On the night of November 12, 1943 a battle took place over and on the Bay of Biscay, a battle from which there were no survivors. 10 U.S. Navy airmen and 57 Kriegsmarine submariners went to their deaths as a result of this action between a USN Consolidated PB4Y-1 Liberator, commanded by Lieutenant (jg) Brownell and U-508 commanded by Kapitanleutnant Gerg Staats (Knights Cross). Not much is known about the battle. "Calvert n' Coke", PB4Y-1 Liberator BuAer # 32032, radioed its home base at NAF Dunkeswell at 01:16 AM saying that it was attacking a U-Boat 95 miles north of Cape Penas, Spain. Nothing further was heard from the patrol bomber. The next day a search of the area revealed two oil slicks about 5 miles apart. At the end of World War II German records revealed that U-508 went missing on the same day and in the same area. 67 souls had found a watery grave in the Bay of Biscay.

       The fall of France in the summer of 1940 had allowed Germany to set up U-Boat bases at Brest, Lorient and Sant-Nazaire among others. These bases greatly decreased the transit time to the Allies' North Atlantic shipping lanes. To counter this move the British began patroling the Bay of Biscay to harass the U-boats as they exited from and returned to their bases. When the Americans entered the war they joined the effort. The American anti-submarine warfare (ASW) effort was based at RAFB Dunkeswell in southwestern England near Devon.

       The first unit of the United States military to take on the challenge of steming the flow of U-boats from the western shores of France was the 479th Anti-Submarine Group of the United States Army Air Forces. At this time, United States Naval Air forces were not equipped with a long range patrol aircraft that was capable of combating U-boats that had been ordered to remain on the surface and fight it out with allied patrol aircraft rather than submerge as their orders had stated earlier in the war. Long range patrol squadrons of the US Navy operated Consolidated PBY Catalinas, Martin PBM Mariners and Consolidated PB2Y Coronados. These flying boats were designed for long range patrol duties and were not equiped with heavy enough weapons to take on the U-boats in close quarters. The Navy did have on the drawing board the Boeing XPBB Sea Ranger. The ASW squadrons of the USAAF were equipped with the Consolidated B-24 Liberator which did have the range and was much more heavily armed and therefore more capapble of combating the anti-aircraft-artilery (AAA) armed submarines of the Kriegsmarine.

       A deal needed to be worked out. The Army had the equipment but rather than maritime patrol duties wanted to concentrate on the strategic bombing campaign. Maritime patrol was more of a Navy operation, but the Navy did not have the equipment. The Navy owned Boeing's Renton, Washington facility and was planning on using it to produce the Sea Ranger. A swap was worked out, the Renton plant was released to produce the B-29 Superfortress and the Navy received B-24 Liberators for maritime patrol. The subject of this article, PB4Y-1 US Navy BuAer # 32032 was produced as USAAF Consolidated B-24D-55-CO Liberator Serial # 42-40429. This B-24D became a PB4Y-1 on March 9, 1943, one of 977 B-24s that were transfered to the Navy as PB4Y-1s.

VPB-103 Squadron Logo drawn by Leon Schlessenger

VB/VPB-103 Logo

       On March 15, 1943 Bombing Squadron One Hundred Three (VB-103) was established at Naval Air Station (NAS) Camp Kearney (later NAS Miramar) California. PB4Y-1 32032 joined the squadron which departed for Norfolk, Va. on April 29, 1943. NAS Quonset Point, RI. was the next stop on VB-103's journey. At Quonset the PB4Ys were outfitted with ASW gear including Loran, the secret APS-15 radar, equipment necessary to deploy sonobouys and also were outfitted to carry the Mark 24 Homing Torpedo. On May 15th the squadron began patrols at NAS Argentia, Newfoundland. On August 15th VB-103 departed Argentia for St Eval, England finally arriving at its home base at Naval Air Facility (NAF) Dunkeswell at the end of the month. VB-103 became VPB-103 on October 1, 1944 and remained at NAF Dunkeswell until the cessation of operations in May of 1945. The squadron moved to Norfolk, Va. in June and was then transfered to NAS Almeda, Ca. were it was disestablished on August 31, 1945. During its time on active duty VB/VPB-103 flew 1902 operational sorties and had 4.5 confirmed U-boat kills. 14 VPB-103 PB4Y-1s were lost to all causes.

       My fascination with the this aircraft, PB4Y-1 BuAer# 32032, VB-103's 'C' aircraft, named "Calvert n' Coke", goes back to the mid 60's. I was 13 or 14 years old when I received the Revell 1/72 scale kit for my birthday. Ever since then I have been seeing pictures of this aircraft in books and magazines. A lot of these pictures were taken over the English coast. One source states that they were taken by famous British aviation photographer Charles E. Brown for the US Navy. These pictures, many in color, clearly show the non-specular sea blue upper surfaces, white under surfaces, over-sized national insignia and even the color of the radome that took the place of the lower fuselage ball turret. The camouflage colors are also spelled out in the 'Bombers in Blue' and 'U.S. Navy PB4Y-1 (B-24) Liberator Squadrons In Great Britain during World War II' books listed in the Biliography.

Monogram 1/48 Scale Consolidated B-24D Box Art

Monogram 1/48 Scale Consolidated B-24D Box Art

       I started this model project 5 or 6 years ago before Monogram re-released their B-24D kit. So I had to do a lot of searching for a 1/48 scale B-24 to be the basis for my PB4Y-1. Eventually one was offered for sale on EBAY so I purchased it. The kit I bought was Monogram kit # 5604. In this kit the location of the lower ball turret was faired over, which made it easier when modifying it to a PB4Y-1.

       The model construction was very straight forward. I followed the kit directions except for modifications necessary to replace the lower ball turret with the APS-15 radome. Below are diagrams and text the spell out how I modified the model.

<How to create a radome

How to create a radome.

       The model was painted with Testor's Scale Master paints, using Gloss Sea Blue and Classic White for the camouflage. Paper templates were used to accomplish the wavy pattern on the sides of the fuselage and engines. The de-icing boots were taped off using scotch tape and were painted with Scale Black. \ Black Magic wheel masks were used for the landing gear.

       The decals came from a variety of sources. Experts Choice Decals # 48-41 'U.S. National Insignia (White & Blue With Red Surround) 1943 Only' provided the wing national insignia. The Stars and Bars for the fuselage were supplied by using EagleCals EC # 20 which is a sheet of decals for 1/32 scale 'VF-17 Jolly Rogers - F4U-1A Corsairs'. Using my inkjet printer I created the "Calvert N' Coke', bureau number for the tail etc.


       The final steps were to overspary the entire model with Testors Dullcote and then remove the masking tape from the de-icing boots and the canopy panels.


       Bombers In Blue by Frederick A. Johnson. Pictures on Front Cover and Pg. 1

       B-24 Liberator - In Detail Volume 64 By Bert Kinzey. Picture on Pg. 46

       Navy Air Colors -United States Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Aircraft Camouflage And Markings

                   Vol. 1 1911-1945 By Thomas e. Doll, Berkley R. Jackson & William A. Riley. Drawing Pg. 76

       Consolidated B-24 Liberator By Martin Bowman. Picture on Pg. 158

       B-24 Liberator - In Detail Volume 64 By Bert Kinzey. Picture on Pg. 46

       U.S. Navy PB4Y-1 (B-24) Liberator Squadrons In Great Britain during World War II by Alan C. Carey.

                   Pictures on 7, 31, 35, 49. Color Drawing on Pg. 127

       uboat.net article about U-508

       Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons Volume 2 The History of VP, VPB, VP(H) and VP(AM) Squadrons

       The Wartime Memories Project - USN Dunkeswell Station 173

       Dunkeswell Memorial Museum - History of the Base

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