B-24 Vs U-Boat

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by chipm, Jul 19, 2020.

  1. Bart150

    Bart150 Member

    Can anyone please help me with this?

    In the battles against U-boats in Summer 1943 what armament did a Liberator of Coastal Command typically have? And what crew with what functions?
  2. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Numbers were fitted with stub wings that carried eight 3 inch (76mm) 60 pound rockets which in explosive delivery terms was about the equivalent of a broadside from a cruiser like HMS Belfast
  3. Bart150

    Bart150 Member

    D'you mean that most of them had rockets? And if so, d'you mean they only had rockets and no guns?
  4. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Liberators always carried machine guns. Armament of Coastal Command Liberators varied quite a bit if photographs are any guide. The first to serve with CC, the Mark I, had a belly pack of 4 20mm guns plus a few MGs in hatches, but I don't know if any Mark I's were still in service in 1943. As made in the US, the B24D/E/early G had a standard armament of 10-11 .50 MGs. The later marks (B24 early G/H/J/L/M) had 10 .50 MGs of which two were in a nose turret. I've seen images of coastal Libs in what looks very like standard USAAF configuration, but most seem to have been modified. The belly turret might be removed to install a Leigh Light and the nose on the early marks (D-G) could be altered to fit a radar radome. The .50 guns in the tail and beam positions might be replaced with .303s, the tail getting a four-gun Boulton Paul turret as on the Halifax. The Martin top turret with the twin .50s always seems to have been retained. So, while any coastal Lib might have double figures in MGs some at least of these might be .303 rather than the longer ranged and harder hitting .50s. The 20mm and 37mm on a U-Boat thus had an advantage in range and hitting power. I haven't read any combat reports of Libs vs U-boats but I'm sure they'd be very interesting. I suspect that as always a great deal depended on the tactical situation, the angle and speed of the attack and how close a pilot would have to get to those dangerous AA guns and still be sure of a score with rockets or DCs. Given the power of the German guns, I suspect that a Lib would have been well advised to close the range as quickly as possible if it wanted to use its MGs for flak suppression. Reference was made earlier here to a successful Beaufighter strike against a U-Boat. The Beau was heavily armed, with 4 20mm plus .303 in the wings, all forward firing, and it was fairly fast as well. If I'd been a U-Boat commander I wouldn't have wanted to face one.
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  5. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

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  6. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    There were only 11 Liberator GR.I converted, 10 of which got the cannon pack. These had a short nose. 120 squadron retained about 4 of these into the second half of 1943 with one being lost in Sept (Edit - June not Sept). But they were pretty worn out by then and had disappeared from operational service by the end of the year. (Edit one survived with 120 sqn until Dec 1944).

    There were only 10 Liberator GR.II converted. I’d need to trawl through my records to see if any were still in service in 1943 and their weapon fits.

    The first Liberator GR.VI based on the B-24J (except for a single H) didn’t arrive in Britain until Nov 1943 and were not issued to an operational Coastal Command squadron until Feb 1944.

    So those operational in the latter part of 1943 were a mix of GR.III / IIIA / V. None carried the ball turret in the belly. All were based on the B-24D built by Consolidated San Diego or Fort Worth and not the B-24E/G built by other manufacturers.

    There were only 11 GR.IIIA identifiable from their LV*** serials. These retained their US turrets and had a radome for the ASV radar in place of the belly turret.

    The GR.III is distinguishable by its fuselage and wing mounted ASV.II radar aerials and British twin .303 mountings in the waist positions and a British Boulton Paul 4 gun tail turret. The GR.V had either a radome under the nose in early aircraft or in the belly in later deliveries and some retained an ASV.II Yagi aerial on the nose only. Some aircraft were fitted with guns as per the GR.III. Others retained the US gun mounts and turrets. Still others had the BP tail turret but US 0.5” waist guns. In some cases the Martin dorsal turrets were removed depending on the environment they were expected to operate in, in order to save weight to allow more fuel to be carried. They began to receive a 0.5” gun in the nose in this period. In some cases, squadrons operating over the mid-Atlantic, they flew with only the nose and one or two of the waist guns fitted.

    Some (number unknown) GR.V began to receive rockets in June 1943 with the first U-boat sinking with these being by S/Ldr Bulloch of 224 squadron in July. These were fixed to stub wings either side of the nose. Towards the end of 1943 a retractable and reloadable rocket arrangement was put into the aft bomb bay again of some aircraft only. Care needed to be taken with the Liberator in a rocket attack. Delivery was from a dive and the wings could be overstressed during pull out.

    The Type 24 Mine, really an acoustic torpedo codenamed Fido, was also an option from about July 1943. It is sometimes referred to in the ORBs as a 600lb depth charge. Crews were under strict orders not to use it if there was a chance a U-boat crew might see it dropped. I’ve read somewhere of crews that couldn’t attack a U-boat wanting to fight it out on the surface in summer 1943 and the only weapon they had left was Fido. They had to circle until it chose to dive then attacked.

    The Leigh Light does not seem to have appeared on Liberators until late in 1943, possibly as late as Dec (Edit Oct seems to be the first use). It was always mounted in a pod under the starboard wing outboard of the engines on Liberators.

    The main weapon was the 250lb depth charge, with 5 to 10 being carried depending on other weapons being carried and whether there were either one or two additional fuel tanks in the forward bomb bay.

    They were delivered in the following order- LV*** (Mar/Apr 1942) FK*** (32 GR.III from Apr 1942) then FL*** (mixed GR.III/V) then BZ*** (GR.V from March 1943) serials. Most of the Coastal Command aircraft in those batches, those that survived anyway, underwent modifications at different times. For example, some early deliveries of GR.V were recycled through Scottish Aviation Limited at Prestwick to have rockets fitted in mid 1943 to early 1944. Then when rockets fell out of favour they were removed and Leigh Lights fitted. Leigh Lights and retractable rockets seems to have been unusual fit (the attack methods seem incompatible) but not impossible.

    The exact weapon fit depended on whether the particular squadron was operating in the Long Range or Very Long Range role. In the latter part of 1943 there were only 7 squadrons flying Liberators in Coastal Command.

    There are documents from CC HQ that set out various weapon fits. Refs are
    CC/7012/2/6/CinC dated 31 May 1943 and
    CC/S.7012/2/6/CinC.1938 dated 12 Nov 1943

    The appendices to these lay out multiple weapon fits according to role (LR or VLR) and basic aircraft fit (RP or Leigh Light or additional tanks)

    A Coastal Command GR.V crew generally consisted of 8 or 9 men:-

    First pilot (skipper)
    Second pilot
    Radar operator (behind first pilot)
    Radio operator (behind second pilot)
    Mid-upper gunner
    Navigator in the nose (also acted as bomb aimer and front gunner when required)
    2 gunners (waist and tail)
    Sometimes also a flight engineer / gunner.

    The radar/radio/mid-upper gunner usually moved around the 3 positions during a sortie.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2020
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  7. Bart150

    Bart150 Member

    Wow, Thanks Ewen Scott. And to the preceding responders too.
  8. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Looking through the 120 Squadron ORB of which I have a copy covering the Squadrons operations during WW2 I find that probably the last Liberator I op was carried out on 17th October 1943 by AM923 W/120 on an escort to convoy ON206.
    Liberator I AM929 H/120 also carried out work well into 1943.
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  9. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    AM923 undershot while landing at Reykjavik 17/10/43. Next reported at a Civilian Repair Depot 9/10/44. Then back to 120 on 5 Dec 1944 before flying back to SAL at Prestwick on 13 Dec 1944. So it looks like after the damage on its last operational flight in Oct 1943, it remained in Iceland grounded and repairs were a low priority.

    AM929/H was involved in the sinking of U-540 on 17/10/43 with an aircraft from 59 squadron. It remained with 120 sqn until 23/12/43 before returning to SAL at Prestwick for overhaul but declared obsolete for Coastal Command use March 1944.

    AM919/P damaged in a landing accident at Reykjavik 18/6/43 and SOC the next day

    AM917/F sank U-338 with an acoustic torpedo on 20/9/43. Next reported March 1944 at an MU in the UK. Obsolete for CC use 10/44.

    120's other aircraft around this time were GR.III with GR.V starting to be received in Sept 1943.

    Of the 10 Liberator GR.II, only one aircraft, AL507, served into 1943 with Coastal Command. It had been a test specimen, being fitted with the US SCR.517 radar in a "Dumbo" nose in the USA in 5/42 before serving with 224 sqn and then 59 sqn between 11/42 and 10/43.

    Data from "The Liberator in RAF and Commonwealth Service"
  10. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    I researched the techniques the VLR Liberators used for an online combat flight simulator called Warbirds about 20 years ago. The technique was to drop a stick of depth charges across the quarter of the U Boat, from a dive using basic sighting releasing the depth charges from 300 ft.

    Try this manoeuvre with a B24 simulator. The B24 was not designed as a dive bomber.
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  11. Bart150

    Bart150 Member

    Question: Is it adequate to think of a duel existing between bomber and U-boat in mid-1943, or did Junkers fighters also play very a significant role?

    Related Question: Reading the history of a Coastal Command squadron, I get the impression that in 1942 Junkers fighters were their main enemy but in 1943 not so much. Is that right?
  12. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

  13. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    In June 1942 4 Junkers Ju88C6 appeared at Bordeaux and the unit had various titles until ending up as V./KG 40. That was the fighter (radar-less) version of the Ju88 and numbers built up from there. Their role was mainly U-boat and Condor protection, but they proved successful intercepting RAF and USAAF aircraft transitting from the U.K. to Gibraltar and RAF ASW aircraft, especially following Operation Torch. From photos it looks like they hunted in packs of 4 aircraft. Their first kill was a Wellington of 311 squadron on 15 July 1942, and more followed in the coming months.

    Their operations continued into 1943 and 1944 and forced the RAF to deploy Beaufighter squadrons like 235 and 248 from Coastal Command to try to counter them. Some of Fighter Command night fighter squadrons based down in SW England also got in on the act.

    Other units operating fighter, and some night fighter variants of the Ju88, over the Bay of Biscay were I. & III./ ZGI. Luftwaffe anti-shipping units and related fighter units also operated over the Med throughout this period. ZG .I suffered severe losses operating against the Normandy beachhead and disbanded in Aug 1944.

    Liberators also recorded kills of Fw200s in 1943.

    It is interesting to note that Liberator squadrons operating in daylight over the Bay of Biscay tended to have aircraft that kept their mid-upper and tail turrets, while squadrons operating over the mid Atlantic often dispensed with them. The difference being the threat level from enemy aircraft like the Ju88.
  14. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Air support for incoming and outgoing submarines by Ju 88 C-6 was provided from June 1942. I quote the following from Sönke Neitzel's standard work "Der Einsatz der deutschen Luftwaffe über dem Atlantik und der Nordsee 1939-1945" (Bernard & Graefe, Bonn 1995):

    „From June 10th 1942 four Ju 88 C-6 to the III./KG 40 to Bordeaux“ [pg. 143].

    "At the end of June, five Ju 88 C's arrived in Bordeaux. They were specially designed to secure the submarines and blockade breakers" [ibid.]

    "By mid-July, the number of planes had risen to 15. As a result, Costal Command's losses increased. While in the months before a maximum of four aircraft were lost, in June 10, in July 9 and in August 17" [ibid.]

    Dönitz states that the penetration depth of the Ju 88 C (900 km) is insufficient, since the boats are threatened by air up to 18° West, therefore demands He 177 (!!) as destroyer (they would have been completely unsuitable for this purpose, note GvB [ibid.]

    Luftwaffe, on the other hand, proposes to equip the Ju 88 C with additional tanks, increasing the penetration depth to 1500 km. Used, however, only from June 1943 on for a few missions [ibid.]

    Deployment of a full group (V./KG 40) with Ju 88 C until November 1942 (13th squadron in full squadron strength from early September, 14th/KG 40 from Oct., 15/KG 40 from Nov.) [p. 146] [p. 146].

    Coastal Command lost 98 aircraft in Biscay in the 2nd half of 1942 (six times as many as in the 1st half); V./KG 40 shot down at least 27 English aircraft, eight had even been shot down by the 5th/196 with their Ar 196 [ibid.]

    Thereupon the British used Bristol Beaufighter destroyers to protect their U fighters (first firing of a Ju 88 on 8.9.1942, until the end of the year five Ju 88 with a loss of their own), German reaction: Ju 88 C fly from September 1942 in groups of up to six aircraft for self-protection [ibid.]

    8th/JG2 flies with their FW 190 from Brest with hunting advances NW of Brittany against the Beaufighters and shoots down 17 Beaufighters until the end of 1942, English fighters patrol flights of Fighter Command west of Brest and over the air bases in Brittany [ibid.]

    V./KG 40 flies from Kerlin-Bastard (two squadrons) and Bordeaux-Merignac (one squadron) in 1943 still free hunting up to the height of Cape Finisterre and patrols in an area between 9 - 11° W and 43 - 45° N, occasionally flights up to 16°30' W are carried out. But it was left to chance without radio measuring instruments, a hostile and hostile environment. U-hunting aircraft, which could often evade pursuit by diving into the cloud cover. [ibid.]

    Jan. 1943 two air fights between Beaufighters and Ju 88 C; four Ju 88 and two Beaufighters shot down, Feb. two more Ju 88s shot down without British losses → V. /KG 40 receives order to avoid air battles with Beaufighters (own armament only three 20 mm Oerlikon guns and three MG; only from July 1943 MG 151 (2 cm) & too little speed), if not own superiority 2:1; therefore up to eight Ju 88 together on enemy flight [p. 193].

    Luftwaffe was not able to provide more powerful aircraft (Me 110 and Ju 88 R) because they were needed by the night fighter units) [p. 194] [p. 194].

    In early March 1943, six FW 190s with two 300-liter auxiliary tanks (penetration depth 350 km) were assigned to the 5th/196th to cover the southern part of the entry and exit corridor of the British SW Scilly Islands; they were shot down several times [ibid.]

    Equipment of the V./KG 40 with Ju 88 R-2 planned (50 km/h faster than C-6) [ibid.]

    May 1943 first Mosquito-Sqn. (No. 264) deployed in the Bay of Biscay, June 11, first air combat with Ju 88 (six English against five Germans, one Ju 88 shot down); June 13, another air combat, one Mosquito shot down without German losses [ibid.]

    8th/JG 2 with FW 190 with additional tanks takes up fight in the British entry lane SW of the Scilly Islands in summer 1943, shoots down three Mosquitoes until June 13 and destroys one month later NW Brest five Lancasters of Bomber Command, which returned from an attack on Turin, and on August 23 four Beaufighter [pg. 199].

    July 15, 1943, 7th/ZG 1 (Me 410 - penetration depth 400 km) is transferred to Lorient, equipment of the entire IIIrd/ZG 1 with these planes is planned; first deployment on 28th/15th July 1943 July 28 (without contact with the enemy), the next day the squadron withdraws to Wittmundhafen for the Reichsverteidigung, replacement: II/ZG 1 (Me 110 G-2) on August 5 from Salerno, and a further squadron of Ju 88 in the V./KG 40 (61 aircraft on Sept. 20 with the group) [ibid.]
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2020
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  15. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Dave, the Fw 200 was a converted passenger plane (by the way, an original idea of the Japanese)
    The "Condor" was barely able to do long range sea reconnaissance - but it could only survive air battles with incredible luck (Keyword: structural integrity. The planes had the unpleasant tendency to break behind the wing due to overloading)
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  16. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Yep. Makes me smile when I see some call it a "German B-17"
  17. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    rather a 4-engined DC-3 with an identity crisis :lol:
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  18. Bart150

    Bart150 Member

    Yes, the man I'm mainly interested in was a gunner in a Wellington of 311 squadron that met 4 Ju88s and was shot down on 29 September 1942.
    It seems extravagant of the Luftwaffe to send out fighters in packs of fours when, AFAIK, their RAF opponents did not hunt for U-boats in packs. Presumably the Germans could afford to do that because there were not very many RAF planes about. Presumably in 1943 the RAF sent out far more planes to hunt for U-boats, and therefore in 1943 it was no longer cost-effective for the German fighters to go out in fours. Any validity in that line of thought?
  19. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    A C-54/DC-4 :)

    C-54 PROFILE
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  20. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Instead they went out in formations up to eight planes in excess: The Junkers had no radar. However, as a swarm they could cover a relatively large area and if necessary rush to help each other.
    But the Kriegsmarine had the problem that the Junkers "belonged" to the Luftwaffe. However, this model was urgently needed as bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and increasingly night fighters on all fronts. With the extremely tense production situation of the Third Reich, the Kriegsmarine was at the end of the food chain and faced severe problems to obtain the required quantities.

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