The B-24 was the most numerous American warplane of the Second World War. Total production figures show some variation. The main Wikipedia page for the B-24 says 18,482 were produced. Martin Bowman’s book Consolidated B-24 Liberator (Crowood Press, 2000) puts the number at “well over 19,000.” According to another Wikipedia Page, the total number of B-24s produced was 19,266, in five different plants across the United States, as follows:
Consolidated, San Diego (CO) – 6,506
Consolidated, Fort Worth (CF) – 2,745
Ford, Willow Run (FO) – 8,685
North American, Dallas (NT) – 966
Douglas, Tulsa (DT) – 964
The only problem is that adding up those figures gives a total production of 19,866.
Thirteen complete Liberators survive today.
It is my personal view that any aircraft history researcher will benefit from consulting the enormous archive of data assembled by Joe Baugher. His magnum opus – USASC-USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Military Aircraft Serial Numbers–1908 to Present is simply indispensable if you’re one of those people (like me) who wants to track down exact details of the when and where of a particular aircraft.
Here are a few essential facts about Joplin Jalopy and her kin, from Joe’s page on the B-24J. http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_bombers/b24_18.html
- Wingspan: 110 feet
- Length: 64 feet 2 inches
- Height: 18 feet
- Wing Area: 1048 square feet
- 38,000 pounds empty
- 56,000 pounds combat
- 71,200 pounds maximum overload.
- Four x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-65 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder air-cooled radial engines with General Electric B-22 turbosuperchargers
- Ten 0.50-inch Browning machine guns
- Maximum internal bomb load 8000 pounds (usually 5000 pounds)
- 10 – Pilot, Copilot, Bombardier, Nose gunner, Navigator, Radio operator, Ball turret gunner, Left and Right Waist gunners, Tail gunner
The US Army had directed that the C-1 automatic pilot and the M-series bombsight be installed on all production Liberators under the designation B-24J.
Liberator units in combat had discovered to their cost that the B-24 lacked protection against frontal attacks, and depots in Hawaii and Australia had already begun to dismount tail turrets from Liberators and remount them in the nose to rectify this deficiency. A variety of turret types were used in production until the supplies of the cylindrical Emerson turret (made by Emerson Electric Company in Ferguson, St. Louis, MO) were sufficient to equip all models of the B-24J. All five Liberator factories in the production pool then standardized on making the B-24J. The production pool factories were Consolidated at San Diego, California, Ford at Willow Run, Michigan, Douglas at Tulsa, Oklahoma, North American at Dallas and Convair at Fort Worth, Texas.
B-24J production at Ford’s Willow Run plant started in April 1944 with the B-24J-1-FO production block. Army Air Force serial numbers 42-50509 to 42-50759 and 42-95504/95628 were used in this block. Given that the Jalopy was 42-50535 we can see that she was built very early in the B-24J-1-FO batch.
A conversation I had with one of the historians at Willow Run a few years ago suggests she was finished on May 5th or 6th 1944. On completion, her next destination would be one of the six modification centers which specialized in the installation of theater-specific modifications for combat aircraft.