my 6-year old loves it. Glen 12/03

I am just finishing the B-24 kit. I am really pleased with the model. It looks great. I am going to give it to an old B-24 bomber pilot on his birthday next month. I am also going to give him a copy of your historical information. Thanks for the nice models! Stan Zdziarski

This "Strawberry Bitch" Nose model is included in the Consolidated B-24 folder

My father, "Andy" Giordano was a nose gunner ( B-24J model- Emerson Turret) with the 513th Squadron of the 376th Bomb Group during 1944 and 1945. Dad is alive and well at 83 years old. About 1997, I started to locate former members of his crew and was surprised that I couldn't find any information about them online, so I built a web site for the Group and was webmaster from 1998 to 2003. I gave the position up for a bit, but recently returned as webmaster. I am anxiously awaiting Johns "J' model version, as this was what my father flew most of his missions in! Sincerely, Robert J. Giordan Website Coordinator [email protected] Word is getting around! At our yearly IPMS contest, I overheard one of the registration guys suggesting to a father and his two young sons that a good way to get into modeling is to start with paper ones, he specifically recommended fiddlersgreen. I interrupted and told the father to check out the one I was entering to see what they were like.
The registration guy asked what I had, I told him John Dell's B-24, he said Strawberry Bitch, I said, yup. He said he had that one hanging in his basement as well. They still make me enter in the Miscellaneous category, though. I took second place again this year, lost out to a bridge (it was really big).

After the show was over, one of the judges came over and said that there was a big discussion as to whether the B-24 should get first place, as he said that they are familiar with what it takes to make a really good paper model. So, I guess we're converting some of the plastic modeling guys, now. Plus, you ever check out the price of some of those? I don't think I'll ever be buying one anymore! Neal

Although overshadowed by the B-17 Flying Fortress, the Liberator had a number of virtues that made it a much more sought after bomber: It was fast (300 mph at 30,000 feet), capable of carrying 8000 LB of bombs, and had an operational range of approximately 2290 miles.

The prototype XB-24 flew in 12/39 and the first deliveries were made 1941 to the RAF. It's worth was soon realized when it served as a reconnaissance aircraft, submarine bomber, VIP transport, and ferried pilots and personnel across the North Atlantic.

Heavily armed and possessing long range, the Mighty B-24 Liberator helped the Allies to take and maintain control of the vital seaplanes.

Liberators dropped more than 635,000 tons of bombs on Europe, Africa. and the Pacific and shot down 4,189 enemy aircraft. In combat the B-24 tended to burn more easily than the B-17, and when damaged, was inclined to break up during a wheels-up landing.

This was due to its very complex construction: In particular, the wing was relatively weak and in many cases, if hit in the crucial places, it gave away completely. Photographic records of WWII show B-24s plummeting from the sky with their two wings folded upwards like those of a butterfly.

5,000 lbs on a normal range of 2,850 miles or 12,800 lbs(!) on shorter missions

The Props were three bladed and similar to the props on the C-47 Skytrain.

Readers with memories of World War II aircraft will recall the big, ugly, seemingly slow Consolidated B-24 Liberator. In the European theatre, of course, it was much over-shadowed by the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, and to those with no detailed knowledge of military aircraft it often comes as something of a shock to learn that not only was Consolidated's Liberator built in considerably greater numbers than the B-17, but it was the most extensively produced of the USA's wartime aircraft.

The origins of the Liberator stretch back to the earlylmid-1930s, an era in which projects such as the Boeing XB-15 and Douglas XB-19, and development of the B-17, brought a far wider knowledge and appreciation of the 'big bomber'. The Liberator represents the next generation, its evolution spurred by the tense political situation in Europe and the growing threat of Japanese militancy. In January 1939 the US Army Air Corps invited Consolidated to prepare a design study for a heavy bomber with performance superior to that of the B-l7.

Consolidated wasted little time in submitting a design proposal, identifying it as the Consolidated Model 32 and, as long range was paramount, it was designed round the Davis wing, first introduced on the company's Model 31 flying-boat design, of which a prototype was then nearing completion. In reaching a decision togo ahead with prototype construction of the Model 32, the US Army almost matched the speed set by Consolidated, and in awarding the contract on 30 March 1939 they maintained the tempo, insisting that construction of the prototype, designated XS-24, must be completed by the end of the year. This was achieved by the company, with the first flight being made on 29 December 1939.

In size the XB-24 was marginally smaller than the Fortress except in span in terms of wlng.area that of the XB-24 was approximately 26 per cent less, emphasizing the high aspect ratio of the Davis wing, To ensure maximum capacity within the fuselage structure, the wing was high-mounted in shoulder wing configuration, and to provide good low-speed handling characteristics and an acceptable landing speed, wide-span Fowler-type trailing-edge flaps were fitted. Construction of the fuselage was conventional, but deep in section to allow for installation of a bomb bay which could accommodate up to 3629 kg (8,000 lb) of bombs stowed vertically. The bay was divided into two sections by the fuselage keel beam, this being utilized to provide a catwalk for crew transition between the fore and aft sections of the fuselage.

The most unusual feature of the bomb-bay was the provision of unique 'roller shutter' doors which retracted within the fuselage when opened for attack, causing less drag than conventional bomb-bay doors. The tail unit, with its easily recognizable oval-shaped endplate fins and rudders, was generally similar to that developed for the Model 31 flying boat. Retractable tricycle landing gear and four wing-mounted 895-kW (1,200hp) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33 Twin Wasp engines completed the configuration.

Even before the prototype had flown, Consolidated had begun to receive orders for its new bomber, These included seven of the service test Y

24 and 36 of the initial production S-24A models for the USAAC, and 120 aircraft 'off the drawing board' for a French purchasing mission. Early flight tests proved successful, but to meet the USAAC specification some development was necessary to achieve higher speed however, there was no doubt that the XB-24 was able to demonstrate excellent long-range capability. Furthermore, the large-volume fuselage lent itself to adaptation to fulfil other roles and it was this versatility combined with long range that was the key to success for the B-24.

The XB-24 was followed during 1940 by the seven YB-24s for service trials, and these differed from the prototype by the provision of pneumatic dc-icing boots for the leading-edges of wings, tailplane and fins. By the time that the first production aircraft began to come off the line at San Diego, France had already capitulated, and the aircraft of the French order were completed to British requirements, as specified in an order for 164 which had been placed soon after that of 120 for France: the French order was later transferred to Britain.

B-24 D, 93rd BOMB GROUP, USAAF, HARDWICK, UK, 1943 Standard Olive Drab and Neutral Gray finish with the short-lived red-outline to the national insignia, individual aircraft letter (N) on the lower fin and group symbol above, overlapping on to the rudder. This was the oldest B-24 Group in the 8th AF and flew more missions than any other unit. After the war the unit flew the B-29, B-47 and, more recently, the B-52

B-24D-90 491st BOMB GROUP, USAAF, NORTH PICKENHAM, UK, AUTUMN1944 To assist the huge 8th AF bomber formations to form up in the right order and position, each group had a brightly-painted lead ship on which the rest of the unit would format. This done, the lead ship would head for home, leaving the group to the mission. Little Gramper is typical and, like most lead ships, was a war-weary aircraft.


Anti U-boat patrols over the Atlantic was one of the tasks of these aircraft based in the west of England. Colors were non-specular Sea Blue on the top surfaces, intermediate blue on the vertical surfaces with Insignia white undersides.

The USME began to receive its first B-24As and these, duplicating the role of the LB-3OAs in the UK were allocated first to equip the Air Corps Ferrying Command, operating similar services across the North Atlantic as those of RAF Ferry Command. The first true operational bomber version, however, was the Liberator Mk II (Consolidated LU-30L for which there was no USMF equivalent. It differed from the Liberator Mk I primarily by having the fuselage nose extended 0.79 m (2 ft 7 ml by the insertion of a 'plug', by accommodating a maximum crew of l0 and by the installation of Boulton Paul power-operated turrets, each housing four7.7-mm (0.303-in) machine guns in mid-upper and rear fuselage positions. The RAF received 139 of this version and when Nos 159 and 160 Squadrons began operations with their Liberators in the Middle East in June 1942, they were the first to deploy these aircraft in a bombing role. One aircraft of this batch (At504) became the personal transport of Britain's prime minister, Winston Churchill, operated under the name Commando.

Meanwhile, the XB-24 prototype had been modified to a new XR-24B standard, introducing self-sealing fuel tanks and armour, but the most significant improvement was the installation of turbo charged R-1830-41 engines. This resulted in the second of the Liberator's easily identifiable features, oval-shaped nacelles, entailed by the relocation of the oil coolers in the sides of the front cowlings. With the introduction of these features, plus dorsal and tail turrets each with two 12.7-mm 10,5-in) machine-guns to supplement the original hand-held guns in beam and nose positions, nine aircraft were produced for the USAAF with the designation R-24C.

They were followed by the in-24D, the first major production variant and the first to be employed operationally by USMF bomber squadrons. This differed initially by the installation of R-1830-43 engines, but subsequent production batches introduced progressive changes in armament, provision of auxiliary fuel in the outer wings, increases in gross weight and bomb load, and in some late production examples external bomb racks below the inner wing for the carriage of two 1814-kg (4,000-Ib) bombs. In RAF service the B-24D was designated Uberstor Mk Ill: Uberator Mk EllA identified similar aircraft supplied under Lend Lease with US armament and equipment. Most Liberator Mk III/IIIA's served with Coastal Command, eventually equipping 12 squadrons. A total of 122 was modified extensively in the UK, receiving ASV radar equipment including chin and retractable ventral radomes, a Leigh Light for the illumination of targets at night especially surfaced U-boats), increased fuel capacity, but reduced armament, armour and weapon load. These were designated Liberator GA. Mk V.

Some were provided with small stub wings on the forward fuselage to carry eight rocket projectiles. The USMF also operated A-24Ds in an anti-submarine role, and in 1942 the US Navy began to receive small numbers of this version under the designation PB4Y-1. However, at the end of August 1943 the USAAF disbanded its Anti-Submarine Command, handing over its aircraft to the US Navy in exchange for an equivalent number of aircraft of bomber configuration to be produced against outstanding US Navy orders. These ex-USMF B-24s, which were equipped with ASV radar, were also designated PB4y-1 by the US Navy. This service later acquired the specially-developed PB4Y-2 privateer, which introduced a new tail unit with a single tall fin and rudder, a lengthened forward fuselage, changes in the armament to provide a maximum of 12 12.7-mm (0.5-in) machine-guns, and the installation of Pratt & Whitney R-1830-94 Twin Wasp engines without turbochargers.

The deployment of USAAF B-24Ds in the Middle East began in June1942, one of the first operations being launched by 13 aircraft against the Romanian oilfields at Ploesti on 11/12 June 1942. All 13 aircraft completed what the USAAF described as 'an unsuccessful attack. its only success being to alert the defenses of their vulnerability. Consequently, it was a very different story on 1 August 1943 when units of the 8th and 9thAirForces sent 177 B-24sagainstthe same target. Although rather more successful in terms of damage caused, of the force which set out from Benghazi 55 Liberators were lost, 53 damaged, and 440 crew killed or posted missing.

By that time, of course. B-24s were being built at an enormous rate, by Consolidated at San Diego and Fort Worth, Douglas at Tulsa, and Ford with a specially built new plant at Willow Run. In mid-1942 the first transport variants began to appear, with nose and tail gun positions deleted, a large cargo door installed in the port side of the fuselage, and accommodation provided for passengers or cargo. The USAAF acquired 276 under the designation C-87 with accommodation for a crew of five and 20 passengers 24 similar aircraft, but provided with side windows, served with RAF Transport Command as the Uberetor C. Mk VII and examples flown by the US Navy were designated RY-2, Similar aircraft, but with R-1830-45 engines and equipped as VIP transports, were identified as NY-i and C-87A by the US Navy and USAAF respectively.

The US Navy also acquired 46 of a transport variant designated RY-3, and 27 similar aircraft were delivered in early 1945 for use by RAF Transport Command. One special logistics version was the C-lOB fuel tanker, used to ferry 10977 liters (2,900 US gal) of aviation fuel per load over the Himalayan 'hump', to supply Boeing B-29 Super fortresses operating from forward bases in China, An XF-7 prototype of a reconnaissance version was also produced in 1943, with bomb racks removed and extra fuel tanks provided in the forward section of the bomb bay. This retained the normal defensive armament, and could also accommodate up to 11 cameras. F-7s were used extensively in the Pacific theatre, and later versions included the F-7A and F-79 with differing camera installations.

The first production aircraft to come from the Ford plant at Willow Run was the B-24E, generally similar to the B-24D except for different propellers and minor detail changes, and this version was built also by Consolidated and Douglas, some having R-1830-65 engines. There followed the 9-24G. all but the first 25 of which introduced an upper nose turret and had the fuselage nose lengthened by 0.25 m (10 ml, These came from a new production line operated by North American Aviation at Dallas, Texas. Similar aircraft produced by Consolidated at Fort Worth, by Douglas and by Ford were designated 9-24H.

The major production variant was the B-24.J 16,678 built, which came from all five production lines, and which differed from the B-24H in only minor details. B-24H and B-24Js supplied to the RAF under Lend-Lease were designated Liberator GR. Mk V

when equipped for ASW/maritime reconnaissance by Coastal Command, or Uberator B. Mk VI when used as a heavy bomber in the Middle East and Far East. Those used by the US Navy were identified as the PB4Y-1.

The final production versions were the 9-241, similar to the B-24D with the tail turret replaced by two manually controlled 12.7-mm (0.5-in) machine-guns, of which Consolidated San Diego built 417 and Ford 1,250 and the B-24M which differed from the B-24J in having a different tail turret. Convair built 916 of this latter version at San Diego and Ford another 1,677. Odd variants included a single B-24D provided with an experimental thermal de-icing system as the X9-24F the XU-24K prototype of the single vertical tail version which it was intended should be produced in large numbers as the B-24N, although only the XB-24N prototype and seven YB-24N service test aircraft were built before production ended on 31 March 1945 the single experimental XB-41 bomber escort, armed with 14 12.7-mm (0.5-in) machine-guns and converted for flight engineer training under the designation AT-22 (later TB-241, Most of the USAAF's Liberators were declared war surplus at the war's end, only a few remaining in service and the very last of these was disposed of in 1953.

From first to last more than 19,000 Liberators had been built. In addition to those supplied to the RAF, USMF and US Navy, others had been operated by units of the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force and South African Air Force. Nowhere had they been of greater value than in the Pacific theatre, where their long range and versatility made them true 'maids of all work'.


this was an attempt to break into the post-war transport market, and took the form of the wings, powerplant and landing gear of the 6-24, the tail unit of the PB4Y-2 and a new fuselage able to carry 45 passengers or 5443 kg (12,000 lb) of freight the sole prototype was evaluated by the US Navy as the R2Y.


Crew: 7-10
Length: 67 ft 8 in
Wingspan: 110 ft 0 in
Height: 18 ft 0 in
Wing area: 1,048 ft²
Empty weight: 36,500 lb
Loaded weight: 55,000 lb
Max takeoff weight: 65,000 lb
Powerplant: 4× Pratt & Whitney R-1830 turbosupercharged radial engines, 1,200 hp each
Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0406
Drag area: 42.54 ft²
Aspect ratio: 11.55


Maximum speed: 290 mph
Cruise speed: 215 mph
Stall speed: 95 mph
Combat radius: 2,100 mi
Ferry range: 3,700 mi
Service ceiling: 28,000 ft
Rate of climb: 1,025 ft/min
Wing loading: 52.5 lb/ft²
Power/mass: 0.0873 hp/lb
Lift-to-drag ratio: 12.9


Guns: 10 × .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in 4 turrets and two waist positions

Short range (&tilde400 mi): 8,000 lb
Long range (&tilde800 mi): 5,000 lb
Very long range (&tilde1,200 mi): 2,700 lb

The 1733 St. John Insurrection

One of the earliest slave revolts in North America saw a group of African slaves effectively conquer the Danish-owned island of St. John. At the time, most of St. John’s slaves were part of the Akan, an African people from modern-day Ghana. Plagued by widespread illness, droughts and harsh slave codes, in November 1733 a group of high-ranking Akans began to plot against their Danish masters.

The rebellion began when a group of slaves used smuggled weapons to kill several Danish soldiers inside a fort at a plantation called Coral Bay. Another 150 conspirators soon converged on the island’s other plantations, killing several white colonists and eventually seizing command of most of St. John. The slaves planned to claim the island and its valuable farmland as their own, but their freedom was ultimately short-lived. After only six months of Akan rule, in May 1734 several hundred French troops arrived and violently put down the rebellion. It was not until 1848 that slavery was finally abolished in the Danish West Indies.

B-36: Bomber at the Crossroads

In 1947 the United States Air Force became an independent service, carved from the Army and placed under the control of the newly created National Military Establishment. The new service faced daunting challenges. There was the threat from a new adversary, the Soviet Union. But there were challenges at home as well: from the Navy, which viewed those in the new uniforms as rivals for diminishing defense funds and from within, as the Air Force struggled to introduce jet-powered aircraft into operational service.

In the spring of 1949, the country got a new secretary of defense: Louis Johnson, a wealthy lawyer, aspiring politician, and former official with the Convair Corporation, which was a longtime supplier of U.S. military aircraft. That last connection, which today would seem a scandal worthy of a special prosecutor, was common at the time. Who knew more about weapons than the men who built them?

When President Harry Truman ordered Johnson to economize, he obliged in April by canceling the 65,000-ton super-carrier United States, the keel of which had been laid only a week before. But the carrier was the linchpin of the Navy's plan to equip itself for the strategic nuclear mission. Carrying aircraft able to deliver atomic bombs to a target 1,000 miles away, the United States would have projected naval air power across the world's oceans, just the mission the Air Force wanted for its land-based bombers. Johnson's order, though only two sentences long, set off an interservice squabble the likes of which the nation had rarely seen.

Relations between the Army and Navy had first soured in the 1920s over which service should defend the U.S. coast, and World War II had only sharpened their rivalry. Now the Navy viewed the postwar creation of the Air Force and the Department of Defense as twin political threats to its primacy as the defender of U.S. shores. The spat that followed cancellation of the United States became known as "the revolt of the admirals," and it pitted the Navy's aircraft carrier against the Air Force's strategic bombing force--more specifically, Convair's monster six-engine bomber, the B-36, which had entered service in the summer of 1948.

Now it was a year later, and matters were coming to a head. The first shot in the battle was fired by Cedric Worth, a civilian assistant to Navy Undersecretary Dan Kimball for "special study and research," as he later described his duties under oath. It came in the form of a nine-page memo for the Navy's internal use (though he admitted giving copies to three members of Congress and to aircraft manufacturer Glenn Martin). The document condemned the B-36 as "an obsolete and unsuccessful aircraft" and charged that the Air Force had acquired it only after Convair had contributed $6.5 million to various Democratic politicians.

The theme was picked up by the Navy League, which spent $500,000 trashing the mega-bomber. (That amount, at least, was the estimate of the rival Air Force Association. If these sums don't seem exciting, consider that in 1949, the minimum wage in the aircraft industry was 50 cents an hour.) The B-36 was described as a "lumbering cow" and a "billion-dollar blunder," and the Navy claimed it had at least three jet fighters that could leave the monster behind at 40,000 feet. The admirals wanted a matchup, but they would never get one.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff told Johnson the test was a bad idea. And the Air Force said it had already demonstrated that fighters couldn't maneuver at that altitude. Simulated B-36 attacks on bases in Florida and California were met by three front-line fighters: a North American F-86A Sabre, a Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star, and a Republic F-84 Thunderjet. Radar picked up the intruder 30 minutes out the fighters took 26 minutes to climb to 40,000 feet and another two minutes to find the B-36. The fighters were faster than the big bomber, but their wing loading (the ratio of aircraft weight to area of the wings) was so high that they couldn't turn with the bomber without stalling in the thin air. Even if a B-36 were detected and Soviet fighters caught it, the pilot could evade them by making S-turns, said the Air Force.

Of course, the Russians wouldn't have been flying USAF jets, as British engineer Harold Saxon argued in an edition of Aviation Week that appeared in mid-summer. While the Americans valued speed and therefore reduced the span and area of their jets' wings, the British built fighters that could maneuver at stratospheric heights, beginning with the de Havilland Vampire, which had been designed for the first British turbojet engine, and which by 1949 had done "a lot of development flying since 1947 between 50,000 and 60,000 feet," according to Saxon.

By early June, the battle had moved into the halls of Congress when James Van Zandt, a Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania and captain in the Navy reserve, took up the charges leaked by Worth's memo. On the House floor, Van Zandt demanded an investigation of the "ugly, disturbing reports" that the bomber project would have been canceled a year ago if not for wheeling and dealing by Louis Johnson, other Convair officials, and Stuart Symington, the civilian head of the Air Force.

Symington, in a speech at Brookline, Massachusetts, had summed up the final judgment on the B-36: The bomber could "take off from bases on this continent, penetrate enemy defenses, destroy any major urban industrial area in the world, and return non-stop to the point of take-off." Symington's claim was preposterous, but it was widely believed. So Congress did what it does best: It scheduled hearings. But they were delayed until August, infuriating Van Zandt, and also broadened into a debate about the strategic roles of the Air Force and Navy. During the dramatic proceedings, a browbeaten Cedric Worth was unmasked as the author of the memo that had incited the ruckus and forced to recant everything. "I think I was wrong," he told the committee.

"You made a grave error, did you not?" he was asked.

U.S. bombers had been getting steadily bigger, so the enormity of the B-36 may have seemed part of an American pattern, but the bomber actually owed its immense bulk to a succession of hostile dictators, starting with Adolf Hitler. In the spring of 1941, German troops held most of western Europe and seemed likely to conquer Britain next. The U.S. Army asked airframe builders for an airplane that could take off from American soil, bomb Germany, and fly home.

The most promising design came from Consolidated Aircraft in San Diego, builder of the B-24 Liberator, which was just entering service with U.S. and British air forces. Consolidated proposed a quantum leap over the B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers as well as Boeing's next-generation "very heavy" B-29 Superfortress. The B-36 was to be a mega-bomber, spanning 230 feet from wingtip to wingtip. It would cross the Atlantic, enter German airspace at 300 mph, and drop 10,000 pounds of bombs from 40,000 feet, too high for flak or fighters to trouble it. Impressed, the Army ordered a pair of prototypes on November 15, 1941.

Three weeks later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the U.S. suddenly found itself fighting a two-ocean war. The B-36 went on the back burner while Consolidated turned out thousands of its proven Liberators. The B-36 suffered another setback when its facilities were moved to Texas, and yet another when the designers were asked to build a transport based on the bomber.

While Europe was pounded from bases in England, Japan was to be targeted by the Boeing Superfortress flying from China. The Japanese set out to capture the Chinese airfields--and thereby moved the B-36 back to the front burner. From Hawaii, it could bomb Tokyo as it had once been expected to bomb Berlin. In June 1943 the Army asked for 100 copies of the mega-bomber, with the first to arrive in the summer of 1945.

The U.S. Marine Corps moved faster than Convair (Consolidated merged with Vultee in 1943, and the new name was coined then). Shortly after Guam, Saipan, and Tinian were in U.S. hands, the Superforts began their terrible punishment of the Japanese home islands. The Pacific war ended six months earlier than expected--and six days before the rollout of the first B-36, its nose jacked up to lower its tail, which was too tall for the hangar door. It debuted as the Peacemaker, but the name never took, and even today it is better remembered simply as the B-36.

In a country celebrating peace, the prototype would have been the last of the line, but the Soviet Union turned out to be as land-hungry as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Nonetheless, the U.S. military packed for home in a stand-down so thorough that it was "not a demobilization," as General Leon Johnson noted in a 1954 interview, "it was a rout." The spring of 1946 became a replay of 1941, with a hostile dictator swallowing pieces of Europe and the Americans unable to do anything about it. The "strategic" card--the threat of wholesale destruction by nuclear weapons--seemed the only one that a demobilized, budget-cutting United States could play. But which of the services would play it?

When Congress had created the independent air force in 1947, the new service had been organized around two combat arms: a Tactical Air Command (TAC) to support the ground troops and a Strategic Air Command (SAC) to take the war to the enemy. The Air Force would have a fleet twice the size of the Navy's--24,000 aircraft to 11,500--and only the Air Force would have heavy bombers.

Following the U.S. withdrawal to the continental United States and the emergence of Joseph Stalin's ambitions, SAC's strategic mission was in the ascendant and there was no longer any question who the "enemy" was. By happenstance, the long-distance payload of the B-36 equalled the weight of one atomic bomb--roughly 10,000 pounds--and its combat radius equalled the great-circle route from Maine to Leningrad. Pending the arrival of its new $5.7-million-dollar baby, SAC made do with 160 veteran B-29 Superforts, and it was these aircraft that answered the call to deploy to European bases when the Russians shut off ground access to Berlin in the summer of 1948.

It was a colossal bluff. In all of SAC, only 27 Superforts had the "Silver Plate" modifications needed to carry an atomic bomb, and these were all assigned to the 509th Bomb Group, which stayed home. As for bombs, the U.S. "stockpile" contained exactly 13, controlled by the Atomic Energy Commission, and President Harry Truman refused to say if he'd ever release them to the military. Even if he had given the order to launch an attack, the 509th would have needed five days to pack up, fly to an AEC depot, load the nukes, and move overseas.

Perhaps the reality of the situation didn't matter to the Soviets. As they demonstrated again and again during the cold war, their pattern was to push until they met a determined response, then back off and wait for the next opportunity. They could easily have prevented an airlift by jamming U.S. radio beacons, but they didn't. And when General Curtis LeMay, to everyone's astonishment, fed and heated Berlin by air, the Russians quietly reopened land routes in the spring of 1949. The blockade succeeded only in burnishing LeMay's reputation, heightening American fear of Russia, and confirming the belief that the B-36 was America's best hope to contain Communism.

In June 1948, Convair delivered the first operational B-36A to SAC's 7th Bomb Group at Carswell Air Force Base, across the runway from its Fort Worth plant. Big as the B-29 Superfort was, it could nearly fit beneath one wing of a B-36. Despite the difference in size, the two airplanes had similar vertical tails, and they had slim fuselages, like cigarettes, round in cross-section, with two pressurized crew cabins separated by two bomb bays and connected by a tunnel.

But the wings were different. The Superfort's were thin, straight, and glider-like, while the B-36's wings were more than seven feet thick at the root, enough for a crewman to crawl in and reach the engines or the landing gear in flight. The wings were tapered, with the leading edges swept back, and the effect of that, combined with the wings' location so far back on the fuselage, made the airplane appear out of balance. Strangest of all, the B-36's six Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major engines were faired into the trailing edges, with the propellers located aft in the pusher configuration. Although it was supposed to reduce the propeller swirl's turbulence over the wing, the pusher design was rarely used on U.S. aircraft. Apparently it worked, though, because the B-36 had very low drag. The main drawback was that air for cooling the engines was ducted from intakes in the leading edge of the wing, and there was never enough of it, especially at high altitude.

The propellers were 19 feet in diameter, and to keep the tips from going supersonic they were geared to turn less than half as fast as the engines. The engines and propellers produced an unforgettable throbbing sound when the B-36 flew overhead. A friend of mine remembers the sound from his boyhood as a "captivating drone. The noise went down to your heels, it was so resonant. It just stopped you in your tracks. You looked up into the sky to try to find this thing, and it was just a tiny cross, it was so high." Others remember that it rattled windows on the ground from 40,000 feet.

The airplane's most eye-catching feature was the Plexiglas canopy that enclosed a flight deck, which, while ample for a crew of four, seemed small on such a whale of a plane. A dome below the nose housed a radar antenna, and two transparent blisters allowed the crew to aim the guns and observe any mechanical breakdowns. The effect was a face like a prairie dog's peering from a burrow, with the flight deck for eyes, the scanning blisters for ears, and the radome for tucked-up paws.

The ailerons, flaps, rudder, and elevators had a combined total surface area greater than both wings of a B-24. The pilot's control input moved a trim tab in the opposite direction, forcing the control surface in the desired direction. Two flight engineers monitored the six 4,360-cubic-inch engines, each with four rows of seven cylinders, a configuration that earned the nickname "corncob." The bombardier, navigator, radioman, and gunners brought the population of the forward cabin to 10.

You could visit the aft cabin by lying supine on a wheeled cart and pulling yourself along an overhead rope through a tunnel 85 feet long and two feet in diameter. The cart also served as a dumbwaiter, sending hot entrees from the galley to the forward cabin. The aft compartment accommodated five men and was equipped with bunks, an electric range, and the world's smallest urinal, which had to be voided to the outside at intervals. B-36 veterans like to tell the story of the new captain who came aft to relieve himself but didn't ask for instructions and, as a result, peed on his boots.

Later models had larger crews, up to 22 in reconnaissance versions. And everyone had a job to do--two jobs, in the case of the gunners. It took the ground crew six hours to prepare the bomber for a mission, and the flight crew needed another hour for a preflight check involving 600 steps, beginning with climbing the landing gear and removing the clamps that kept the gear from folding accidentally.

The B-36A couldn't fight--the electrically operated cannon were so trouble-prone they were simply eliminated--much less scramble to retaliate, and it ended up becoming little more than a crew trainer. Twenty-two were delivered, each virtually handmade, and "so flimsily built," says Jim Little, who served on one after it was converted to an RB-36E, "that the upper wing skin would actually pull loose from the wing ribs." Sometimes, Little recalls in the book RB-36 Days at Rapid City, "you would meet [the plane] with a crew of 30 or 40 sheet metal men."

The propellers were reversible for braking on landing, but sometimes they reversed in flight or while the airplane was straining to take off--at least once with fatal consequences. The stainless steel firewalls enclosing the engines cracked. The cylinders overheated. Lead in the gasoline fouled the spark plugs at cruising speed. Each airplane had 336 spark plugs, and after a flight lasting a day and a half, a mechanic would have to haul a bucket of replacement plugs to the airplane to service all six engines. The engines leaked oil, and sometimes a flight engineer had to shut one down because it had exhausted its allotment of 150 gallons.

Then there was the "wet wing." The outboard fuel tanks were formed by the wing panels and sealed at the junctions, and after the wing flexed for a few hundred hours the sealant was apt to fail. Jim Little recalls that one airplane leaked so badly "the ground underneath was just purple [from the dye in the high-octane gasoline]--it was raining fuel under that airplane."

Pilot opinion of the B-36 tended to run to the extremes, but most crew members loved it--"this big, wonderful old bird," Jim Edmundson calls it. As a colonel in the early 1950s, Edmundson commanded a B-36 group at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington. But even he admitted that the airplane could be a chore for its pilot--"like sitting on your front porch and flying your house around."

Of course most of the pilots were young and eager, and the older men had flown worse contraptions during the war. "It was a noisy airplane it was big," former radioman/gunner Raleigh Watson recalled at a B-36 reunion at the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, California last September, "but it was comfortable, and I think we felt it was a safe airplane, a very well-built airplane." Moxie Shirley, a pilot with more than a thousand hours in the B-36, loved the airplane, declaring that it "kept the Russians off our backs." But he went on to add, "Every crew that ever flew that airplane had stories that would make your hair stand on end."

Ed Griemsmann expressed another view in Thundering Peacemaker: "A horrible, lazy beast to fly," he told the book's author. Griemsmann survived a fiery crash in 1956. Most B-36 crashes were fiery because of the magnesium used in its construction. Rather than fly another, he said, he'd join the infantry.

If the B-36A was ineffective, the Strategic Air Command was little better. Its first commander, General George Kenney, didn't believe in the B-36, arguing in 1947 that the bomber was too slow to survive over enemy territory, with engines and an airframe that couldn't withstand an 8,000-mile flight. Kenney urged the Air Force to put its money into bombers that could fly at the speed of sound, even if that meant depending on overseas bases.

Kenney was right, of course. But at the time, his advice seemed disloyal, and he compounded the offense by letting his deputy run SAC while he himself campaigned for the top job in the Air Force. Not long after the first B-36A arrived, Kenney was fired. SAC's new commander was General Curtis LeMay, the pudgy, ferocious, cigar-smoking general famed for his B-29 tactics in the Pacific and for the more recent and successful Berlin airlift.

"We didn't have one crew, not one crew, in the entire command who could do a professional job," LeMay wrote of the SAC he inherited. He challenged his crews to stage a practice bomb raid on Dayton, Ohio, from 30,000 feet, using photographs taken in 1941--the best they'd have for the Soviet Union. (All SAC had were captured photographs the Germans had taken during the occupation of western Russia. Of the country beyond Moscow, there were no photographs available at all.) After the fiasco that ensued, LeMay whipped the crews into shape. He moved the best people from other groups to make the nuclear-capable 509th combat-ready, then did the same for the next most promising group.

By the fall of 1948 an improved B-36B had arrived, armed with pairs of 20-millimeter guns in the nose and tail, and six turrets that opened out like flowers in a slow-motion film the gunners aimed from remote blisters. On December 7, the seventh anniversary of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant Colonel John Bartlett took off in a B-36 from Carswell Air Force Base in Texas, flew to Hawaii, dropped a 10,000-pound dummy bomb, and returned without being spotted on the island's radar. LeMay must have bitten through his cigar when he got the news. If he could reach Hawaii from Texas, he could hit the Soviet Union from Maine. And if he could figure out how to operate the B-36 in the cold of Alaska, all of Siberia would fall under its shadow.

The B model also had the "Grand Slam" modifications needed for carrying a hydrogen bomb, which was 30 feet long and weighed 43,000 pounds and had been created in such secrecy that Convair didn't have the dimensions in time for the A models.

The B-36B was the last true reciprocating-engine bomber in the U.S. strategic bomber force. In hindsight, it seems obvious that the mega-bomber should have been jet-powered from the start. But the turbojet had been developed during World War II for fast-climbing, high-flying interceptors, and they gulped fuel at a prodigious rate. Nobody dreamed they could cross an ocean. Two developments changed everything: a new generation of twin-spool turbojets with markedly improved fuel consumption and, more significantly, the advent of inflight refueling. By 1949, Boeing's B-47 Stratojet was entering production, and the B-52 Stratofortress, an intercontinental giant, was making progress on paper.

Even before the uproar started in Congress in the summer of '49, the Air Force was apparently worried about the vulnerability of the B-36, and as an interim measure asked Convair to hang a pair of jet pods near the B-36's wingtips. By March, a B-36B had flown with four Allison J35s installed. On the production versions that emerged in July, each pod housed two General Electric J-47-GE-19s modified to run on gasoline--tiny compared to the Wasp Majors, but effectively doubling the airplane's installed horsepower. The jets were employed for takeoff, climbing to extreme altitudes, and dashing across hostile territory. With "six turning and four burning," as the saying went, a B-36 could finally top 400 mph. But fighter jockeys were flirting with the sound barrier in their North American F-86 Sabre jets, and whatever the Americans deployed--nukes, missiles, supersonic jets--the Russians matched, beginning with copies and sometimes ending with improved weapons.

For the benefit of Congress, the Air Force then released what Aviation Week described as "sensational new performance figures" on the jet-assisted B-36D: 435-mph top speed, 50,000-foot ceiling, range of up to 12,000 miles. LeMay added his personal pledge: "I believe we can get the B-36 over a target and not have the enemy know it is there until the bombs hit."

Even George Kenney came out of exile from his post as commander of the officer training center, Air University, to praise the airplane. "The B-36 went higher, faster, and farther than anybody thought it would," he said, "and the pilots liked it. It was a lucky freak." However, Kenney guessed that both the U.S. Navy Banshee and the Royal Air Force Vampire could intercept the B-36 in daylight he recommended that it be used only on night raids.

On September 5, Aviation Week reported "Symington and Defense Chiefs Exonerated," as the House Armed Services Committee gave a clean bill of health to Johnson, Symington, the Air Force, and Convair. There wasn't "one iota, not one scintilla, of evidence. that would support charges or insinuations that collusion, fraud, corruption, influence, or favoritism played any part whatsoever in the procurement of the B-36 bomber," the committee concluded. Even Congressman Van Zandt voted for the absolving resolution.

At 4 a.m. local time on June 25, 1950, North Korean troops stormed across the 38th parallel. In November they were joined by Chinese "volunteers." These developments marked the end of President Truman's defense economy drive. First Germany, then Japan, then Russia, and now events in Korea had succeeded in advancing the cause of the B-36. Suddenly plenty of money was available for mega-bombers, and for super-carriers as well.

The Korean war produced another milestone for SAC: Truman released nine atomic bombs to the military. They probably didn't leave the country, but the B-36 did, flying from Texas to airfields in Britain and Morocco in the spring and fall of 1951. Only six airplanes were involved and their visits were short, but the message couldn't have escaped Moscow's attention. However briefly, the capital and most of the territory of the Soviet Union had come within the combat radius of the B-36.

Altogether, 1951 was a good year for mega-bombers. Margaret Bourke-White rhapsodized over the B-36 in a photo-essay for Life magazine, with photographs taken at 41,000 feet, where the sky "was a color such as I've never seen, the darkest blue imaginable, yet luminous like the hottest cobalt, too brilliant for the eyes to bear." She photographed fluffy white contrails streaming from the reciprocating engines, a 55-foot scaffold used to repair the rudder, and (from both ends) the marvelous flying boom that refueled bombers in flight.

An alert reader might have noted some oddities in Bourke-White's essay. The bomber being refueled was a Superfort, not a B-36, none of which was ever equipped for inflight refueling. She rode in a B-47, its raked tail clearly visible in one photograph. And the accompanying map depicted a Soviet Union surrounded by small bombers based in Alaska, Canada, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Japan: the Peacemaker hunkered at home.

But if Superforts were on the Russian border, and if midair refueling allowed them to fly indefinitely, and with the Stratojet coming on line, why bother with the B-36? The jet pods had added so much weight and gobbled so much fuel that the combat radius had dropped first to 3,525 miles, then to 3,110. What was LeMay planning? From Maine, South Dakota, and Washington, the B-36 could barely scratch the edges of the Soviet empire, and even at those bases it faced hard sledding in the winter. At Rapid City, mechanics had to build a repair dock with sliding doors and cutouts for the fuselage so they could work on the engines while the tail stayed out in the snow. There were SAC bases in Alaska and Greenland, but the climate was so forbidding that LeMay never stationed any B-36s there. The Arctic airfields were used as staging points, with the bombers returning to the south 48 after each mission. Another ploy was the shuttle mission, with a takeoff from Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington. After bombing Irkutsk, in central Siberia, the bombers would have refueled at Okinawa before returning home.

But to do any real damage, LeMay had to launch it from an overseas base or order a one-way mission. He would have scoffed at this latter-day quarterbacking, of course. "The B-36 was often called an interim bomber," he wrote in his memoir, Mission With LeMay. "For my dough, every bomber which ever has been or ever will be is an interim bomber." He had a point: at the time, SAC even considered the B-52 nothing more than a fill-in for the supersonic B-70.

LeMay may have been loyal to his hardware, but there were signs that General Kenney wasn't alone in his initial doubts about the B-36. One scheme would have equipped it with a pilotless drone to fight off enemy interceptors. Then the Air Force experimented with a manned parasite--the XF-85 Goblin--which would ride to war in a bomb bay. Still later, Republic adapted its F-84 to snuggle into the belly of the beast. By 1953 this last concept had changed from one of defending the B-36 to replacing it: The mother plane would linger offshore while the Thunderjet dashed in to take photographs or drop a bomb.

Finally, in 1955, Convair took a different approach, stripping the mega-bomber to the essentials. Just as LeMay had gambled his B-29s in 1945, sending them low and fast over Tokyo armed only with tail guns, SAC got a "featherweight" B-36 with only two guns, a smaller crew, no stove or other luxuries, and, in the bargain, a longer range. Many of the earlier models were modified to the new standard, especially the reconnaissance versions. Indeed, it's possible that LeMay's fondness for the B-36 may have had less to do with its potential as a bomber than its value as a spyplane. SAC ended up with 369 of the jet-recip hybrids, including modified versions, and more than a third were reconnaissance bombers. The RB-36 could carry an atomic bomb, but its principal weapon was a camera the size of a Geo Metro, set in a photo studio that replaced the forward bomb bay. Loaded with a roll of film 18 inches wide and 1,000 feet long, this great camera once photographed a golf course from 40,000 feet, and in the contact print, on display at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, an actual golf ball can be seen. If an RB-36 could see a golf ball from eight miles up, it could see tanks, airplanes, missiles, and factories. Surely this was the task that LeMay saw for the Peacemaker: With its enormous wings and extra fuel, who knows how high and how far it could fly? B-36 crews speak of 45-hour missions, presumably with fuel cells instead of nukes in the rear bomb bays at cruise speed, a "featherweight" could travel almost 9,000 miles in that period. The official ceiling was 41,300 feet, but again, crews say that they routinely flew higher than 50,000 feet, and one man--John McCoy, quoted in Thundering Peacemaker--boasted of soaring to 58,000 feet. On missions over China, McCoy said, his RB-36 was chased by MiG fighters that couldn't climb anywhere near it. U.S. fighter pilots of that period also recall B-36s cruising comfortably well above their own maximum altitude. Not until the advent of the "century series" fighters--the F-100 and up--would the B-36 be challenged. Whether the RB-36 ever overflew Russia is anyone's guess, but it was the U.S. altitude and distance champ until the Lockheed U-2 came on line toward the end of the decade.

In the end, the B-36 turned out to be a place holder for the B-52 Stratofortress. Convair attempted to stave off Boeing's intercontinental jet bomber with the YB-60, which premiered as the YB-36G, with eight jets, a five-man crew, completely redesigned swept wings, a speed of 508 mph, and a 2,920-mile combat radius--in short, a knock-off that was inferior in every respect to its competitor. Boeing's bombers had the advantage of having been designed for jet power from the start. The Air Force didn't even bother to supply engines for the second YB-60 prototype.

Though obsolescent, the B-36 still had some momentum. Before descending into retirement, it made its first overseas deployment with a USAF unit in 1955, to Britain and Guam. In the same year, it starred in a Hollywood epic, Strategic Air Command--though in Jimmy Stewart's final scene with Frank Lovejoy, who played the LeMay-like general, a model of an early B-52 can be seen on the general's desk. The B-36 remained in the inventory for four more years, while the new Stratofortress was being tweaked to its full potential.

The B-36 was nowhere near as durable as the B-52 would prove to be, but it did the work asked of it. And eventually, the inter-service rivalry that led to the Congressional eruption over the big bomber's strategic mission died down, with the Navy's missile-submarine fleet garnering a permanent place in the strategic "triad" along with bombers and land-based missiles. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the Peacemaker is that it lived up to its name. The B-36 never went to war, never dropped a bomb in anger, nor (so far as we know) even fired its cannon at an enemy airplane. Created at a time when the atomic bomb redefined strategic air power and the turbojet redefined performance, its career spanned the crossroads that divided two eras.

Author Daniel Ford wrote about the last B-29 raid of World War II in the Aug./Sept. 1995 issue.

Originally published in Air & Space/Smithsonian, April/May 1996. Copyright 1996, Smithsonian Institution. All Rights Reserved.

Travels with Churchill

Winston Churchill was anxious to leave the country. It was July 1942, and he wanted to go to Cairo and Moscow to confer with his generals and with Soviet leader Josef Stalin, but the pilot assigned to fly him urged caution. “I’d like…a bad night to get out of England to go to Gibraltar,” William J. Vanderkloot told the British prime minister. Years later, he explained to his son, Bill, “I didn’t want to get shot down over England.”

Vanderkloot was recounting, in a taped interview with his son, how he came to be the captain of a B-24 Liberator bomber that had been turned into a VIP transport. “Mr. Churchill said, ‘Go ahead, pick your night,’ ” Vanderkloot recalled. “ ‘I can give you a 10-day envelope.’ ” The long-range Liberator, painted black in an early attempt at stealth, flying at night, with no one but the crew knowing the flight plan, was considered the safest bet to transport a prime minister on a route that was within range of enemy fighters.

In the late summer of 1942, Churchill was faced with critical decisions, notably what to do about weaknesses in the leadership of the British Eighth Army, which was facing Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s formidable Afrika Korps, as well as how to persuade Stalin to reinforce Europe’s eastern front. “It had become urgently necessary for me to go there and settle the decisive questions on the spot,” Churchill wrote in The Second World War. But such a trip would have ordinarily involved six days of flying and several nasty inoculations. “However,” he continued, “there arrived at the Air Ministry a young American pilot, Captain Vanderkloot, who had just flown from the United States in the aeroplane ‘Commando,’ a Liberator plane from which the bomb-racks had been removed and some sort of passenger accommodation substituted…. I could be in Cairo in two days without any trouble about Central African bugs…”

Vanderkloot had been flying U.S.-built bombers across the north Atlantic, known for its deadly weather, for the Royal Air Force’s Ferry Command for some 18 months and had logged over a million miles, occasionally carrying VIPs to exotic sites. Such credentials, along with renowned navigation skills, brought him to the attention of Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, responsible for transporting Churchill through Africa. When Portal asked Vanderkloot how he would fly to Cairo, the Ferry Command pilot told him: “Certainly not through the Mediterranean with the Germans flanking both sides,” and suggested a route with a single stopover in Gibraltar. Portal hired him on the spot, and Vanderkloot chose the B-24. “That was some airplane, the Liberator,” Vanderkloot later said. “Nicely built.”

Commando got under way. In Cairo, Churchill eventually replaced Eighth Army General John Eyre Auchinleck with Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery. On October 24, the Associated Press reported, “Britain’s rebuilt and refreshed 8th Army charged into the Axis’ El Alamein line today in…what may be the battle to decide the fate of the Mediterranean this winter.” Liberators were part of the action. The September 3, 1942 issue of Britain’s Flight magazine ran the headline “Liberators over Egypt: Anglicized Heavies in Western Desert.” In Moscow, Churchill met with Averell Harriman, representing the United States, and Stalin to plan the North African campaign.
Churchill was enthralled with flight. He celebrated his 39th birthday by taking his first flying lesson. According to Churchill biographer Martin Gilbert, when the prime minister’s instructor was killed shortly afterward, Churchill’s wife and family expressed their sentiments about his taking up a pastime “fraught with so much danger to life,” as his cousin, Sunny Charles, ninth Duke of Marlborough, put it. “It is really wrong of you,” the duke continued. After takeoff at London’s Croydon airport, Churchill stalled his trainer in a tight turn, plowing into the ground and injuring his instructor. He vowed never to fly as a pilot again.

But he still enjoyed air travel. “He used to like to come up [to the cockpit],” Vanderkloot said. “He’d stay maybe an hour, and he’d ask questions about things. He was a good old sport, he’d have his scotch up there and look around.”

Commando was usually flown by Vanderkloot and another American, copilot Jack Ruggles. Flight engineers John Affleck and Ronnie Williams and radio officer Russ Holmes were Canadian. Today, Affleck is the only surviving crew member. He joined Vanderkloot on the first run with Churchill in August 1942. At the time, the young civilian flight engineer and racing car enthusiast was in West Palm Beach, Florida, fresh off a Liberator that had flown ammunition to Africa for the Eighth Army. “You didn’t have to be in the military to do that—they’d take anybody,” says Affleck. When asked if he would go to Cairo that night, he said, “Sure, I always wanted to see Cairo.”
At 93, Affleck still walks nine holes at the Saskatoon Golf & Country Club. Relaxing at his home in Saskatchewan in khaki chinos and a golf shirt, he remembered that night in 1942. “So they said, ‘Get the car, get some clothes, and come back.’ I was on the way to Prestwick [Scotland] that night.”

From Prestwick they flew to Lyneham Royal Air Force base and on to London. “And there is where we learned we were to fly Churchill out to Cairo and Moscow,” says Affleck. It was also there that he learned he was to fly with the legendary William J. Vanderkloot. “I didn’t know him well because our paths hadn’t crossed,” says Affleck, “but I knew he was a good pilot—in fact an excellent, super pilot. And a super navigator too.”

In the days of navigation by maps and checkpoints, Vanderkloot’s skills were critical. “It was obvious that if you were really going to stay alive, you better know how to use celestial navigation,” Vanderkloot told his son. During much of his time in England, he had worked on perfecting the art, learning it from RAF navigation officer Bill White, “someone [who] really knew it.” Vanderkloot and a handful of other aspiring celestial navigators would spend night after night on London’s rooftops practicing with the sextant. “Be it summer, winter, rain or whatever, we’d take our shots, then go downstairs and plot them,” said Vanderkloot. “We learned celestial navigation in a hurry. It sure put me in good stead for later on.”

Indeed, Vanderkloot did nearly all of his own navigating. It was unusual for a pilot, “but…I figured if I’m going to get in trouble, I’m going to do it [myself]. I’m not going to have some other guy do it.”


* The Halifax also proved useful as a paratroop transport / glider tug, as well as an airliner / cargolifter. Minimally modified B.Mk II Series 1 were initially put to this use in late 1941, being employed to support European resistance operations via the British "Special Operations Executive (SOE)". Bomber Command only grudgingly spared aircraft for SOE, particularly since there was a perception that the SOE wasn't a good use of resources -- a view often supported by modern historians, who suggest that the resources pumped by the Western Allies into resistance groups generally created forces who didn't cause the Germans serious trouble, but were often enthusiastic at fighting among themselves.

However, SOE was one of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's pet projects and it couldn't simply be shrugged off. The result was conversion of B.Mk II Series 1 machines to a "Special" configuration for SOE, with:

    The dorsal turret removed.

Various tweaks were made to enhance streamlining. The tail turret was retained. These machines were eventually fitted with the Gee radio navigation system, as well as "Rebecca" -- a "radar beacon" system that would interrogate a "Eureka" ground unit set up by a resistance group to nail down its location. A number of B.Mk V Series 1 machines were converted to a similar specification.

British Airborne Forces used the "A.Mk V" -- generally similar to the B.Mk V (Special) machines used by SOE, except for the addition of a glider tow hookup under the tail. They performed their first combat operation on 9 November 1942, when two A.Mk V tugs hauled two Horsa gliders loaded with Norwegian troops to Norway to attack German-controlled heavy water production facilities. The attack was a fiasco, with one tug lost and both gliders crash-landing. The Germans captured the Norwegian survivors they were executed, even though they were in uniform, as per a secret order issued by Hitler the month before that directed the killing of commando troops.

The A.Mk V was followed by the "A.Mk III", "A.Mk VI", and "A.Mk VII" paratroop / glider tug conversions. The need for the Halifax in the paratroop role was seen as important enough to justify new-build construction of the A.Mk III, with at least 30 built, and the A.Mk VII, with at least 228 built. The A.Mk VII machines could be easily reconfigured back to bomber operation, though it was rarely done.

Airliner / cargolift conversions for RAF Transport Command included the "C.Mk V", "C.Mk III", "C.Mk VI", and "C.Mk VII", characterized by removeable cargo panniers plugged into the bombbay. They were comparable in many ways to cargo-hauler configurations of the B-24 Liberator. Typically they could carry eight passengers or nine stretchers.

* Most of the bomber Halifaxes were retired with the end of the war, but the coastal patrol machines served on for several more years. There were actually two new-build variants produced, if briefly, in the postwar period.

Following studies for the development of a Halifax-derived "HP 64" dedicated cargolift transport machine with a new fuselage, Handley-Page instead focused on modification of the B.Mk VI, with conversion from a B.Mk VI performing trials in the spring of 1945. That led to production of 98 "HP 70 C.Mk VIII" cargo-transport machines, with no armament -- the tail turret was faired over -- plus a paratroop door and provision for a belly pannier.

The C.Mk VIII was mostly operated by the Free Poles, but since the Free Poland operation didn't have a future in the postwar period, neither did the Free Pole squadrons. Most were then operated with some minor civilianized modifications for a few years by BOAC, with the type participating in the Berlin Airlift from 1948. Along with the standard belly pannier, they could be fitted with an alternate high-capacity pannier, less streamlined but capable of carrying bulkier items.

A dozen of these aircraft were modified to a relatively tidy airliner configuration, featuring rectangular passenger windows and comfortable accommodations for ten passengers, and flown by BOAC as the "HP 70 Halton". The C.Mk VIII was also operated by some other civil organizations, but it was out of service by the early 1950s.

Boulton-Paul built 145 "HP 71 Halifax A.Mk IX" paratroop transports, derived from the B.Mk III and powered by Hercules XVI engines. They had a paratroop door and could carry 16 paratroopers, with folding bench-type seats on both sides of the cabin they also had a glider tow attachment under the tail and could be fitted with a belly pannier, but it seems that was rarely if ever done -- though sometimes they paradropped jeeps or gear carried on pallets under the bombbay. They were armed with a 12.7-millimeter Browning machine gun in the nose and a Boulton-Paul D.Mk II tail turret with twin 12.7-millimeter guns, as fitted to late-build B.Mk VI bombers.

The A.Mk IX was used mostly for training for a few years after the war, though three were used for meteorological duties. A few A.Mk IX machines also served in the Berlin Airlift. It was out of British service by the early 1950s, but nine ended up in Egyptian hands and struggled on for a few more years until they were grounded by parts shortages. The last Halifaxes were phased out of service in the mid-1950s. While at least three Halifaxes survive as museum displays, none remain flying.

* The following table summarizes Halifax variants & production:

Sources are very fuzzy on Halifax production subtotals, and so the numbers cited here are only approximate.

Variants [ edit | edit source ]

The Liberator had three variants, designated the Mark I, Mark II and Mark III, which are identical in function but different in appearance.

A non-functional wooden mockup, the Mark I had a wooden foregrip and no stock. It would have used four-round packets of shells. However, due to manufacturing difficulties in manufacturing packets so that the shells within them would properly align with the barrels, the Mark I was scrapped. It would have also had a large, squeeze-lever trigger.

An updated variant of the Mark I, the Mark II had a trigger guard that could be swiveled out of the way if the user was wearing heavy gloves or something of the like. The Mark II also had a collapsing stock, which is removable and can be stored in the front end. Like the design for the Mark I, it had a squeeze-lever trigger. It had a rotating component that fires each barrel in sequence with each trigger pull, a large, T-shaped latch, and a round extractor. It also has a trigger guard, which swivels upwards and out of the way for when the user is wearing heavy gloves. Drawbacks to this model lie in manufacturing When Winchester attempted to get the Mark II Liberator into serious production, it proved difficult to get the barrels properly lined up and regulated as molten magnesium then covers them with the final shape being cast, as well as cost also being a problem. Like with the Mark I, it was scrapped.

An updated version of the Mark II, with a more conventional trigger assembly and metal pistol grips as opposed to wooden ones. The Mark III came in two sub-variants one with a wire-folding stock and another without. In addition, the Mark III is chambered for 12 gauge shells, rather than 16 gauge of the previous models.


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