B-24s for Australia

Last revised January 21, 2000






In 1942, the Australian government began to explore the possibility of manufacturing heavy bombers in Australia to equip the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The Liberator, by virtue of its excellent long-range characteristics, was a natural choice for Australia because of the large distances that would be encountered by the RAAF in the Pacific theatre of operations.

However, at an early date it was deemed infeasible to manufacture the Liberator under license in Australia since it was already under production in several plants in the USA. Instead, the Avro Lancaster was chosen for Australian production. However, the war ended before such production could get under way. However, 73 examples of the improved Lincoln version were built in Australia starting in 1946.

Although Australia had opted not to manufacture the Liberator, in late 1943, General George C. Kenney, commander of Allied Air Forces in the South West Pacific Area, recommended that the RAAF form seven Liberator squadrons. The USAAF would assist the RAAF with both the procurement of aircraft and the training of crews. The RAAF personnel would be temporarily attached to the US Fifth Air Force to gain experience.

In February of 1944, twelve B-24Ds were obtained second-hand from USAAF stocks and delivered to Australia. They were assigned the RAAF serials A71-1 through 12. By this time, the B-24D was well past its prime, and was deemed suitable only for operational training, pending the arrival of more capable Liberator versions. These B-24Ds were assigned to No 7 Operational Training Unit based at Tocumwal, Victoria to carry out heavy bomber operational training for air crews. They served there until 1945. None ever saw any combat, and this unit was disbanded at the end of the war.

The definitive Liberators for RAAF service were the B-24J, L, and M versions, the first of which was delivered in May of 1944. 287 Liberators were ultimately taken on charge by the RAAF, with 168 of them being allocated under the terms of Lend-Lease. They were assigned the serial number A72-31/198 and A72-300/405. Some of these were delivered to No 7 OTU for training, but most of the others were delivered to operational units for combat. The following RAAF squadrons were equipped with Liberators: Nos. 12, 21, 23, 24, 25, 36, 99, and 102. Five of these squadrons had previously operated Vultee Vengeance dive bombers. Most of the RAAF Liberator operations were directed against targets and shipping in the former Dutch East Indies which had been overrun by the Japanese. Many RAAF Liberator operations were conducted out of air bases in the Northern Territory and Queensland, whereas others were flown from bases in Burma. As islands to the north were liberated from the Japanese, the Liberators would often take off from Australian bases, bomb their targets, and then land at bases in Borneo or Morotai. They would then bomb up again and attack other targets and return to their bases in Australia. In addition, Nos 200 and 201 Special Duties Flights flew Liberators in covert operations, which generally involved the dropping of agents, the support of guerilla operations, and the supplying of coastal watchers.

After the Japanese surrender, many RAAF Liberators flew transport and supply missions in support of recently released prisoners of war. Following the end of the war, several of the RAAF Liberator units were disbanded, and those that remained in service were re-equipped with Avro Lincolns by 1947. As they left service, many RAAF Liberators ended up derelict at Tocumwal, and most were scrapped there in 1950-52.

Only one RAAF Liberator is known to survive. It is A72-176, a B-24M flown by 82 Wing. After being struck off charge in March of 1948, A72-176 was transferred to RAAF East Sale as an instructional airframe. Later that year, the fuselage was offered for sale as scrap and was bought by Mr. George Toye of Moe, Victoria. Mr. Toye kept the fuselage in fairly good shape in the succeeding years. However, 45 years out in the open have taken their toll, and there is now some major corrosion and some missing parts. The plane is now awaiting restoration, which will be carried out by using a set of Liberator wings found in New Guinea. Once restored, it will eventually be placed on display in a suitable museum. Does anyone have an update on its status?

The following is a list of RAAF Liberators, along with their USAAF equivalent serials.


41-11865/11906	Consolidated B-24D-CO Liberator 
				11868 to RAAF as A72-9 - cvtd to comps 9-45 
				11904 to RAAF as A72-1 - damaged in fire
					at Tocumwal 10-44, converted to
					components 3-48
41-23697/23724	Consolidated B-24D-1-CO Liberator
				23720 to RAAF as A72-2 - soc 12-52
41-24007/24026   	Consolidated B-24D-15-CO Liberator
				24018 to RAAF as A72-3 - soc 3-48
41-24030/24099   	Consolidated B-24D-15-CO Liberator
				24070 to RAAF as A72-7 - converted to
					components 10-45
41-24100/24138   	Consolidated B-24D-20-CO Liberator
				24127 to RAAF as A72-10 - soc 12-52
41-24220/24311   	Consolidated B-24D-25-CO Liberator
				24290 to RAAF as A72-8 - w/o in crash 1-45
42-40483/40527	Consolidated B-24D-65-CO Liberator
				40498 to RAAF as A72-4 - damaged in fire
					10-44, converted to components
				40512 to RAAF as A72-5 - soc 6-50.
				40514 to RAAF as A72-11 - damaged in 
					emergency landing 4-45, converted to
					components.
				40526 to RAF as BZ732 and then to RCAF as 586
42-41093/41137	Consolidated B-24D-135-CO Liberator
				41132 to RAAF as A72-12 - returned to 
					USAAF 4-45.
42-78476/78794	North American B-24J-1-NT Liberator
				78726 to RAAF as A72-404 - soc 12-52
				78727 to RAAF as A72-405 - soc 12-52
				78787 to RAAF as A72-366 - sold 6-50.
42-100186/100235	Consolidated B-24J-80-CO Liberator
				100194 to RAAF as A72-13 - returned to USAAF
					in 4-45.
44-28061/28276	North American/Dallas B-24J-5-NT Liberator
				28062 to RAAF as A72-387 - soc 12-52
				28063 to RAAF as A72-300 - soc 5-52.
				28064 to RAAF as A72-301 - soc 12-52.
				28065 to RAAF as A72-302 - soc 5-52.
				28066 to RAAF as A72-303 - soc 5-52.
				28067 to RAAF as A72-304 - soc 5-52.
				28068 to RAAF as A72-331 - soc 5-52.
				28069 to RAAF as A72-305 - soc 5-52.
				28070 to RAAF as A72-318 - soc 12-52.
				28072 to RAAF as A72-374 - soc 5-52.
				28072 to RAAF as A72-348 - ditched at sea 4/46.
				28073 to RAAF as A72-362 - soc 5-52. 
				28074 to RAAF as A72-351 - soc 5-52. 
				28075 to RAAF as A72-393 - soc 7-52.
				28076 to RAAF as A72-322 - sold 6-50.
				28077 to RAAF as A72-349 - soc 12-52. 
				28078 to RAAF as A72-337 - soc 5-52.
				28079 to RAAF as A72-316 - soc 5-52.
				28080 to RAAF as A72-343 - soc 5-52.
				28081 to RAAF as A72-335 - soc 12-52.
				28082 to RAAF as A72-319 - soc 5-52.
				28083 to RAAF as A72-354 - soc 5-52. 
				28084 to RAAF as A72-345 - soc 7-52.
				28085 to RAAF as A72-355 - soc 5-52. 
				28086 to RAAF as A72-312 - soc 5-52.
				28087 to RAAF as A72-306 - crashed on takeoff
					8-45.
				28088 to RAAF as A72-367 - soc 5-52.
				28089 to RAAF as A72-321 - soc 5-52.
				28090 to RAAF as A72-350 - soc 7-52. 
				28091 to RAAF as A72-334 - soc 12-52.
				28092 to RAAF as A72-328 - soc 5-52.
				28093 to RAAF as A72-358 - soc 5-52. 
				28094 to RAAF as A72-368 - soc 5-52.
				28095 to RAAF as A72-338 - soc 5-52.
				28096 to RAAF as A72-340 - soc 7-52.
				28097 to RAAF as A72-307 - soc 5-52.
				28098 to RAAF as A72-333 - soc 5-52.
				28099 to RAAF as A72-308 - soc 12-52.
				28100 to RAAF as A72-329 - soc 12-52.
				28101 to RAAF as A72-309 - soc 5-52.
				28102 to RAAF as A72-375 - soc 5-52.
				28103 to RAAF as A72-323 - soc 5-52.
				28104 to RAAF as A72-310 - soc 5-52.
				28106 to RAAF as A72-344 - soc 7-52.
				28107 to RAAF as A72-325 - soc 5-52.
				28108 to RAAF as A72-336 - soc 12-52.
				28109 to RAAF as A72-347 - soc 12-52.
				28111 to RAAF as A72-359 - crashed on
					takeoff 11-45. 
				28113 to RAAF as A72-341 - soc 7-52.
				28114 to RAAF as A72-330 - soc 5-52.
				28118 to RAAF as A72-326 - soc 5-52.
				28121 to RAAF as A72-376 - soc 5-52.
				28122 to RAAF as A72-317 - damaged in engine
					fire after takeoff 9-45, reduced to
					components.
				28123 to RAAF as A72-327 - to DCA 3-51 for
					fire training.
				28124 to RAAF as A72-339 - soc 7-52.
				28125 to RAAF as A72-313 - crashed 9-45.
				28126 to RAAF as A72-346 - soc 12-52.
				28127 to RAAF as A72-314 - damaged by enemy
					action 7-45, converted to components.
				28128 to RAAF as A72-360 - soc 10-51.  
				28129 to RAAF as A72-357 - soc 5-52. 
				28130 to RAAF as A72-356 - soc 5-52. 
				28131 to RAAF as A72-332 - soc 5-52.
				28132 to RAAF as A72-320 - soc 5-52.
				28133 to RAAF as A72-353 - soc 5-52. 
				28134 to RAAF as A72-361 - soc 5-52. 
				28135 to RAAF as A72-352 - soc 5-52. 
				28136 to RAAF as A72-369 - sold to Wilmore
					Aviation of Matraville NSW 12-52.
				28137 to RAAF as A72-342 - soc 7-52.
				28138 to RAAF as A72-324 - soc 5-52.
				28139 to RAAF as A72-311 - soc 5-52.
				28140 to RAAF as A72-372 - soc 5-52.
				28142 to RAAF as A72-383 - to DCA for fire
					training 12-51.
				28143 to RAAF as A72-379 - soc 5-52.
				28144 to RAAF as A72-370 - soc 5-52.
				28145 to RAAF as A72-380 - soc 12-52.
				28146 to RAAF as A72-391 - soc 12-52.
				28147 to RAAF as A72-400 - soc 12-52.
				28148 to RAAF as A72-373 - soc 5-52.
				28149 to RAAF as A72-363 - soc 5-52. 
				28150 to RAAF as A72-399 - soc 7-52.
				28151 to RAAF as A72-381 - converted to
					instructional airframe 7-47, soc
					5-53.
				28153 to RAAF as A72-401 - soc 5-52.
				28155 to RAAF as A72-386 - soc 5-52.
				28156 to RAAF as A72-365 - soc 5-52. 
				28158 to RAAF as A72-398 - soc 7-52.
				28159 to RAAF as A72-394 - soc 7-52.
				28160 to RAAF as A72-402 - soc 12-52.
				28161 to RAAF as A72-403 - soc 12-52.
				28162 to RAAF as A72-384 - soc 5-52.
				28164 to RAAF as A72-371 - soc 5-52.
				28166 to RAAF as A72-390 - soc 12-52.
				28167 to RAAF as A72-389 - soc 5-52.
				28168 to RAAF as A72-364 - soc 5-52. 
				28169 to RAAF as A72-388 - soc 5-52.
				28171 to RAAF as A72-378 - soc 12-52.
				28172 to RAAF as A72-396 - soc 7-52.
				28174 to RAAF as A72-377 - soc 12-52.
				28175 to RAAF as A72-397 - soc 5-52.
				28178 to RAAF as A72-392 - soc 12-52.
				28179 to RAAF as A72-385 - soc 5-52.
				28180 to RAAF as A72-395 - soc 7-52.
				28183 to RAAF as A72-382 - soc 12-52.
				28256 to RAAF as A72-315 - to DCA 12-51 for 
					fire training.
44-40249/40348	Consolidated B-24J-155-CO Liberator
				40251 to RAAF as A72-31 - converted to
					components 3-46
				40252 to RAAF as A72-32 - soc 12-52.
44-40349/40448	Consolidated B-24J-160-CO Liberator
				40406 to RAAF as A72-34 - soc 12-52.
				40407 to RAAF as A72-37 - soc 12-52
				40408 to RAAF as A72-35 - soc 12-52.
				40409 to RAAF as A72-36 - crashed on landing
					4-45.
				40410 to RAAF as A72-33 - soc 12-52.
				40411 to RAAF as A72-38 - soc 12-52.
44-40649/40748	Consolidated B-24J-175-CO Liberator
				40649 to RAAF as A72-40 - soc 7-52
				40650 to RAAF as A72-44 - soc 12-52.
				40651 to RAAF as A72-42 - soc 12-52.
				40652 to RAAF as A72-41 - soc 12-52.
				40653 to RAAF as A72-39 - damaged in 
					landing accident 9-44, converted
					to components.
				40654 to RAAF as A72-43 - soc 12-52.
44-40849/40948	Consolidated B-24J-185-CO Liberator
				40870/40873 to RAAF as A72-45/48
					all soc in 1952.
44-41149/41248	Consolidated B-24J-200-CO Liberator
				41193 to RAAF as A72-56 - sold 6-50
				41194 to RAAF as A72-49 - sold 6-50
				41195 to RAAF as A72-58 - soc 12-52.
				41196 to RAAF as A72-54 - soc 12-52.
				41197 to RAAF as A72-50 - soc 12-52.
				41203 to RAAF as A72-51 - soc 12-52.
				41204 to RAAF as A72-53 - sold 6-50. 
				41205 to RAAF as A72-57 - soc 12-52.
				41206 to RAAF as A72-55 - soc 12-52.
				41207 to RAAF as A72-52 - soc 12-52.
44-41249/41348	Consolidated B-24J-205-CO Liberator
				41249 to RAAF as A72-62 - soc 12-52.
44-41349/41389	Consolidated B-24J-210-CO Liberator
				41384/41385 to RAAF as A72-64/65   
					A72-64 lost to enemy action 7-45
					A72-65 soc 12-52.
				41373 to RAAF as A72-66 - failed to return
					from operations 8-45.   
				41374 to RAAF as A72-63 - soc 12-52.
				41375 to RAAF as A72-61 - lost to enemy action
					7-45.
				41376 to RAAF as A72-68 - soc 12-52.  
				41386 to RAAF as A72-67 - sold 6-50.  
				41388 to RAAF as A72-60 - soc 12-52.
				41389 to RAAF as A72-59 - damaged by enemy
					action 3-45, converted to components.
44-41390/41448	Consolidated B-24L-1-CO Liberator
				41391/41394 to RAAF as A72-69/72      
					A72-69 soc 12-52.
					A72-70 missing on operations 1-45.
					A72-71 soc 2-52.
					A72-72 sold 6-50.
				41395 to RAAF as A72-74 - soc 12-52.     
				41401 to RAAF as A72-73 - sold 6-50.     
				41402 to RAAF as A72-76 - soc 12-52.     
				41403 to RAAF as A72-75 - soc 12-52.     
				41404/41405 to RAAF as A72-77/78      
					A72-77 lost on operations 9-44.
					A72-78 soc 12-52.
				41444 to RAAF as A72-79 - sold 6-50.      
44-41449/41548	Consolidated B-24L-5-CO Liberator
				41450 to RAAF as A72-80 - 
					w/o in crash 3-45.    
				41452 to RAAF as A72-82 - soc 12-52.     
				41454 to RAAF as A72-81 - lost on operations
					4-45.     
				41455/41460 to RAAF as A72-83/88      
					A72-83 soc 8-49
					A72-84 soc 12-52.
					A72-85 soc 8-49.
					A72-86 soc 12-52.
					A72-87 soc 8-49.
					A72-88 w/o in crash 2-45.
				41499 to RAAF as A72-126 - soc 12-52.      
				41502 to RAAF as A72-127 - soc 12-52.     
				41503 to RAAF as A72-128 - converted to
					components 10-45.     
				41504 to RAAF as A72-129 - soc 12-52         
				41505 to RAAF as A72-125 - soc 12-52.     
				41506 to RAAF as A72-130 - soc 12-52.         
				41507 to RAAF as A72-132 - soc 12-52.         
				41508 to RAAF as A72-131 - soc 12-52.         
				41509 to RAAF as A72-133 - ditched returning
					from ops 4-45.         
				41510 to RAAF as A72-134 - damaged in taxiing
					accident 3-45, converted to components
				41511 to RAAF as A72-135 - soc 12-52.         
				41512 to RAAF as A72-136 - soc 12-52.         
				41513 to RAAF as A72-137 - 
					damaged beyond repair
					11-45, converted to components.
				41514 to RAAF as A72-138 - soc 12-52         
  				41515/41518 to RAAF as A72-149/152
					A72-149 soc 6-48
					A72-150 soc 12-52
					A72-151 soc 12-52
					A72-152 soc 12-52.
				41529 to RAAF as A72-157 - soc 12-52.        
				41530/41533 to RAAF as A72-153/156
					A72-153 soc 12-52.
					A72-154 sold 6-50
					A72-155 soc 12-52.
					A72-156 soc 12-52.	
44-41549/41648	Consolidated B-24L-10-CO Liberator
				41575 to RAAF as A72-89 - soc 12-52     
				41577 to RAAF as A72-103 - soc 12-52.     
				41579 to RAAF as A72-90 - sold 6-50.     
				41580/41583 to RAAF as A72-91/94      
					A72-91 soc 12-52.
					A72-92 failed to return from search
						mission 7-45.
					A72-93 soc 12-52.
					A72-94 sold 6-50.
				41604 to RAAF as A72-95 - soc 12-52.     
				41605 to RAAF as A72-106 - sold 6-50      
				41607 to RAAF as A72-107 - soc 12-52.     
				41608 to RAAF as A72-97 - sold 6-50      
				41609 to RAAF as A72-100 - soc 12-52.     
				41611 to RAAF as A72-102 - soc 12-52.     
				41612 to RAAF as A72-104 - soc 12-52.     
				41617 to RAAF as A72-105 - soc 12-52.     
				41618 to RAAF as A72-108 - soc 12-52.     
				41629 to RAAF as A72-113 - soc 12-52.     
				41630 to RAAF as A72-109 - sold 6-50.     
				41631 to RAAF as A72-116 - sold 6-50.     
				41632 to RAAF as A72-115 - sold 6-50.     
				41633 to RAAF as A72-114 - soc 12-52.     
				41634 to RAAF as A72-117 - soc 12-52.     
				41635 to RAAF as A72-118 - soc 12-52.     
				41636 to RAAF as A72-119 - soc 12-52.     
				41637 to RAAF as A72-122 - soc 3-48.     
				41638 to RAAF as A72-123 - damaged in crash
					landing 1-45, converted to components.
				41639/41640 to RAAF as A72-98/99      
					A72-98 sold 6-50.
					A72-99 soc 12-52.
				41642 to RAAF as A72-120 - soc 12-52.      
44-41649/41748	Consolidated B-24L-15-CO Liberator
				41653 to RAAF as A72-96 - soc 12-52.      
				41654 to RAAF as A72-101 - soc 12-52.      
				41656 to RAAF as A72-110 - soc 12-52.     
				41657 to RAAF as A72-124 - w/o in crash 2-45.
				41658 to RAAF as A72-139 - sold 6-50.          
				41663/41664 to RAAF as A72-111/112      
					A72-111 soc 12-52.
					A72-112 w/o in crash 2-45.
				41665 to RAAF as A72-140 - soc 12-52         
				41666 to RAAF as A72-121 - soc 12-52.     
				41677 to RAAF as A72-141 - soc 12-52.         
				41682 to RAAF as A72-142 - soc 12-52.         
44-41807/41848	Consolidated B-24M-1-CO Liberator
				41828 to RAAF as A72-143 - soc 12-52.          
				41831 to RAAF as A72-144 - soc 12-52.        
				41834 to RAAF as A72-145 - soc 12-52.        
				41836 to RAAF as A72-146 - soc 12-52.        
44-41849/41948	Consolidated B-24M-5-CO Liberator
				41885/41886 to RAAF as A72-147/148         
					A72-147 sold 6-50.
					A72-148 soc 12-52.
44-41949/42048	Consolidated B-24M-10-CO Liberator
				41949 to RAAF as A72-160.  w/o in crash 5-45.
				41950 to RAAF as A72-161. Converted to components 5-47.
				41951 to RAAF as A72-162.  SOC 12-52.
				41952 to RAAF as A72-163.  SOC 12-52.
				41953 to RAAF as A72-164.  SOC 12-52.
				41954 to RAAF as A72-165.  SOC 12-52.
				41955 to RAAF as A72-166.  To DCA 12-49 for fire training
				41956 to RAAF as A72-176.  SOC 30-48. Fuselage in yard
					at Moe, Australia for RAAF Museum. 
				41957 to RAAF as A72-167.  Sold 6-50
				41958 to RAAF as A72-168.  SOC 12-52.
				41959 to RAAF as A72-169.  SOC 12-52.
				41960 to RAAF as A72-170.  SOC 12-52.
				41961 to RAAF as A72-171.  SOC 12-52.
				41962 to RAAF as A72-172.  Sold 6-50.
				41963 to RAAF as A72-173.  SOC 12-52.
				41964 to RAAF as A72-174.  SOC 12-52.
				41965 to RAAF as A72-175.  SOC 12-52.
				41966 to RAAF as A72-177.  Lost on ops 5-45.
				41967 to RAAF as A72-178.  SOC 12-52.
				41969 to RAAF as A72-179.  SOC 12-52.
				41970 to RAAF as A72-180.  Sold 6-50.
				41971 to RAF as A72-158.  SOC 12-52
				41972 to RAAF as A72-159.  Missing on ops 5-45.
				41973 to RAAF as A72-181.  SOC 12-52.
				41974 to RAAF as A72-182.  SOC 12-52.
				41975 to RAAF as A72-183.  Sold 6-50.
				41976 to RAAF as A72-184.  Converted to components 9-45	
				41977 to RAAF as A72-185.  Sold 6-50.
				41978 to RAAF as A72-186.  To DCA 12-51 for fire training
				41979 to RAAF as A72-187.  SOC 12-52.
				41980 to RAAF as A72-188.  SOC 12-52.
				41982 to RAAF as A72-189.  Sold 6-50.
				41983 to RAAF as A72-190.  SOC 12-52.
				41984 to RAAF as A72-191.  Missing on ops 3-45.
				41987 to RAAF as A72-192.  Sold 6-50.
				41988 to RAAF as A72-193.  Sold 6-50.
				41989 to RAAF as A72-194.  SOC 12-52.
				41990 to RAAF as A72-195.  SOC 12-52.
				41991 to RAAF as A72-196.  Shot down 6-45
				41992 to RAAF as A72-197.  To DCA 12-52 for fire training
				41993 to RAAF as A72-198.  SOC 12-52.

Sources:

  1. Famous Bombers of the Second World War, William Green, Doubleday, 1959.

  2. British Military Aircraft Serials, 1912-1969, Bruce Robertson, Ian Allen, 1969.

  3. Liberator: America's Global Bomber, Alwyn T. Lloyd, Pictorial Histories Publishing Co, Inc, 1993.

  4. The Consolidated B-24J Liberator, Roger A. Freeman, Profile Publications, Inc. 1969.

  5. B-24 Liberator in Action, Larry Davis, Squadron/Signal Publications Inc, 1987.

  6. General Dynamics Aircraft and Their Predecesssors, John Wegg, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  7. Boston, Mitchell, and Liberator in Australian Service, Stewart Wilson, Aerospace Publications, 1992.

  8. Consolidated B-24D-M Liberator IN USAAF-RAF-RAAF-MLD-IAF-CzechAF and CNAF Service, Ernest R. McDowell, Arco, 1970.

  9. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  10. American Combat Planes, 3rd Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

  11. Jane's American Fighting Aircraft of the 20th Century, Michael J.H. Taylor, Mallard Press.

  12. E-mail from Roy McLean on status of A72-176.