"I enjoyed reading William Carigan's article on 'The B-24 Liberator - A Man's Airplane'. I wish he had written all our training manuals. His sense of humor makes them readable. Still, one who is not a member of our B-24 fraternity probably could not take the entire article. I loved it.
"The section on 'Landing the Gentle Beast' was excellent. I recalled my not so gentle landing on Feb. 4, 1943, as I went through it. What was different from his prescription for a perfect landing? The weight of the airplane and my inexperience led to my totaling the B-24 and almost totaling all of us. As you know, we had a full bomb load and a full gas load except for what we had burned on the way to the forward base.
"We had been over the aircraft's designed weight for take-off and well over the design weight for landing. An accident investigation probably would have found it a case of pilot error in spite of the overweight conditions. I am forced to agree. AII the other planes landed safely.
"Where did I go wrong? As you recall, it was a beautiful morning for our flight from Abu Sueir, Egypt, to the forward base (LG 139) to get our tanks topped off. I don't remember any cross wind - at least not enough to bother us. As we approached the scraped off piece of desert that passed for an airfield, we may have been a little high. I was well throttled back as we approached the runway. It would have helped the stalling characteristics of the plane had we been pulling more power.
"We were in auto-rich, props at high r.p.m., the aircraft was all set. The co-pilot, Lt. Duffy, was calling out the air speed. The system you used in Italy where the engineer stood between the pilots and called out the airspeeds was better I think. We went to half flaps and at 135 mph we went to full flaps. This lowered our airspeed to 125 mph. We were at 150 feet, about right to begin our flare out. The co-pilot calls out 120 mph. We aren't very high.
"Ordinarily, we would have to bleed off another 10 to 20 mph before we touched down - holding the nose gear off as long as we could. With only about 15 to 20 inches of manifold pressure on and without any warning of a stall, the plane quit flying and started dropping like the bomb she was. Carigan correctly states that the B-24 doesn't glide, so a little power keeps you from dropping it on the runway. I doubt that Carigan ever landed an airplane this heavy. We should have been carrying more power and flying 5 to 10 mph faster. Too late now.
"As I felt the bird sinking, I added a lot of power. This helped but not enough. We made a very hard landing - so hard that the right landing gear broke. I was able to keep the plane rolling straight for some distance but when it slowed down the right wheel could no longer support the bird. The right wing touched and then drug along the ground pulling the plane all the way around, twisting and almost breaking the plane in two at the waist. The right props dug into the ground. The plane stayed in one piece but was a rumpled, twisted mess with many of the bombs breaking lose from the bomb shackles and scattering about. It did not burn.
As you remember, the entire crew had been on the flight deck behind the pilots. They all went out the top hatch above the flight deck. I was out last and immediately started a head count. Everyone was there. No one was injured - maybe a few scratches and bruises.
“Luckily for us, there was a spare B-24 complete with bombs and gas should one of our planes have trouble. In a couple of hours we were all on our way to bomb our assigned target in Naples, Italy. The next day at our home base at Abu Sueir, I ran into Col. George "Mickey" McGuire, the Group Commander. I said to him, apologetically, that I had messed up one of his airplanes. He asked me if I was all right and I said yes. That was all that was ever said about the incident. It was just another day of the war.