Aviation of World War II
B-24 "Liberator" in the USSR
B-24H-30-FO No. 42-94829, belonging to the 203rd Oryol Guards Regiment, 45 TBAD.
B-24 "Liberator" (serial number 41-23891), which suffered an accident in the Far East, traveled a long way across the country, moving from Elizovo to Kratovo (a / d near Ramenskoye, 45 km south-east of Moscow). On October 23, 1943, he was enlisted in the 890 Bomber Regiment of the 45th Air Division. The machine was a "dark horse" for the personnel: the remainder of the resource was not known, there was no flight and technical documentation. Official deliveries (within the framework of Lend-Lease) of this type, as you know, have not been established.
Nevertheless, after preliminary acquaintance, the flight crew began to prepare for its development. The training group was led by the commander of the 890 air regiment E.K. Pusep (at one time he drove Molotov to the United States in the Pe-8 for negotiations on Lend-Lease), the squadron commander of the 2nd AE 25th Guards Aviation Regiment V.V. Ponomarenko, navigator of the 25th Guards Aviation Regiment K P. Ikonnikov (participant of night raids on Berlin on Pe-8 in August 1941). The classes began in June 1944, and in August the first 10 crews began to perform independent flights. The only vehicle in the division was operated very intensively. By 1945, about 30 pilots had already mastered piloting the Liberator. The pace of retraining gave rise to rumors in the flying environment about the imminent start of deliveries of these aircraft to the Soviet Union. However, events developed according to a different scenario.
By the end of the war, the ring around the Third Reich was shrinking rapidly - both from the east and from the west. Allied aviation crews now have a huge selection of landing sites. If the damage did not allow them to reach their airfield, the landing could be made in the rear of the "Russians", and this did not threaten the crews with troubles, on the contrary, it met with the most favorable attitude. And the allies began to take advantage of the opportunities that had opened up.
On April 10, 1945, the SC Air Force command issued a directive, according to which all air and ground units were obliged, after the discovery of such machines, to notify the leadership of the 18th VA. They didn't have to wait long - in a number of cases, Soviet planes already shared airfields with their downed counterparts from overseas. Commissions from among the engineering staff of 45 TBAD flew to the indicated places to determine the technical condition and the possibility of further use of overseas equipment.
By mid-May, 162 aircraft were identified on the territory of Europe occupied by Soviet troops: 73 B-17, 73 B-24, 14 P-51, 1 P-38, 1 Halifax. Of these: 68 cars, as completely broken, were declared unsuitable (if possible, they went for spare parts), 18 of the most serviceable ones were returned to the Americans, 4 B-17s, which were reported by ground units, were not found on the spot. (It should be noted the skill of the ADD aviators, who raised an unfamiliar car into the air, sometimes even with obvious contraindications to flight - there was a case of takeoff with one inoperative engine.)
Bombers, who had little damage, were driven by the crews of 45 TBAD on the road division in Balbasovo. The first to enter were "Liberators" (s / n. 44-41065, 42-51610 and 42-51990 - 03/30/1945).
The main custodians of American aircraft were Sombor (Yugoslavia), Kecskemet and Pecs (Hungary). The planes were found both in Romania and Poland, but there, until the arrival of the repair group, no one guaranteed their safety.
The aircraft was destroyed at the Pandorf road (26 km south-west of Bratislava): when the engine of the repair B-24 (44-50414) was started, it exploded. The accident was blamed on sabotage.
Greater damage, however, was brought by the rear (the so-called trophy teams, officially called upon to derive the possible benefit from everything left by the enemy during the retreat). Often, by the time of the arrival of the repair group, only that which could not be removed remained in place.
This situation worried the command of the 18th VA, but strict orders did not help much. If we also take into account that some American crews, after landing, themselves destroyed radio equipment, identification systems, sighting equipment, then it is clear that many aircraft from potential turned into completely non-flying.
The Americans, by the way, were of little interest in the cars they lost.
According to eyewitnesses, American cars were completely painted. “And the drawings were like this: a hare in tattered boots with a bomb under its arm ... On one B-17 was drawn a long-legged beauty in a hat, the wind lifted her skirt, as it were. And next to her is a tramp in dirty rags, and his trousers are buttoned with a huge pin ... "
Identification marks and drawings from the found aircraft were stripped off in the first place. It is not appropriate, they say, for Soviet pilots to fly with such obscenity on board! Most American bombers at the end of the war had metal (unpainted surfaces), so tearing off the drawings was a big problem. We used acetone with sand. With camouflage vehicles it is easier - everything was just painted over there.
At the beginning of June 1945, the command of the 18th Air Force issued an order according to which all B-24 TBADs in 45 received 203 Guards. Oryol Aviation Regiment, all B-17 - 890 Aviation Bryansk Regiment.
After the "retirement" of the Pe-8 at the beginning of 1945, a vacuum of a certain class of materiel formed in the USSR military aviation. It was filled with B-17 and B-24 as best they could, in any case the crews could maintain flight qualifications until the appearance of a new Soviet bomber.
The "Liberator" was referred to by the pilots as "iron", heavy, clumsy, which had a bad "dip" in lift at the moment of approach of the retractable main landing gear to the wing. The only disaster that happened in these regiments concerned just the B-24. On 05/25/1945, during the takeoff of the Kotyrev crew on the V-24 (42-94800), one engine of the aircraft failed. The pilot tried to land the car from a straight line - on a field located behind the airfield. Upon hitting the ground, the car broke in two. Those who were in the tail suffered.
By the beginning of October 1945, the entry of "trophy" materiel to the division ended. By this time, the 203rd regiment had 21 serviceable "Liberators".
The B-24 had a longer life - their engines worked more reliably than the "krepostevo" ones.
On November 5, 1945, the first of the B-24D regiments that entered the 203rd regiment, the Yelizovsky regiment, was decommissioned. The lack of spare parts began to affect. Especially annoying was the absence of such a "trifle" as the front wheel pneumatic, which caused quite serviceable cars to get stuck. In 1948, three "Liberators" were sent to Kazan, in the 890 regiment. It was believed that the B-24, with its nose wheel, was more suitable for training Tu-4 crews. And these machines played a role in training, after which, in 1949, they were sent back to the 203rd regiment. As a transitional vehicle, the V-24 could be found back in 1950.
In 1948, 3 "Liberators" settled in the Poltava air division (the pilots mastered the nose stand before flying on the Tu-4). In 1949, one of these three was lost due to the fault of an onboard technician who turned off the fuel supply during takeoff: an accident, V-24 landed in the forest. In 1950 - the second. A fire on board, an emergency landing, burned out on the ground. The third was in operation until 1951, cut into scrap metal in 1952.