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Liberators in England.

Sporting white fuselages with dark gray tops, the first PB4Y-1S (the Navy's version of the Army's B-24D) arrived in England with VB-103 in August 1943. Eventually, as members of Fleet Air Wing 7, seven squadrons flew Liberators from England until May 1945-They flew 12-hour patrols along the coastline looking for submarines. They eventually sank five U-boats and damaged several more. But there was a costly tradeoff: operational mishaps and combat action accounted for the loss of 200 crewmen.

Perhaps the most well-known of the Navy Liberator pilots was Lt Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., scion of the Massachusetts political family and namesake of its patriarch, the former U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James in London. After gaining his wings in May 1942, Kennedy was assigned to the Navy's PB4Y fleet, eventually serving with VB-110. He and his crew tallied a few U-boat sightings and even engaged German fighters, but there was little to show for all that flight time. Kennedy heard about a secret program called Project Aphrodite and volunteered for it rather than go on the leave for which he had been scheduled.

Aphrodite developed one of the first examples of remotely controlled flying bombs. The weapon was the aircraft itself loaded with bombs, with a skeleton crew of usually one or two pilots who took off and then bailed out when their plane was under the control of an accompanying aircraft The controller pilot then flew the drone to the target and directed the bomber into the enemy position.

The Army flew the first missions with B-17s, but on 12 August 1944, Kennedy and his copilot, Lt. Wilfred J. Willy, took off from a Royal Air Force airfield on the first Navy Aphrodite mission against the V-3 installation at Mimoyecques in France. The V-3 was a super gun that was built to shell London, 100 miles away. Kennedy and Willy were supposed to bail out over England, but barely 20 minutes after takeoff their aircraft exploded in midair and the two young aviators were killed. Kennedy received the Navy Cross for his dedication and service. The cause of the mishap was never definitively determined.

U.S. Navy PB4 Y-is hunted U-boats around England form bases such as Dunkeswell home to VB-110. A pilot from that squadron, Joseph Kennedy Jr. (above), would fly his Liberator as part of Project Aphrodite. (Photos from Dunkeswell Memorial Museum and John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)
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Publication:HFN Home Furnishings News
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Jun 1, 2011
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