Original Item: Only One Available. The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by the Consolidated Aircraft Company of San Diego, California. The term “heavy bomber” was primarily used prior to and during World War II to describe bombers with the largest bomb capacities and longest ranges. During World War II there were three heavy bombers - the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator, and late in the war the B-29 Superfortress.
This is an exceptionally rare complete plexiglass top turret dome from a WW2 B-24 Liberator. We believe it was designed as part of a Martin Electric Turret. It housed two .50-inch (50 caliber) Browning machine guns and could move 360 degrees around as well as up and down. The Top Turret Gunner was the ship's engineer, as the top turret gunner's position provided a good view of the engines as well as a panoramic view of the surrounding airspace. Note - the white riveted canvas strips in the gun channels are easily removed, though they appear to be designed to fit around the gun barrels.
Principal duty: Aerial Engineer
Secondary duty: Top Turret Gunner
Added duty: Qualified for Copilot Duties
Added duty: Parachute Officer
Added duty: First Aid Specialist
Added duty: Assistant Radio Operator
The dome is offered in very good condition, with minor scuffs and wear, and no major damage or cracking. It measures approximately 36” wide x 23” high with a circumference of 110”. This is a wonderful addition to any WW2 or airplane collection, would work perfectly on a table top to cover other collectibles or to mount two .50 BMGs inside for the true wartime feel. These are incredibly rare and only seen in museum collections.
Heavy bombers of the WWII era also were distinguished by their heavy defensive armament, for protection from smaller and usually much faster fighter aircraft. British designs often had three gun turrets with a total of eight machine guns. U.S. heavy bomber designs, optimized for formation flying, had upwards of ten machine guns and/or cannons in both powered turrets and manually-operated flexible mounts to deliver the optimal protective arcs of fire. Positions for these guns included tail turrets, side gun ports (typically a window with a .50 caliber machine gun), and dorsal (spine/top of aircraft) and ventral (belly/bottom of aircraft) gun positions with powered turrets. All of these machine guns were designed to enable the crew to defend the aircraft from attacking enemy fighters, especially at times when the bombers were not being escorted by their own fighters.
The American innovation of the manned, ventrally-mounted Sperry ball turret on the B-17 and B-24 bombers was a virtually self-contained defensive weapon system that rotated a full 360 degrees horizontally with a 90-degree elevation, and its pair of M2 Browning machine guns had an effective range of one thousand yards. Introduced later in the war, the B-29 Superfortress brought the innovation of four remotely operated twin-gun turrets on its fuselage, controlled through an analog computer sighting system. Only the rear tail gunner position on the plane was manned by a crew member.
The B-24 originated in a 1938 request by the Air Corps for Consolidated Aircraft to produce B-17s. However, 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. The wing entailed a high aspect ratio design. Aspect ratio is the ratio of length over chord width or essentially length divided by width. In practical purposes this simply means the wing was long and slender. Consolidated's engineers sketched out a rough version of a bomber using Davis's wing in late 1938. It would be a four-engine, high-wing, tricycle landing gear, dual bomb bay aircraft. The Liberator was effectively born.
The first B-24s were produced for the British, who gave it its name of Liberator, and for the French. The aircraft ordered by the French were delivered to the British since the French had surrendered before production of their order was completed. The B-24 Liberator’s mass production was brought into full force by 1943 with the aid of the Ford Motor Company through its newly-constructed Willow Run facility in Michigan, where peak production had reached one B-24 per hour and 650 per month in 1944. Through the course of the war Willow Run manufactured 8,685 bombers and assemble another 6,792 bombers and employed 80,000 workers. Other factories soon followed and added to production figures, making the Liberator the most-produced heavy bomber during the war of all time at over 18,400 units, due largely to Henry Ford and the harnessing of American industry. The Liberator still holds the distinction as the most-produced American military aircraft, having been manufactured by Consolidated Vultee, Ford Motor Company, Douglas Aircraft, and North American Aircraft between the years of 1939 and 1945.
The B-24 was used by several Allied air forces and navies and by every branch of the American armed forces during the war, attaining a distinguished war record with its operations in the Western European, Pacific, Mediterranean, and China-Burma-India theaters of operation. The B-24 is especially recognized as having been instrumental in destroying the German U-boat fleet and significantly curtailing its abilities and effectiveness. The B-24 even saw duty in the Aleutian islands as a deterrent to Japanese invasion through Alaska. B-24s saw battle from the very start of the war. In fact, a B-24 was destroyed at Hickam Field on December 7, 1941 during the Pearl Harbor attack.
The British employed versions of the B-24 in its wartime effort as well. While the targets of the American air force were military, industrial, and economic centers and systems, the British targets were selected to impact the morale of the German people. The British typically bombed at night as bombing accuracy was not as important as compared to the American bomber missions since the British targets were not strategic objectives like single point targets such as railroad marshalling yards, troop concentrations, and aircraft and ball bearing factories. The Americans bombed during the daytime and early on in the war, this daylight precision bombing decision was under scrutiny by top levels within the United States military organization and at risk of being reversed due to high losses.
The structure of the American Army Air Force organization consisted of Army Air Forces, Air Wings, Bomb Groups, (Bombardment Groups) and Bomb Squads (Bomber Squadrons). In dad's case he was part of the 15th Army Air Force, 55th Air Wing, 460th Bomb Group, 763rd Bomb Squad. The number of aircraft assigned to a Bomb Group varied during the war and sometimes standard numbers may not seem to have existed. Generally speaking, in 1943 a heavy Bomb Group supported 48 heavy bombers (B-24s or B-17s). By February 1945 the number of aircraft within a typical Bomb Group had increased to 72. Four Bomb Squads typically comprised a Bomb Group and four Bomb Groups comprised an Air Wing.
The B-24 underwent numerous design revisions and construction modifications during the course of the war. Most changes were intended to increase is durability in combat or payload, while some were to custom-tailor the bomber to specific needs which varied by theater of operation or particular mission. The first version, the B-24A, was over three feet shorter and 10,900 lbs lighter than the B-24M which was produced toward the end of the war. Changes often came fast and furious and the ability of factories to incorporate changes to the production line or retool as necessary to accommodate the changes was not possible without impacts to productivity, production goals, and the overall war effort. Consequently, aircraft were often produced to prior specifications and the aircraft were next sent to modification centers to receive the most current design revisions.
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