Welcome back

Lest We Forget 

Day 175

I always like to go back in time to see what I had written.

My Forgotten Hobby V might never have been written except for my loyal readers adding comments and fuel to my blog.

This is the first post on My Forgotten Hobby V written on April 23, 2022. I was working on Airfix’s Fuel Bowser which is now on my D-Day diorama, still waiting to be picked up by the son of a Canadian paratrooper who was in the first wave of the invasion.

Lest we forget Day 59 This is how I had left my loyal readers on My Forgotten Hobby IV. Progress was made Friday with these two steps. Precision fitting is crucial with assembling the Albion fuel bowser. Some parts are very thin and part D13 was quite fragile. . Fitting the fuel bowser cab needed […]

Welcome back

Intermission – Getting ideas for my Monogram F-14 restoration

Yes, I had built that monster!

I don’t want to repaint, nor buy new decals for my old Monogram F-14 which has been in dire need of repairs since the 1990s. I prefer buying model kits instead… like a second P-61 Black Widow maybe? This is how my F-14 looked before. I have started restoring it as you can see here. […]

Intermission – Getting ideas for my Monogram F-14 restoration

Finding something to write about – Part 4

Nothing much happening on My Forgotten Hobby V except this I saw on JacHobby Facebook page…

New Tamiya P-38J!

I already have two Tamiya P-38s but they are P-38Hs.

I have learned to stop resisting when I see I want a model kit.

How I got to find that one was when I saw this one I always wanted to get my hands on.

Not the Mercedes truck, the P-51A.

I didn’t even bothered to search for a review…



This kit is a lot of fun; it has great fit and it looks great out of the box. The engineering of the kit is fantastic, as several parts are molded independently (wheel hubs, engine exhaust) which makes assembly and painting much easier. The part count is relatively low, making it be a refreshing build, while the level of detail is high enough as to making it be a rewarding project.

I highly recommend this kit to modelers of any level.

Finding something to write about Part 3

Lest We Forget

On this day I have decided to stop counting how many days have passed since February 24, 2022.

This will allow me to stop writing every day while not forgetting to concentrate later on this build.

The F9F Panther is almost finished as you can tell. The 30-something decals didn’t disintegrate.

No need to recount the numerous problems I have encountered applying them.

I am learning a lot from my errors which always complicate what I try to achieve.

My forgotten hobby is about having fun and reconnecting with the past when I was an innocent young kid.

Let’s build, it’s never too late.

Finding something to write about – Part 2

Lest We Forget
Day 121

This Monogram model kit was built in 2016 when Clarence Simonsen had sent me another story. It was about a B-24.

Hot as Hell

Read the whole story of that build down here.


Now this is the final updated version of what I was working on this week… My B-24D will never look the same.

Davis Wing with a Nose for Art

Link to the PDF version above.

Text version with all images

Davis Wing with a nose for art – B-24 Liberator

In 1937, Mr. Reuben Hollis Fleet, president of Consolidated Aircraft, met with a freelance aeronautical engineer David R. Davis. Davis had attempted to join the U.S. Air Corps in WWI but was declined and served as a private in the infantry. Davis wished to design and build aircraft, but his poor eyesight directed him to drafting where he became a self-taught aerodynamics expert, with his primary interest in aircraft wing lift. Davis had a theory that a tear shaped leading wing edge would give greater lifting power and produce less drag. On 25 May 1931, Davis patented his unique idea for a new aircraft wing design called “Fluid Foil” and now he had to find a believer in his wing performance. Reuben Fleet was impressed, and his opinion was shared by Consolidated Chief Engineer, Mr. Isaac M. Laddon. A test model of the wing was constructed and wind tunnel flight testing took place at the California Institute of Technology. The test results were not just good, they were almost unbelievable, and the new “Davis Wing” first appeared on the Consolidated Model 31 seaplane.

The large seaplane boat hull, engine housings, and new Davis Wing design were a complete success, and President Reuben Fleet was convinced in its aircraft future. His new secret four-engine aircraft design, with the most beautiful graceful Davis Wing would be called the XB-24, and American Aviation history was being created. Davis never received his proper recognition for the Liberator wing design, and I’m sure that frustrated him in later years of his life.

Donald W. Douglas (on the left) and David R. Davis (on the right) who formed the Davis-Douglas Aircraft Company, the first builders of the Cloudster. Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive

In 1923, Reuben H. Fleet founded Consolidated Aircraft in Buffalo, New York. In March 1935, he transferred his entire company to a new factory in San Diego, California, and that is where the new B-24 aircraft was born. Fleet was a collector of all aviation magazines and newspaper clippings involving his aviation career, which he kept in three large scrap books, all with notes and dates of publication. In 1961, Fleet founded the San Diego Aerospace Museum, and that is where his vast collection of aviation was donated upon his death 29 October 1975. Today, [2022] the Fleet collection is free online for all historians to read, digest, and learn from his private past and his creation of the original forgotten B-24 Liberator bombers which first went to war with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The following Fleet history is simply told by republishing the original online aviation and newspaper scrapbook collection of Mr. Reuben Hollis Fleet, the man who also created Fleet Aircraft of Canada at Bridgeburg, Fort Erie, Ontario, in 1929.

His biography published in Aeronautical magazine October 1929. [Reuben Fleet collection]

In 1919, Major Fleet was assigned to the U.S. Army Flight Testing Center at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, as a business manager. From the vast experience he gained, he left the service in 1922, and began his most distinguished aviation career. In 1923, Fleet acquired the assets and engineering experience of Gallaudet Aircraft Corp. and Dayton-Wright Airplane Company, [obtaining their trainer aircraft designs] which he combined into a new firm called Consolidated Aircraft. In the leased ex-Gallaudet factory at Buffalo, N.Y., Fleet developed a very successful line of American training aircraft also based on the Dayton-Wright designs. Consolidated Husky Junior trainer [Became Fleet Model 1 in 1930] seen in his newspaper clipping, December 1928. [Reuben Fleet collection]

The Hall Aluminum Aircraft company was purchased by Reuben Fleet in 1930.

22 March 1929, Buffalo News.

By 1928, Consolidated [Board of Directors] ceased building light training aircraft and sold the rights to Brewster Aeronautical Corporation. Consolidated Aircraft turned to the development of great flying boats for the U.S. Navy and commercial “Commodore.” The 32 passenger Commodore [top] was displayed at the 25 March 1929 airshow in Buffalo, New York.
Reuben Fleet founded Fleet Aircraft of Canada at Fort Erie, Ontario, in late 1929, to acquire the foreign rights to the aircraft sold by Consolidated. Consolidated bought back Fleet Aircraft in 1929 and formed a separate division. The first Canadian Constructed Fleet Model 2 flew in April 1930, and thousands of RCAF WWII pilots would later learn to fly in Fleet Model trainer aircraft, with 3,978 built at Fort Erie, Ontario. The Reuben Fleet scrapbook records the very beginnings with Capt. Jack Sanderson who later became president of Fleet Aircraft Ltd. Canada. The name Fleet was removed from Consolidated Aircraft in 1939.

Aero Digest magazine September 1929

Aero Digest September 1929

In September 1929, after founding Fleet Aircraft of Canada, a subsidiary of American Consolidated, President Reuben Fleet was involved in an aircraft crash landing near St. Thomas, Ontario. Flying his assistant/private secretary [Mrs. Loretta Golem 31 years] back to Buffalo, N.Y. the aircraft engine quit, and a forced landing was made. Fleet was seriously injured and required seven weeks in hospital, Golem died the next day from a broken neck. William John “Jack” Sanderson was a flight instructor of the London Aero Club and he visited Fleet in the London Victoria hospital. Impressed by his kindness, Fleet hired this complete stranger as sales manager, who later became President of Fleet Aircraft of Canada.

Future President Jack Sanderson beside Consolidated Constructed Fleet Model 2, Canadian registration CF-AKC, which was first called a “Fleetester.”

The original plant was 120 by 60 feet, 7,500 feet in size, located across the Niagara River from the Buffalo, N.Y. factory. [22 March 1930 clipping] By 1938, the plant had been expanded to 72,000 feet, seen above in 1940 dated photo from Fort Erie History. [Internet]

In the first eight years [1930-38] Fleet Canada built 280 aircraft, the Fleet Model 1 to 6, [one each] Model 7, Model 10, Model 14, Model 17 “Sport”, Model 50K “freighter” and the Model 21, which was built for Canada, Mexico, and China.

This damaged but amazing photo from the Fort Erie Historical Archives was found on the internet. It has no date or information, however it is a Fleet Model 21 taken at Fort Erie, Ontario, in the winter months. The unknown pilot is about to test or deliver the new constructed Fleet trainer aircraft. Fleet built ten for Mexico under contract in 1937.

The Consolidated “Fleetster” Model 17 published as being built at Fort Erie, Canada.

Twenty-six “Fleetster” Model 17 aircraft were constructed and it was reported a number were built and assembled at Fort Erie, Ontario. [Needs more research]

Only one Fleet Model 17 [Special C-11] was constructed for the United States Army Air Corps, Secretary of War. This special painted model became the Flag Ship of the USAAC and the aircraft of Chief of Army Air Corps, Major General James E. Fechet, [photo below – 21 Aug. 1877 – 10 Feb. 1948] and was designated Y1C-11.

This rare drawing of the Fleet Model 17 [Special] was signed by Major General Fechet, sketch by most famous artist Clayton Knight. [Reuben Fleet magazine collection] This original is worth a few big bucks for collectors, and I hope it still survives.

In 1936, Fleet Aircraft of Canada began layout plans for a new float and land based bush plane. It’s not known if Reuben Fleet had any involvement with this new aircraft, called the Fleet Model 50K “Freighter” Bush-plane. Fleet President Jack Sanderson was involved from the start and later flew all of the five aircraft constructed, beginning 22 February 1938.

This article appeared on 1 May 1938 issue of Aviation Weekly magazine showing CF-BDX which crashed at Lower Post, B.C., [Liard River Indian Reserve] on 14 August 1938.

It’s possible CF-BDX was used as the model in this Jacobs Aircraft Engine ad which appeared in Maclean’s magazine 1 July 1943.

Aero Digest magazine August 1939. Showing CF-BJW, Dominion Skyways Ltd., Quebec.

Internet image, United Air Transport used CF-BJT.

Only five Fleet Model 50K Freighter Bush planes were constructed, first flew 22 February 1938.

The remains of three survive today in the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa. The RCAF flew two, serial #799 and #800 seen above, from internet, Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum. RCAF #800 only flew 11 hours and 20 minutes. Now this is a rare Canadian model you will really have to build from scratch, I don’t believe a model kit was even issued. Experts state this aircraft was a very good bush work-horse and never received the credit it deserved. Neither did the Avro Arrow and only six were built, then all destroyed by the Canadian government.

Left – Reuben H, Fleet, president of Consolidated Aircraft, and the new pilot/owner of Fleet Aircraft of Canada Ltd., May 1930. Right – Portrait by famous artist Milton Caniff, when Reuben Fleet was enshrined in the Dayton Air Force National Hall of Fame in 1975.

Fleet Aircraft Canada Ltd was formed at a perfect time in RCAF history [May 1930] and contributed almost 3,000 trainer aircraft [2,925 totals vary] for the RCAF, RAF, USAAF and British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Walk into any Canadian museum and you will fine a Fleet model and a good number are still flying. Fleet Model 2 [1st production 203 constructed, Fleet Model 7C [Fleet Fawn] 71 constructed, Fleet Model 10 [Fleet Finch] 1,043 built, Fleet Model 16, [advanced Trainer] 404 built, Fleet Model 50K [Fleet Freighter] 5 built, Fleet Model 60K [Fleet Fort] 101 built. In 1940, the plant was enlarged for a third time, where they constructed 80 Handley-Page Hampton fuselages for the RAF training in Canada. Fleet also built 2,082 Fairchild PT-26 Primary Trainer aircraft as Cornell trainers for the RAF and RCAF.

Tens of thousands of RCAF aircrew trained in 2,138 Fleet aircraft during WWII. The above Sgt. Wireless Air Gunner trained in a Fleet Fort aircraft at Winnipeg or Calgary. Maclean’s Magazine 1 December 1942. [Author collection]

Breakdown of Fleet Aircraft of Canada trainers used by the RCAF before and during WWII.

One of three known Fleet Aircraft ads which appeared in Maclean’s Magazine. [Author Maclean’s collection] Fleet built 2,082 Fairchild M-62A-4 “Cornell” trainers and 1,736 were constructed as PT-26A primary RCAF trainers. The RCAF flew 541 Mk. I and 917 Mk. II Cornel aircraft, for a total of 1,555 Fleet built Cornell trainers.

In September 1942, Fleet also began production of Canadian Avro Lancaster Mk. X outer wing sections and other small bomber components. This resulted in another Fleet Aircraft advertising poster [Canadian Lancaster Mk. X] appearing in Maclean’s 15 September 1944.

The design and manufacture of the Canadian Lancaster Mk. X began at Victory Aircraft, Malton, Ontario, in September 1942. The first Canadian prototype Lancaster KB700, “Ruhr Express” incorporated 150 modifications from the master tooling model, British built Lancaster Mk. I, serial R5727, which was flown from England on 25 August 1942. Many Canadian companies produced sub-assembly sections for the production line of Lancaster Mk. X bombers, including Fleet Aircraft of Canada Ltd in Fort Erie, Ontario. This photo taken at Malton has been published many times but with little correct information. The Lancaster is believed to be KB700 and the date is still unknown, around christening ceremony date 6 August 1943. The Fairchild Cornell II, serial 10511 was built by Fleet Aircraft of Canada on 17 November 1942. It has been flown from No. 10 E.F.T.S. at Pendleton, Ontario, for the picture event. [the instructor in rear and student names are unknown] The image was used to advertise the fact Fleet Aircraft of Canada manufactured the complete Cornell trainer and the large outer wing panels on the Canadian Lancaster Mk. X bomber.

The 1935 Consolidated Aircraft Corp. move from Buffalo, New York to San Diego, California.

As large government contacts were signed, beginning in 1930, it became obvious Consolidated required a larger factory and with determination and courage Fleet moved his entire operation to San Diego, California in March 1935. That is where the B-24 Bomber was born, which is told using the collection from Reuben Fleet scrapbook.

The new Consolidated San Diego plant dedication Day was 19 October 1935.

The United States Army established an Aeronautical Division in their Signal Corps on 1 August 1907 and their first aircraft arrived in 1909. American Army aviators learned to fly, but were not organized into units for operations until 5 March 1913, when the first Aero Squadron was formed. The first American aviation unit to reach France in WWI was the 1st Aero Squadron, which arrived at Le Havre on 3 September 1917. Other new squadrons were organized in the U.S. and arrived overseas, and the U.S. War Department recognized the Army Air Service on 24 May 1918. In July 1918, the American Expeditionary Forces under General John J, Pershing, organized the first aviation wing, made up of the 2nd and 3rd Pursuit Groups and the 1st Day Bombardment Squadron. After the war the Army quickly demobilized almost all its air arm, wing, groups, and squadrons. New peacetime organizations were created and few had any connection with those who had seen active service during WWI. On 4 June 1920, an act of Congress created the Air Service as a combat arm in the United States Army, and the Air Corps was created by another act on 2 July 1926. The new U.S. Army Air Corps could not control their own combat units for training or combat operations, which both came under jurisdiction of Army ground forces. This organization of command had been based on principals of the air arm set by the War Department in 1920, and never updated. As a result, many senior Air Service officers and General Billy Mitchell condemned the organization and wanted a new air force under command of one airman. This most important change did not come until 1 March 1935, when the War Department established General Headquarters Air Force [GHQAF] under the command on one air force officer, to serve both air defence and air striking force.

The prewar battles to get the American heavy bomber, B-17 Flying Fortress, into the Army Air Corps was caused by senior Joint Board of Army and Navy officers who were very naïve and confused with the fast growth in the world of aviation. By June 1938, these same senior officers still concluded that the Army Air Corps did not require any reconnaissance or heavy bombardment aircraft other than the B-17. Some officers were still skeptical enough to believe that four-engine bombers were a total waste of more U.S. money. The world can give thanks to the President of the United States who fully understood the rapid growth of airpower. In early January 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to strengthen America’s air power, when he stated the present air force was “utterly inadequate.” Three weeks later, General Henry H. Arnold invited Consolidated, San Diego, to present a design study for a new American bomber which would be superior to the Boeing B-17. The bomber must exceed 300 miles per hour, have a range of over 3,000 miles and a ceiling of 35,000 feet. A contract was signed in March 1939, for the prototype Model 32, Army Air Force designated would be XB-24 bomber, delivery date was 31st of December 1939.

The B-24 history follows as told by the online newspaper scrapbook collection of Consolidated President Mr. Reuben Hollis Fleet. [San Diego Aerospace Museum]

17 July 1939, Model XB-24 [original serial 39-556] takes shape. [Reuben Fleet scrapbook]
On 29 December 1939, test pilot William B. Wheatley took the new XB-24 [serial 39-556] up for the first time. [Newspaper clippings from Reuben H. Fleet online scrapbook collection]

The original flight lasted 17 minutes, with Chief Test pilot William “Bill” Wheatley at the controls, co-pilot was George Newman and flight engineers Jack Kline and Robert Keith.

The full history with many photos was also published monthly in the company magazine called Consolidator, created in September 1936. [Reuben Fleet collection]

This company publication for their employees contains a gold mine of early Consolidated Aircraft Corp. photos, insignia, art, and company [Davis Wing] development beginning Sept. 1936. Many pages also contain rare 1936 Walt Disney advertisements for Standard Oil Company of California. [Ruben Fleet collection]

PBY-5 Catalina with the new Davis Wing design. [Ruben Fleet collection]

The Consolidated Model 32 [XB-24] heavy bomber “Davis Wing” familiar lines, tail, and cockpit design can clearly be seen [above] in the early Model 31 [NX21731] first flew 5 June 1939, the first use of the Davis Wing design by Consolidated in 1939-40. [Ruben Fleet collection]

As the world went to war in early September 1939, the United States remained a determined isolationist nation. Consolidated Chief Test pilot Bill Wheatley described his “Airboat” testing in 1939, as America prepares for Peace. [Consolidator magazine, Fleet collection]

The first flight of XB-24 serial #39-556 was well documented in their company magazine Consolidated for the next years, 1940-41.

In January 1941, the Model 32 or XB-24 was reworked to use R-1830-41 supercharged engines and self-sealing fuel tanks. The engine nacelles were redesigned to accommodate the four turbo-superchargers, and took on an oval shape with new prop spinners. The new Consolidated Model XB-24B serial number was revised from original 39-556 to 39-680 on 20 January 1941.

A Consolidated artist painted XB-24B nose art of test pilot [Wheatley] flashing the “V for Victory” sign. Chief test pilot William B. Wheatley is seen under ‘his’ nose art flashing his own “V for Victory” sign, taken after the first test flight on 1 February 1941.

The author believes his replica nose art was in fact test pilot William B. Wheatley [39 years “GRAN’PAPPY”] and the “V for Victory” sign stood for the new B-24 aircraft being flown to England. On 2 June 1941, Wheatley and three of his test crew members would be killed in the crash of Liberator II, serial AL503. The very first American B-24 nose art [#39-680] was removed and forgotten as the United States entered WWII. Bomber XB-24B was scrapped on 20 June 1946, and the first B-24 nose art was slowly lost with the passage of time. [Author painting]

The first country to order production LB-30A [LB meaning Land Bombardment] bombers [120] was France, however when they fell to Nazi Germany, [June 1940] the original order was transferred to the British, which was paid in cash before Lend-Lease arrangements.

These first six aircraft were built to British specifications for the Royal Air Force and even the name “Liberator” was British. The first production aircraft to roll out of San Diego was AM258, which flew in January 1941. They would be employed as RAF unarmed transport aircraft for Transatlantic Return Ferry Pilot Service [No. 45 Atlantic Group RAF] between Montreal, Canada, and Prestwick, Scotland, which was 3,000 miles.

The first three Model LB-30A bombers [AM258-259-260] departed for England on Monday 3 March 1941, which was witnessed by a large crowd of Americans. The Fort Worth Star Telegram Evening newspaper even hired an aircraft for their air-shot press coverage. [Fleet scrapbook]

LB-30A serial AM259 was the first aircraft to reach England, via New York and Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. [Free Press photo]

World Wide Photo – Bomber for Britain, LaGuardia Field, New York, 23 March 1941.
[Ruben Fleet scrapbook collection].

The first six production Model LB-30A aircraft were constructed outside the original San Diego plant and the first return Ferry Pilot Service began on 24 March 1941. Two aircraft crashed killing forty-four pilots in August, the remaining four aircraft carried on the important work with success. Press photo of early model LB-30A construction was taken on 30 November 1940.

RAF Ferry Command photo taken 29 July 1941, Imperial War Museum #CH3168, Public Domain.

The Liberator Mk. I, [LB-30A] was serial AM261, RAF No. 45 Atlantic Group Ferry Command, 29 July 1941, location Prestwick, Scotland. The Ferry Command aircraft is taking off bound for Canada with Prince George the Duke of Kent on board. This was the first time a member of the Royal Family had crossed the Atlantic to Canada by aircraft.

This RAF pre-boarding photo from I.W.M. is Public Domain. Prince George will visit his Uncle, “The Earl of Athlone” the Governor General of Canada, his visit was purely military, informal, and personal. Prince George will be killed on 25 August 1942, in the crash of an RAF Short Sunderland flying boat.

4 January 1941, the new location of the aircraft assembly plant and airport construction.
[Fleet collection]

Newspaper Fort Worth Press 18 January 1941.

The next twenty production aircraft were called Liberator Mk. I and these were the first to see combat operational service with No. 120 Squadron of the Royal Air Force. Arriving in England in June 1941, they gave Coastal Command a new range of 2,400 miles and closed off many very dangerous gaps in British sea lane defences. [Fleet collection]

23 January 1941, Press release photo. [Fleet scrapbook]

13 February 1941, Ruben Fleet collection

The Liberator Mk. II was constructed with a three-foot extended nose [66-foot 4-inch fuselage] and the British were expected to receive 140 of these new bombers. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, the fifty-one undelivered RAF aircraft [and twenty-four others under construction] were taken over by the U.S. Air Corps and renamed Model LB-30 bombers.

This Free Press photo dated 25 September 1941, records the first twelve Liberator Mk. II bombers as they prepare their flight to England. The twelve bombers were worth three million dollars and paid in full by American Lend-Lease agreement.

The first production Liberator II, serial AL503 crashed on 2 June 1941, killing Consolidated Chief test pilot William B. Wheatley and three of his test aircrew. Chief aircraft mechanic Lewis McCannon, 25 years, survived, but later died from his injuries.

First production Liberator II photo taken on the same day [2 June 1941] aircraft serial AL503 would crash during test flight. [Consolidated Aircraft Corp photo]

Chief Test Pilot William Wheatley was born 17 December 1902, and had been with Consolidated since February 1929. Flight Engineer Bruce K. Craig, 27 years, William H. Reiser, 23 years, and test pilot Allan T. Austin, 28 years, were trapped in the wreckage and drowned.

3 June 1941, San Diego Union Newspaper painting of the crash of Liberator II, serial AL503 in San Diego Bay. Eye witnesses reported the aircraft took off normal, then pulled into a vertical climb at 500 feet, stalled and pilot Wheatley had regained part control when the left wing hit the water. Evidence of sabotage was suspected as cause for the Liberator crash.

Beginning in 1937, the United States of America had a huge following [500,000] of American/German members who supported Adolf Hitler and the German Nazi “Bund” rise to power. This organization was controlled by American “Fuhrer” German immigrant Fritz Julius Kuhn. The full history can be read on the chapter titled [Hunting der Fuehrer’s in North America] Preserving the Past or just by entering the name Fritz Kuhn on Google. This is a sad part of North American past, however the same views were also shared in Canada, and needs to be restudied today, mostly south of the border by the Republican Party of the United States of America.

The second production Liberator II, serial AL504 would become the personnel transport of P.M. Winston Churchill, with nose art name “Commando” and possibly the first painted Liberator RAF nose art. [Internet free domain]

Imperial War Museum image with P. M. Churchill and close-up of the nose art on Liberator II, serial AL504. The flight crew below – Radio Holmes, Capt. Ruggles, Capt. Bill Vanderkloot, Williams and Afflec.

In June 1941, the U.S. Army Air Corps received their first Model RB-24A, serial 40-2369, one of nine assigned to the new formed U. S. Air Corps Ferrying Command, for the purpose of delivering aircraft from Montreal for movement to England. These first fifteen hand picked U.S. overseas pilots and ten special picked enlisted men came from the best of the Air Corps, with names Lt. Colonel Caleb Haynes and Major Curtis E. LeMay, who would later lead the 8th Air Force in England.

The first constructed B-24A, serial 40-2369 and the second known American aircraft nose art painted by a Consolidated plant artist in San Diego, California, June 1941. Two other aircraft were named “Arabian Nights” [40-2370, shot down 3 March 1942] and “Old Bag of Bolts” [40-2376, ditched 5 May 1942].

The B-24A Liberator U.S. Air Corps Ferry Routes before 7 December 1941.

The first neutral American markings on B-24A serial 40-2374 in July 1941. The RAF red, white, and blue fin flash has been painted over and the USAAF National Insignia is the Type I which was introduced 1 January 1921. [The red, white five-point star and blue cockade was 45” in diameter] The red center circle [meatball] was not replaced until 18 August 1942.

This boldly neutral American B-24 appeared in the Consolidated Company magazine “Plane Talk” April 1943, and carries the tail number 88. The first U.S. Air Corps Ferrying Command nine [B-24A] Liberators were serial 40-2369 to 40-2377, so the number 88 is confusing. The USAAF National Insignia is Type 4 which was introduced 17 September 1943, 45” in diameter. They flew with a crew of seven, and carried diplomatic passengers and U.S. priority mail from Washington D.C. to Prestwick, Scotland.

The looming Nazi Germany conflict in Europe during the 1930s was a world problem, however, to the average American it was not seen as one for them to help solve. Late American intervention into World War One was still viewed by many as a total waste in American lives and resources. While the average American remained and defined himself as an isolationist nation, President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not. He understood that America’s entry into WWII was inevitable, and now he had to walk a tight-rope in assisting Great Britain [Lend-Lease] and yet remaining natural in a world war. American playwright Clare Boothe, on a visit to the Consolidated plant, signed her name on a Liberator II tail fin for the “boys over there.”
[Fleet collection]

25 July 1941, Lord Halifax, British Ambassador to the U.S. signs another Liberator II tail fin. [Fleet collection]

By early 1941, the British Government Purchasing Commission had ordered 164 Liberator aircraft, but immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, seventy-five of these aircraft were taken over by the United States government and while the British serial numbers remained, they were now called LB-30s in U.S. service.

In the desperate days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, it suddenly became apparent to all Americans, their role in World War Two was to be an active one and all national state of denial was crushed by the Empire of Japan. The first requisitioned American LB-30s were going to war wearing British camouflage with RAF serial numbers, and 46 of these bombers flew active service with the U.S. Air Corps which became the USAAF in March 1942.

The RAF mechanics continued training at Consolidated and Liberator II serial AL578 has received the RAF nose art name “Marco Polo” at Dorval, Montreal, Canada. [RCAF archives]

The full list of USAAF repossessed LB-30 Liberator aircraft AL series can be found online.

In the second week of December 1941, three LB-30 aircraft were assigned for B-24 training, three were sent to Alaska, fifteen were sent to Java, eight were used in the transport role and seventeen were sent to the Panama Canal Zone as part of the 6th Bomb Group. Organized on 30 September 1919, they became a Bombardment Group in 1937, and the 6th [Heavy] Bomb Group in 1940. They flew the B-17, B-18, and LB-30 when the U.S. entered WWII, in the most unrewarding sea patrols in the first two years of the war. The impending Japanese attack never came and in May 1944, the eight surviving [nine were lost in accidents] LB-30 bombers were returned to Consolidated for C-87 configuration, where their photos were taken.

6th Bomb Group, LB-30 serial AL639 “Princess Sheila” before conversion to C-87 cargo aircraft. Scrapped Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, 1947.

6th B.G. serial AL632, “Lettie Jo” before conversion to C-87 cargo aircraft in May 1944. Scrapped Kingman, Arizona, 1947.

6th Bomb Group nude nose art “Jungle Queen” serial AL640, before May 1944 conversion to C-87. Ditched at sea 3 November 1945, 150 miles N.E. Hickam Field, Hawaii.

6th B.G. nose art “The Stud Duck” AL634, before C-87 conversion. Scrapped Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, 1947.

6th Bomb Group LB-30 serial AL637 Miss Behavin’ was the March 1944 Varga Pin-up Calendar girl. Her nose art life was short, paint removed and converted to a C-87 cargo/transport aircraft in May 1944. Scrapped Walnut Ridge, Arkansas in 1947.

LB-30 serial AL641 “Tiger Lady” before C-87 conversion.

Bull O’ the Woods was converted to a C-87 transport aircraft in May 1944, and survived the war, scrapped Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, [Below] AL628 “Blonde Blitz” scrapped Walnut Ridge.

These eight LB-30 combat Liberators [AL583, AL628, AL632, AL634, AL637, AL639, AL640, and AL641] were all converted to C-87 transport aircraft [see conversion below] and flew with Consairway Airlines.

In December 1941, the most widely used United States Air Corps [became USAAF 9 March 1942] heavy cargo aircraft was the C-47 Skytrain, which had a limited range and poor high altitude performance. One of the rarest American bomber aircraft converted to a heavy transport aircraft [1943] was the Boeing Model 294, serial XC-105, which became USAAF XB-15 with serial 35-277. This original B-17 prototype became the major transport aircraft for the 6th Bomb Group based at Albrook Field, in the Panama Zone during WWII. The huge aircraft also carried very rare nose art [both sides] of an elephant carrying a cargo crate marked “Supplies” with aircraft name “GRANDPAPPY.” In 1945, this rare bomber/transport aircraft was stripped of all usable parts and scrapped at Albrook Field, Panama, where the original fuselage remains buried today, under an industrial park.

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator has, for a number of reasons, always came second when compared to the famous Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. At times public opinion is not fair, but for the airmen stationed at Albrook Field in the Panama Zone, it was the converted Boeing B-15 Transport that kept bringing needed supplies to keep the seventeen Liberator LB-30 bombers flying patrols from their Panama base.

The U.S. Air Corps requirement for a long-range transport aircraft became apparent in the first few weeks of December 1941. When the 75 British built RAF Liberator II [LB-30] aircraft were requisitioned for the Air Corps, eight were hastily designed as cargo and troop transport aircraft. They flew with a crew of four or five and could ferry up to 25 passengers, cargo, aircraft engines, or both in a new wartime civilian airline called “Consairway.”

In the American pre-war days [before 7 December 1941] Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corp. pilots and navigators delivered aircraft to U.S. Army Air Corps military installations around the world including the South Pacific, [Clarke Field, Philippines] and returned to San Diego by ship. The Japanese changed all that when they invaded Manilla [10 December 1941] and captured one civilian Consolidated Vultee ferry crew, who were imprisoned for the remainder of the war. [P.O.W. for three years – John Nicholas, Thomas Terrill, George Messenger, and A.E. Kalakowsky.] To provide safe passage for their ferry crew members, “Consairway” Airlines was created on 23 April 1942, headquarters at Hamilton Air Force Base in San Francisco, under contract to the U.S.A.A.F. [Army Air Forces was created on 9 March 1942] The new wartime civilian Airline newsletter first issue was published in October 1943, with a contest to select a Consairway cover name.

The winners were Ray Day and co-pilot T.W. Anderson who both picked the title “Flight Deck.”
The new wartime civilian airline “Consairway” reached its peak in 1943, consisting of 80 flight crews [over 400 aircrew members] and seven Liberator LB-30 [Ex-R.A.F.] converted bombers and eleven new C-87 Transport Liberators. They delivered munitions, aircraft parts, and military personnel to combat locations from 1942 to 1945. Many flights were made to resupply troops on Guadalcanal and Tarawa during combat. The airline established bases at Hickham Field, Hawaii, Guam, Guadalcanal, Australia, and New Guinea. These non-military pilots and navigators began charting new territory and mapped hundreds of new South Pacific air routes, which was highly valued by USAAF Air Transport Command. For American and Allied South Pacific troops, they also flew USO entertainers such as Joe E. Brown and the famous Bob Hope, Eleanor Roosevelt [see photo next page] and also the staff of General Douglas MacArthur.

Under contract to the U.S.A.A.F. the Consairway LB-30 and C-87 cargo transport carried the Air Transport Command insignia, [40“] diameter. Below – Mrs. Roosevelt exits her C-87 transport aircraft in October 1943. [Plane Talk magazine]

The official Consairway Flight Badge was adapted from the cover page of Flight Magazine Vol. 1, #1, November 1943.

It’s very likely this Company airline badge was also painted as Liberator nose art, however, no images can be found. Photo C-87 take-off from Consolidate company magazine “Plane Talk.” This USAAF National Insignia Type 2 [minimum 20 “to 65” white star] was introduced 18 August 1942 and ordered replaced with Type 3 on 29 June 1943.

In April 1943, Reuben Fleet, president of Consolidated, began a company bi-monthly high-quality color magazine for his workers, titled “Plane Talk.” The first C-87 prototype was serial 41-11608 and this first cover page could be the same aircraft, but the serial is not shown. The magazine was full of excellent B-24 articles and hundreds of Liberator color photos. Just a few are published in this article. The National Star painted at San Diego was 65” in diameter.

The first C-87 prototype #41-11680 seen at the San Diego plant, 27 August 1942, hastily designed, 287 more would be delivered to the USAAF and other variants would be built at Fort Worth.

The glazed nose of the B-24 was replaced with a hinged cap to allow easy loading of the nose compartment. The cargo floor, running through the bomb bay was strengthened, and two cargo doors were added to the port side of the fuselage. In the next three years, various small modifications and markings would take place on the C-87 transport aircraft. The above C-87 has an orange triangle painted on the nose with the last three serial numbers in black.

The inside of a Liberator C-87 could hold 20 personnel in 1942. Some record breaking Australia to U.S. flights were 35 to 43 hours in total flight time. [Plane Talk magazine]

Flight Deck newsletter magazine – July 1943.

C-87 Liberator port side cargo loading door. [Plane Talk]

C-87 transport with the nose art name “Dysentery Special 17” which possibly was the truth.

The Flight Deck also contained very good Consairway flight crew cartoons.

The delivered cargo transport was not always an American truck or jeep.

The C-49 was a DC-3 [C-47] with Wright Cyclone powered engines. Douglas C-49 serial 41-7643 [above] was based at Hamilton Field in December 1941, then went to Australia. The red and white striped rudder were not official markings. It is unknown if the Consairway C-49 [Instrument trainer] carried nose art, but her name was “Ugly Duckling” serial number 43-2014. [Flight Deck magazine 1944]

The “Ugly Duckling” made the cover of Flight Deck on 19 July 1944. The nose cone and engine cowlings were painted white but no nose art name appeared on port side.

The April 1944 issue of Flight Deck contained history of the first two years of Consairway.

Many C-87 transport aircraft carried nose art names.

Type 2 National Insignia 65” diameter, used 18 August 1942 until 29 June 1943. [Plane Talk magazine April 1943]

“The Tail Cone” by P.L. Phillips comic cartoon appeared in each issue of Flight Deck.

A Consairway Airline poem even appeared in a few 1944 issues.

Liberator LB-30 serial AL570 “Broganelle Fireball” Red with white trim nose art.

Liberator RAF serial AL570 was the third LB-30 aircraft to arrive in the Philippines and first served with the 19th Bomb Group in Australia, named “Nipponese Nipper.” Nose Art displayed an American 500 lb. bomb striking a Japanese Green Dragon.

In the urgent need for more transport aircraft AL570 was stripped of armament and some war paint, modified as a transport in the 7th Bomb Group, 317th Troop Carrier Squadron, where it later received the name “Belle” and possibly carried a pin-up girl nose art. This modification of LB-30 serial AL570 took place in Hawaiian Air Depot.

[Internet B-24 website]

The Liberator served in Borneo, Java, and Australia, until 1944, then the war-weary LB-30 was flown to Fairfield, California, and on to Nashville where it would be converted to a C-87 Liberator Transport aircraft. The natural bare metal aircraft now flew with Consairway Airlines “Kangaroo Service” sporting the new nose art name “Broganelle Fireball.” This full nose art ceremony story [and cover photo] appeared in the Consairway magazine Flight Deck, 18 October 1944. Scrapped at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, 9 January 1946.

The 1945 issue of Plane Talk magazine contained the history of the first six ex-RAF aircraft requisitioned for the US Air Corps, assigned to the 7th Air Force, in February 1942. [AL589, AL611, AL617, AL626, AL633, called “Old Faithfull”, later became bare finish “Seventh Heaven”, [above] and serial FP685]. The background aircraft in this 1944 image captures the original [Black] markings on two ex-RAF LB-30 Liberators converted to cargo/troop transport aircraft.

Liberator LB-30 serial AL589 became the only original six ex-RAF bombers to go to war with the 7th Air Force. Assigned to the 5th Bomb Group Liberator AL589 went missing on a mission to bomb Midway on 7 June 1942. The other five LB-30 aircraft were regarded as not suitable for combat and were assigned to the 7th Air Force, 19th Troop Carrier Squadron, “Southern Cross Airways” as long-range cargo and troop transport aircraft, and each carried the same S.C.A. Nose Art, numbered 1 to 5. [Seen below] [Author replica nose art scale painting on original US Navy B-25 WWII aircraft skin]

The rare original “Southern Cross Airways” forgotten nose art was painted on LB-30 Liberators serial AL611, [#2] AL617, [#5] AL626, [#3] AL633, [#1] and FP685 [#4].

These original “5 Old Faithful’s” arrived at Pearl Harbor in late January 1942, and were assigned to the 7th Air Force in early February 1942. They were part of the U.S. Air Corps [formed 2 July 1926] and carried the National Insignia 65” cocarde of a dark blue circle with a white five-point star containing a bright red centre circle. [sometimes called a meatball] The five LB-30 bombers were stripped of guns and bomb racks and converted to a cargo/troop transport, assigned 19th Troop Carrier Squadron, Air Service Area Command, Hawaii. The original RAF camouflage pattern was retained on the upper aircraft surface, including splotched tail fins, which were never spray painted the same on any two aircraft. The aircraft original RAF serial numbers were painted in yellow on the tail fin, eight inches high by one-and-a-half inches in letter width. The complete under surface of the Liberator aircraft were painted overall in semi-gloss black, including the rear tail fins. In an Army reorganization on 9 March 1942, the Air Corps was replaced by the U.S. Army Air Forces, and the Type 1 National Insignia [meatball] was replaced by the Type 2 design on 18 August 1942. The Type 3 insignia was introduced 29 June 1943, white rectangles were added to each side of the cocarde, and the whole insignia was outlined with a two inch painted insignia red. On 17 September 1943, Type 4 insignia was introduced, which remained the same size and only replaced the 2” border from red to dark blue. [For model builders – It is possible the five LB-30 cargo transport aircraft never carried the 2” red outline Type 3 insignia, and went directly to the Type 4 insignia with 2” dark blue outline, as seen in the magazine photo]. The rare “Southern Cross Airways” aircraft nose art was also produced in a WWII color insignia unofficial badge. [above]

The Type 3 Insignia came into effect 29 June 1943, then three months later was replaced by Type 4, with Dark Blue outline. I feel few of the C-87 or LB-30 transport aircraft received the Type three [red outline] insignia.

The original name “Southern Cross Airways” was selected by Major-General Clarence I. Tinker, the first Commanding Officer of the 7th Air Force, who lost his life in the final stages of the Battle of Midway. General Tinker was instrumental in providing the first five ex-RAF Liberator LB-30 aircraft and converting them into cargo transport aircraft in his Air Service Area Command, based at Hickam Field, Oahu, Hawaii. These were the first five Liberators which really started their Pacific war reputation, and Tinker named them for the famous pioneering pilot Charles Kingsford Smith, who first flew the route from U.S. to Hawaii to Australia in 1928.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the Crux [Latin for Cross] is a constellation in the southern sky which is centered on four bright stars which form a cross, commonly called the “Southern Cross.” This Crux has been used by sailors for thousands of years, and has attained a high level of cultural significance, appearing on flags in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia. Pilot Charles Smith used the Crux for his most important navigation over the long distance of water in 1928 and named his Tri-motor aircraft Southern Cross. The five LB-30 Liberator 7th A.F., 19th Troop Carrier Squadron, cargo/ troop transport aircraft were now using the very same route and star fix to deliver supplies to Hawaii and connecting with early advance USAAF bases in the Pacific and Australia. The first LB-30 converted, serial AL633, received the new “Southern Cross Airways” nose art #1 and later was given the name “Old Faithfull” as she always brought ‘em back. This became the favorite aircraft of General Tinker and set a number of Liberator transport records in the first two years of Pacific war. AL633 became the first to fly the route from Oahu south to Christmas Island, then to Penrhyn Atoll, then to Aitutaki, Cook Islands, and to Tongatubu in the Tonga Islands. She was the first to land a wheel at Penrhyn and Aitutaki where these routes would later be used by U.S. Air Transport Command. When General Tinker was killed in action, he was replaced by Major General Willis H. Hale, who took over the same Liberator, [AL633] and she became the first to have her RAF camouflage and black paint removed in early 1944.

Replica scale nose art painted on original B-25 WWII U.S. Navy aircraft skin, 13” by 21” in size.

General Hale ordered Liberator AL633 to be hand polished by her ground crew and his Liberator became the 7th Air Force “Flag Ship” [Air Service Area Command] with the 7th A.F. insignia and name “Seventh Heaven” Central Pacific.

Thanks to the polished skin surface, General “Speed Ball” Hale was able to set two Liberator speed records. One trip from Washington, D.C. to the Hawaian Islands was 22 hours and 25 minutes. A second trip from the Hawiian Islands to the Marshall Islands, [2,400 miles] was made in 11 hours, 30 minutes. When General Hale became commander of all land-based aircraft in the Central Pacific, his next Liberator became serial AL611, which carried camouflage and “Southern Cross Airways” # 2 nose art, with name “Trader Horn.” Trader Horn established a record for high priority material when she delivered 5,000 pounds of wheat to Hawaii, used by Hawiian Air Depot for [wheat] sand-blasting to clean light metal aircraft parts. When the camouflage paint was removed the General renamed his aircraft “ComAirFwd” which became the first aircraft to land on Saipan after the capture from the Japanese. Liberator AL617 carried the “Southern Cross Airways” #5 nose art with name “Flight Chief”and once escorted a flight of night-figherters from Hawaii to New Guinea. In January 1944, Flight Chief was parked at Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands when the Japanese staged a bombing raid. She received 78 shrapel holes and had several control cables cut by the attack. When her camouflage was removed in 1944, she received the new name “Samoa.” The fifth LB-30 was serial FP685, painted with “Southern Cross Airways” No. 4 nose art and name “Gremlins’ Workshop.” This Liberator was the hard-luck aircraft in the squadron and always gave her aircrew a variety of problems. On a trip from Hawaii to San Francisco, she lost two engines and was still two hours away from the airport. With Colonel Stephen J. Roserta at the controls he faced a dilemma, as he had to clear the Golden Gate Bridge with two engines, which he succeeded in doing. These five “Old Faithfuls” all forgotten ex-RAF Liberator cargo/transport aircraft survived the war and were all scrapped by 1947.
Ex-RAF Liberator serial AL594 is seen parked at Kingman, Arizona, where she was chopped into small sections on 8 October 1946.

The original “unofficial” 19th Transport Squadron badge was used until 1948 by the 19th Troop Carrier Squadron, inactivated on 26 August. The 19th Airlift Squadron was activated on 10 June 1952 and the old WWII badge was made official on 5 June 1953. The WWII LB-30 Liberator aircraft was replaced by an all-white C-46 Commando Troop carrier aircraft, [with red nose and red tip of tail] used until they were disbanded [inactivated] 18 January 1955.

The last generation of the 19th Airlift Squadron was activated 1 August 1984, [with new Dragon badge] and re-designated 7th Airlift Squadron on 1 November 1993, inactivated on 30 September 1996.

Liberator AL637 was converted to a C-87 and was scrapped at Cincinnati, Ohio, 31 January 1946.

The 317th Troop Carrier Squadron was formed on 1 May 1944, under 2nd Air Commando Group, based at Tulihal, India. Due to a shortage of C-47 Troop Carrier aircraft, the 317th obtained an ex-RAF Liberator serial AL573, with call sign VHCBM. Given the nose art name “Gopher Gus” the Liberator operated from many different detachments in India, [Bikram, Myitkyina, Kalaikunda] and also Burma. Retired at Garbutt, Australia, in September 1944, the old cargo/troop aircraft was obtained by Consairway Airlines and converted to a C-87 transport.

Gopher Gus was a four-year-old veteran LB-30 bomber when she was converted to a C-87 transport aircraft at Nashville in September 1944. She now flew with the “Kangaroo Service” which completed four crossings to Australia per week.

Kangaroo Kate and Gopher Gus original WWII nose art before conversion to a C-87 transport.

14 March 1945, the four original civilian Consairway employees were returned to U.S. after serving three years as prisoners of war. Truly forgotten American Heroes who did not receive military status or veteran’s benefits until 1992.

Welcome home for heroes.

The last issue [3rd Anniversary] of Consairway Airline Magazine Flight Deck, 28 April 1945, the end of an era. Operating between Fairfield/Suisun, California, and the many South Pacific Bases, Consairway transports flew 100 million ton miles and 300 million passenger miles setting many operational records from 1942-45.

In late 1941, the B-24D became the first model produced in a large scale, 2,415 were constructed at San Diego, 303 at the new plant at Fort Worth, Texas, and ten at Tulsa, Oklahoma. [Sub-assembly shipped by rail from San Diego] This became the beginning of a mass production combat ready B-24 Liberator that went to war for the United States Army Air Forces, and this history has been published in hundreds of books and internet websites. The Liberator was the most produced American WWII combat bomber, 18,482 were constructed, and almost 15,000 aircrew trained from 1942 to 1945. The Liberators were flown by Air Forces of Canada, China, Australia, England, Holland, India, Poland, South Africa, South America, France, and the United States.

The complete Canadian [RCAF] Liberator history was published in 1975 by Carl Vincent titled “Canada’s Wings 2 – the Liberator and Fortress.” [ISBN 0-920002-01-3 publisher Canada’s Wings] This is the ultimate book on the Liberator in Canada, and a must for any aviation historian, containing hundreds or images, markings, serial numbers, and good nose art collection. This book belongs at the top of any rating scale, and is possibly still for purchase.

RCAF No. 10 [Dumbo] Squadron Liberator #3707 was decorated with the September 1941 “Petty Girl” from Esquire magazine.

No. 10 [Dumbo] Squadron RCAF was formed 5 September 1939, and flew Liberator aircraft on East Coast anti-submarine duty. [Gander, Newfoundland] Walt Disney artists created their ‘unofficial’ insignia and later in early 1942, the Americans arrived commanded by the President’s son Capt. Elliott Roosevelt. A second American “Dumbo” badge was created by Disney for the U.S.A.A.F. 6th Reconnaissance Group, Gander, Newfoundland.

In September 1944, Canadian War Artist F/O Cloutier spent two months at RCAF Gander painting the American and RCAF Liberator aircraft on the joint-base.

Few images from his RCAF WWII collection have been published due to the high cost charged for usage by the Canadian Government War Museum.

This powerful image painted by F/O Cloutier in 1944, shows the magic of his brush as he captures an RCAF No. 10 [Dumbo] Squadron Liberator bomber becoming airborne. This is free domain from the internet but the War Museum may wish to have it removed. The following second Cloutier painting was also taken from the internet and this shows the airbase at Gander, Newfoundland, in September/October 1944. The American and RCAF Liberator aircraft are taking off for their selected patrols. This is one amazing painting, capturing so much detail, aircraft landing lights, shadows cast on the runways, all from RCAF Station, Gander, Newfoundland in WWII. I wonder what the rest of his RCAF collection looks like?

Liberator night time take-off, Gander, Newfoundland, fall 1944. Below B-24J production line.

The B-24J model was the most produced aircraft with a total of 6,678 constructed. In 1944, the USAAF operational strength was 6,093 various models of the B-24, with a record 45 air groups flying Liberators in combat overseas.

For whatever reason, the B-24 has never enjoyed the postwar civilian or military image of the B-17, and they were declared obsolete by 1946, with the vast fleet scraped by 1950. Undoubtedly, the B-24 aircraft surpassed the famous B-17 in one area, the colorful large nose art, 8th Air Force Fuselage Assembly Ships with stripes, polka dots and checkerboard colours, and the huge schemes of coloured tail markings. The high Davis Wing, large tail fin and rudder assembly, combined with the large nose section gave the Liberator a one-of-a-kind look and it was constructed perfectly for the painting of show-board size nose art. Hundreds of talented artists decorated the noses of the Liberator bombers with their most impressive work on the largest aircraft canvas in WWII. This story is the forgotten history of the very first Liberator and nose art preserved in the vast aviation magazine and newspaper clippings collection of Reuben H. Fleet.
Out of tens of thousands of B-24 nose art images it seems impossible to pick a favorite painting. The author has one, a B-24J serial 44-40298, painted by Sgt. Duane Bryers in the 487th Bomb Group, before they departed for England, called “The Shack.”

The 487th Bomb Group completed training at Alamogordo Air Force Base, New Mexico, in early March 1944. Sgt. Duane Bryers painted impressive pin-up nose art on at least five B-24J bombers before the air echelon departed for England beginning 23 March 1944. On arrival in England, [Lavenham] the bombers were fitted with pilot and co-pilot protective armour plates, which were painted grey and covered most of the pin-up nose art body.

In July 1944, the 487th B.G. converted to B-17G aircraft and the veteran B-24 bombers were transferred to the 458th Bomb Group at Horsham St. Faiths, England. Colour image from Mark Brown 8th Air Force 35 mm slide collection obtained in 1982.

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator became the “Ugly Ducking’s” during WWII with their boxy, flat-sided fuselage, large twin tails and that is possibly the reason for the nose art name “The Shack.” The early LB-30 [ meaning Land Bombardment] aircraft were born into war as the ugliness of Nazi Germany began to spread across Europe. These first Liberator imports to Great Britain answered the war call and thousands more followed with the 8th Air Force in late 1942, and the huge bombing campaign against Germany. The Liberator came a long way from an unarmed RAF transport aircraft to a potent armoured bombing platform in five years. Today few survive [thirteen] and she is becoming a rare warbird, and Ugly or not, to thousands of WWII veterans the Liberator was more than a Shack. With the end of WWII, the armour plates were removed and the full B-24 pin-up art was at last exposed. The lady had flown across flak filled German skies fully protected just like the pilot’s who flew beside her.

Like a real living model, the little ladies’ pin-up legs and face had received a sunburn while flying combat missions over Germany.

This Reuben Fleet history is dedicated to the Consolidated test flight crew who were killed on 2 June 1941 flying RAF Liberator II serial AL503.
Pilot – William B. Wheatley
Pilot – Allen T. Austen
Flight Engineers – Bruce K. Craig, Lewis M. McCanson and William H. Reiser.

2 June 1941, killed in RAF Liberator II serial AL503 test crash. [R. Fleet collection]

In November 1988, the author spent the complete day touring the San Diego Aerospace Museum. This original painting hangs in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame, Balboa Park, San Diego, California. What a man, what a scrapbook.