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B-24 question re liferaft deployment?

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rodster
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2007/03/09 11:42:22 (permalink)
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B-24 question re liferaft deployment?

Hi. I have a question regarding the inadvertant launching of a liferaft in flight.
 
Here are the circumstances.
 
3/8/45 at approximately noon, a B-24L-5-FO sn 44-49278 had the life raft deploy shortly after taking off. It diverted from the group towards Spinazolla.
I have read in one place the plane made it to 20,000 feet, but I have a hard time seeing that with a life raft wrapped around the tail. Another account said it was about 20 minutes after take off that the bail out signal came. Only 4 men were able to bail out. One account is that the first guy out saw 3 other shutes deploy, then saw the plane hit. This was reported to be 8 miles ENE of Spinazolla. (I imagine the field and not the city)
 
Although I have so many other questions concerning the life and death of my Great Uncle, I am asking here if any other people familliar with the B-29 can shed light on how this could occur, or if there were other incidents of this happening. How and where was the raft stored? Was it designed to deploy?
 
Other questions related.
 
After a crash in these particular circumstances, what would have been the natural order of things? ie, how long would it take them to go looking for the survivors/crash? Would they have alerted by radio what the problems were? Was it common for a Maj to pilot other men's planes and crews?
 
If anyone needs more info, please ask.
Of course if someone can point me to a page, book, or source
for any of the questions I'm asking, I'm all eyes...
 
Thank you very much.
 
Rodster
Gr. Nephew of Maj Philip E. Cummings 829th BS 485th BG Venosa IT
 

14 Replies Related Threads

    shooshoobaby
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/03/09 12:47:07 (permalink)
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    Rod - Having a Major on Board usually means this was a Group Lead B - 24.
    There should be an Accident Report.
    You can order a Free Copy from Archives or go to:
     www.accidentreport.com  On this site you can check to see if Accident Repot filed
    by either Pilot's name or A/C Serial #. They charge a fee - you get it quicker.
    Mike
    Brian Mahoney
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/03/12 13:11:00 (permalink)
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    Hello, Rodster.

    I am thinking your reference to a B-29, in the body of your letter, was a typo... and that your subject line is what we should have in mind. (I do not think there were any operational Super Forts in Italy anyhow.)

    There were two exterior fuselage hatches on the B-24, on the top side over the wing spar. My surmise is that there were probably a few ways the rafts could be depolyed manually- possibly from the cockpit, from within the fuselage amidships, and possibly from the outside the plane near these covers. I do know that their accidental deployment was indeed possible and have heard of other stories (in the 8th AF in England) where they did just that and fouled the tailplane, usually catastrophically. I have heard other stories of partially unfurled parachutes doing the same.

    I think it was also possible to retrieve the uninflated life rafts from within an airborne plane and drop them out a waist window or the hatch; Dad told of a grisly accidental shoot-down over the North Sea during a training mission in the summer of 1944 where other Liberators in the formation were able to drop their life rafts to men in the water.

    I would be interested to hear from others who might know how this would have been done, especially how or when one was to 'pull the cord' to initiate the inflating.

    Brian Mahoney
    Patches
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/03/16 20:44:59 (permalink)
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    I've read about another such incident involving B-24's.  I was reading my grandfathers flight log (15 AF, 465th BG, 781st BS) and came across an entry that simply said, "We lost one ship on the way to the target. Cause unknown. Lt. King's Crew."  Reading from Gene Moxley's book, "Missing in Action" (a book about all the aircraft that went down in the 465th) there are three eye witness accounts. 
     
    1st Lt. Frank J. Teagarden described seeing "a small door come off the ship, hit the vertical stabilizer, then float back through the other ships in the formation."  Lt. Robert H. Morrison reported, "The right rudder and vertical stabilizer of the ship shuddered and tore off, in about three seconds. The ship rolled over on it's back at which time the right half of the horizontal stabilizer also tore off.  And Sgt. Abraham L. Frank said, "I was watching Lt. King's plane and noted a large yellow object fly out of the forward topside of the ship and lodge on the horizontal stabilizers. At first I thought it was an explosion, but within a split second I realized it was the dinghy, which had come loose."
     
    Soon after the accident the aircraft went nearly vertical into the ground.  The official story is all perished.  However, there seems to be some oddities and it's possible a few survived the crash.  Unfortunately, none would survive the war.
     
    I was curious about how this could happen and researched the location of the dinghy and how it could possibly deploy in flight.  It turns out the dinghy is located just aft of the top turret.  A cable runs from the doors to a position that looks to be in the rear part of the cockpit. 
     
    Here is a link to an image I found:
     
    http://www.****swarbirdvideos.com/Images/B-24/B24RAFT.gif
     
    Lt King's aircraft info:
     
    #42-52543
    5.31.44
    enroute to Ploesti, Rumania
     
     
    Brian Mahoney
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/03/17 00:03:23 (permalink)
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    Greetings, Patches!

    That was some good bit of research.... the drawing confirms what I did know and went on to answer just what I asked. Would add to yours that there are TWO rafts, symmetrically arranged. Thanks for the link.

    Interesting to note that in the details that the exterior release handle is normally in a recess, and is pulled out with a finger or thumb, then rotated to operate the release cable.

    I wonder if the exposed interior cable going forward to the cockpit was pullable at other points, say from the engineer's station...

    If those cradles had some spring to them, and the dinghy itself had a delay, one would think that even an accidentally deployed raft and it's door SHOULD have cleared the tail plane, and not inflated until several seconds had passed. No doubt flak damage could release a raft.

    Brian Mahoney
    Ken a B24 Fan
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/03/18 12:55:49 (permalink)
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    Rod:

    Excerpt from "AD LIB: Flying the B-24 LIBERATOR in WWII" by William Carigan:

    "Life rafts: Two Type A-2 life rafts are carried in the fuselage above the wing and slightly aft of the top turret. To release either life raft from inside the airplane, pull the T-handle, on early aircraft located at the rear of the flight deck, left side. On later airplanes the T-handle is just aft of the pilot's escape hatch. The pull cable releases the lock pins which hold the life raft doors closed and allows the spring bungee to throw the raft out clear of the fuselage. A ripcord attached to the raft cradle automatically opens the valve that controlls the raft inflation from the CO2 bottle. To release either raft from outside the airplane, the lever flush in the fuselage aft of each door should be lifted and twisted 90 degrees. This action pulls the same cable and releases the raft in the same manner as described above. Do not release rafts until airplane is at rest in the water. ..."

    Ken

    Ken Alexander
    Proud son of 1st Lt. Clair B. Alexander Jr.
    Pilot, B-24s: 10/12/1944 - 04/24/1945
    15th AF, 49th Wing, 461st BG, 764th BS
    Torretta Airfield, Cerignola, Italy
    Patches
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/03/27 19:32:58 (permalink)
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    I had wondered about two possibile causes for a life raft to deploy in flight. 
     
    1 - a faulty door latch
    2 -  a faulty valve, or something related, filling the stowed raft and bursting out
     
    I just came across a very interesting passage from June 1944 in the book "The 464th Bomb Group in World War II".
     
    One night, Red and his crew were working on the plane when a life raft blew out of the compartment over the wing.  No reason, it just blew out.  No one on the ground crew was even near the darn thing.

     
    As an interesting and somewhat tragic aside, the 464th was a sister group to the 465th at Pantanella, Italy.  The Lt King I mentioned in my previous post was in the 465th.  His plane went down on 5.31.44, just a few weeks before this event. 
    rodster
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/05/12 01:21:03 (permalink)
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    Hi Guys,
    I just wanted to thank you all for your time and research. This really helps me to understand what most likely happened that day. rodster
    WillowRun
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/05/12 17:07:14 (permalink)
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    Rodster,   I cannot respond directly  to the thread which you started, but thought I'd add an interesting side attachment.  This is a photo taken 11SE44 on the main assembly line of the Ford, Willow Run Plant (FO).  As the ship moves west-east through the assembly bays, various sub-components and parts are placed on the ship itself.  Note the top left raft hatch behind the partially installed top turret.  The raft is partially staged for assembly.  I hope your search for info on your great uncle is successful.  "They are not forgotten!"  WillowRun

    Attached Image(s)


     
    Best Regards!
    Steven P. Puhl
    Ford Willow Run B-24 Bomber Plant (FO) Historian
    MODERATOR: http://www.armyairforces.com/
    Life Member: Yankee Air Museum
    Member: 8TH AF Historical Society
    Member: 2ND Air Division Historical Society 
     
    Ken a B24 Fan
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/05/12 23:32:01 (permalink)
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    Steven:

    Great photo. Thanks for posting it. It reveals more detail of the assembly than I have seen in books.

    Ken


    Ken Alexander
    Proud son of 1st Lt. Clair B. Alexander Jr.
    Pilot, B-24s: 10/12/1944 - 04/24/1945
    15th AF, 49th Wing, 461st BG, 764th BS
    Torretta Airfield, Cerignola, Italy
    omega7
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/05/13 20:25:49 (permalink)
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    If your family member took off from a field that was known to have Marston matted runways, add that to your list of possibilities.
     
    These interlocking pierced metal planks were great for short term rapid construction, but their consistent use resulted in an entire spectrum of airplane operational problems, from dislodged vacuum tubes to self-arming bomb fuzes. - Adrian
    jpeters140
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/05/13 22:53:32 (permalink)
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    Adrian...When we were scheduled for a test hop, there had been a new tire installed on the Right MLG....when we parked the aircraft after the test hop, there was a  gash deep enough in the new tire, that it had to be changed again....we operated from Marston Matting on the taxiways and runway.
     
    Jim :-)

    James S. Peters Sr. T/Sgt B-17 Flt Engr, 27 missions 99 BG, 348BS, 5th Wing, 15th AAF Tortorella, (Foggia#2), Italy My Tour was from 12/03/44-06/19/45 M/Sgt USAF (Retired)
    jhor9
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/05/14 12:00:01 (permalink)
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    If I'm not mistaken, I think the B17 also had a liferaft.somewhere near the radio room. I never saw a liferaft expelled from a B17

    Jules Horowitz, B-17 pilot, 99th BG, 50 missions/sorties
    My tour was from 7/19/43-2/13/44
    jpeters140
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/05/14 13:27:00 (permalink)
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    Jules  You are correct....two 5 man life rafts just forward of the radio room.
     
    I have heard of B-17 life raft deployment in the air....I don't recall when, but, it could be a hazard as it would foul the tail surfaces.
     
    Jim :-)

    James S. Peters Sr. T/Sgt B-17 Flt Engr, 27 missions 99 BG, 348BS, 5th Wing, 15th AAF Tortorella, (Foggia#2), Italy My Tour was from 12/03/44-06/19/45 M/Sgt USAF (Retired)
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    RE: B-24 question re liferaft deployment? 2007/05/16 11:05:33 (permalink)
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    Jules, your answer makes me feel better. I never cease to wonder how these forum members keep thinking up questions that I can't answer. over 2000 hrs in a B-24, and for the life of me I can't recall ever seeing a life raft, or even knowing that I carried one!
    RHD
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