Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom tour to highlight B-24′s new paint scheme

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Collings Foundation will debut a new color scheme for its B-24 Liberator.

The B-24, which joins the foundation’s B-17 Flying Fortress on the Wings of Freedom Tour this spring and summer, is being repainted to represent one of the most famous B-24′s ever flown: the Ford Motors-produced B-24 “Witchcraft,” flown by the 467th Bomb Group in the 8th Air Force out of Rackheath, England, in 1944.

The history of “Witchcraft” is the stuff that legends are made from. The original “Witchcraft” was produced as a B-24H by Ford at the famous Willow Run, Mich., plant in 1944. Its first combat mission was April 10, 1944. Over the next year, “Witchcraft” flew an incredible 130 combat missions with various crews. It was never once turned back while on a mission, and never had any crewmen injured or killed. Her last mission was April 25, 1945, which also was the last mission flown by the 467th Bomb Group.

After the war, she returned to the United States and, like many other B-24s, was scrapped at the surplus depot in Altus, Okla.

As the operator of the sole flyable combat-configured B-24 Liberator, the Collings Foundation has always felt a tremendous responsibility to represent the crews, groups and squadrons who flew aboard the most-produced U.S.-built aircraft ever, according to foundation officials. Starting its new life in 1989 as “All American,” a 15th Air Force aircraft that flew in Italy with the 461st Bomb Group, the B-24 flew for many years with this scheme. In 1998, it was repainted to represent the “Dragon and His Tail,” a 5th Air Force B-24 flying in the Pacific Theater with the 43rd Bomb Group. In its new scheme as “Witchcraft,” the B-24 honors the veterans of the 8th Air Force, who flew in the European Theater during World War II.

The rebirth of “Witchcraft” was no small task, officials said. The 110-foot wingspan makes it difficult to find appropriate facilities to repaint the aircraft, and the large amount of surface area makes it a long and expensive process, they said. TIMCO Aviation Services of Lake City, Fla., is handling the project. Hentzen Coatings, Inc. of Milwaukee, Wis., donated the military-specification paint. After the basic repaint is completed, the B-24 will be detailed with nose art and markings by American Aero Services of New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

“Witchcraft” will join the Wings of Freedom Tour March 21 in Tallahassee. The tour will make its way through the South, then on to the Southwest, then California and up the coast to Seattle. For a complete list of dates and locations, go to CollingsFoundation.org.

Each stop along the tour allows visitors the opportunity to explore the B-17 and B-24 inside and out. The aircraft retain the original equipment they carried during the war.

Walkthrough tours are available for a donation of $8 for adults and $4 for children under 12.

Visitors also can fly aboard the aircraft. Flights are a tax-deductible donation of $400 per person. All donations go to the upkeep and maintenance of the two airplanes.

For reservations, call 800-568-8924.

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