15 May 1942: The first Ford-built B-24 Liberator long range heavy bomber came off the assembly line at the Willow Run Airplane Plant, just 160 days after the United States entered World War II. 6,971 B-24s more would follow, along with assembly kits for another 1,893, before production came to an end, 28 June 1945.
4 April 1945: 0928 at 51°31′ N., 10°18′ E, east of Hamburg, Germany, a Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1 Schwalbe twin-engine jet fighter shot down this B-24 with an R4M rocket.¹
The four-engine bomber was a Ford B-24M-10-FO Liberator, serial number 44-50838—a very long range heavy bomber assigned to the 714th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 448th Bombardment Group (Heavy), and based at RAF Seething (USAAF Station 146), Norwich, England.
No parachutes were seen.²
Germany surrendered 31 days after this photograph was taken.
¹ Ford B-24M-10-FO Liberator 44-50838 was shot down with an R4M rocket fired from a Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1 twin-engine jet fighter, flown by Oberleutnant Rudolf Rademacher of Gruppe II, Jagdgeschwader 7 (11./JG 7), based at Parchim, Germany. Rudi Rademacher was a veteran of more than 500 combat missions, credited with at least 97 victories (and as many as 126), including 16 four-engine heavy bombers.
² TDiA has been informed by his grandaughter that Radio Operator, Technical Sergeant Charles E. Cupp, Jr., did survive. He was able to escape from the doomed bomber through its bomb bay. He was captured and held as a Prisoner of War.
5–6 October 1922: Lieutenants John Arthur Macready and Oakley George Kelly, Air Service, United States Army, set an unofficial world endurance record for an unrefueled airplane when they flew a Fokker T-2, Air Service serial number A.S. 64233, for 35 hours, 18 minutes, 30 seconds at San Diego, California.
The Fokker F.IV was built by Anthony Fokker’s Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek at Veere, Netherlands, in 1921. The Air Service purchased two and designated the type T-2, with serial numbers A.S. 64233 and A.S. 64234.
Several modifications were made to prepare the T-2 for the transcontinental flight. Normally flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit, a second set of controls was installed so that the airplane could be controlled from inside while the two pilots changed positions. The standard airplane had a 130 gallon (492 liter) fuel tank in the wing. The Army added a 410 gallon (1,552 liter) tank to the wing center section, and a 185 gallon (700 liter) tank in the passenger cabin.
The Fokker F.IV was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit which was offset to the left of the airplane’s centerline. The airplane was designed to carry 8–10 passengers in an enclosed cabin. The F.IV was a scaled-up version of the preceding F.III. It was built of a welded tubular steel fuselage, covered with three-ply plywood. The wing structure had plywood box spars and ribs, and was also covered with three-ply plywood.
For its time, the Fokker was a large airplane. Measurements from the Fokker T-2 at the Smithsonian Institution are: 49 feet, 10 inches (15.189 meters) long, with a wing span of 80 feet, 5 inches (24.511 meters), and height 12 feet, 2 inches (3.708 meters). On this flight, it carried 735 gallons (2,782 liters) of gasoline in three fuel tanks.
The Fokker F.IV was offered with a choice of engines: A Rolls-Royce Eagle IX V-12, Napier Lion II “broad arrow” W-12, or Liberty L-12 V-12. The T-2 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Ford-built Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. (Serial number A.S. No. 5142) The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine. Installed on A.S. 64233, the engine turned turned a two-bladed Curtiss fixed-pitch walnut propeller with a diameter of 10 feet, 5 inches (3.175 meters). The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms).
The airplane had a maximum speed of 93 miles per hour (150 kilometers per hour), a range of 2,550 miles (4,104 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 10,500 feet (3,200 meters).
Several modifications were made to prepare the T-2 for a transcontinental flight. Normally flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit, a second set of controls was installed so that the airplane could be controlled from inside while the two pilots changed positions. The standard airplane had a 130 gallon (492 liter) fuel tank in the wing. The Army added a 410 gallon (1,552 liter) tank to the wing center section, and a 185 gallon (700 liter) tank in the passenger cabin.
Macready and Oakley planned to fly the T-2 across the North American continent, non-stop, from San Diego, California to New York. The starting point at Rockwell Field was chosen to take advantage of favorable westerly winds, and to use the higher-octane gasoline which was available in California.
When they encountered fog in the mountains east of San Diego, the two fliers were forced to turn back. They remained airborne over San Diego to measure the airplane’s performance and fuel consumption for another attempt. Because the airplane was not equipped with a barograph to record air pressure on a paper chart, the record endurance flight could not be officially recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). They were awarded the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year. This was Macready’s second Mackay. He and Kelly would win it again the following year.
Macready and Oakley made a second unsuccessful attempt to cross the continent from west-to-east, and were finally successful on an east-to-west flight in 1923.
Fokker T-2 A.S. 64233 is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
28 June 1945: The very last of 18,482 B-24 Liberator very long range heavy bombers rolled off the assembly line at Ford’s Willow Run Aircraft Plant, located between Belleville and Ypsilanti, Michigan.
More B-24s were built than any other American aircraft type. They were produced by the designer, Consolidated Aircraft, at its San Diego, California and Fort Worth, Texas plants; by Douglas Aircraft at Tulsa, Oklahoma; North American Aviation at Dallas, Texas; and by Ford Willow Run.
Ford built 6,972 B-24s in 776 days and produced kits for 1,893 more to be assembled by the other manufacturers. The Willow Run plant completed a B-24 every 63 minutes.