Which was better the B-17 or the B-24 in Europe

Discussion in 'Polls' started by tbfighterpilot, Dec 19, 2011.

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Which was the better bomber for the allies in Europe

Poll closed Nov 18, 2013.
  1. B-17

    33.3%
  2. B-24

    39.4%
  3. None

    9.1%
  4. Other

    18.2%
  1. tbfighterpilot

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    Which was the better bomber in the European theater for the allies?
     
  2. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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  3. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    I just finished reading "Isaiah's Rising Eagles" by Bernard Nolan who flew both B-24s and B-17s in combat. He was entirely unequivocal - the B-17 was better.

    However, I'm still going with the Lanc - it's against my religion not to!
     
  4. woljags

    woljags Active Member

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    if its a choice between the B17 and B24 it has to be the B17 for me ,but as far as i'm concerned the best bomber in Europe was the Lancaster
     
  5. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I second the motion.

    The Lancaster Bomber had more powerful engines so it's no surprise the British aircraft had a greater range/payload then either U.S. made bomber. The Lancaster also got the job done with three fewer aircrew.
     
  6. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    I picked the 17 because it operated best in the strike zone of the Mustang, P-38 and P-47 - forcing the LW to operate in an altitude in which they suffered performance issues (particularly the Fw 190), it carried a near equal bomb load to the B-24, was easier to fly formation with.

    And I have always liked the looks of the Fort. The B-24 was overall more versatile but for crews that flew both, they had more confidence that the B-17 would bring them home.
     
  7. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Ive read the b-24 was more tricky to fly, and defensively not as well protected.
    OTOH B-24 had a higher celining, and better range to payload capability. If memory serves, i also think the top speed of the Liberator was slightkly better (will stand corrected because I havent checked)....

    In a war of attrition like the bomber offensive, its numbers that count, not the flying characteristics. So my money goes with the most efficient and cost effective bomb carrier....whichever that one may be. I am inclined to go against the trend and support the B-24.

    In the pacific, its hands down the B-24 that is the best simply by reason of its range
     
  8. tbfighterpilot

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    I love the B-17, it's my 2nd favorite plane. The 17 also was very tough, I once saw a picture that had a story to go with it, and it was a pic of a B-17, flying over England, with a completely destroyed tail, and the crew was waving to people as they passed by.

    And the B-24 was faster (300 mph) than the B-17 (287 mph).
     
  9. Arossihman

    Arossihman Member

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    I shall talk to my grandfather(who served on a b-24),ponder this then formulate a response....till then i'm not voting!
    Tony
     
  10. T Bolt

    T Bolt Well-Known Member

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    B-24
    It may have not been as sturdy, or pretty, or as easy to fly as the B-17, but it was faster, could fly higher, longer and carry a considerably larger bomb load. There were also more of them made then any other Americann aircraft. EVER. Over 18,000. My father who also flew in B-17's flew in Liberators from 1943 to 1945 and was shot down in one over Austria and still swore by them.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    August 1934. B-17 program begins.
    June 1936. He-177 program begins (i.e. Bomber A)
    1937. Avro Manchester / Lancaster program begins.
    March 1939. B-24 program begins.
    1940. B-29 program begins.

    The B-17 entered combat with the U.S.A.A.C. during December 1941 after seven years of development. Design maturity paid off in that the aircraft had few bugs. On the other hand the B-17 was bordering on obsolescence with a relatively small range/payload.

    The B-24 also entered combat during December 1941 after less then three years of development. For a heavy bomber that's a rush job and it showed in numerous ways such as heavy control forces and poorly protected fuel tanks. I don't think there was anything inherently wrong with the B-24 design just as there was nothing inherently wrong with the B-29. You rush a piece of military equipment into mass production before development has been completed and your aircrew get to deal with technical flaws while fighting the enemy.
     
  12. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    It really is kind of a toss up. They both flew through unfriendly skies to bomb an enemy. If the war has been night-time bombing only, I think the Lancaster would have been the king, hands down. Daylight bombing was a different animal, and many (both British and American) thought it was crazy to do daytime bombing. Could the mission have been accomplished with one versus the other? Yes, for daylight bombing, but they would have needed a lot of either one. But without the RAF bombing at night also, it would have taken much longer and would have afforded Flak gunners and Luftwaffe Fighter pilots much needed rest. It was a combined effort of all the aircraft that were available at the time.

    I have spoken with crewmen from both bomber types and I have seen photos of Liberators with some fairly substantial damage that made it home. The Davis Wing was probably the most vulnerable part of the B-24, which was also it's biggest asset because of it's efficiency. But the Germans learned that pouring enough lead into the heavies would bring them done, and they did in large numbers.

    One disadvantage that any group would have with only one bomber is that the enemy only need to identify which parts are the most vulnerable and aim for those. Granted that changes were made throughout their service lives, but it does make intelligence easier when you only have to worry about one type.
     
  13. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    #13 Jabberwocky, Dec 20, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2011
    Surprisingly, for the B-17s legendary toughness, the B-24 had a lower loss rate than the B-17 over Europe when flying in the Eight AF.

    This is true even when assessing the two aircraft over the same operational period. Yes, the B-24 was a relative late-comer to the ETO compared to the B-17, and the Flying Fortress took the lion’s share of losses during the dark days of 1942 and 1943. However, on a mission-to-mission basis, the B-24 was statistically less likely to be shot down.

    Loss rates for 8th AF bomber groups that arrived in the ETO after December 1943:

    B-17: 1.42% per sortie.
    B-24: 1.11% per sortie.

    The B-17 was more survivable when damaged heavily - hence its reputation for toughness and the fondness for the aircraft by its crews - but it actually tended to lose out more heavily in an operational comparison. The B-17 was also more survivable when it came to a water ditching, another plus in its favour.

    The B-17 had a higher ceiling than the B-24. It was also a more stable flying platform and was a much nicer aircraft to fly, both in and around the airfield and at high altitudes. The B-24 was notorious for being very difficult to manhandle about the sky, with very high control forces necessary and a tendency to be laterally unstable above 20-22,000 feet. There was a standing joke that you could spot a B-24 pilot due to his overdeveloped left arm muscles.

    As B-17s were more stable at high altitude, their crews also flew tighter formations. This ensured better mutual protection against fighters. Combine this with the B-17’s slightly better defensive armament scheme and its higher altitude and its understandable that the Luftwaffe had a preference for going after the B-24s.

    I’ve seen it written that the B-24 was the best escort for the B-17, as the newer bomber flew lower than the Flying Fortress when operating, providing an easier target for flak and fighters. However, the B-17 seems to have suffered higher loss rates to flak than the B-24.

    The survivability advantage of the B-24 lay in its higher cruise speed. Depending on the comparison of the various sub-types, the B-24 could cruise at anywhere from 10 to 30 mph faster than the B-17. When you’re in a flak box, or being attacked by fighters, that speed makes a difference.

    The B-24 had a marginal advantage in bombload. While the B-24 could technically hold almost twice the B-17s bomb load internally, in practice the two aircraft carried virtually the same load over both the ETO and the MTO. The B-24 only shows its advantage on longer-ranged missions (past Berlin). IIRC, the difference in the average bomb-load was about 200 lbs in the ETO.

    The B-24 also had a minor advantage when it came to bombing. The B-24's roller style bombay doors did not upset the airstream nearly as much as the the B-17's downward swinging doors, which resulted in easier aiming for the bombardier.

    EDIT: Found some information on bombing accuracy by aircraft type.

    In 1944 B-17's averaged 15.2% of bombs within 500 feet of the target, while B-24s averaged 10.2% within the same distance. B-17s averaged 38.2% of bombs within 1000 feet of the target, while B-24s averaged 28.2%.

    This is despite B-17's dropping from higher altitudes.

    Part of the reason for this is the B-17's better stability, but the B-24s also dropped more often in poor visibility. As 1944 progressed, B-24s shifted from 12 abreast to 9-10 abreast formations, resulting in better accuracy for B-24s in the final three months of 1944.

    Reading the USAAF report in 1944 bombing accuracy, and I'm astounded at how big some of the CEPs were. 8% of bombs dropped with visual aiming in good conditions in the year had a CEP of GREATER THAN 5 MILES! At a bombing altitude of 22200 ft, that's a error greater than the altitude the bombers were flying at!
     
  14. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Although Nolan in his book indicates that relatively few bombers within a Group were actually fitted with bomb sights, so the "easier aiming for the bombardier" would only apply to the lead aircraft and back-ups. Everyone else just pickled off their bombs when they saw the lead aircraft dropping his load.
     
  15. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Because there was an other catagory I picked it. I believe the Lancaster was the best bomber being used in Europe. Between the B-17 and B-24, I would go with the B-24, Jabbberwocky makes a good point for this point of view.
     
  16. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    #16 drgondog, Dec 20, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2011
    Joe - I agree the B-24 was the better of the two bombers when comparing all theatres and the missions tasked. Still feel the B-17 slightly better choice in ETO.

    The statistical loss rates were skewed in favor of the B-24 IMO because of two factors.

    First the B-24 entered operations in ETO later and only reached full strength in 2BD after the LW was effectively defeated. There were zero B-24s making the August 17 Schweinfurt/Regensburg mission (several shot up B-24 groups still in Med after Ploesti) and only two BG's with 29 B-24s lifted off on October 14, 1943 and they flew a diversionary mission, staying over the North sea with no contact. It wasn't until Dec 13, 1943 that a fifth B-24 Bomb group actually went on a mission with the 8th AF.

    They missed the worst of the 8th AF missions until February through April, 1944. Even at full strength they were flying approximately one sortie for every 2 1/2 B-17 missions simply because there that many more B-17 BG's in the 8th AF.

    Secondly, when the B-24s were at full strength, they only flew 'one season' of good fighter weather, whereas the B-17 started ops in summer 1942 against the best the LW had to offer, summer 1943 (only 4 B-24 BGs at this time) and summer 1944 (with full strength 2BD B-24s). Many of the missions flown by 8th AF (B-24s and B-17s) were not resisted at all by LW in fall/winter 1944 and only very little resistance in spring 1945 when much of the LW fighter arm was withdrawn to defend in the east..

    As to the Lanc - there are very sound arguments for naming it 'best bomber' for ETO. Having said that I suspect the loss rates for the Lancaster in comparison to B-17 (or B-24) had they flown unescorted in daylight to the same targets bombed by 8th AF - would have been higher.. so hard to contrast the 3 ships other than to say they were all effective and all vulnerable. The lancaster may have run out of crews had they committed to strategic daylight bombardment until enough escorts were available to protect them.

    Additionally, the Lanc's operating altitude made it much more vulnerable to all LW fighters and flak during daylight hours - bad enough at night.
     
  17. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    For better or worse one pilot per plane at least! :eeeeek:
     
  18. Arossihman

    Arossihman Member

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    Granps of course swore by the b-24.....then his buddy at the american legion swore by the b-17 and a friendly argument ensued! When it was all said and done speed,range,and service ceiling won the day so i went with the b-24. Grandpa also added he liked being able to shoot from the dorsal gunner position between the tails and assist the rear gunner in defending the rear of the bomber.
     
  19. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    The tactical service ceiling of the B-24 was less than the B-17 and flew their missions several 1000 feet below the corresponding B-17s. The B-24 bomb missions were mostly 21-22000, the B-17 was 25-26000 where the Mustang performance was optimal and the Fw 190 perfromance really started falling off.
     
  20. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    What a good thread! Lots of informed discussion with many good points made. I wonder how the rather light defensive armament and service ceiling of the Lanc would have served in daylight bombing? Also the liquid cooled engines could have made the plane more vulnerable.
     
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