This month’s featured artifact is a rare, complete set of WWII manuals for the Consolidated Vultee B-24 Liberator in its original leather storage case. This particular set belonged to a Corporal Eugene Byhardt. This was his personal set, as denoted by his name that has been embossed in gold lettering on each of the manuals as well as the case itself. What is unique about this particular set, is the inclusion of the Consolidated Aircraft control yoke center cap with the company logo that has been attached to each end of the case. These were popular with manufacturers of the era and often seen in the center of the pilot and co-pilot’s control wheel. We have never seen this on any other existing example of a set of these manuals, making it quite rare.
These manuals were originally prepared by the Flight Service Department of Consolidated Aircraft, San Diego, California in 1942. The seven hardbound, leather-covered manuals include roughly 1,600 pages of material concerning the operation of the B-24 and its various systems, with each manual covering a different area of concentration. Being a wartime produced manual, several of them are marked ‘restricted’ with the following caution…
“Restricted. This document contains information affecting the national defense of the United States within the meaning of the Espionage Act, U. S. C. 50:31 and 32. Its transmission or the revelation of its contents in any manner to any unauthorized person is prohibited by law.”
The following manuals were marked restricted due to wartime secrecy:
The remaining unrestricted manuals include:
Along with the more well-known B-17, the B-24 Liberator was among the most ubiquitous of World War II bombers. Produced by the Consolidated (and later also by Ford Motor Company), the B-24’s superior speed, range and bomb load over the B-17 were offset by a reputation for difficult handling and a greater tendency to catch fire in battle. The B-24 remains to this day the most produced heavy bomber in American history, with over 18,400 planes produced in the various models. Over 3,200 of those aircraft were modified prior to being flown overseas just north of our hangar at Fleming Field at nearby Holman Field in St Paul. At its peak production, the modification center employed more than 5,000 workers.
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