World War II Bombers

Photos of some "Heavy Iron" of WWII

American Bombers

B-24J All American Taxiing at Hillsboro, Oregon in 2001. Consolidated B-24J Liberator "All American" This is the Consolidated B-24J "All American" when it visited Hillsboro in 2001. The B-24 "Liberator" was produced in more numbers than the Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" but it never had the same amount of good press as the B-17. It could fly faster, farther and with more bombs than the B-17 but still the B-17 is recognized and remembered by more people than the B-24. Numerous movies have used the B-17 in it but I cannot remember a single movie that has used B-24s.

YB-24 Privateer - aka a B-24 Liberator with a single tail - at Ft. Wainwright Alaska in 1978. This is the PB4Y Super Privateer — the single tail version similar to the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. The original design of the B-24 was for a single tail but aerodynamic problems forced them to build the initial B-24s with twin tails. Later they perfected the single tail design and the Navy ordered them and they were the B-24Ns. They were used as patrol bombers for anti-submarine and reconnoiter work.

This a/c was photographed at Ft. Wainwright Alaska in 1978. There were also B-25 Mitchells and C-119 Boxcars there that summer to fight fires. This plane, N7620C, was destoryed when the left wing failed while on a fire drop on 18 July 2002 in Colorado. See the accident ASN report for details.

B-17G 909 at Aurora, Oregon in June of 2000.Boeing Flying Fortress B-17G "909" The Boeing B-17G "909" at Aurora Airport in 2000. I went flying in this B-17 while it was here. Here is a separate page of the aircraft Boeing B-17G Bomber Flying Fortress "909" that has detailed view of it on the ground and views that I took from it while flying in it.

B-17G Flying Fortress and B-24J Liberator at Aurora, Oregon in June of 2000.B-17 Fortress and B-24 Liberator Both the B-17 and B-24 together on the dispersal point at Aurora Airport in June of 2000. These two aircraft the were mainstay of the heavy bomber attacks performed by the 8th and 15th Air Force in Europe during the Second World War.

The 8th Air Force operated out of England (except for occasional diversions to North Afrika and Russia during shuttle missions and Operation Torch) while the 15th flew out of North Afrika and Italy from 1942-1945.

 

The B-17 at The Bomber Restuarant undergoing restorationA B-17G at The Bomber Restaurant Not all B-17s are in flying shape. This one in Milwaukee Oregon is undergoing restoration. Eventually it will be able to fly.

 

B-17G Texas Raider at Vacaville Airport in 1992.B-17G "Texas Raider" B-17G "Texas Raider" at Vacaville Airport in 1992. The G model introduced a factory installed chin turret. There were field modifications done on F models that accomplished the same thing. The German Luftwaffe unit JG-26 fought against the 8th Air Force units and perfected the head-on attacks against B-17s after they had shot down and examined a few.

They discovered that there was a blind spot where the bottom turret could not elevate up to fire at nor could the top turret cover when attacking from 10 o'clock level thru 2 o'clock level. The top turret interrupter gear would prevent it from firing through the propeller arcs and it could not be depressed down enough to fire lower to the front. Thus a blind spot was there that the Germans took full advantage of.

Light American Bombers

The B-26 had one of the lowest loss rates of aircraft per mission in the ETO theatre. Like most facts, you have to dig behind the data to find out more to learn the whole truth. What is not stated with facts that are presented concerning the loss rate of B-26s is how they could achieve that low of a loss rate: The B-26s seldom flew more than a few hundred miles behind enemy lines and thus were seldom attacked by enemy fighters! At 200 mph they would only be over enemy territory for at most an hour and by the time the German fighters could react they would be back over allied lines. And from 1941 onwards the German fighters were instructed not to go past friendly lines if at all possible.

In 1944, during the "Battle of the Bulge" a B-26 formation was caught unescorted by a small German fighter unit: 28 were shot down of the 68 in the formation in less than 30 minutes. (2 groups were flying, 36 bombers per group. 3 squadrons per group, 12 planes per squadron.)

Amongst the various nicknames of the B-26 were: "the widow maker", "the flying coffin", "A tisket and tasket a double engine casket", plus "One a day in Tampa Bay."

Douglas Aircraft A-26 Invader




Douglas Aircraft A-26B
Invader
"Feeding Frenzy
"

A-26 Douglas Invader at Reno in 1991

This Douglas A-26B "Invader" N34538 named "Feeding Frenzy" was the follow-on aircraft of Douglas's A-20 "Havoc". The A-20 was the first aircraft of the 8th Air Force to attack a target in Europe on July 4th 1942. This was written up in the official magazine "Impact" of>which I have the complete reprint series from WW II. They attacked a German fighter base at low level. They attacked at 500 feet. Four aircraft were dispatched and three of the four were shot down. However, in the official history they have:

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO, 8th Air Force): First USAAF air operation over W Europe. 15th Bombardment Squadron (Light) flying 6 American- built Bostons belonging to No. 226 Squadron Royal Air Force, join a RAF low- level attack on De Koog (2 aircraft), Bergen/Alkamaar, Haanstede and Valkenberg (2 aircraft) Airfields in the Netherlands; 2 aircraft are lost, 1 damaged beyond repair and 1 damaged; 6 airmen are MIA. Aircraft flown by Captain Charles C Kegelman, Squadron Commander, is severely damaged, but Kegelman succeeds in bringing it back to base at Swanton Morley. VIII Air Force Composite Command is activated in the US. Second B-17 arrives in the UK via the N Atlantic ferry route.

The only way to find out if three or just two a/c were shot down is to look at squadron histories and Luftwaffe histories since the official history does not correlate with the official magazine story!

The A-26 was very fast light bomber that was field modified to fit many needs. It served around the world in World War II and into Korean War. On the side of the nose of this a/c you can see the mission types that it flew. It is still used as a fire bomber to fight forest fires.

North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber as it lands at Hillsboro airport. This is the North American B-25 "Mitchell" bomber. This prewar aircraft is famous due to is use in the attack against Japan in spring of 1942 lead by Col. Jimmy Doolittle.

A book, then the post war movie, "30 Seconds over Tokyo" made it even more famous.

The Mitchell was used in every part of the world. 75mm cannons were even fitted into the nose and used to sink shipping in the South Pacific and in China. Only really useful against large ships.

Other B-25s had 4 more 50 caliber machine guns fitted, two to each side, of the cockpit and used in ground attacks.

One reason why so many are still flying is due to the movie "Catch-22." There were not that many B-26s flying when the movie was made so they used B-25s instead of B-26s as depicted in the book.

Here is another picture of the North American B-25 Mitchell as it comes in to park.

 

Other American Bombers

PBY Catalina FLying Boat at Aurora Airport in OregonPBY Catalina Flying Boat This PBY at the southern end of Aurora airport in Oregon is not in flying shape. What is a PBY doing on a WW-II Bomber page? In the pacific they would put torpedoes on them and fly them at night as anti-shipping patrol. They were known as "Black Cats" while doing this. They were fairly successful in this combat role.

British Bombers

British Avro Lancaster Heavy Bomber at East Kirby, UK.Avro Lancaster This British Avro Lancaster Mk III, a/c NX611, is not allowed to fly in the UK. It is, however, allowed to taxi around the airport. You can pay to ride in it for the 20 minutes that the pilot drives it around the hardstand twice each day every Wednesday and Saturday. I opted to take pictures of it while it was taxing around rather than get inside. It was the last time for that day so I never had the opportunity to get inside before ending my holiday in the UK. The price to get on board while it taxis around is £185 as of spring 2003.

British Avro Lancaster Mk III Heavy Bomber at East Kirby Aviation Museum in 2004British Lancaster Bomber In 2004 I went (again) over to the UK and went to as many museums as I could get to in three weeks. The Lancaster was again booked well in advance for the taxi rides around the apron so I again missed out on getting inside it on the Saturday I was there.

The Lancaster could fly with up to 22,000 lbs worth of bombs on some special models. Usually they carried 14,000 lbs of bombs. Flying at night they usually flew between 16 and 21,000 feet so they could carry more bombs.

The most famous squadron that flew Lancasters was 617 Squadron out of Scampton: "The Dam Busters." They are the ones who did the low level attack against the dams in Germany at night of 16/17 May 1943. Wing Commander Guy Gibson lead the attack. (Almost seems that the squadron number was dervied from the date of the attack.) The Mohne and Eder dams were successfully breached but two other dams, Sorpe and Schwelme, withstood the attack, though the Sorpe was damaged. Eight aircraft and 53 crew were lost during the night (three became POWs).

They also sank the Tirpitz in Norway and other special targets using modified Lancasters to carry the specialized bombs: Tall Boys (22,000 lb), Earthquake (12,000 lb), and Grand Slams (20,000 lb); as well as the Wallis "bouncing" ball which was used on the dam raid. And it was really more like an overgrown 55 gallon drum in design which skipped over the water after being released with a backward spin to it at 40' above the water.

There is a Lancaster capable of flying in the UK, it is part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster and Spitfire at dispersalMOD Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster and Spitfire (MOD = Ministry of Defense). I went by their aerodrome before going to East Kirby on the off chance that it was there, and it was, and got pictures of it on the ground, and as it took off, and then as it make two circuits over the airfield. It is a Avro Lancaster Mark I model B. Squadron call sign of QR and aircraft call sign M, PA474. This is how you get the "G for George" being mentioned in the movie "The Dam Busters." Aircraft "G" was Wing Commander Guy Gibson's aircraft. The British, when talking on the R/T in order to avoid reception confusion, used phonetics to ensure that people would indeed know which a/c was talking. Thus "G for George" was spoken over the radio to ensure everyone knew which aircraft on the R/T.

Avro Lancaster tail turret showing the four rifle caliber machine guns used in defenseTail Turret of a British Lancaster The Lancaster, though a great bomb carrying heavy bomber, was weak in defense. They had a chin turret, a mid-upper turret and a tail turret. Originally the tail had two rifle caliber (.30 cal) machine guns, other versions were up gunned to 4 rifle as well as 30mm cannons but with cannons then they had a shorter range.

To avoid the tail gun the German night fighters would fly up under the Lancs, climb up slightly to get an angle to hit between the fuselage and the #2 engine, and fire away. The rear gunner could not depress the guns enough to engage the enemy fighter directly below. A specialized variant of Ju88s and 110s used up angled guns to accomplish the same task. "Organ Music" was the nickname. Many fuel tanks are on a Lancaster and between #2 and the fuselage tank was the easiest one to get to burn. (Lancs used up fuel in the outboard tanks first, thus, the center tanks always had fuel in them.)

If an engine caught on fire there was a fire resistant barrier behind each engine on the firewall but it lasted only 30 seconds - then it was doomed since directly behind any engine there were fuel tanks.

In one night raid in November of 1944 to Nuremberg 102 Lancasters were shot down.

The most American bombers shot down in a single daylight raid to the same target was 68.

I have more pictures of these Avro Lancsasters on a separate page.