B-24 vs. 50 German Fighters

A story of the durability of the B-24 Liberator, from Informational Intelligence Summary, No. 44-17, Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Intelligence, Washington, D.C., May 30, 1944.


The surprising durability of an AAF B-24 on a deep penetration mission over Germany when attacked by an overwhelming number of German fighters is described in this article, based on crew’s report.

Target time was assigned as 1300A and all planes of a B-24 Group had proceeded as planned until just over the heavily defended target of Regensburg, Germany. The flak over the target was heavy, intense and accurate. At 20,000 feet, just before the signal “Bombs Away,” the B-24 was hit by flak in No. 1 engine. A fire broke out in this engine but was soon extinguished and the prop feathered. Proceeding in formation with only three engines, the bombardier scored direct hits on the target.

Shortly after, many enemy fighters soon noticed the feathered engine and, thinking it was a good target, began to swarm in. Attack after attack was made and soon the No. 2 engine was knocked out, but it also was feathered successfully. By that time enemy fighters seemed to multiply. With two left engines gone, the Liberator gradually lost altitude and began dropping to the rear of the formation, soon to find itself without “friends” but in the company of some fifty enemy aircraft. The air speed had been cut considerably and a terrific tail flutter had developed due to 20-mm hits on the horizontal stabilizer. The left wing was down 30° and full right rudder trim was used to maintain as near normal flight as possible.

The Alps had yet to be crossed. Me 110s in pairs assembled high astern, and made repeated attacks knocking out the tail turret, but not until the tail gunner had accounted for two Me 110s destroyed. The top turret and ball turret were destroyed and many other hits had been scored on the B-24. After crossing the Alps, the co-pilot noticed that the oil pressure was indicating zero on the No. 4 engine but it did not quit. This engine operated for approximately one hour longer before it finally ceased to function. The pilot tried to feather the engine but the electrical system had been rendered useless.

With only one engine left and losing altitude very rapidly, the pilot decided to set her down. Finding this impossible and knowing they were over friendly territory, he ordered the crew to “hit the silk.” All then alive landed safely.

The final score:

• Tail gunner–2 Me 110s destroyed.

• Waist gunners–2 Me 109s destroyed.

• Bombardier–Me 109s destroyed. The bombardier manned the right waist gun when the gunner was injured and accounted for one Me 109, which, in recovery from a dive to blast out a fire in his engine, collided with another in mid-air.

One U.S. gunner killed. One B-24 crashed.


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