Only One Plane Would Do...
And It Hadn't Been Invented Yet
Between the wars, America sunk into the Depression and isolationism, wanting nothing to do with "foreign entanglements."
Unfortunately, evil always plots against good and the only bomber on the horizon was the Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress," which, while being a marvelous airplane, was a mediocre bomber.
It would not be long before a bigger, faster, more powerful bomber with a bigger payload was needed to close the U-boat gap in the Atlantic, bridge the immense distances of the Pacific, fly the Himalayas, or reach deep into Romania to extinguish Hitler's oil refineries.
And it would come just in the nick of time.
The Amateur and the Visionary
Reuben Fleet's tiny Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego built flying boats, big ones, to be sure, but not bombers.
But the Army Air Force needed a new bomber ASAP and only self-taught, amateur aerodynamicist David Davis had the solution: his "fluid wing" design predicted an improvement on the B-17's airfoil characteristics by 25%. Astonishing the technicians at CalTech in Pasadena, the airfoil exceeded expectations and within nine months the first B-24 rolled off the line in San Diego, the first many to come.
And though its short development time meant an ungainly (some say ugly) aspect, it had double the bomb bay capacity of the B-17, flew higher and faster, and had greater range.
And it was about to become the most-produced military aircraft in American history--up to and including today.
The Great Unsung Hero of the War
No, it wasn't beautiful. It didn't have ten years for design; just nine months. But soon it was being built in five factories all across America, from San Diego to Tulsa to Detroit -- mostly by women who became known affectionately as "Rosie the Riveters."
An unprecedented achievement in manufacturing, the Ford factory at Willow Run turned out a completed Liberator--the most complex aircraft in the world at the time--every hour.
And they flew in every theater of war, doing things and going places no other aircraft could, from the Aleutians to Tierra del Fuego; from the sands of North Africa to the German heartland; from India to China over the "Hump."
No, it didn't get into many movies and no, it was not a better airplane than the beautiful and famous Boeing B-17.
But it was a better bomber and that's why they built it.
A video by Kenny Kemp during a walkaround hosted by Witchcraft pilot and FedEx captain Tom Jeffrey.
A marvelous color film -- almost an hour long -- detailing the storied career of this great aircraft.
Another video shot by Kenny Kemp where Allen Benzing, PIC of the CAF's B-24A Diamond Lil (the 18th Liberator built of over 18,000) gives us an informed and interesting tour.