The Liberator crew who took Violette and her companions to France on the night of 7-8 June 1944. Standing L to R, Marvin ‘Mike’ Fenster, Avery Yancey, Richard Davis. Kneeling, L to R, J. W. 'Windy’ Hall, Richard Thomas, Jack Ringlesbach, Darwin Gray.
Consolidated B-24 Liberator of the 'Carpetbagger’ squadrons at Harrington, Northamptonshire.
Photo’s & Caption’s featured in Violette Szabo: 'The Life That I Have…’ by Susan Ottaway
FRANCE. June 6, 1944. Consolidated B-24H Liberators of the 486th Bombardment Group, US Eighth Air Force, flying over part of the Allied invasion fleet gathered off the Normandy coast. They were part of a force dispatched on the morning of D-Day to bomb villages which had access roads to the beachheads running through them.
The B-17 is one of the iconic allied bombers of WWII. First flown in 1935 and in service up until 1968 in the Brazilian Air Force, the B-17 was a sturdy, heavy lifting power house. Practically anyone familiar with military aviation will be familiar with the B-17, but what many are not aware of are the interesting and unique B-17 modifications that were constructed during WWII. The most notable B-17 modifications were the XB-38, The YB-40 and the C-108.
The XB-38 was a converted B-17 modified to mount 4 Allison V-1710 engines. This replaced the usual complement of 4 Wright R-1820 radial engines.
The XB-38 was built in 1943 and first flew in May of that year. It was capable of a higher top speed (287 mph increased to 327 mph) but saw a decrease in it’s service ceiling(35,600 feet to 29,600 feet.) The project was canceled due to a number of accidents, including a serious engine fire that resulted in the destruction of the only prototype. Additionally, the Allison V-1710 engine was needed for production of the P-38 Lightening and the P-51 Mustang, among others. In 1944 a similar project was started to install inline engines on a B-29 Superfortress. Called the XB-39, the modified aircraft performed well enough, but cost concerns prevented the new design from entering production.
Introduced in 1943, before the P-51 arrived in Europe for high altitude escort missions, the YB-40 was B-17 modified to act as an escort gunship for bomber formations penetrating into the European continent.
While the normal B-17 carried 13 Browning 50 caliber Machine guns, the YB-40 carried, on average, 18 and had room for up to 30 machine guns of various calibers. Some YB-40s even carried guns up to 40mm. Additionally, the YB-40 was full to the brim with ammunition, allowing it to sustain fire for far longer than the normal B-17. The YB-40 carried approximately 10,700 rounds of 50 caliber ammunition with 4,000 rounds stored in the bomb bay.
Compare this with the normal B-17 which carried approximately 2,000 rounds total. The trade off was, of course, speed, and climb rate. The YB-40 was reported to take 48 minutes to climb 20,000 feet while the bombers it was escorting only took 25 minutes to climb to the same altitude.
This drawback, along with the fact that the YB-40 could not keep up with the B-17 formations, especially after they had dropped their bombs, meant that the YB-40 did not see use after the introduction of the P-51 Mustang. Despite its drawbacks, the 25 completed YB-40s flew 48 sorties and shot down 5 German aircraft plus 2 probables. The last recorded YB-40 combat mission was in July of 1943, however, the new turrets developed for the YB-40 such as the Bendix chin turret (pictured below) and the improved “Cheyenne” tail turret proved effective enough to be mounted on late war B-17 bombers.
A single Consolidated B-24 Liberator, called the XB-41, was modified in a similar fashion to act as a long range bomber escort, but it never saw combat.
The XC-108 was a modified B-17 bomber converted to act as a V.I.P. transport for General Douglas MacArthur.
The plane was stripped of arms and armour except for the nose and tail turrets. The interior was converted into a private office for the General. The plane was fitted with a kitchen and living space. After the success of this model, the USAAF, with plenty of obsolete bombers laying around, began looking into ways to convert bombers into transport craft. A number of models were produced including the XC-108A, cargo and troop transport that could carry up to 64 fighting men, and the XC-108B which was converted into a fuel tanker. The B-24 Liberator was similarly modified into a transport known as the Liberator express. This model saw widespread use with 287 aircraft built.
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I am just struggling to understand both how and why we were able to divorce LGBT equality from a larger conversation about feminism, race and class in society. I am struggling to understand how the faces of the movement switched from feminists who shouted down the patriarchy and radical fairies to investment bankers and neoconservative mayors. I suspect that this was a slow and deliberate strategy that revolved around money. Let me give you some examples. A number of years ago, Missouri’s main LGBT advocacy group pulled questions about a woman’s right to choose from their candidate screening endorsements. Marriage equality groups large and small embraced the messaging consultants as the way to sway voters, and spokespeople were more often than not white men in tuxes in pastoral setting when applicable. The largest LGBT group in the country, the Human Rights Campaign, chose one of the worst upholders of predatory capitalism, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, to be a spokesperson for marriage equality. In a bout of further chutzpah, the Human Rights Campaign honored Blankfein during the year of Occupy.
The LGBT movement’s wins have been huge. I doubt in 1989 I could have conceived of full marriage equality, or 600 kids marching in Pride in St. Louis. But now we are at a crossroads. The die of history has been cast. We can consolidate our wins and spend the next few years on implementation fights, adopting children, bickering about the tax code, fixing the bugs on healthcare.gov. Or we can view marriage equality as the gateway drug. If society will bend to let the queers get married, maybe people have some longing for some more fundamental societal transformation?
After all, were we fighting all these years for just a seat at the table? Did we want pride parades sponsored by Wells Fargo and Monsanto, like the one in St. Louis? Did we want to be assimilated into a society that harassed us, shamed us, killed us and exiled us from our families? Many of us created our own families, our own social norms and, of course, many, many of our own subcultures.