Zamp wanted to be a B-17 crew member, but he didn’t get his wish. Instead, he was assigned to a heavy bomber known as the B-24. As far as Louie was concerned, it wasn’t a good choice.
Some famous men flew B-24s. Jimmy Stewart, already a popular actor before Pearl Harbor, joined the war as a private, in 1941. By the time the war was over, in 1945, Stewart was a Colonel who had flown many combat missions, piloting B-24s.
The B-24 - which was built in San Diego and various other factories, including Ford's plant in Willow Run - wasn't just big and heavy, it was unwieldy. One pilot wrote:
...it was like sitting on the front porch and flying the house. (Unbroken, page 59.)
In May of 1943, Popular Science devoted a significant part of its magazine (Vol. 142, No. 5) to the war effort, focusing - among other things - on the B-24 Liberator. Walking readers through its production process, one of the authors (Andrew R. Boone) notes:
She isn't much to look at... (Popular Science, May 1943, page 86.)
No one, not even her makers at the Consolidated plant in California, where she was born, is proud of her appearance. She looks fat and awkward indeed, and sits squat on an airfield, with husky .50 caliber machine guns sticking like pin-feathers from her nose, belly, back, sides, and tail.
But don't let her seeming clumsiness fool you. She's one of the deadliest and most devastating weapons ever created by the hand of man; with that quality her builders - and, more important, the men who fly her - are tremendously satisfied, for she carries a heavier bomb load than any other ship of her class. (Popular Science, May 1943, page 86.)
Maybe ... but not all airmen who flew Liberators would have used such glowing comments to describe the B-24. Many of them referred to it as “The Flying Coffin.”
Zamp, assigned as a bombardier, was part of a crew of ten. His pilot - Lt. Russell Allen Phillips, whom everyone called “Phil” - was a quiet man from Indiana.
Zamperini and his crew mates called their B-24F "Super Man" (see Devil at My Heels, page 124). It took them on some pretty remarkable journeys.
What was it like to be on board a B-24 during a bomb run? How did Liberators perform when enemy fire tried to force them out of the sky?