Of similar size to the B-17 Fortress, the Liberator was a later and more advanced design, the prototype flying in 1939. The B-24 was built in larger numbers than any other American aircraft of the Second World War. Five production plants delivered 19,256 Liberators. The Ford Motor Company alone, using automobile industry mass production techniques, built 6,792 at its Willow Run plant.
B-24s flew one of the most famous American bombing raids of the war, Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti. On 1 August 1943 they made a low-level attack on the Romanian oil fields, which supplied one-third of German high-octane fuel. Only the Liberator had the range to reach these targets from airfields in North Africa. Of the 179 aircraft despatched, 56 were lost and of 1,726 airmen involved, 500 lost their lives. Five airmen received the Medal of Honor, a record for one operation. With its long range, the Liberator also played a key role with the US Navy and RAF Coastal Command against German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic.
Duxford's B-24, serial number 44-51228 was built by the Ford Motor Company at their Willow Run plant, Michigan and is believed to have been the last Liberator in service with the USAF. Redesignated as an EZB-24M it was used for ice research, finally retiring to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas in 1956 where it remained on display until its move to Duxford in 1999. The aircraft is now painted to represent Dugan, a Liberator based at Wendling, Norfolk, with the 392nd Bomb Group.