Corgi AA34019 USAAF Consolidated B-24H Liberator Heavy Bomber - 42-52534, "Witchcraft", 790th Bombardment Squadron, 467th Bombardment Group, USAAF Station 145 Rackheath, Norfolk, England, January 1945 (1:72 Scale)
"In combat, the airplane was no match for the B-17 as a formation bomber above 25,000 feet, but from 12,000 to 18,000, it did a fine job."
- Jimmy Stewart comparing the B-24 Liberator with the B-17 Flying Fortress, another plane he piloted during WWII
Life for the B-24 heavy bomber began in 1939, when the Army Air Corps initiated a request for a new bomber designed to exceed the performance of the B-17. Consolidated Aircraft responded quickly with its proposal, labeled Consolidated Model 32 and, on March 30th, 1939, was awarded the contract. One day short of nine months later, on December 29th, 1939, the first flight of the XB-24 bomber prototype took place.
Slightly smaller than the B-17, the turbosupercharger-equipped B-24 flew farther with a bigger bomb load than the much more publicized Boeing aircraft. Of seven service-test YB-24s, six were sent to the Royal Air Force (RAF) under the export designation LB-30A. Because they lacked turbosuperchargers and self-sealing fuel tanks, the RAF found them unsuitable for combat duty over Europe. Instead, they were stripped of their armament and put into service as transports on the Trans-Atlantic Return Ferry Service, which had been established to send air crews to Montreal to take delivery of American aircraft consigned to the British war effort.
Flying for the Army Air Corps as the B-24, and the U.S. Navy as the PB4Y-1, the plane also saw service in the Royal Air Force where it was known simply as the Liberator. There was also a transport version known as the C-87, one of which was Winston Churchill's personal aircraft, carrying him to historic meetings at Moscow and Casablanca, among other locations.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a USAAF Consolidated B-24H Liberator heavy bomber that was nicknamed "Witchcraft", which was attached to the 790th Bombardment Squadron, 467th Bombardment Group, that was deployed to the USAAF Station 145 Rackheath, in Norfolk, England, during January 1945.
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Historical Account: "The Rackheath Band" - The afternoon of January 14th, 1945, was no ordinary day at USAAF Station 145 Rackheath, in Norfolk. Thirty B-24 Liberators from the 467th Bomb Group had been allocated to take part in a raid against steelworks at Hallendorf, near Hanover and had left the base at approximately 09.00. One of the aircraft taking part in the raid was named "Witchcraft" and on her return, she would set a mission record for the entire Second Air Division, one which had attracted the attention of USAAF 'Top Brass'. As the aircraft returned to their home airfield 6 hours and 35 minutes after they took off, 42-52534 "Witchcraft" landed and parked up in her usual hard standing position, to be met by General Ketner, Commander of the 2nd Air Division and other high ranking officials, not to mention a film crew and members of the press - even the famous "Rackheath Band" were in attendance.
"Witchcraft" had just completed her 100th credited mission without suffering a single mechanical abort, a real testament to the efforts of her assigned ground crew. Known colloquially as the 'League of Nations', the ground crew was led by M/Sgt Joe Ramirez, who was of Mexican heritage, with other members of his team being of Chinese, German, Dutch and American extraction.
General Ketner presented each member of the ground crew with an award to mark this significant wartime achievement and a quite extraordinary bomber. As the air and ground crews who had participated in the 'Witchcraft's significant 100th mission without mechanical or crew illness abort posed for pictures beside an aircraft which had now taken its place in Eighth Air Force history, it was almost time for the traditional addition of another mission marking to be painted on the aircraft's scoreboard. This honor always fell to the aircraft's crew chief, M/Sgt Joe Ramirez, but as this day marked such a significant achievement for both the aircraft and her hard-working ground crew, he thought that a little additional decoration was in order.
As well as painting the small yellow bomb symbol on 'Witchcraft's already impressive mission tally, he also added an oversized bomb above the aircraft's distinctive port side nose artwork, with the number 100 at the side of it. Although 'Witchcraft' had been flown operationally by several different crews during her time in England, she was very much the property of her dedicated ground crew, who were both extremely proud and rather protective of their bomber. As their aircraft received official Eighth Air Force recognition on her significant mission achievement, there can be no doubting that this day belonged to her ground crew. Consolidated B-24H Liberator 42-52534/Q2-M 'Witchcraft' would end the war with 130 credited missions without suffering a mechanical abort, an achievement which was unequaled by any other B-24 in the European Theatre of operations.