The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was a WWII and Korean War-era heavy bomber used by all branches of the United States (US) Armed Forces. Designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California, the B-24 had the ability to carry a 5,000-pound bomb load, thanks to a shoulder-mounted, high aspect ratio Davis wing. This also allowed the Liberator to fly at a top cruise speed of 290 miles per hour for long ranges, making it useful in every theater of WWII and helping to bring the Axis powers to their knees.
Together with the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator was critical to the success of the United States’ bombing campaign in the Western European theater. It also performed a significant role in the Pacific and in the Battle of the Atlantic. Whereas the Flying Fortress was built for strategic daylight bombing, the Liberator had a lower service ceiling and a heavier wing load. This made the flying experience more challenging for B-24 pilots, especially when under attack.
One of the major drawbacks of the B-24 Liberator was maneuverability, which made them easy targets for German attack. Alongside only a single exit from the aircraft, the Liberator earned the unfortunate nickname “the Flying Coffin.” The eventual introduction of escort aircraft helped protect these slow-moving heavy bombers from enemy air-interceptors. However, the low service ceiling made the B-24 vulnerable to flak, and the iconic Davis wing was unable to endure combat damage. Despite its imperfections, the B-24 was essential to the success of Allied Forces in WWII.
In 1943, Consolidated Aircraft once again stepped in to develop a Navy-dedicated, long-range patrol bomber based on the B-24. By using a tall, single vertical stabilizer and rudder designed by Ford Motor Company, Consolidated was able to improve aircraft handling. Designated the PB4Y-2, they also added seven feet in length to accommodate a mapping and radar station on board. Six turrets housed twelve M2 Browning machine guns—as opposed to the B-24’s ten. A Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engine helped power the aircraft more efficiently at lower patrol altitudes. The Navy maintained a fleet of 739 PB4Y-2 Privateers, which entered service during late 1944.
B-17 and B-24 on display
Visitors to Hill Aerospace Museum in Utah can see a Boeing B-17G and the Consolidated B-24D on display. There are also many items on exhibit belonging to notable B-24 Liberator pilot General Leon C. Packer, a Utah native who flew WWII raids over Italy. Visit the Local Heroes exhibit at Hill Aerospace Museum to see his journals, photos and other war relics.