5 Con­sol­i­dated B-24 Lib­er­a­tor – 18,482

Flight Journal - - THE MOST PRODUCED -

Al­most ex­actly 50 per­cent more Lib­er­a­tors were built than B-17s (12,731), an in­ter­est­ing his­tor­i­cal side note con­sid­er­ing that the B-17 gar­ners far more glory. Part of this may be be­cause the Lib wasn’t with­out its prob­lems. The high-as­pect-ra­tio wing with the Davis air­foil proved more ef­fi­cient in some ar­eas but much more vul­ner­a­ble to dam­age, and ic­ing dis­turbed its air­foil far more than other air­craft. By the same to­ken, it was avail­able and could carry a big­ger bomb load than the ’Fort (on shorter mis­sions), so it shared the airspace with the B-17 on many oc­ca­sions.

The Lib­er­a­tor is one of the more ob­vi­ous re­sults of Amer­ica’s abil­ity to pivot on an in­dus­trial dime and point man­u­fac­tur­ing in a to­tally dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion when the goal is well de­fined. Just as the United States pro­duced 49,324 Sher­man tanks (one ev­ery 20 min­utes, 365 days a year, 10 hours a day), a num­ber of man­u­fac­tur­ers, in­clud­ing Ford, jumped in and started build­ing air­planes and com­po­nents. When Ford got its assem­bly line straight­ened out, it was crank­ing out a B-24 ev­ery 63 min­utes! They had their prob­lems, but the Wil­low Run air­planes (8,000) flowed out to the bat­tle­fields in an end­less stream. That’s im­pres­sive by any stan­dard.

The high-as­pect ra­tio wing of the B-24 gave it bet­ter high-alti­tude per­for­mance than the B-17 but also made it more vul­ner­a­ble. (Photo cour­tesy of Stan Piet)

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