The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress vs. the Consolidated B-24 Liberator
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The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress vs. the Consolidated B-24 Liberator

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The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress vs. the Consolidated B-24 Liberator

The B-17 Flying Fortress vs. the B-24 Liberator—veterans of air campaigns in Europe and the Pacific have long debated the merits of these aircraft.

The B-17 Flying Fortress vs. the B-24 Liberator—veterans of air campaigns in Europe and the Pacific have long debated the merits of these aircraft.

The B-17 Flying Fortress vs. the B-24 Liberator—veterans of air campaigns in Europe and the Pacific have long debated the merits of these aircraft.
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6 Comments

  1. Posted June 26, 2015 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    The facts are pretty clear that each aircraft excelled in certain military operations – judging “which was best” depends on the mission. For anti-sub and long-range over-water work, the B-24 was clearly superior, as demonstrated by the Navy’s adoption of the PB4Y as its premier long-range land-based patrol bomber. When altitude was needed to avoid punishing flak over Europe, the B-17 did a bit better above 20,000 feet, and a lot better above 25,000 feet. In the Pacific, where range was critical, the B-24 was hands-down the better aircraft. Ditto for bulk transport (but not necessarily for VIP transport).

    Not mentioned in the article, the B-17 was much easier to fly – the B-24 needed big, muscular pilots to handle the heavy controls, especially on long formation flights. For most of its career, the B-17 had better self-protection gun positions, but that advantage was lost late in the war.

    Perhaps the clearest area of superiority was the irrelevant area of aesthetics. The B-24 was described as the packing crate in which the B-17 was delivered – clearly, it was “boxy” while the B-17 was far more aesthetically pleasing. That had no combat value, but it plays an important psychological role in deciding which one was “best.”

  2. theron
    Posted June 26, 2015 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Buried in this story I see two points: 1. The B-24 did not get good press, thus this article provides provides compensation. 2. Twice the article notes that in similar missions, the loss rate of the B-24 was higher than the 17…but overall the 24 had a lower loss rate per sortie.

    My conclusion t differs from the article’s: one cannot compare apples and oranges using stats.

  3. Posted June 26, 2015 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Something also not mentioned were the combined B-17 and B-24 missions where the B-24’s flew at a lower altitude than the B-17’s. Being at a lower altitude meant they were more frequently the targets of the flak units on the ground. The B-17 guys loved it when they flew mixed missions for that reason.
    The press coverage for the B-17’s could also be explained in that the press corps were mainly located in London and the B-17 air fields were more convenient to visit. Most of the B-24 units (part of the 2nd Air Division) were based in and around Norwich in East Anglia.

  4. Jim C Ouellette
    Posted August 30, 2015 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    One reason the B-17 may have gotten more press coverage was a need to promote air passenger service after the war. Prior to WWII most Americans had never flown before but they did have ideas of what an airplane “should” look like. The B-17 borrowed its design heavily from the Boeing 247, a sleek, early 1930’s passenger liner similar to the DC-3. The B-24 was in contrast a purpose-built, long-range “flying dump truck” and looked unlike anything the public had ever seen, except for some flying boats. Although more advanced and versatile than the B-17, the B-24 didn’t look like something the public nor the airlines would expect in the post-war years. The template for what passenger planes should look like was set due to the B-17, whereas nothing like the B-24 has been built since. Both of these great planes served their purpose well and both deserve equal credit in winning the war. Incidentally, I found this article quite thoughtful and enlightening.

  5. Major Bob Sternfels
    Posted December 11, 2016 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    On the LOW LEVEL Ploesti oil refinery mission of Ag. 1st, 1943..my B24D was photographed missing three smoke stacks which became as the second most used picture of Air Force action…The Air Force archives have been sending this picture out in reverse and take it from the PILOT of the B24D called “The Sandman” that the smoke stacks were on my right side….NOT LEFT….So now the explanation of why the archives are sending the picture wrong…In mounting the film camera in the B24D,
    since the rear contained a gun turret..the only way to photo the action from the rear,was to extend a mirror out from the designed opening for cameras on the floor of the B24D…then mount the camera INSIDE so it will photo the mirror ….thus everything will be reversed… a “front surface” mirror was used….you use this type as rear view mirrors in your car ..thats why lights from the cars behind you seem so glaring. FS mirrors can be described as chrome plating glass….Regular bathroom mirrors are plated on the back of the glass whereas “front surface” plating is on the front surface. WAS I SCARED WHEN I SAW THE SMOKE STACKS? WHAT DO YOU THINK? ALMOST HAD TO CHANGE MY UNDERPANTS….

  6. Posted May 26, 2017 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Before entering my comment, I’d like to commend the Author of this Story. It is very accurate and illustrates the point of the article – Which was the better, “The Flying Fortress”, or the “Liberator”. As the author points out the squeaky wheel (The Fortress”) got all the oil because the press was located on or near their bases.
    My comment is very simple, the U.S. Army Air Force loss more men than all the other branches of our Military. The one thing that the Author pointed out maybe explain these losses was in the strategic tactic employed by our Commanders. When the British realized they were losing more planes and men by Bombing during the daylight hours they switched to nighttime Bombing, and suggested that the U.S. do the same. The British losses went down considerably. The U.S. Commanders balked at this suggestion and continued to Bomb in the daylight. It wasn’t until the arrival of the P-51 Mustang did our losses decline. As pointed out , the two planes were both great planes and were well suited for their role in the Sortie Actions. My point is that it is much easier to hit a target when it is much closer and is well lit. High altitude, night time Sorties gave the men a better chance of survival. If you saw the Movie “The Memphis Belle”, the big deal was that the crew made 25 Sorties, a thing that was unheard of during that period of the war. My POINT is that our Commanders valued keeping the enemy on alert 24/7, than the lives of our men. Since we won, maybe they were right, but do the survivors of these battles, and the families of those that were lost feel the same way? God Bless Them All.

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