B-24 Transition Training

Liberal, Kansas, October – December 1943

B-24 Transition Training was 9 weeks. It was here that I learned to fly the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. The Howling Banshee was the “J” model.

The B-24 was produced in greater quantities and flown in more theaters of war by the air forces of more countries than any other four engine bomber in World War II including the Famous B-17 Flying Fortress.

More than 18,000 aircraft, in several versions, were produced by Consolidated Vultee, Ford Motor Company, Douglas Aircraft and North American Aircraft between the years of 1939 and 1945. Fewer than 13,000 B-17s were built. According to my Second Air Division book “No other American plane ever built, before, during, or since WWII, military or civilian, of any number of engines, approaches the number of B-24s that went into service.” The average price of a plane was $250,000.

The Liberator gained a distinguished war record with its operations in the European, Pacific, African and Middle Eastern theaters. One of its main virtues was a long operating range, which led to it being used also for other duties including maritime patrol, antisubmarine work, reconnaissance, tanker, cargo and personnel transport.

While the Liberator didn’t have the same ability as the Flying Fortress to absorb enemy fire, it did what it was designed to do – it took the war to the Axis Powers and it flew faster, farther and carried a larger bomb load than the Flying Fortress.

A fully armed and combat-ready B-24 carried a crew of ten men (pilot, copilot, navigator, bombardier, engineer, radio operator, 4 gunners). The B-24J weighed 37,000 pounds empty and 60,000+ pounds loaded. In the most common versions, it had four movable turrets (nose, top, ball, tail), each with two .50 caliber machine guns and two individual .50s in the waist, making a total of ten and a total of 5,200 rounds of ammunition. It was powered by four 1,200 horsepower engines and carried 2,750 gallons of fuel. Many B-24 missions were round trips of 1,500 miles and some extended ranges were near 2,000 miles. The most common bomb-load was ten 500 pound bombs or five 1,000 pounders. The AZON bomb was 1000 pounds and we usually carried 4 or 5 at a time. At times we also carried 100 pounders and incendiary bombs depending upon the mission.

Against heavily defended targets in the European Theater, it flew at altitudes of 18,000 to 28,000 feet, although many missions (particularly in the Pacific and AZON missions) were flown at much lower altitudes. The planes were not pressurized or heated; crewmen wore oxygen masks on high altitude missions and were exposed to temperatures that sometimes reached -50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The B-24 J version was the first model to do away with the camouflage paint that characterized all previous production aircraft. It added 5-10mph to the airspeed. The J version was produced in the largest quantity; a total of 6,678 being constructed. This was more than one-third of all the B-24s built. Ford built 1,587 at Willow Run, Consolidated built 2.792 at San Diego and 1,558 at Fort Worth, North American built 536 at Dallas, and Douglas built 205 at Tulsa.

The Howling Bansheehad only 8 guns since there were only 3 movable turrets (nose, top, tail). The ball turret was eliminated. Intelligence determined that the additional fire power was not worth the additional drag thereby slowing the plane. The additional speed and protection from a tighter formation would compensate for the eliminated ball turret.

Consolidated B-24J Liberator Specifications
Wing span:110 ft 0 in
Wing area:1,048 sq. ft
Length:67 ft 2 in
Height:18 ft 0 in
Empty:37,000 lb
Operational:65,000 lb
Maximum Fuel Load:3,614 gallons (I remember 2,700 gallons)
Maximum Speed:290 mph @ 25,000 ft (I remember 150 mph)
Cruise Speed:215 mph
Landing Speed:95 mph with its Fowler flaps
Rate of Climb:1,025 ft/min
Service Ceiling:28,000 ft
Range:2,200 miles
Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 or 65 1,200 hp 14 cylinder radial engines. (I remember 1,250 hp)
Eight .50-calibre guns, two each in nose ,top and tail turrets and two in waist positions. Internal bomb load of 8,000 lbs (3,632 kg) with optional external bomb racks.