I just thought that some of you might not know about Henry's production of the B-24 Bomber in WWII. Just as an aside, movie actor Jimmy Stewart piloted one of these over Europe.
My mother worked on the B-24s at Willow Run. She helped string the control cables from the pilots console back to the main wing spar. The "little" people took over from there stringing the cables out through the wings to the engines. My aunts brother flew B-24s in Africa and Europe. I kick myself now for not getting him to tell me of some of his experiances. From what I had heard they were a pretty wild bunch.
Only 55% of B-24 crews survived, whereas 60% of Jap Kamikaze survived.
Harry Selling is at Old Bold Pilots' breakfasts again after MIA a couple of years. He was the only one to make it out when his B-17 was hit, and he spent the rest of the war in Stalag III.
In some ways, the B-24 Liberator, by virtue of its superior range, higher speed and bigger bomb-load, was the superior of the B-17 Flying Fortress, but its survival rate in the ETO was pretty dismal by comparison. Combat crews despised the Lib's poor handling at high altitudes, which made it very difficult to fly in close formation—an important capability to have when facing Luftwaffe interceptors.
If the survival rate was that bad, I guess we were lucky to get ole Jimmy back...!
I guess it's Better to be Lucky than Smart! Lucky wins every time.
That photo shows a looooooooooooooooooooooot of rivets in the B-24 skin.
My dad was based in what is Indonesia today while in the Naval Air Corps during WWII. His unit operated the PB4Y from a base on Wakde Atoll. The PB4Y is the Navy's version of the B-24.
While we think today that most of the deaths and loss of aircraft was due to enemy fire, that is not the case. The majority of these PB4Y aircraft (according to official records) were lost due to pilot error, often during take off or landing.
It was a case of very young men with poor training, under a lot of stress, in poorly maintained and poorly designed equipment trying to fight a war. Bad food, no sleep, and bad weather all added to the danger.
You had to fly 25 missions in Europe to go home. Unfortunately, life expectancy of a bomber crew back then (before the P-51), was about 13 missions.
Looks like some bullet holes in the cockpit windows too.
A thousand years ago, I wrote something about these airplanes. Submitted here for whatever its worth:
The impressions you’ve gotten from high school history or magazine photos pale in comparison to the experience of standing next to one of these huge aluminum beasts for the first time. Details reach right out and grab you and you come to realize on a visceral level what an intensely frightening and painful experience the airwar must have been. You look at a plexiglas machine gun turret and try to imagine what a 200 mph wind must have felt like on a man’s face as it shrieked through those gun ports... and you remember that the temperature at 25,000 feet is an almost unimaginable 60 degrees below zero. The cramped ball turret, hanging beneath the belly of the B-24, seems an awfully precarious position to occupy and suddenly it’s easy to understand the paradox of how its occupant would feel claustrophobic even while hanging in mid-air.
Stand under the tail of the B-24 and see for yourself how every head-on firing pass by a Messerschmitt must have become an easy, no-deflection shot for the bomber’s tail gunner. No wonder most claims on enemy fighters were made from this position. You also think about what it must have been like to stand at that gaping, wide open waist-gunner’s window, frozen stiff from what must have been a triple-digit wind chill factor. And you know that time and time again, some 19 year-old kid must have stood there, desperately trying to stabilize the barrel of a bucking, heavy machine gun against a turbulent slipstream, fighting an uneven duel with some Focke-Wulf—and he didn’t have time to pray that his pitiful, wildly looping, single stream of tracers would find it’s mark before the German fighter’s battery of machine guns and cannon pulverized him into a crystalline, pink mist of flash-frozen entrails.
Parked, the old airplanes bear silent witness of hundreds of thousands of young American men, who deserve to be remembered for what they accomplished and appreciated for how much they suffered and sacrificed. That’s the whole point of today’s exercise.
The airshow begins with the start-up ritual. The metal giants come slowly to life, one engine at a time as they cough and belch gobs of oil and smoke... and then settle down to a loping idle. A small boy holds Grandpa’s hand and looks up at the frail, gray gentleman who slowly shakes his head and with closed eyes, travels back to 1943.
The bomber pilots warm up their engines and go through checklists. The P-40 Kittyhawk of the American Airpower Museum fires up, sounding as raucous and angry as it looks with the obligatory, painted-on shark’s mouth. Her short exhaust stacks pop and crackle like the little hot-rod she is. Nearby, a group of carefully uniformed historical re-enactors pull and push a cart loaded with inert bombs. Along with the old airplanes and historical setting, this could be the homefront during WWII, but then the Kittyhawk pilot slips on a set of Dave Clark headphones, his anti-collision strobes start flashing and suddenly, we’re right back in the 21st century.
Now the bombers taxi toward the runway in a ponderous single file, like a couple of pachyderms. Even on takeoff, their size makes everything seem to happen in slow motion and this only adds to their graceful elegance. They depart with a deep, satisfying rumble.
The P-47 pilot climbs aboard as casually as if he were opening his morning newspaper and, head down, starts flipping switches. Solenoids clack and fuel pumps spool-up beneath the mechanical whine of the Jug’s inertia starter. Black blades flash sunlight one at a time as the 13-foot prop starts to rotate. The big fighter’s belly is bathed with intermittent billows of blue-gray smoke as the engine coughs, then catches. The smoke is instantly whipped away by prop blast and the Jug broadcasts her vibrant thunder.
Two fighters couldn’t be more different in design philosophy than the P-40 Kittyhawk and P-47 Thunderbolt: The Kittyhawk drag-races down the runway in a furious dash, with a high-pitched engine and serrated prop sound that seems to rip the air as it passes by. The massive Thunderbolt follows, gathering speed slowly, but with conviction, giving the impression of a locomotive with wings. Her wheels skip once and she ascends, spreading a basso profundo thrum of power across the field. As the warbirds disappear into the distance, the sound level dies down and an almost reverent hush seems to come over the field. Nobody has been trying to talk over the overwhelming roar of engines and the voices remain still for a few more seconds.
Now the crowd starts buzzing again and there’s a general feeling of, “What happens now?” Five long minutes later, a modest crescendo builds just beyond the tree line and the Liberator and Fortress wheel majestically into view; big radials throttled back to an easy purr. Low and slow, they break into a left turn past the control tower; the great length of their wings giving the false impression of a dangerously steep bank. The fighters follow with the razzmatazz tenor of the Kittyhawk, supported by the Thunderbolt’s big bass back-up.
Finally, the bombers touch down, engines grumbling and huge tires chirping out blue puffs of smoke. They taxi in slowly and deliberately as before. The B-24 nods gently on it’s nose wheel strut as the parking brakes are set before the roped-off crowd. The two fighters also snake their way back and cut their engines; props whirling down amid the muted clackety-clack of cams and valve trains. The crowd is silent for another moment, then the tinny snap and bonk of cooling exhaust parts is suddenly overshadowed by the sound of spontaneous applause.
Now, the news media moves in. Most of them are conscientious about accuracy and they interview a group of veterans with respectful solicitude. Thank God for the professionals who do it right. But there’s a film crew shooting near the Thunderbolt, not ten feet from where I’m standing, and a pretty-faced anchor woman pats the Jug’s side and tells her video camera, “The victory markings beneath the cockpit here prove that this particular P-57 Thunderbird shot down 20 enemy planes.” I just shake my head and smile.
Over 23,000 members of the 8th Air Force flying over Europe, were lost in WW2. That's only the 8th Air Force, that's not counting the air losses in Asia and North Africa.