Liberator L-5 or L-6 landing at Sintra (BA1). (EMFA/CAVFA via L.Tavares)

Liberator L-5 or L-6 landing at B.A.1 Sintra (EMFA/CAVFA via L.Tavares) 

Help on research

Unclear or unexplained facts or situations are common on all air forces. Only people involved in specific situations know the "true story", which is not often the same for everyone !

In the Portuguese Military Aviation the same rule applies even after many years of research. Trying to  profit  from our page, and thinking that it will be seen by many enthusiasts worldwide, we decided to include this section.

One of the most interesting subjects is the exact identification of many aircraft that landed in Portugal during W.W. II by accident and/or damage, and which frequently were used operationally by our military aviation. The complete list (as far as we were able to get) is presented in another section, however we will use  the case of the Liberators to start "Help on research:

1 - The identification of the 6 Liberators used by Arma de Aeronáutica

During 1943 and 1944 at least 6 Liberators landed in Portugal due to malfunctions or combat damage. & were used by the Arma de Aeronáutica as transport aircraft at least until 1946. As there are a lot of details still missing concerning their origin and exact identification we will present below what we know, hoping that some reader of these pages will be able to put some more light on this subject:

The 6 Liberators  used by Arma de Aeronáutica received  the serials L-1 to L-6.

From photos available, L-1 to L-4 were B-24D painted the usual olive drab above and grey below.

L-5 and L-6 seemed to be also B-24D, but anti-submarine versions with nose turret and Oklahoma depot modification (droop chin). A very good photo of this mod appears in the book “The B-24 Liberator by Allan Blue”, showing an aircraft of 479th Anti Submarine Group at St.Eval (UK) in 1943. 5 Liberators aligned for review at BA 2 Ota 1944 ? (EMFA/CAVFA via L. Tavares)

Some sources say that these last two came from either 479th or 480th Anti Submarine Groups based  at St.Eval and Port Lyautey (French Morocco).

From research, the following aircraft have been confirmed as having landed in Portugal:

 1 - B-24D-95  s/n 42-40772 Named “Scheherezade” from  (389 BG/564 BS) on August 28, 1943.

 2 - B-24J-165   s/n 44-40484 from 25 BG / 652 BS on a mission from Lajes (Azores) to UK on November 18, 1944.

3 - B-24D-100  s/n 42-40801 origin and arrival date unknown. Recorded for the first time in a Portuguese pilot logbook on March 17, 1944 as a test flight.

4 - Liberator GR.Mk.V s/n BZ730 RAF (ex- 42-40454) force landed in Lisbon after being shot up by a U-Boat on July 31,1942, (Aviation News of August 23, 1984 says summer of 1943). One engine was out of action and the ailerons were jammed. It seems the crew after landing put it to fire and succeeded in destroying the aircraft. Air- Britain records say the squadron was the 53rd, but state that the plane was later transferred to USAAF , which is at least strange, considering what is stated above. Was it really destroyed by the fire ?

Also it has been confirmed by investigation , that aircraft 41-23740 named “Red Ass” from  93 BG / 409 BS and 42-40133  from 93 BG / 328 BS ,  stated in the book  “ Liberator The Global Bomber”  as having landed in Portugal,  did not in fact land here  but  in Spanish Morocco.

So only 4 planes are identified, but was burnt by its crew, and another is a B-24J, which does not fit with the photos available!!

To help somewhat we can give flight dates collected from pilots log-books.

L-1 : Flights in August, October and November 1944
L-3 : Flights in April, August and October 1944.
L-4 : Flight in August 1944.
L-5 : Flights in August , October and November 1944
Serial unknown: August 10, 1943
240801: Test flight on March 17, 1944.

 Which were the aircraft, from which Squadrons, and when did they land in Portugal ?

2 - The same problem for the 18 Airacobras that formed the OK squadron and also landed in Lisbon  by accident :

The same problem is posed by the group of Airacobras that landed in Lisbon. The facts known are:

Two groups of Airacobras landed in Portugal due to malfunctions or loss of fuel during ferry flights from U.K. to North Africa to participate in Operation Torch.

According to the book "AIRCAM/AIRWAR - USAAF Fighters MTO 1942-45" the first group of 5 (?) aircraft landed in Lisbon Airport in December 27, 1942 and the second group of 10 aircraft in January, 15 1943.

The book "The 350th Fighter Group in the Mediterranean Campaign 2/11/42 to 2/5/45" by Schiffer Publications - 1997, also mentions  62 Airacobra aircraft of the 350th leaving UK in the beginning of January to North Africa , but 10 force landed in Portugal and 1 in Spain, 2 being lost.

On the other end the book  "The Mighty Eighth " by Roger Freeman - 1970, confirms that the 81st  Fighter Group composed by 91st, 92nd and 93rd Fighter Squadrons, and equipped with P-39D and P-400, flew from U.K. from December 23, 1943 until January 2, 1943, and 10 aircraft landed in Portugal.

"Spitfires and Hurricanes in Portugal" by M.C.Lopes  Lisbon - 1994, refers a total of 17 aircraft landed in Portugal, assuming that the missing aircraft would be the one landed in Spain and given to the Portuguese authorities by the neighbour country.

This last hypothesis does not seem  correct as stated below.

To augment the confusion the magazine Scale Aircraft Modelling of January 1998 publishes a very interesting article on the Airacobra but writing that "...the Portuguese Air Force which flew 18 interned (later purchased) P-39 which force landed in March 1942 whilst en route from UK to Tunisia to reinforce the 91st and 92nd Squadrons of the 82nd Fighter Group."!!!
We think this last piece is not correct.

Still another bit to enlarge the problem : when talking in the seventies to the Commander of  of the Airacobra squadron (Solano de Almeida), he said that more than 18 aircraft landed in Lisbon, but only 18 went to Ota, because some were lost during test flights still at Lisbon airport !

Another interesting piece of information was recently received through the Internet, from a Spanish friend and enthusiast (Javier Aranduy): the P-39 41-6921 landed in Spain in April 27, 1943, the P-400 BX339 in December 27,1942 (this must be the one mentioned above), and the P-400 BX219 in May 2, 1943, but none was sent to Portugal. All "died" in Spain never being used there.

Aviation News from August 23, 1984 publishes still other pieces taken from the Public Record Office in UK: an entry dated from March 18, 1943 says:"...The Portuguese want to buy 11 American Airacobras which landed there. This has the support of the American military authorities and a fair offer has been made". Another entry from April 26, 1943 says : "...Today we received authority to sell to Portugal, at $20,000 each 16 Airacobras and one Lightning which are intact, and to make  a gift of four crates of aircraft, two of which are not badly damaged.The Americans declined to supply spares. The offer was conditional on release of interned US airman".

Which were the planes in the crates ?? Why they were put on crates??

The Airacobras, as stated above, formed the OK Squadron at Ota in mid 1943, and flew at least until 1945. Several were lost in accidents (one crash-landed in a beach,  the engine of another seized immediately after take off, even managed  to turn back but only to crash in the ensuing landing, and another taxied on two others, scrapping the group of three).The survivors were unfortunately all scrapped, and their remains could still be seen at Ota in 1950.

How many were really received, when, and of which type (if possible with the serial numbers)?

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