The Consolidated PB4Y-1 Liberator was the US Navy’s designation for the B-24. At the start of the war the USAAF had responsibility for flying long range anti-submarine patrols from the American mainland, having spent a great deal of effort in the pre-war years overturning the US Navy’s monopoly on operations over the sea. However, as the war developed the Army Air Force soon became willing to share that duty, and from the middle of 1942 the Navy began to share the responsibility.
Unfortunately the US Navy lacked aircraft that combined the long range and the bomb load required for this role. Both of the USAAF’s heavy bombers, the B-17 and the B-24 were adapted for the role, with the B-24, under the Navy designation PB4Y-1 Liberator, proving to be the best.
The Navy acquired their B-24s by making a deal with the USAAF. The Navy had a factory at Renton, Washington, that was producing the Boeing Sea Ranger, itself an inadequate patrol bomber. This factory was traded to the USAAF in return for a supply of B-24s (the army wanted the factory to build the B-29). Eventually the Navy would gain 977 B-24s from this deal (as well as a number of Mitchells and Venturas).
The PB4Y-1 designation was used to describe every version of the B-24 that entered Naval service. Twenty four Navy and Marine squadrons were equipped with the PB4Y-1, which remained in service long after the war, despite the appearance of the PB4Y-2 Privateer. The aircraft first went operational with VP-101 based at NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii.
Reflecting their navy operators, on the PB4Y-1 the nose turret is normally referred to as the bow turret. Early PB4Y-1s had not arrived with a bow turret. In some cases the navy added an ERCO (Engineering and Research Company) turret to these early aircraft. Later PB4Y-1s came with either Emerson or Consolidated nose turrets.
Air to surface radar was not equipped as standard on early aircraft, but by the end of the production run all Navy PB4Y-1s came with radar, often installed in a retractable fitting.