History of the B-24
"The Dragon and His Tail" / "All American"

The world's only fully restored and flying consolidated B-24 Liberator is back in the skies after an absence of twenty years. The B-24 fought for our freedom in the skies of Europe and the Pacific through the use of strategic bombing during the Second World War. In order to help preserve this history and honor the veterans, who participated in the war, B-24 serial number 44-44052 has been restored to mint condition under the auspices of the Collings Foundation of Stow, MA.

Over fifty years ago, in August 1944, the Collings Liberator was built at the Consolidated Aircraft Company's Fort Worth, Texas plant. Shortly afterward, the aircraft was delivered to the US Army Air Force and in October of 1944, it was transferred to the Royal Air Force. Under the British flag, the B-24 saw combat in the Pacific Theater in operations ranging from anti-shipping to bombing and re-supply of resistance force operations.

At war's end, the aircraft was abandoned by the RAF in a bomber graveyard in Khanpur, India; with the assumption that it would not fly again. However, in 1948, the Indian Air Force succeeded in restoring 36 B-24's, including 44-44052, to operational status. These aircraft were utilized until 1968.

For the next 13 years, the aircraft sat abandoned in India until British aircraft collector, Doug Arnold, obtained it in 1981. The aircraft was disassembled and transported back to England in a Heavy Lift cargo plane. Once in England, the aircraft was advertised for sale in "as is" condition and in 1984, Dr. Robert F. Collings purchased it. After a sea voyage of three weeks, the B-24 arrived in Boston and was brought to Stow, MA in four truckloads.

Collings said that the Foundation intended to restore the plane for static display only, but he was persuaded to restore it to flying status by local B-24 crewmen. "This made it about five times greater a project," Collings said. "We were convinced by the argument that only about three thousand people a year would see a static display, but three million might see it on a nationwide tour.

Preliminary restoration work started in 1985, led by Massachusetts volunteers, most of whom were former crewmen, or sons of crewmen, on B-24's. When Collings decided to make the plane a flying restoration, he contacted Tom Reilly Vintage Aircraft in Kissimmee, FL to do the work on the airframe and powerplant. Volunteers restored the turrets, armament, radios, oxygen system, and cosmetic details. The original builders sponsored work on the Emerson Electric nose turret, PPG Industries of Pittsburgh supplied turret glass, and United Technologies of Hartford, CT donated a Norden bombsight. General Dynamics, a successor to Consolidated Aircraft, the original manufacturers of the B-24 in Fort Worth, TX, was a major sponsor of its restoration.

Collings said the restoration involved complete disassembly of the plane and work on about 80% of the B-24's 1.2 million parts. There was some corrosion and minor damage "plus the desire to make all the systems (engines, props, hydraulics, and electrical) one hundred percent right".

The entire hydraulic plant was replaced or overhauled, and every pulley was replaced. All cables and hardware, the bearings, an electronic strobe system, the batteries, and the radios were donated, along with installation advice and assistance.

The fuselage was in reasonably good shape, but twenty percent of its skin still had to be replaced. More than 420,000 rivets were replaced, as well as fuel cells, brake tubes, tires, and windows. Most of these parts were donated.

The Collings B-24 was originally named "All American" in honor of a 15th Air Force B-24 with the same name. The original "All American" set a record when its gunners shot down fourteen enemy fighters in a single raid over Germany on July 25, 1944. The plane was lost on October 4, 1944 when it was shot down over Yugoslavia.

In 1998, the "All American" was re-named "Dragon and His Tail" to pay tribute to the veterans who served in the Pacific Theater of Operations. The Joseph Pagoni crew and others flew the original Dragon in the 43rd Bomb Group, 64th Bomb Squadron on 85 missions. Pagoni reported that the Dragon was always the center of attention from the Japanese fighter pilots. The original Dragon survived the war, flew home, and was stored at Kingman, AZ. Eventually, despite the efforts to save her, the Dragon was the last B-24 to be scrapped. The Collings "Dragon and His Tail" flies in tribute to those who built, flew, and maintained the B-24 and, to all the other veterans of the Second World War.

The Collings Foundation - Preserving Living Aviation History for Future