Consolidated B-24D Liberator

The B-24D was the first version of the Liberator to be mass produced and the first version of the aircraft to enter combat in large numbers with the USAAF. It was similar to the B-24C which had been used to prepare the Consolidated factory at San Diego for full production. It was also the first version of the aircraft to be built by members of the Liberator Production Pool.

The B-24D saw a minor change of engine, from the 1,200hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-41 to the R-1830-43. Later in the production run this was changed to the R-1830-65, starting with San Diego block 140-CO and Fort Worth block 25-CF. All ten Tulsa aircraft used the later engine.

The nose, upper turret, waist and tail guns remained the same, but the belly gun was changed three times. Early aircraft were produced with the same tunnel gun position used on the B-24C. This saw a single .50in machine gun placed in the belly of the aircraft. It could fire down and backwards, and was difficult to aim.

Consolidated B-24D Liberator lost during Operation Tidalwave
Consolidated B-24D Liberator lost during Operation Tidalwave

On the 77th production aircraft this single gun was replaced by a retractable remotely sighted Bendix turret, previously used on the B-17E Flying Fortress. This was not a great success, causing motion sickness amongst the gunners. It was also difficult to aim the gun, and after 287 aircraft had been completed with the Bendix turret it was removed and the tunnel gun restored.

Finally, in block 140-CO a retractable Sperry ball turret was installed on the Liberator. This was the same turret that had been adopted on the B-17 Flying Fortress and would remain standard on the majority of B-24s. The B-24 ball gunner had one big advantage over his B-17 colleagues. The bicycle landing gear of the B-24 made it much safer to land when the ball turret was stuck in the lowered position.

Consolidated B-24D Liberator from Above
Consolidated B-24D Liberator from Above

Some effort was made to improve the nose guns of the B-24. From block 15-CO a pair of .50in machine guns were added in cheek positions, just as in the B-17. They were not a great success. There was not enough space in the nose of the B-24 for the bombardier and gunners. The cheek gunners had limited visibility and couldn’t fire directly forward. The B-24D also saw the original nose gun moved down from its original high position into a lower position, because the original position had been found to interfere with the bomb sight.

A field modification carried out by the Fifth Air Force began to point the way towards solving the forward firepower problem. They placed a Consolidated A-6 tail turret in the nose, moving the bombardier’s position below the turret. This was a great success and became a common field modification. It became a standard feature of the aircraft on the Ford built B-24H and on the standard B-24J.

A total of 2,696 B-24Ds were built, 2,383 of them at the Consolidated factory at San Diego. The Consolidated factory at Forth Worth became the first member of the Liberator Production Pool to produce aircraft in May 1942. A total of 303 B-24Ds were built at Fort Worth. In July 1942 the Douglas factory at Tulsa began production, assembling ten B-24Ds from components produced at San Diego. Production at both sub-assembly plants then moved on to the B-24E, built with Ford components.

The first B-24Ds were delivered to the Army Air Force at the end of January 1942. Ford built similar aircraft as the B-24E while North American at Dallas produced the B-24H. The B-24D was replaced by the B-24J in the summer of 1943.

 Consolidated B-24 Liberator (Crowood Aviation), Martin W. Bowman. A well balanced book that begins with a look at the development history of the B-24, before spending nine out of its ten chapters looking at the combat career of the aircraft in the USAAF, the US Navy and the RAF.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 December 2007), Consolidated B-24D Liberator , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_B-24D.html

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