This book presents a complete detailed history of the development and combat career of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber during World War II. It begins with the backgrounds of the designers, including Reuben Fleet, describing the early development of the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation during the twenties and thirties. When the U.S. Army leaders decided to develop a replacement for the Martin B-10 medium bomber, Boeing began development of what was to become probably the most famous bomber of the World War II period, the B-17 “Flying Fortress”. When war in Europe seemed to be approaching, Consolidated decided to develop another heavy bomber type, the B-24, using several innovations, including the “Davis Wing”, which had some aerodynamic advantages, and the tricycle landing gear, which simplified takeoffs and landings, and which is now standard on nearly all production aircraft in use today. As the design evolved, the British became interested, and some early models were produced for the RAF. After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army took over most of the B-24’s that had been produced, and the type became one of the standard bombers of the U.S. Army air Force during the war. The type was developed by the addition of superchargers, additional armament, and other features than made the aircraft a more efficient weapons system. In addition, quite a few C-87 transport versions of the B-24 were built, and these are discussed in detail.
One fact that is not so commonly known is that the B-24 production program included not only the Consolidated plant in California, but North American, Douglas, and the Ford Motor Company, builders of one of the largest war production plants during the war outside of Detroit, Michigan. Ford developed automotive production technology to produce an astounding number of B-24’s during the war, and their facility later became Detroit’s major airline terminal at Willow Run, near Ypsilanti. Another factor is the employment of women in the production process. These ladies became known as :”Rosie the Riveters” and their contribution to the war effort was phenomenal.
The question of whether the B-24 was better or inferior to the B-17 is discussed in detail, although the issue is still questioned, with each side having supporters. However, more B-24’s were built than B-17’s, but the B-17 was retained by the Air Force long after the B-24’s were retired, although neither was ever used in a combat role after the war.
The book is one of the best in-depth studies of the origins and development of the B-24 bombers that I have seen, as it goes into detail showing the development of the type, the variants produced, and the plane’s combat career. There is a lot of detail concerning the production of the airplane, with extensive photo coverage of the production facilities, including such things as heavy equipment used to transport large components from one facility to another. Also included is a detailed description of the cockpit and control system, and how the plane was changed when some were adapted for transport use. In addition, the Navy became interested in the type, and the type was used by that service during the war as PB4Y-1 and PB4Y-2, with the “dash 2” variant soldiering on until the 1950’s. There is some coverage of Navy use of the type, although the author could have expanded his description of the type’s career after the war, as a few were sold surplus and flew on as corporate transports, and a larger number of PB4Y’s eventually became forest fire tankers in the fifties and sixties.
One feature of this book is that it is extremely well written. Descriptions are clear, and the photos illustrate each of the production models. It is the kind of book that, once you have started, you end up late for dinner because you want to at least finish the chapter you are on. Or you might just take the book to the table and continue while you are eating.
The only weaknesses in the book is the lack of any three view drawings and color drawings and photos showing modelers the color schemes, but there are other books that provide adequate amounts of information for this purpose. As for a general history of the type, the variants involved, and the specific details in the design, the book certainly fulfils its purpose.
I was surprised that the photos used were primarily official type pictures. Most books of this type use at least some photos taken by individual aircraft photographers, such as Bill Larkins and Peter Bowers, but none of their photos appear in the book. I even photographed a few B-24’s and PB4Y’s during the fifties and sixties, and photos of these would have added to the interest of the book.
As a general history of the type, this book is probably one of the outstanding histories of any American combat aircraft of the World War II period. As modelers, we should be aware of the histories of the aircraft we build, and this book certainly does the job. Its price is very reasonable, especially considering the detailed information presented, and any modeler who wishes to know exactly what went on in the technological development of aircraft during this period will be well served by this book. This is one you should have in your library. Get one while they are available.
Thanks to Bill O’Malley and Phil Peterson for the opportunity to review this book, and to Casemate and Pen and Sword for the review copy.
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