Flying in a WWII B-24 "Liberator" Bomber
dunkelberg | May 4, 2007 at 01:18 pmby
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Thanks to a documentary on which I am working and the kindness of the Collings Foundation, I flew along with the "Witchcraft" B-24 crew as "Wings of Freedom" flew from San Antonio to Austin, Texas. "Wings of Freedom" includes the B-24, a B-25 "Mitchell" bomber and the classic B-17 "Flying Fortress".
For a short time, they flew in formation and we were able to get shots of each other in flight. It's very thrilling. In the B-24 and the B-17, the gun ports are open. There is nothing between you and the ground as you look out at the wings to see those powerful, radial engines on the thick wings.
As you walk through the bomb bay of the B-24 to get from the nose area to the tail, you walk on a metal catwalk, less than a foot wide. In that case, the only thing between you and the ground is that catwalk and very thin aircraft aluminum. During bombing runs, sometimes not all the bombs would release. This would happen at extreme altitudes, in freezing cold, where the whole crew is on oxygen.
The bombardier would then switch from the oxygen system of the ship, and plug into a portable oxygen bottle. He would carry the bottle and whatever tools he might need out to the catwalk. Bomb bay doors would be open. Fierce winds would be rushing by the bombardier as he eased along that catwalk. He would jiggle, jaggle, tinker with or just kick the bomb to get it to release and then go back to his station.
Of course that also could be going on while they are flying through flak or under fighter attack.
It's amazing what those guys went through flying these things through flak and fighters with little or no armor. They are noisy, shaky, uncomfortable and one of the greatest rides of my life.
The "Wings of Freedom" tour is on the West Coast now. If you have a chance, it is well worth seeing.
p.s. Be careful where you stow your mobile phone in one of these flights. Mine ended up somewhere in the belly turret.
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