First flown in December 1939, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator was one of the most important aircraft of World War II, ending up as the most produced American aircraft in history with over 18,000 examples constructed, thanks in large measure to the efforts of Henry Ford and the harnessing of American industry. Overshadowed in publicity by its stablemate, the B-17, the Liberator would actually serve in every theatre of war and with almost every Allied nation. A little faster, and with a slightly larger bomb-load and with a longer range than the B-17 Flying Fortress, the Liberator suffered from having a lower ceiling that resulted in aircraft getting hit by enemy fighters and flak more often. Nevertheless, the loss rates of the two aircraft were too close to say that one was more vulnerable than the other.
One thing was sure, the B-24 was much heavier on the controls and harder to hold in tight formation, creating an enormous workload for its pilots. Its high fuselage Davis wing meant that it was highly dangerous to ditch or belly land since the fuselage had a tendency to break apart in such emergency landings.
The Liberator’s most famous mission was the low-level strike against the Ploesti oil fields in Rumania on the 1st August 1943, which unfortunately turned into a disaster when the attacking waves of aircraft got badly out of sequence.
The US Navy flew the PB4Y patrol version of the B-24, ranging far across the Atlantic Ocean from Iceland and the USA to provide air cover to Allied convoys from the marauding enemy U-Boats. Others would be built as C-87 transports, F-7 photo reconnaissance platforms and C-109 fuel tankers.
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