The B-24 Liberator was, together with the B-17, the workhorse of the United States Army Airforces who used it in every theater of operations. It was also instrumental in the Battle of the Atlantic, where it’s long range enabled it to close the Mid-Atlantic Gap. Twelve thousand B-24s saw service with the USAAF, at the peak, in September 1944 there were 6,043 active!
It featured a very modern design featuring a shoulder-mounted “Davis wing,” which gave the Liberator long-range, a high cruise speed, and the ability to carry a heavy bomb load. For defense, the B-24 carried up to 10 .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns which were located in the waist or in turrets.
The B-24 was less robust than the B-17 and the aircrews tended to prefer the B-17, General Staff favored the B-24.
Witchcraft flew in the 467th BG’s first mission (April 10, 1944), its last mission (April 25, 1945), and 128 missions in between — 130 missions in all, an 8th AF record.
The following are pictures of Witchcraft. They are arranged chronologically as best as Brooke P. Anderson could determine. Some pictures have dates written on them. Some do not but show the number of bomb symbols painted on the side of the aircraft.
This shows approximately how many missions Witchcraft had flown to that point (at least to within perhaps a few, as the bomb symbols were perhaps not always painted on immediately after the mission).
From the list of missions dates given here that gives a good estimate of date. The list and images can be found at http://www.467bg.com and http://www.the467tharchive.org , and some are courtesy of Perry Watts (author of The 467th Bombardment Group (H) in World War II: In Combat With the B-24 Liberator over Europe).
The first crew of Witchcraft after its first mission on April 10, 1944. “Witchcraft” not painted in yet. Top row, left to right: Henry Kubacek (waist gunner), Alex McLean (ball turret), Melvin Bland (radio operator), Vernon Bondrock (waist gunner), Robert McEwen (tail gunner), and Robert DeKerf (engineer/top turret). Bottom row, left to right: John Oder (co-pilot), George Reed (pilot), and John Kramer (bombardier).
Judging from the bomb symbols, a picture from perhaps about 40 missions.
Witchcraft taxiing, judging from the bomb symbols (which seem the same as the previous picture) from perhaps about 40 missions. Mission 40 occurred July 6, 1944. However, the weather does not look very warm in this picture judging by the jacket, so perhaps it is a bit earlier than that.
Witchcraft’s ground crew, judging from the bomb symbols, pictured sometime after the 60th mission (August 12, 1944). M/Sgt. Joe R. Ramirez (crew chief); George Y. Dong (assistant crew chief); Raymond A. Betcher (mechanic); Walter L. Elliott (mechanic); and Joseph J. Vetter (mechanic).
Witchcraft ground crew, judging from bomb symbols, pictured sometime after the 65th mission (August 18, 1944). The white lettering at the bottom of the picture is cut off but looks somewhat like “16-8-45” although this picture must be in 1944 sometime.
Crew 64. Writing on image indicates it was taken December 15, 1944, thus after the 93rd mission (although there are 89 bomb symbols). Top row, left to right: S. Arnold (crew chief), H. Buck (navigator), H. Meyers (co-pilot), and S. T. Gray (pilot). Bottom row, left to right: Tognarini (radio), W. Oneal (gunner), Ed Laczynski (gunner), A. Francis (tail gunner), and J. Eberline (nose gunner).
The writing on the picture indicates is was taken December 15th, 1944, thus after the 93rd mission (although there are 89 bomb symbols).
It is unclear when this was taken. The engine cowlings look like they are still olive drab with gray undersides (so perhaps approximately 100 missions or earlier as, at some point after 100 missions, Witchcraft picks up different-color cowlings) and the weather looks like fall or winter. “Audre” on the nose of the plane is the name of John Kramer’s wife.
Fred Holdrege (CO of the 790th BS, on the right) shaking hands with Joe Ramirez (crew chief of Witchcraft, on the left) after the aircraft landed from its 100th mission.
Raymond Betcher (mechanic, left) receiving an award from General Kepner upon Witchcraft’s 100th mission.
George Dong (assistant crew chief, left) likewise receiving an award from General Kepner upon Witchcraft’s 100th mission.
Officers of the Squadron Administration of the 790th Bombardment Squadron around Witchcraft after its 100th mission. Major Fred Holdrege, the Commanding Officer of the 790th BS, is in the middle of the front row. There are 98 small bomb symbols painted, not including the big bomb symbol next to the “100”, denoting 98 missions where bombs were dropped. Prior to this time, there had been two missions where there was a recall prior to the target, thus 98 bomb-drop missions and 100 missions total. The 98th mission (not including the two recalls) occurred on January 7, 1945, and the 100th mission occurred on January 13, 1945.
A picture of airmen of the 790th Squadron in front of another B-24 (looks to be ship #611).
Judging from bomb symbols, picture taken sometime around the 100th mission (January 13, 1945).
A beautiful picture of Witchcraft in flight, judging from bomb symbols, sometime well after the 100th mission. There are many more bomb symbols than for the 100-mission Witchcraft. The symbols go farther back than on the 100-mission Witchcraft — to the middle of the big bomb-symbol’s fins and to the middle of the pilot’s window (past the second white mark under the pilot’s window). This makes it about 110-120 bomb symbols. Also, the engine cowlings and cowl flaps (which come and go with the engines on replacements) are of mismatched colors, which did not seem to be the case in the pictures of the 100-mission Witchcraft.
Picture taken after the 120th mission (March 4 or 12, 1945 depending on whether the two recalls were counted). 12 crew with 10 fingers each.
Witchcraft dropping bombs, judging from bomb symbols, sometime well after the 100th mission — probably later than the 120th mission. In this picture, there are more bomb symbols than for the picture estimating the total at 110-120 and just a little less than in the picture below at Willow Run. Also, this picture has a light (perhaps natural aluminum) color on the cowling for the right, inboard engine whereas, in the picture indicating mission 120, that particular engine cowling seems to have a darker coloration (like the rest of the aircraft). This picture is perhaps thus around 125 missions (March 31, 1945).
Witchcraft landing at Rackheath, England. Based on the mismatched engine cowlings, again, I estimate that this is after the 120th mission.
Witchcraft in flight with other B-24’s. This has yet a different arrangement of engine-cowl and cowl-flap colors than the previous pictures. It is unclear when this picture is taken other than it likely being later than 100 or 120 missions.
Sometime after the 130th and last mission (April 25th, 1945). Note that “Witchcraft”, the large bomb symbol, and “130” now have outlines painted in black. This might be at Willow Run airport in Michigan, USA.
Witchcraft at Willow Run airport in Michigan, USA, sometime around June, 1945. The WASP pilot (perhaps the one who ferried Witchcraft to Willow Run) is pointing up at the mission tally.
Many thanks to Brooke P. Anderson