In 1944, 2nd Lieutenant David G. O'Sullivan and several of his crewmates flew to San Diego, California. They landed at the massive Consolidated Manufacturing plant airfield. A few hours later, twenty three year old David O'Sullivan signed his name on a piece of paper and officially took personal responsibility for $245,000 worth of United States Army Air Force property. That was the cost of a new B-24 liberator bomber in 1944. He and his crew loaded up their gear, they taxied to the end of the runway and for the first time this particular crew and this particular B-24 Liberator bomber flew together as one. She was only one of over 18,000 B-24s that were produced between 1941 and 1945, but for me, she was the best and the greatest Liberator ever made. Serial number 44-40166. They named her The Irishman's Shanty.
O'Sullivan's men trained with her in Alamogordo, New Mexico and Biggs Field, El Paso, TX. Along with the rest of the other 70 new liberators and their crews, they left the United States in April on a Spring day born of optimism. The bitter Summer was still to come and along with it, the cruel destiny of the 492nd Bomb Group.
Of the 70 crews and bombers which made up the original bomb group, only 15 remained at North Pickenham after the devastation of that dreadful summer of failed hopes and dreams. The men who flew The Shanty were among the "chosen ones" as the late Bob Cash once remarked. O'Sullivan's men flew her on 16, and possibly as many as 18, of their 30 missions, including the first on May 11th and their last mission on July 31st. During that time, she also flew 9 more missions with other crews from the 492nd. My Dad's crew was the first to reach the cherished goal of 30 missions and go home. For them, the war was over. But not for 'The Shanty'. In August she was transferred to the 467th Bomb Group and flew an additional 47 more missions through the end of the war. Renamed Monster, she flew a remarkable and respectable total of 75 missions flown in the ETO. As far as my research has been able to determine, not a single crewman was killed or even wounded on any of those 75 dangerous missions. She truly did have the 'Luck of the Irish'.
In 1945, after the War's end in Europe, she was flown back to the United States. Sometime between 1945 and 1948, she, along with thousands of other military surplus aircraft, met her ignominious fate. She was melted down and her aluminum re-used for any number of post war purposes. She has been MIA for almost 66 years, but now she has finally returned. Thanks to a friend and colleague in the Commemorative Air Force B-29/B-24 Squadron she lives again. Konley Kelly is a veteran model builder of many years. He used photos and archival information to paint and design this wonderful Monogram 1/48 model kit. The model includes custom made decals. When I saw her, I was moved and touched. I could finally visualize the plane my father flew into battle 70 years ago. It is a humbling thing to see a visualization of that mighty bomber. In my mind's eye, I see once again the men from O'Sullivan's crew # 713. Going about their business, preparing for the day's work. A day's work which meant risking all for a cause.
She is of course, only a model, a representation of what once was. But in my mind's eye, I see my 20 year old father and his young crewmates preparing to wage battle with an implacable foe. It is one more piece in the puzzle, one more link that is forged, between myself and a chasm that yawns 70 years wide. I feel that much closer to these men. Thank you Konley for helping to bridge this gap. Well done my friend. Well done.