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B-24D Liberator: Hill Aerospace Museum

B-24D Liberator S/N 41-23908 is on display indoors at the Hill Aerospace Museum, Ogden, Utah ... but only after a long rest in the north country after crashing in 1943.

The plane was assigned to Great Falls Army Air Field, Montana, on November 21, 1942 and soon dispatched to Elmendorf AAF, Alaska, to assist American air, sea, and ground forces in repulsing the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. The aircraft was then assigned to the 21st Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) of the 28th Composite Group at a forward base on Umnak Island in the Aleutians. 

From there the airplane was relocated to a small air base on Adak Island, even further west toward the Japanese-held islands at the western end of the Aleutians.

On January 18, 1943, Captain Ernest "Pappy" Pruett and his eight-man crew, along with the crews of five other B-24s, took off from Adak to locate and bomb three Japanese supply ships reportedly headed for the harbor of Japanese-held Kiska Island. The 500 mile trip to Kiska was made through deteriorating weather conditions. When the flight finally arrived over the target they were forced to abort the mission due to the weather and head for home.

Captain Pruett in the remaining aircraft, running low on fuel, radioed the Adak tower that he planned to put down on Great Sitkin Island about 25 miles northeast across the bay from the base. Capt. Pruett eased the B-24 onto the tundra at about 130mph, with the landing gear up to prevent flipping the aircraft. The B-24 slid about 1,000 feet over the mud and wet grass before it finally came to rest, passing between several large boulders at the foot of the volcanic mountain on Great Sitkin. The Navy ship USS Hurlbert picked the crew up later that same day and returned them to the base on Adak.

For the next 50 years the forgotten aircraft rested on that lonely, wind-swept plain on the uninhabited island. Then in the summer of 1994 it was located by a scouting party from the Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Utah, searching all known Alaskan B-24 crash sites for a recoverable aircraft for display at Hill Aerospace Museum. An expedition was organized for the summer of 1995.


Pruett was contacted by members of the Heritage Foundation and asked if he would like to return to the island and assist the recovery team in plucking "his" B-24 from obscurity. He and several members of the Heritage Foundation, the 419th Combat Logistics Support Squadron, and the 67th Aerial Port from Hill Air Force Base labored in the harsh Aleutian weather for several weeks to completely disassemble the plane and maneuver it to a waiting recovery ship. It was then transported to a restoration facility in California.

The restored B-24 fuselage finally arrived at the museum on May 17, 2002 and the wing center section arrived in early November 2006. Final assembly is now complete, and the result is the beautifully restored B-24 displayed in an excellent diorama indoors at the Hill Aerospace Museum. See the photos below on this page.

Read more about this fascinating story at the Hill Aerospace Museum website.

B-24D Liberator Photographs

Diorama of Consolidated B-24D Liberator S/N 41-23908 at the Hill Aerospace Museum (Staff Photo)
Consolidated B-24D Liberator S/N 41-23908

Nose section and cockpit view of the restored Consolidated B-24D Liberator at Hill AFB
Nose section and cockpit view of the restored Consolidated B-24D Liberator

Consolidated B-24D Liberator diorama showing landing gear, damaged engine, at Hill Air Force Base
Consolidated B-24D Liberator diorama showing landing gear, damaged engine

Consolidated B-24D Liberator gun turret, Ogden, Utah
Consolidated B-24D Liberator gun turret

List of Other Surviving B-24 Liberators

Of the massive numbers of Liberators that were built, only thirteen are known to exist around the world, either on display (10), under restoration (1), or airworthy (2).

In the United States, only two aircraft are airworthy, and six complete airplanes are on static display, for a total of eight B-24 Liberator survivors, shown below listed by state. Other Liberators are on display around the world.

In the United States
Bungay Buckaroo Pima Air & Space Museum Static Display Tucson
Shady Lady Castle Air Museum Static Display Atwater
Joe Fantasy of Flight Museum Static Display Polk City
Rupert the Roo II (former Louisiana Belle) Global Power Museum
Barksdale AFB
Static Display Bossier City
Witchcraft Collings Foundation Airworthy Stow
Strawberry Bitch National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Static Display Dayton
Diamond Lil CAF at Dallas Executive Airport Airworthy Dallas
Unnamed B-24 Hill Aerospace Museum Static Display Ogden


In Other Countries
44-50206 Royal Air Force Museum Static Display London, UK
44-51228 Imperial War Museum Static Display Duxford, UK
44-50154 Canada Aviation and Space Museum Static Display Ottawa, Canada
44-44213 Indian Air Force Museum Static Display Delhi, India
44-41956 Former RAAF Werribee Aerodrome Under Restoration Victoria, Australia