TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The Consolidate B-24 “Liberator” was a four-engine, heavy bomber produced for the Army Air Corps prior to and during World War II. The aircraft was used in all theaters of the war with particularly heavy use in the European campaign.
According to official Tinker history documents, the Oklahoma City Air Depot had a short, but meaningful association with the Liberator when on July 15, 1943, Tinker began modifying the armament of 65 B-24s. The modifications were complete by the end of 1943.
The Liberator carried a weapon payload of 8,000 pounds using an internal, racked bomb bay to reduce drag and give it a 3,200 mile range. It was manned with 12 crew members made up of a pilot, copilot, navigator, radioman, engineer and defensive gunners positioned in the nose, tail, upper and lower turrets and waist positions.
The B-24 might best be remembered for participation in missions to destroy the Nazis’ petroleum and synthetics production facilities at Ploesti, Romania, in 1942 from bases in North Africa. The B-24 was the primary aircraft used because of its extended range and necessity to fly at low-level to surprise the defenders of the oil fields and refineries. The missions were of limited success.
However, in 1943 the 15th Air Force began a five month follow-up campaign known as Operation Tidal Wave to finally destroy the Nazi petroleum supplier. Flying from former Axis airfields in Italy now under the control of the Allies, the daylight bombing campaign was rebuffed time-after-time with stiff defenses in the form of flak, airborne fighters and smoke screens to obscure the visual sighting of the attacking bombers. On some missions allied aircraft losses approached 50 percent of formations numbering in the hundreds of aircraft. Wartime news reels characterized the campaign’s importance by saying, “The 15th Air Force…did more than merely destroy the enemy oil production, they brought eventual disaster at compounding interest. The German war-machine was stalled for lack of fuel.”
Aircraft type: B-24
Power plant: Four Pratt & Whitney R 1830 radial engines
In-service dates: 1940-1949
Number produced: 19,000Tinker connection: Armament upgrades