Low Banks Ain’t Healthy

Low Banks Aint Healthy (B-24D Liberator)

Good advice from the Consolidated B-24D Liberator Pilot’s Manual.

B-24 Reconnaissance in the Bismarck Sea

The story of an unsuccessful B-24 attack on Japanese shipping in the Bismarck Sea from Informational Intelligence Summary, No. 44-5, Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Intelligence, Washington, D.C., February 1944.


The primary function of a reconnaissance patrol is the gathering of information and safe return of the plane.

The following narrative report of a single B-24 in the Bismarck Sea area, which was diverted from its primary reconnaissance mission to attack enemy shipping, emphasizes this principle.

The report of this mission should be a lesson to crew members in what to avoid on a reconnaissance mission. Crew members are usually briefed that their primary job on a reconnaissance mission is to obtain the desired information. This function has been compared with ground reconnaissance in which patrols are sent out into hostile territory to observe what they can and return home without being seen by the enemy. While reconnaissance planes carry bombs in the event that unusual targets of opportunity present themselves, a safe return home is Rule Number One.

One of our B-24s left Dobodura at 0806 on 23 December 1943 to observe the enemy’s shipping lanes in the Bismarck Sea area. The recent feverish attempt of the Japanese to reinforce their New Britain bases made it likely that important enemy shipping would be located. A bomb load of 2 x 1,000-lb. general purpose bombs was carried.

Nothing of consequence occurred until about 1640 when the B-24 was about 30 miles northeast of the Japanese airfield at But. The crew sighted a freighter-transport of about 1200 tons close to shore near But, which appeared to be a tempting target, and the B-24 turned back to attack it. They felt reasonably safe from interception as there was about 4/10 cloud cover from 3,000 to 5,000 feet.

The ship was less than a mile off the Japanese airfield runway at But, moving very slow inshore. Two bombing approaches were made at 3,500 feet and each time intervening clouds prevented release of bombs. At that point in the attack the Japanese antiaircraft guns at But opened up from four points. While the fire was not intense, one burst unfortunately hit the bomb bay. The radio operator was standing there and received a severe leg wound.

The pilot wisely decided to retire before interception came from one of the local enemy fields. About five minutes later, at 1710, while the plane was at an altitude of 4,000 feet, a ZEKE and a HAMP appeared. All crew members were on the alert and in readiness. The HAMP made a pass from high one o’clock, pressed it to 100 yards, and broke off in a Split “S”. His attack was successful for his pass cost us a B-24 and a crew member. Raking right down the side of the airplane, he shot out the No. 3 engine, hydraulic system and interphone, killed one waist gunner and slightly wounded the other. At the same time the ball turret gunner collected three bullets in his leg.

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B-24D Oxygen System

Diagram of the B-24D Liberator oxygen system from the B-24D pilot manual.

B-24D Oxygen System

( Click to Enlarge )


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.


Wings of Freedom Tour Visits New Orleans

Wings of Freedom Tour Collings FoundationThe Wings of Freedom Tour visits New Orleans with vintage aircraft including P-51 Mustang, Consolidated B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft”, and Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine”. The Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour will be at Lakefront Airport from March 9th to March 11th.

Details from NOLA.com: “Hours of ground tours and display are: 2:00 PM through 5:00 PM on Friday, March 9; 9:00 AM through 5. Also on display will be a P-51 Mustang. Visitors are invited to explore the aircraft inside and out – $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12 is requested for access to up-close viewing and tours through the inside of the aircraft. WWII Veterans can tour through the aircraft at no cost. Discounted rates for school groups. Visitors may also experience the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually take a 30-minute flight aboard these rare aircraft. Flights on either the B-17 or B-24 are $425 per person. Get some ‘stick time’ in the world’s greatest fighter! P-51 flights are $2,200 for a half hour and $3,200 for a full hour.”

B-24 Nose Art

WWII B-24 Liberator nose art from 864th, 865th, and 866th Bombardment Squadrons of the 494th Bombardment Group and 392nd Bombardment Squadron of the 30th Bombardment Group. Source: U.S. Air Force photographs.

B-24J Lady Leone of 864th BS 494th BG

B-24 "Lady Leone" of the 864th Bombardment Squadron, 494th Bombardment Group. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

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B-24 from Maxwell Field, Alabama

A Consolidated B-24 Liberator from the four-engine pilot school of the Eastern Flying Training Command at Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama (now designated Maxwell Air Force Base or Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base). The U.S. Army Air Forces established a specialized school for pilots of four-engine aircraft at Maxwell Field in July 1943. (U.S. Air Force Photo.)

Maxwell Air Force Base / Maxwell Field

B-24 Liberator “Boise Bronc”

B-24 Liberator “Boise Bronc” of the 320th Bomb Squadron, 90th Bomb Group photographed in Palawan, Philippines in July 1945. The B-24 “Boise Bronc” was named after the football team from Boise Junior College (now Boise State University). Source: U.S. Air Force.
Nose Art of B-24J Boise Bronc of 320th BS 90th BG in Philippines

B-24 “Tidewater Tillie”

Antisubmarine B-24 Tidewater Tillie and Crew

U.S. Air Force Photo

Captain Jack Shaw and the crew of B-24 “Tidewater Tillie” are congratulated after sinking a German submarine by Brig. General Larson, commanding General of the Antisubmarine Command in England. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Tidewater Tillie Tames Two

Two attacks of B-24 “Tidewater Tillie” from the 2nd Antisubmarine Squadron on German U-boats from Monthly Intelligence Report, No. 3, Army Air Forces, Antisubmarine Command, March 1943:


“Tidewater Tillie” is the B-24 in which 1st Lt. W.L. Sanford and his crew of the 2nd Antisubmarine Squadron have recently executed two attacks on enemy submarines which resulted in one probably sunk and one known sunk.

B-24 Liberator Tidewater Tillie Antisubmarine WarfareThe first attack, illustrated by the accompanying diagram, took place on February 10th about 800 miles west of St. Nazaire while the squadron was operating out of Great Britain. While patrolling at 300 feet at the base of a solid overcast, the left waist gunner sighted a U-boat on the surface 10 degrees off the port bow about four miles away. A radar contact had been obtained in the same position a few seconds before, but due to sea conditions it had not been verified until the visual sighting was made.

When first observed, the conning tower was clearly seen, but as the aircraft approached it disappeared and about forty feet of the stern was seen projecting out of the water at an angle of 20 degrees. As the aircraft attacked no churning was visible from the screws of the apparently motionless U-boat. Six Mark XI Torpex depth bombs spaced for 19 feet were released from 200 feet at 200 mph. The entire stick overshot; the first depth bomb was observed to explode about 30 feet to starboard of the submarine as the tail gunner fired 75 rounds at the exposed part of the hull.

As the pilot circled to port, the U-boat settled back on an even keel with the conning tower visible and both decks awash. A second attack on the still motionless submarine was made with three more depth bombs. The tail gunner fired another 75 rounds and saw the first depth bomb explode on the port side, while a second exploded to starboard. The U-boat appeared to lift slightly, lurching with the force of the explosion, and then remained motionless on the surface.

While Lt. Sanford circled to make a third run the sea was seen to be churned just astern of the U-boat, and the conning tower settled beneath the surface without way sixteen seconds before the last three depth bombs were released. The detonations occurred about 200 feet ahead of the patch of disturbed water, but no plume resulted. Instead, a dome shaped bubble appeared followed by a large circular slick of brown fluid which was described by the crew as definitely not DC residue. Nothing further was seen and thirty minutes later the B-24 set course for base.

Photographs were taken but are too thin to be of any value. When first sighted the U-boat apparently was attempting to dive at too steep an angle without sufficient way. This gave the pilot an opportunity to maneuver for two additional attacks which resulted, according to official Admiralty assessment, in “Probably Sunk”.

On March 22, while operating out of a North African base, Lt. Sanford, again in Tidewater Tillie, made another attack in the vicinity of the Canary Islands which resulted in the complete destruction of the U-boat.

The B-24, camouflaged Mediterranean Blue on its upper surfaces and cloud white underneath, was patrolling at 1200 feet in and out of the base of the cloud cover when the co-pilot sighted a broad wake about five miles on the starboard beam. The pilot continued on his course into the next cloud, then made a 90 degree turn, immediately losing altitude. As the plane emerged from the cloud, the wake, still about five miles distant, was observed to be caused by a U-boat proceeding fully surfaced on course 180°. Lt. Sanford decided to continue his run straight ahead and attack from the beam with the sun behind him rather than maneuver for a quartering or following attack. With the aircraft at 200 feet and making about 200 mph, the bombardier released four MK XXIX depth bombs spaced at 60 feet, allowing about 1000 feet range on the water.

After the drop the plane continued on its course for eleven seconds to allow the Miller mirror camera to function. The bombs were observed to straddle the U-boat, hitting the water as follows:
     #1 – short 130 feet, directly abeam the submarine;
     #2 – short 70 feet, directly abeam the aft portion of the conning tower;
     #3 – short 10 feet, directly abeam the aft portion of the conning tower;
     #4 – long 50 feet.

The explosions enveloped the after portion of the U-boat which continued on its course for eleven seconds, then began to settle by the stern. The entire bow section from the conning tower forward was projecting out of the water and in about one minute slipped beneath the surface. Several survivors were observed clinging to debris which was strewn about the area, and a large oil slick developed. Half an hour later, as the plane was about to depart, a mass of brown, paint-like substance came up in the middle of the slick. This may have been rusty bilge oil discharged when the U-boat began to break up on the bottom.

The accompanying photographs were taken with the Miller mirror camera and with the personal camera of the radar operator, who took them upon his own initiative. The submarine was described as painted white with no markings. It had a streamlined conning tower and a very sharp bow. Three men were observed in the conning tower as the plane passed over. One of them tried to man the anti-aircraft gun.

U-Boat U-524, B-24 Depth Charge Attack

DC explosion. Bow and conning tower of U/B visible. U/B is attempting to crash dive. Large bow wave and spray probably caused by sudden sideward movement of hull.

German Submarine U-524 Sunk Canary Islands

U-boat on the surface after the plane passed over. Spray caused by DC's hitting water. Small splash of MG burst visible forward of conning tower.

U-Boat Submarine Crew After Depth Charge

Seven survivors clinging to a cylinder like object and two others (arrow) swimming towards it.

The attack was evidently a complete surprise and was achieved by a combination of effective camouflage, clever use of cloud cover, attacking out of the sun, and accurate bombing. Both of Lt. Sanford’s attacks attest to the skill and efficiency of this crew and to the value of B-24 aircraft in anti-submarine operations. The success of these actions was due in part to the long range of the aircraft and its great bomb load capacity. More aircraft like Tidewater Tillie, capable of delivering attacks 1000 miles off shore with bomb loads of 3000 lbs. or more, promise increasing success against the U-boat.