B-24 By The Numbers

ford_b-24j-1-fo_liberator_42-50611_-_611_-_492bg_859bs
B-24J-1-FO 42-50611 of the 859th Bomb Squadron, 492nd Bomb Group – from the same production block as Joplin Jalopy
(Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

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 opusUSASC-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

Dimensions:

  • Wingspan: 110 feet
  • Length: 64 feet 2 inches
  • Height: 18 feet
  • Wing Area: 1048 square feet

Weights:

  • 38,000 pounds empty
  • 56,000 pounds combat
  • 71,200 pounds maximum overload.

Engines

  • Four x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-65 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder air-cooled radial engines with General Electric B-22 turbosuperchargers

Armament:

  • Ten 0.50-inch Browning machine guns
  • Maximum internal bomb load 8000 pounds (usually 5000 pounds)

Crew

  • 10 – Pilot, Copilot, Bombardier, Nose gunner, Navigator, Radio operator, Ball turret gunner, Left and Right Waist gunners, Tail gunner

B-24J

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.

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