A B-17 Flying Fortress banks, showing its classic lines.
My good friend Dan Culler, a former B-24 flight engineer, wrote me today and wondered why the B-24 always seems to get the short end of the stick when compared to the B-17. Dan wrote:
"Seeing how you and others are wrapped up in B-17 Flying Fortress WWII history, it makes me wonder how the B-24 Liberator groups are ignored from the air war in Europe, it as if we never were there. This even though more B-24s flew then B-17. When the B-24s flew the low level Ploesti raid, one of the most daring and costly raids in WWII, it was said if one B-17 was on that raid it would have been headlines Flying Fortresses hit Ploesti...I remember after the war and even today when people ask where I flew and when I say 'Europe', their first remark, Oh you flew the Flying Fortress? When I say B-24 or Liberators, they remark they never heard of it. Jimmy Stewart commanded a B-24 Squadron, shortly after I was shot down."
I emailed Dan back that I'd tried very hard not to stiff the B-24, which is every bit as good a plane as Dan says it is, in my book. While the B-17 may have been more durable, the B-24 was faster, carried a heavier bomb load, and was used in larger numbers. One of the keystone chapters of my book Untold Valor is about Dan, a B-24 man. In any case, I threw the question to one who knows more on the subject that myself, former B-17 bombardier Maurice Rockett, also a good friend and someone I trust as a straight-shooter. My own take on the B-17 vs. B-24 controversy is that the B-17 simply got more ink. It flew out of London, a city bursting at the seams with war correspondents, while the B-24 flew many missions out of North Africa and Italy, not a favorite for war correspondents. It was the media baby, the sexy plane, and the B-24 never got the same attention. Maurice basically agreed that it was a matter of ink, of publicity.
I know many men who flew on B-17s, and also many who flew on B-24s. I find it interesting and telling that B-17 men all consider the Fort to be a great plane, and the 24 men--to a man--swear by the 24. Suffice it to say that both were simply outstanding bombers and that the 24 is one of the unsung heroes of the war.
So here is a tip of the hat to the B-24 Liberator Bomber.
So please, readers, comment! What do you think?