By Wolf, Dr WilliamIllustrated by Tooby, Adam
The XB-40 and XB-41 were secret, little-known experimental modifications of the B-17F and B-24D, respectively, into heavily-armed bomber gunships variously referred to as convoy protector airplanes, bomber escorters, or destroyer escort planes. These aircraft were developed durin...g the early war in response to the lack of a USAAF long-range fighter aircraft able to escort and protect beleaguered regular B-17 formations from the UK round trip deep into Germany. Unfortunately, these protecters were found to be unable to protect large formations as expected. During their development each encountered numerous delays in the development and delivery of their various armament additions and improvements, particularly the Bendix chin turret. Being modifications of the bomber, they were to protect; after the addition of guns and ammunition they became overweight and also markedly tail-heavy causing center of gravity problems. The result of these alterations was a protector that did not have the performance of the bombers they were to protect. After releasing their bombs, a standard B-17F formation returning from a mission easily outpaced their overloaded escort protectors that carried no bombs. The YB-40 participated in only 14 lackluster operational service test missions during mid-1943 before being withdrawn from service. The XB-41 Liberator was a one-of-a-kind bomber escort which had similar problems as the XB-40 but never saw operational testing before also being cancelled for its poor comparative performance to standard bombers. The failure of the gunship concept left a huge hole in the capabilities of the Eighth Air Force. Without an escort that could safeguard the bomber formations all the way to the heart of Germany, the bombers would suffer unsustainable losses flying the daytime raids that the USAAF insisted on. Their failure, however, spurred the adoption of the Merlin-powered P-51 Mustang, the outstanding escort fighter that was key to Allied victory in the air war over Europe. Over the past 75 years both the XB-40 and XB-41 have been chronicled in only a few rehashed magazine and online articles. Using many formerly classified documents from his large microfilm collection, in this book William Wolf presents their previously unpublished history. It describes in depth for the first time the politics and development and associated problems of both escorter types. The armament of each is described and depicted in detail. The YB-40's operational service test missions are recounted from 92BG/327BG records are described for the first time. The history of these two escorters is described in the context of the USAAF's strategic bombing and concurrent fighter escort developments and undertakings during the European air war.Read more
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Dr William Wolf was a dentist for 22 years before retiring at the age of 45 to pursue his aviation interests and outdoor pastimes. Over the past 45 years he has collected over 25,000 books and magazines; 10,000-plus photographs; along with 2,000 reels of rare microfilm from original World War II sources (equivalent to 2.5 million pages, indexed, and placed on microfiche); over 800 videos and DVDs; and 1,000-plus CDs of scanned manuals and books. He is the author of 24 books on World War II air combat.
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