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B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea

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Ken a B24 Fan
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RE: B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2008/04/30 16:04:55 (permalink)
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Dad wrote the following about ditching and air-sea rescue:

"On the morning of the 22nd [October 1944] our Crew #11 was trucked to the 49th Wing Headquarters at Foggia to attend a lecture on air-sea rescue. On our way we passed mile after mile of identical farm buildings for Mussolini had made this area of Italy into a prototype of small family farms. Apparently all of these single structures had been built using the same plans and having spent one week of two summers working on a farm I couldn't get over the fact that here, the dogs, pigs, horses, cows and farm families all lived under the same roof. At each home there was a haystack on one side, a well in front and that was all for the front yard was just another field of produce. I sure would have hated to have been a farmer who, after downing too many glasses of vino (wine) in the village, tried to find his way and pick out his house/barn on a dark night. The air-sea rescue talks were given by the group based at Acona where they undertook search missions using Catalina flying boats and high speed sea-going cutters. Their job was to rescue the airmen who bailed out over the Adriatic or had been in a bomber that ditched. Their primary means for searching was the two-engined PBY Catalina which was suited for this task for, if necessary, it could stay in the air for 24 hours. They would seek out a downed flyer and if the sea was not running too high, would land and rescue him.

"As part of the lecture they reviewed the ditching procedures for the B-24. Unfortunately the Liberator was a poor performer in doing this for the bomb bay doors were designed to tear open if a bomb accidentally fell off the racks or if in an emergency the pilot pulled the bomb salvo handle. So hitting the sea would usually rip the doors off and the impact of the water on the internal bulkheads almost always broke the ship in two. Whatever transpired, ditching a Liberator lead to the immediate flooding of the fuselage. All crewmembers, excepting the pilots, were to brace themselves behind a bulkhead and as soon as the ship stopped to go out through the upper hatches. There they were to release the two life rafts stowed in lockers on top of the fuselage. After the automatic inflation everybody was to climb in."

Ken

Ken Alexander
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WillowRun
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RE: B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2008/04/30 21:31:23 (permalink)
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 All crew members, excepting the pilots, were to brace themselves behind a bulkhead and as soon as the ship stopped to go out through the upper hatches. There they were to release the two life rafts stowed in lockers on top of the fuselage. After the automatic inflation everybody was to climb in."
 
Ken,  Great post!  It's amazing when I read your posts with notes from your father's log/memoirs!  When reading this, I think about the logistics of time, weather conditions, status of the A/C, condition of the crew and "whatever else could be going on under combat/emergency situations"  as others have posted.   One would wonder how anyone survived.  The attached photo, used before, gives a good view of the Lib's "raft hatch" as your father mentioned.  Just as an "aside"...  While living in Switzerland during the mid sixties between Berne and Fribourg, my little Volkswagen  had a flat on an isolated rural country road.  Without any knowledge of "Suisse Deutsche" or Swiss German, I found myself getting assistance from a Swiss Farmer whose "home" was actually a combination of a barn/home.  Both the family and the animals lived uner the same roof!  It was reminiscent of your father's experience.  Best Regards!  Steven


 
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Steven P. Puhl
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RE: B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2008/07/17 21:23:16 (permalink)
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Thought I'd add this post from Don from another Thread as it fits fits in great to this Thread.  Best Regards!  Steven
 
Gentlemen:
There are excellent Internet sources of information on B-24 operations in the Pacific.  B-24s were ditched in the Pacific without breaking apart. One B-24 from 27th Bomb Squadron, 30th Bomb Group, called "Miss B Haven" ditched one on July 5 ,1944 ,1500 yards off Eniwetok ,after the plane had been hit by flak over Truk and lost a great deal of fuel. The flight engineer was killed but the rest of the crew survived. The flight engineer was the most vulnerable because he was assigned to release the life raft and had to remain in a dangerous position to do so. The pilot and co-pilot were thrown out through the front widows and suffered broken collarbones when each hit the metal compass. The remainderofthe crew had only bruises. The plane remained afloat for 20 minutes after the ditch. the details are covered in a Missing Aircraft Report.

 
 

 
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Steven P. Puhl
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donf
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RE: B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2008/07/17 22:47:58 (permalink)
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Steven:
The accident report for this ditiching reflects that the crew followed instructions based upon an earlier ditching by another 7th Air Force crew with slight variations. For example ,all ofthe crew except for the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer, sat backward within the fuselage resting upon one another so that their bodies would cushion the shock. I understand that ditching instructions were revised after this incident based upon crew recommendations to provide better tools for removal of the ball turret bolts for ease of jettisoning the turret.The injuries caused to the pilot and co-pilot were most likely caused by an unexpected wave hitting the front of the plane.   
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RE: B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2008/07/20 11:27:21 (permalink)
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Replying to this post-All crew members, excepting the pilots, were to brace themselves behind a bulkhead and as soon as the ship stopped to go out through the upper hatches. There they were to release the two life rafts stowed in lockers on top of the fuselage. After the automatic inflation everybody was to climb in." 


  Sad that in the case of the ditching of "Miss B Haven" on July 5, 1944 in the Pacific, the life raft did not inflate and proved useless. The procedure described above was followed with the crew members braced against the bulkhead and each other, except for the flight engineer, who could not have released the life raft from that area. It was recommended that the lever for releasing the raft be relocated so as not to unnecessarily endanger the flight engineer who otherwise had to remain in position in the front of the plane to operate it. In this ditch, the flight engineer was the only one killed. His body was never recovered.  I do not know if the recommendation reported in the MACR was followed. In any event ,all of the surviving crew except for the pilot and co-pilot sat on a wing of the plane until they were rescued by a navy boat sent out from Eniwetok. The pilot's life vest worked long enough to get him to the surface after he succeeded in unstrapping himself from his seat (which was ejected from the plane with him) but deflated once he reached the surface because of rips from window shards. He was able to remain afloat because the kapok from his seat floated to the surface and he used it under his broken arm to hold himself up and tread water until rescued. The injured co-pilot was able to float on his back until rescued.
Speculation is that the plane stayed afloat for 20 minutes 
 because of air trapped in the fuselage   
donf
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2008/07/21 12:59:51 (permalink)
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Updated information on Miss B Haven, serial number  42-72978 .This plane participated in a raid on Truk Atoll which started from Kwajalein and staged through Eniwetok. The plane was hit by flak at the beginning of a bomb run over Truk and an engine caught fire. The engine was feathered after the completion of the bomb run but a great deal of fuel had been lost by that time. The Army Air Forces WWII chronology indicates that the raid against Truk occurred during the night of July 5-6, 1944 and again during the day on July 6, 1944.

http://paul.rutgers.edu/~mcgrew/wwii/usaf/html/Jul.44.html
However, the AFHSO reported and the MACR 6546 states that Miss B Haven (serial number 42-72978) ditched on July 7 ,1944, 1500 yards off Eniwetok
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/01/19 20:43:05 (permalink)
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Tonight, after having watched the news and reading on-line the latest regarding the US Air A320 Airbus, flight 1549, "Miracle on the Hudson," I reread the posts in my Thread from last year.  One common nuance throughout was that "ditching was (is) the last alternative!"  Even with the quantum leaps in aviation from the "heavies" of the 1940s to the huge commercial jets of today, so much "has to be right" to ensure even the chance for survival of all on-board.  The "presence-of-mind" of the seasoned pilot and crew in such a short span of time is unbelievable. I tried to imagine again what it must have been like for 19 to 22 year old men flying Libs or Forts to face the possibility of ditching in adverse conditions!  Just thought I'd put thaqt thought out there this evening.

 
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Steven P. Puhl
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/01/19 21:19:16 (permalink)
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B-17 crew training for "ditching" was rather extensive.  The practice was conducted in a pond of water with the hull of the aircrafting actually sinking at a given rate. Our goal was to evacuate within 30 seconds.  On one of our attempts, we cleared the airplane in 18 seconds.
 
By the way, the large wing surface on the B-17 enabled it to float a little longer unless severely damaged on impact.  The only time I can recall thinking about ditching proceedures was when flying a B-17 to the UK from the USA.

Bill Runnels
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/01/20 09:20:04 (permalink)
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billrunnels 
By the way, the large wing surface on the B-17 enabled it to float a little longer unless severely damaged on impact.  The only time I can recall thinking about ditching procedures was when flying a B-17 to the UK from the USA.


Bill,   The overall wing-surface dimension and its structural positioning as opposed to the high-profile Davis wing and root structure at St. #4 obviously was one of the many factors that would have given the crew more of a chance at survival in the event of ditching. In that regard, there was a similarity to the US Air A/C.  Ditching tests were also done under controlled conditions" at FO WR, but these were aimed more toward structural integrity.    In your last statement, when you mentioned the "thought process" of ditching, it brings to mind even today the mention of it as one listens to the Flight Attendants prior to takeoff. 

 
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Steven P. Puhl
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/01/20 20:06:45 (permalink)
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Alex,  Good to hear from you!  I don't have a quick pic, but on the previous page of this Thread (p.#3), there are some great pics and a scan of he Langley  "Ditching" Research.   I believe they are from 1944.

 
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Steven P. Puhl
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/01/29 19:56:54 (permalink)
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All,   I thought I'd share a response this evening from a personal letter I received on Tuesday from Bob Sternfels in response to mine wherein we had been talking about "training for possible ditching" in a Liberator and the "Miracle on the Hudson" among other things.  Here is the short blurb:  "In all the time I flew over water...none of our group ever landed in the water.  However, I watched two B24s crash in the drink when they collided just to my right returning from a mission.  Both went in head first ...nothing appeared on the surface." 
Scully did a beautiful job...no damage to the underside so water levels were not an immediate problem and everyone got out with wet cold shoes.  You did not hear that anyone lost their shoes...not even a mention that ladies were bare footed.  Scully was a skilled pilot and kept his mind on what he was doing...setting down a heavy plane dead stick meaning without power smoothly....he knew the plane and did not endure the sink rate so he just glided the plane in the landing.  Beautiful job....good skilled pilot who kept his head....he deserves praise."
 

 
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Steven P. Puhl
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/01/29 23:09:35 (permalink)
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Steven, one day in the future I hope to have a working scanner again.  When that happens, I have an issue (1944, cannot remember month offhand) of Air Force magazine, in which is an article and illustrations about making bomb-bay door supports/strengthners  in the field for the B-24 with regards to ditching. Never seen or heard of this before outside the magazine.  Wonder if any of the B-24 vets know if this was ever done on anything like a widespread basis ?

SHAEF1944
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/01/30 09:06:33 (permalink)
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Alex - You wrote:
 
Steven , likewise . I was aware abou that test Langely, VA . However at that test Keith Compton who was in command at the control was still captain . He became Major only later on when dispatched to UK at Ted HDQ . Perhaps the test depicted on here was an additional test performed by someone else. I have the footage of the test, and KK is distinctively wearing Captain ranks

Keith Compton had nothing to do with the Langley ditching test. The pilot and co-pilot have been identified earlier on this thread. Here is a photo of them taken shortly after the event. Julian Harvey is on the right.
 
If you are aware of a previous ditching test in which Compton participated I would like very much to hear the details.
 
Al Blue

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durifuk
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RE: B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/03/10 07:22:05 (permalink)
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hallo,

I am a scubadiver from Slovakia. On Vis, near the entrance to Vis bay lie in 80 meters a wreck of hi probably Liberator. Gentleman, I will by very thanksfull for any information about this plane. Good luck, Duri
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/03/10 15:55:01 (permalink)
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Al
 
You are correct on the ID of 93rd BG pilot Julian Harvey and the Langley test. Harvey started stateside with the 93rd BG 329th sq as a pilot in 1942.
 
Joe Avendano Duran
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/03/10 16:16:52 (permalink)
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One record of a 98th Bomb Group B-24 ditching is the case of "Hadley's Harem"  S/N 41-24311 which ditched near the Turkish coast on 1 Aug. 1943 from the Tidal Wave mission. Three of the crew did NOT survive, Storms, the bombardier, was already dead. The pilot, Hadley, and co-pilot Lindsey did not get out and drowned. The rest of the crew survived. One is still alive. The aircraft has been recovered and is now in a museum in Turkey. Hadley and Lindsey's remains were recovered, identified and have been returned to their families.  I think the aircraft was in three parts when recovered.
 
Herb Harper 
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/03/10 18:06:15 (permalink)
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Herb,   Thanks for the update!   I've attached the "link" to an earlier Thread in which there was info on static displays, including "Hadley's Harem."  I've read quite a bit on this A/C and on its ditching!  Heroic try and so close!  Here's the "link."
 
http://forum.armyairforces.com/tm.aspx?B24-Static-Displays-and-Remnants&m=137089&high=hadley's+harem&mpage=1

 
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/03/10 22:23:05 (permalink)
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Herb
 
 I had a chance to attended  the 60th Low Level Ploesti Veterans reunion in Salt Lake City in 2003. One of the forums held was the discovery and raising of the 98th BG Hadley's Harem off the coast of Turkey. The presentation covered all the problems they had to over come first in finding the crash site and then with the government agency's once work began.
 
 The color footage was great and it was my understanding that there was going to be a documentary released on the work done. Do you by any chance have any updates on the project?
 
Thanks
Joe Avendano Duran
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/03/11 12:09:03 (permalink)
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Joe:
 
Pete Frizzel was heading the project to raise The Harem, along with Leroy Newton, one of the crew members. Roy became distraught and later took his own life. They DID get the nose section up and recovered Hadley and Lindsey's remains. However he seemed to have problems with the Turkish Government as well as with the US. I last saw Pete at Orlando, FL in 2007. MY understanding is there was also conflicts with some of Hadley and Lindsey family over personal items recovered. Ie: Hadley's boots, pistols. and  other items. Several years ago, I recieved word that there was possible litigation over some of the stuff and divorced myself from the project. I have Pete's recount of the project AND the complete forensic report of the identification of hadley and Lindsey.
 
Herb
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Re:B-24 Liberator: Ditching at Sea 2009/03/11 15:14:35 (permalink)
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Recent posts under Steven's thread finally prompted me to wade into the discussion. The case I've researched for some 15 years involved the ditching of a 7th BG B-24L into one of the rivers of India's treacherous Sundarbans. (Location now is in Bangladesh.) Tragically, two of the six crew who bailed out were killed and still are MIA, including my cousin, the crew's navigator. (Their chutes never opened in time.) Two of the four staying with the ship died during the ditching. (The pilot could not be extricated from behind the collapsed control panel and literally went down with his ship; the assistant engineer expired from a head wound after swimming to shore.) One of the two still living survivors of this accident, the 84-year-old belly gunner, once gave me a riveting eyewitness account of the water-landing in which the bomber broke into three parts fore and aft of the bomb bays.

My files include a 1944 AAF HQ letter distributed to the training commands and asking for feedback  concerning "Ditching Procedure and Maximum Emergency Range of the B-24 Airplane." The letter referred to the 13th Bomber Command's widely cited evaluation of ten B-24 ditchings. In addition to Carigan's book mentioned earlier by others, I have two B-24 pilot training manuals, Consolidated's "B-24 and PB4Y-1 Emergency Procedures", and the Pilots' Information File (PIF)--all of which outline recommended B-24 ditching procedures.
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