Come visit us at The Museum of Military Memorabilia. Our Naples Municipal Airport location displays a just a fraction of the artifacts we have available. Here are some of our current showcases which highlight WWII Aviation.

2012 marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Naples Airport as a WWII Army Air Forces Training Base.

Henry Ford & the B-24 Bomber

The Genius of Henry Ford. ......This was BEFORE Pearl Harbor ......

Ford's B-24 Bomber Plant at Willow Run, MI. Henry Ford was determined that he could mass produce bombers just as he had done with cars. He built the Willow Run assembly plant and proved it. It was the world's largest building under one roof. Even then FORD HAD A BETTER IDEA! This film will absolutely blow you away - one B-24 every 55 minutes.



Consolidated B-24 Liberator

18,188 planes produced, entered service 1940

B-24D specs: top speed 303 MPH, 11 machine guns, max. bomb load 8,000 lbs.

By , Aug. 2002. Updated January 21, 2012.

August 1, 1943 – Over Ploesti, Romania, German-occupied Europe:

The Vagabond King, B-24 Liberator #42-40787, shook from the flak concussions, from bullets smashing its windows, and from the roaring rumbling of its four Pratt & Whitney R-1830 fourteen-cylinder radial engines. 1st Lt. John McCormick cursed as the gunner in the top turret opened up with his twin fifties. He was ruining the bomb run! And McCormick wanted to hit this target, the Steaua Romana oil refinery outside Ploesti. General Brereton had told them this raid could shorten the war by six months.

McCormick barked out orders to his crew, just as he had done so often in the past two weeks, when the 389th Bomb Group practiced for Operation “Tidal Wave” over the godforsaken Libyan desert outside Benghazi.

“Mosco, bomb bay doors open,” to the bombardier, 1st Lt. Marvin Mosco.

“Start the camera, Van,” to the radioman, enlisted man Martin Van Buren.

He steadied the stick as the big Liberator sped along the deck at 225 mile per hour, staying close to Hitler’s Hearse, Captain R.C. Mooney’s plane immediately ahead, so that Mooney’s bombs, with 45 second delay fuses, didn’t blow up in Vagabond King‘s nose. Down at chimney height, as black smoke from the bombs and sooty burning hydrocarbons boiled up all around them, suddenly “Bombs away!” and Vagabond jumped up, 4,000 pounds lighter. At that instant, the Hearse, grimly lived up to its name, as it took several direct hits, killing the Capt. Mooney. As more bullets tore into his own bomber, McCormick hoped those workers at Consolidated’s San Diego plant had been paying attention when they built his plane. The Vagabond had taken a lot of punishment; one anti-aircraft shell had hit Van and he was a bloody mess.

Paul Miller, the gunner in the A-6 power tail turret, reported that their particular target, the boiler house, had been flattened and was burning fiercely. McCormick hugged the deck as he made his getaway, figuring that the German fighters couldn’t dive on them down that low.

The Vagabond King headed south, desperate to get medical attention for the badly wounded Van. They flew over Turkey and touched down at Nicosia airfield, Cyprus as it was getting dark, fourteen hours after they had taken off. They were one of the lucky ones; of 178 B-24’s that took off that morning, 54 didn’t come back.


More B-24’s were built than any other American airplane. It edged out the B-17 on most performance criteria (speed, range, bomb load). It’s crewmen claimed 2,600 enemy aircraft shot down. With it’s great range, it performed anti-sub work in the Atlantic and heavy bomber support in the Pacific.

Design and Development – Early B-24’s

The B-24 originated in a 1938 request by the Air Corps for Consolidated Aircraft to produce B-17’s. But Consolidated’s engineer, David Davis, had designed a wing suited for long-range bombers, a wing that offered 15 percent less drag than ordinary wings. Consolidated’s engineers sketched out a rough version of a bomber using Davis’ wing in late 1938. It would be a four-engine, high-wing, tricycle landing gear, dual bomb bay aircraft.

USAAC General Hap Arnold approved the plans and in March, 1939 Consolidated was granted a contract for its Model 32 or XB-24. Consolidated’s prototype, delivered in December, was stumpy and not-very-attractive. Personally, the look of the two large oval tail fins seems inelegant. The bomb bay was unique. The four bomb doors operated much like suburban garage doors and rolled up along the outside the fuselage. In between, along the bottom of the fuselage ran a narrow catwalk. Interestingly, the crew normally went in and out of the Liberator through the bomb bay doors. Powered by four 1,100 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33 Twin Wasp engines, the prototype could make 273 MPH – before turbo-superchargers were added.

Even before the prototype’s first flight, the Air Corps contracted for seven YB-24‘s and the French ordered 175 (most of these eventually wound up in the RAF). One of the was customized as Winston Churchill’s personal transport aircraft.

The Army ordered 120 examples of the B-24A in mid-1939. Twenty of these ended up in British service, known as Liberator I. The RAF used them for anti-submarine work, adding radar antennae all over and four 20 mm cannon in the nose. With the Liberator’s 2400-mile range, they were able to patrol for out into the Atlantic. Nine of the original B-24A order served with the USAAF as transports, including the September 1941 Harriman mission to Moscow and a top-secret spy flight over Japanese Pacific bases. The remaining 91 airframes were finished as “C”s or “D”s.

Dissatisfied with the 273 MPH of the first B-24, the Army specified a turbo-supercharged engine in the experimental XB-24B. Powered by 1200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 engines, this plane met the Army’s requirements, with a top speed of 310 MPH. It also featured self-sealing fuel tanks, as did all subsequent B-24s. (There was a definite trend to the modifications in WW2 bombers – more guns, better engines, more armor, self-sealing fuel tanks, bigger bomb loads. They all seem to follow that general pattern.)

The B-24C represented the next step in the evolution of the B-24, incorporating advances from the XB-24B and from the British combat experience with the Liberator. The “C” model included eight .50 caliber machine guns: one in the nose, one in the belly, two in a tail turret, two in a dorsal turret (just aft of the cockpit), and two in the waist. Its nose was three feet longer than earlier versions. Only nine B-24C models were ordered, all restricted from combat use.

Production Pool

To meet the foreseen large demand for the B-24, the government set up a consortium of aircraft manufacturers and plants to build the plane:

  • CO – Consolidated/San Diego plant
  • CF – Consolidated/Fort Worth plant
  • DT – Douglas/Tulsa plant
  • FO – Ford/Willow Run plant
  • NT – North American/Dallas plant

The story of Ford’s Willow Run plant could fill a book in itself. They broke ground in April, 1941; by September, it was complete – an 80 acre factory. Dormitories were built on the site and a commuter rail line was extended to it. Designed by Ford executives like Charles Sorenson, Willow Run got off to a slow start, as its automobile, assembly-line style of manufacturing had to be adapted to aircraft production. By mid-1943, with 42,000 employees, it began to turn out B-24s – 230 per month. By the end of 1944, 650 per month. When production ended in April, 1945, Willow Run had turned out over 8,600 Liberators.

The Liberator Production Pool did not operate completely trouble-free. Parts made by different factories were not always interchangeable, and implementing the countless required changes consistently was a headache. Eventually, separate “modification centers” were set up to upgrade planes that had just left the factory, but were already obsolescent.



The “D” was the first B-24 to be qualified for combat. Under the original Production Pool plan, Consolidated/San Diego was the prime manufacturer, supplying components to Fort Worth and Douglas/Tulsa for assembly. In May, 1942 the first of 2738 B-24D‘s rolled off the assembly lines.

Due to rapidly changing needs, especially for defensive machine guns, there were many variations within the B-24D model, these differences identified by “production blocks” (e.g B-24D-70-CO). Various ventral gun systems were tired, including a totally unworkable, Bendix turret theoretically aimed with a periscope. Another, familiar problem was inadequate firepower in the nose. In the “D” two cheek guns were added, but didn’t work out so well.

Specs for late model B-24D:

  • Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 fourteen-cylinder radial engines, rated at 1200 hp.
  • Performance: Maximum speed 303 mph at 25,000 feet.
  • Service ceiling: 32,000 feet.
  • Range: 2300 miles with 5000 pounds of bombs. Maximum range 3500 miles.
  • Fuel capacity: 3614 US gallons.
  • Dimensions: Wingspan 110 feet 0 inches, length 66 feet 4 inches, height 17 feet 11 inches, wing area 1048 square feet.
  • Weights: 32,605 pounds empty, 55,000 pounds gross, Maximum takeoff weight 64,000 pounds.
  • Armament: Bomb bay could accommodate up to eight 1600-pound bombs.
  • The late model “D”s included eleven .50 caliber machine guns: three in the nose, two in the belly turret, two in a tail turret, two in a dorsal turret (just aft of the cockpit), and two in the waist

A few non-numerous production variants included: the B-24E – produced at Willow Run, similar to the “D” model; C-109 – a tanker conversion of the B-24E, capable of carrying 2,900 gallons of fuel, used over “the Hump;” and the B-24G – North American’s model, all equipped with the nose turret.


Trying to increase forward firepower, some 90th Bomb Group field engineers got the bright idea to install a cannibalized B-24 tail turret in the nose. It worked pretty well, and an Emerson A-15 twin-gun nose turret was standardized on B-24H‘s. The top and tail turrets were improved, and the camouflage paint was omitted late in the “D” series. 3,100 were produced, over half at Willow Run.


Essentially the same as the B-24H; but early “J”s were equipped with the Convair (merged Consolidated/Vultee) A-6A nose turret, instead of the Emerson A-15 turret, due to a limited supply of the Emerson turrets. By early 1944, enough Emerson’s were available for all five factories. The B-24J was also equipped with an improved C-1 automatic pilot, a new M-series bomb sight, an electronic control system for the turbo superchargers, and a better fuel transfer system.

At first, only the two Convair plants manufactured the B-24J, with Ford/Willow Run and Douglas/Tulsa continuing to produce the B-24H and North American/Dallas continuing to build the B-24G. However, in early 1944, the Army directed that the C-1 automatic pilot and the M-series bombsight be installed on all production Liberators under the designation B-24J. For the first time, all five members of the Liberator Production Pool would be building aircraft under the same designation. Ford/Willow Run produced its first B-24J in April of 1944, with Douglas/Tulsa and North American/Dallas following in May

Excessive weight was a real drawback of the B-24J; numerous additions totaling 8,000 pounds had been made since the B-24D, but the same engine. Performance, fuel efficiency, and flight stability fell off because of this excess weight. (Sounds like what my wife and my doctor tell me.)

6678 B-24J‘s were produced. By late 1944, the Army foresaw a lessened demand for Liberators, and ordered that three of the plants be freed up for other purposes. Only Ford-Willow Run and Convair-San Diego continued turning out B-24’s in 1945. Late in the B-24 program, attempts were made to trim its weight (in the Pacific, field engineers had been removing the belly turrets to save weight). The result was the B-24L, some 1,000 pounds lighter than the “J,” of which 1667 were built, mostly at Willow Run.

Specs of B-24J (key differences from B-24D in boldface)

  • Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-65 fourteen-cylinder radial engines, rated at 1200 hp, with GE turbo superchargers
  • Performance: Maximum sustained speed 278 mph at 25,000 feet.
  • Service ceiling: 28,000 feet.
  • Range: 1700 miles at all-up weight of 61,500 pounds.
  • Fuel capacity: 3614 US gallons.
  • Dimensions: Wingspan 110 feet 0 inches, length 64 feet 2 inches, height 18 feet 0 inches, wing area 1048 square feet.
  • Weights: 38,000 pounds empty, 55,000 pounds gross, Maximum takeoff weight 71,000 pounds.
  • Armament: Bomb bay could accommodate up to eight 1600-pound bombs.
  • The late model “D”s included eleven .50 caliber machine guns: three in the nose, two in the belly turret, two in a tail turret, two in a dorsal turret (just aft of the cockpit), and two in the waist

About 1600 late model B-24’s (H, G, and L) were delivered under Lend-Lease to Britain. The RAF used them for anti-submarine work, day bombing, and as transports.

PB4Y-1 – The Navy’s Liberator

Interservice rivalry did not disappear during World War Two. While the Navy wanted a heavy, land-based bomber for patrol, anti-sub, and reconnaissance, the Army resisted such intrusion on its turf. But the Army needed the production capacity at factory in Renton that was committed to Navy projects. The two services made a deal; for its part, the Navy got “navalized” B-24’s and other bombers, as well as agreement for it to carry out its own maritime patrol, photographic, and transport work.


Over Europe – 8th Air Force

Twenty-one Bombardment Groups (BG) of the Eighth Air Force would fly the B-24. While five transitioned to the B-17, sixteen were still equipped with Liberators when the Eighth was re-organized in four Air Divisions in mid-1944.

The first being the 93rd BG which joined the 8AF in April, 1942. Another 1942 arrival was the 44th BG, the “Flying Eight balls.”

Other groups included the 25th BG, 34th BG, 44th BG, 93rd BG, 389th BG, 445th BG, 446th BG (in Dec. 1943), 448th BG, 453rd BG (Jimmy Stewart’s group), 458th BG, 466th BG, 467th BG (arriving in March, 1944), 482nd BG, 486th BG, 487th BG, 489th BG, 490th BG, 491st BG, 492nd BG,


Source Wikipedia



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