The B-24 was ditched into the James River on September 20, 1944. A pilot flew the plane into the water to see how much damage would be caused to the bomber. The Consolidated B-24 Liberator is an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and some initial models were laid down as export models designated as various LB-30s, in the Land Bomber design category.
At its inception, the B-24 was a modern design featuring a highly efficient shoulder-mounted, high aspect ratio Davis wing. The wing gave the Liberator a high cruise speed, long range and the ability to carry a heavy bomb load. Early RAF Liberators were the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean as a matter of routine. However, the type was difficult to fly and had poor low speed performance. It also had a lower ceiling and was less robust than the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. While aircrews tended to prefer the B-17, General Staff preferred the B-24, and procured it for a wide variety of roles.
The B-24 was used extensively in World War II. It served in every branch of the American armed forces, as well as several Allied air forces and navies, and saw use in every theater of operations. Along with the B-17, the B-24 was the mainstay of the US strategic bombing campaign in the Western European theater.
Due to its range, it proved useful in bombing operations in the Pacific, including the bombing of Japan. Long range anti-submarine Liberators played an instrumental role in closing theMid-Atlantic Gap in the Battle of the Atlantic. The C-87 transport derivative served as a longer range, higher capacity counterpart to the Douglas C-47 Skytrain.
The B-24 was produced in very large numbers. At nearly 19,000 units, with over 8,000 manufactured by Ford Motor Company, it holds the distinction of being the most produced heavy bomber in history, the most produced multi-engine aircraft in history and the most-produced American military aircraft.
The B-24 was quickly declared obsolete by the USAAF and the remaining stateside aircraft were flown to desert storage in the US Southwest. In the Pacific theatre, many aircraft were simply parked, the oil drained from the engines and left for reclamation.
By 1950, except for the one B-24D held for preservation, the vast fleet of Liberators were gone. The last flight of a B-24 by the USAF was on 12 May 1959 when Strawberry Bitch left Grissom Air Force Base, formerly Bunker Hill Air Force Base, Indiana following an Armed Forces Open House for the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it is now displayed.
While at the end of the war both the Royal Air Force as well as the Royal Australian Air Force were willing to continue operating the B-24, the terms of the Lend-Lease agreements stipulated that these aircraft had to be either paid for or returned to the US and vast graveyards of aircraft accumulated in India as well as Tarakan, andAustralia.