The B-26 Marauder
Photo Data has been collected from many books and websites over the years. There are some fantastic WWII veteran websites out there and I have combined the information and matched the photos with the USAAF serial numbers. Because many aircraft served with several different Groups and Squadrons, during their service life.
Hence individual aircraft are often mentioned in several websites with different names and squadron and group codes. It’s often very hard to determine the order in which each aircraft served with which group and when. So what I have done, when an aircraft which severed with more than one group I used ‘+’ sign to indicate the additional units it served in. I have given preference to the last known Group to operate the aircraft or the Group which provided the most information about the particular aircraft.
With photos I have tried to identify as many planes as possible by their unique USAAF serial number then by Bombardment Group and Bombardment Squadron hence the BG & BS coding. Out of 5,266 aircraft produced I can only claim to have identified 155 aircraft by serial numbers so far. I you have any additional photo's or information of any of the aircraft featured here please email me a copy so I can make the photo and record list more complete. I am trying to create a photographic and historic database of US aircraft used during WWII. With combining the history of the various ‘veterans websites’ I hoped to get a better understanding of the unique history of each aircraft.
In doing this I hope I haven’t offended anyone. Since the USAAF records where destroyed we all need to try and combine all the information available so we can have a more accurate historical view point of each aircraft and the men who flew them. There courage and sacrifice made our world a better place and as the years roll on the historical accuracy and lack of records makes keeping track of the data harder and harder.
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Martin B-26B Marauder
The B-26B was the version of the Marauder that was built in the greatest quantity. It first appeared in May of 1942.
The B-26B differed from earlier Marauder versions in having two 0.50-inch machine guns with 1500 rpg installed in a stepped- down tail position, replacing the single hand-held gun of the earlier B-26 and B-26A. The guns were operated manually by the gunner by means of a ring and bead sight. The gunner had no seat, and usually knelt to track his targets and fire his weapons. Ammunition was fed from cartridge belts held upright on a pair of roller tracks in the aft bomb bay. Each gun was equipped with 800 rounds. The new tail position increased the overall length to 58 feet 3 inches.
The B version introduced self-sealing fuel lines and a rearrangement of various internal equipment items. The engines were switched back to R-2800-5s. The large propeller spinners were deleted. The oil cooler air scoop under the engine cowling was enlarged. Torpedo racks underneath the fuselage were fitted as factory-installed equipment. Fuel supply included two 350-gallon main fuel tanks in the wings, two 121-gallon auxiliary tanks, and up to four 250-gallon bomb bay ferry tanks, for a total capacity of 1962 gallons. Normal bomb load consisted of two 2000 lb or 1600 lb bombs, eight 500-pound, sixteen 250 lb, or thirty 100-lb bombs. Maximum short-range bombload was 5200 pounds, which was seldom carried. This could be two 1600-lb bombs plus a 2000-pound torpedo on the external rack.
Provisions were made for up to seven crew members. The bombardier sat in the transparent nose cone and operated a flexible 0.50-inch machine gun with 270 rounds. The pilot and copilot sat side by side in armored seats behind an armored front bulkhead. The navigator/radio operator sat in a compartment behind the pilots. In an emergency, these four crewmen could escape through the forward bomb bay, although the pilot and copilot had escape hatches in the upper cockpit that could be opened outward. The beam gunner manned a single gun that fired through a hatch cut into the floor of the rear fuselage. A Martin 250CE dorsal power turret was mounted on the top of the fuselage behind the bomb bay. It was equipped with two guns and 400 rpg. The turret could turn through a full 360 degrees and the elevation could be as much as 70 degrees. The tail gunner operated two 0.50-inch guns. The main entrance to the fuselage was through the nose wheel well, but pilot's escape hatches were available in the roof of the canopy.
Atarting in July of 1942, 207 factory-fresh B-26Bs (41-17645/17851) were sent to Martin's Omaha Modification Center for modifications to make them more combat-suitable. The nose Plexiglas was modified to carry a centerline-mounted flexible 0.50-inch machine gun. A fixed forward-firing 0.50-inch machine gun was installed in the lower right-hand side of the nose. The two 0.30-inch waist guns and the 0.30-inch tunnel gun were replaced by 0.50-inch guns. Provisions were made for two more 250-gallon ferry tanks in the rear bomb bay, increasing total fuel capacity to 1962 gallons and raising the ferry range to 2850 miles. The pair of air intakes located above the engine cowling were increased in size so that they could accommodate sand filters for operation in desert conditions when required. The windows on both side of the fuselage next to the radio operator were replaced by bulged windows to improve the downward view.
In August, the production block system was introduced with the advent of the B-26B-2. Unlike most other aircraft, the production block numbers on the B-26B Marauder were initially not in multiples of five. This model had the more powerful R-2800-41 engine, yielding 2000 hp for takeoff and 1600 hp at 13,500 feet. Maximum speed was up from 311 mph to 317 mph at 14,500 feet. However, weight was increased to 22,380 pounds empty, 34,000 pounds gross. A "whip" antenna for the new VHF radio was fitted on the underside of the fuselage. This antenna was fitted on all subsequent Marauder models.
The B-26B-3 introduced the R-2800-43 engine of similar power. This engine was retained throughout the remainder of the Marauder production run. This model also introduced as standard factory-installed equipment the enlarged air intakes mounted on top of the engine cowling so that sand filters could be fitted when required in desert conditions. These intakes were retrofitted to many earlier Marauders, so the presence of engine cowling intakes could not always be used as a reliable indicator of a B-26B-3.
The B-26B-4 which appeared in October 1942 had a longer nosewheel strut to increase the wing incidence and lift during takeoff. This gave the plane a distinct "nose-up" attitude when on the ground. Minor equipment changes such as a new starter, new navigation instruments and winterization gear were introduced. The last 141 of the 211 B-4s built had the light tunnel gun replaced by a pair of 0.50-inch machine guns, one firing through each of two side hatches on the bottom of the rear fuselage. This arrangement had previously been used on modified aircraft in the field, and was found suitable for introduction on the production line. These guns were mounted on extending arms swiveling from positions on the fuselage floor and fired rearwards and downwards. Each gun had 240 rounds of ammunition. In addition, many of the B-4s were fitted at the Martin Omaha center with four forward-firing 0.50-inch machine guns in blisters mounted on each side of the fuselage. The B-4 also introduced slotted flaps and mechanically-operated main undercarriage doors.
In order to reduce the alarming rate of Stateside training accidents, a decision was made to increase the wing area in order to lower the wing loading, reducing the takeoff and landing speeds. The new wing was first introduced on the B-26C production block at Omaha, and did not appear on the B-26B line at Baltimore until the introduction of the B-26B-10-MA production block, which first appeared in January of 1943. The wing span increased from 65 to 71 feet and area increased from 602 to 658 square feet. A taller fin and rudder was introduced to maintain stability with the larger wing, increasing overall height from 19 feet 10 inches to 21 feet 6 inches.
However, the advantages of the reduced wing loading were partially offset by an increase in gross weight to 38,200 pounds as the result of the fitting of additional armament. A total of twelve 0.50-inch machine guns were now carried. These comprised a flexible 0.50-inch nose gun with 270 rounds, a single fixed gun on the starboard side of the nose with 200 rounds, two "package" guns on each side of the fuselage below the cockpit with 200-250 rpg, two 0.50-inch guns in the rear dorsal turret, two 0.50-inch guns in the beam, and two 0.50 inch guns in the tail. Nevertheless, at a takeoff weight of 36,000 pounds, the takeoff run was reduced from 3150 to 2850 feet. However, the larger wing area resulted in a decrease in maximum speed from from 289 to 282 mph.
The B-26B-15-MA differed only in having the fixed oxygen system Type A-9 regulator deleted. Improved IFF equipment (SCR-595A) was also fitted.
On the B-26B-20-MA and later blocks, the hand-held twin tail guns were replaced by a power-operated Martin-Bell M6 turret, also with two 0.50-inch guns with 400 rpg. The guns were positioned below the gunner and afforded a wider field of fire. The blunt tail cone of this installation markedly altered the contours of the rear fuselage. The guns were operated by a remotely-controlled linkage, but gunners usually preferred to swing the guns manually. Provisions were made for two more 250-US gallon tanks in the aft bomb bay, bringing total fuel capacity to 1964 US gallons. Another noticeable external change was the use of a shorter-chord rudder.
Early models of the B-26 had two separate bomb bays, but the rear one was only used infrequently for light loads in the South Pacific. Eventually, the rear bomb bay racks were discontinued altogether, followed by the deletion of the rear bomb bay doors and actuating mechanisms as well. The space and weight factors had become too critical, and the space was more valuable as a gunner's station after two flexible 0.50-inch machine guns were installed in the waist window area and ammunition storage boxes were installed for the tail and waist guns. Provisions for the two rear bay tanks were deleted from the B-26B-25-MA and later blocks.
An external curved armor plate was introduced on the B-26B-30-MA, along with additinal armor in certain critical locations.
The carburetor alcohol de-icing system was deleted on the B-26B-35-MA.
The B-26B-40-MA introduced a torpedo-firing switch on the pilot's control column. Shark-nosed ailerons were fitted in 42-43310 onward.
B-26B-45-MA indroduced a ring-and-bead sight for the package guns IFF SCR-695 was provided and the new SCR-522 VHF command radio set was added. The engine fire extinguisher was reinstated. The aft bomb bay was sealed shut from this variant onward, the extra space being used for additional ammunition. The fixed forward-firing 0.50-inch gun was deleted in the middle of the production run (from 42-95979).
The B-26B-50-MA was equipped with an emergency mechanial bomb bay closing arrangement. IFF gear was revised. Lycoming propeller blades began to be fittef from 42-95942 onward.
The B-26B-55-MA replaced the D-8 bombsight with the M-series. Changes to the Martin CE 250 dorsal turret were incorporated from 42-96079 onward. The camouflage paint was discontinued from 42-96219 onward.
The last of 1883 B-26Bs was delivered at Baltimore in February of 1944. In addition, 208 B-26Bs were converted to AT-23A target tugs for the USAAF.
Serials of Martin B-26B Marauder:
41-17544/17624 Martin B-26B Marauder
Specification of Martin B-26B Marauder (B-10 to B-55):
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-43 eighteen-cylinder air-cooled radial engines with two-speed superchargers, each rated at 1920 hp for takeoff and 1490 hp at 14,300 feet. Driving Curtiss 13 foot 6 inch four-bladed propellers. Performance (at 37,000 pounds weight): Maximum speed 270 mph at sea level, 282 mph at 15,000 feet. Initial climb rate 1200 feet per minute. Service ceiling 21,700 feet. Range 1150 miles at 214 mph with 3000 lbs of bombs and 962 gallons of fuel. Ferry range 2000 miles at 195 mph with 1462 gallons or (early blocks only) 2850 miles with 1962 gallons. Take off distance to 50 feet, 3500 feet. Landing distance from 50 feet, 2900 feet. Weights: 24,000 pounds empty, 37,000 pounds combat. Fuel: The main fuel tanks are carried in the wings. Three main self-sealing tanks are installed in the wing inboard of the nacelles. Two auxiliary tanks are installed in the wings outboard of the nacelles. Long-range ferry tanks can be carried in the bomb bay. Dimensions: Wingspan 71 feet 0 inches, length 58 feet 3 inches, height 21 feet 6 inches, wing area 658 square feet. Armament: Eleven 0.50-inch Colt-Browning machine guns. One in flexible nose position, four in blister packs on sides of fuselage, two in dorsal turret, two in tail turret, two in waist positions (one on each side of the fuselage aft of the turret). The internal bomb bay had maximum accommodation for two 2000-pound bombs or four 2000-pound bombs, the latter being carried in pairs one above each other on each side of the central catwalk.
1. Famous Bombers of the Second World War, William Green, Doubleday, 1959.
The Martin B-26 Marauder was a World War II twin-engine medium bomber built by the Glenn L. Martin Company.
The first US medium bomber used in the Pacific Theater in early 1942, it was also used in the Mediterranean Theater and in Western Europe. The plane distinguished itself as "the chief bombardment weapon on the Western Front" according to an United States Army Air Forces dispatch from 1946, and later variants maintained the lowest loss record of any combat aircraft during World War II. Its late-war loss record stands in sharp contrast to its unofficial nickname "The Widowmaker" — earned due to early models' high rate of accidents during takeoff.
A total of 5,288 were produced between February 1941 and March 1945; 522 of these were flown by the Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force.
Design and development
In March 1939, the United States Army Air Corps issued Circular Proposal 39-640, a specification for a twin-engined medium bomber. Six months later, Glenn L. Martin Company was awarded a contract for 201 planes. This design, Martin Model 179, was accepted for production before a prototype even flew. The B-26 went from paper concept to working plane in approximately two years. The lead designer was Peyton M. Magruder.
Once the first aircraft came off the production line in November 1940, Martin conducted tests, the results of which were promising. The first B-26, with Martin test pilot William K. "Ken" Ebel at the controls, flew on 25 November 1940 and was effectively the prototype. Deliveries to the U.S. Army Air Corps began in February 1941 with the second plane, 40-1362. In March 1941, the Army Air Corps started Accelerated Service Testing of the B-26 at Patterson Field, Ohio.
The Martin electric turret was retrofitted to some of the first B-26s. Martin began testing a taller vertical stabilizer and revised tail gunner's position in 1941.
While the B-26 was a fast plane with better performance than the contemporary B-25 Mitchell, its relatively small wing area and resulting high wing loading (the highest of any aircraft used at that time) required an unprecedented landing speed (120-135 mph/193-217 km/h indicated airspeed depending on load). At least two of the earliest B-26s suffered hard landings and damage to the main landing gear, engine mounts, propellers and fuselage. The type was grounded briefly in April 1941 to investigate the landing difficulties. Two causes were found: insufficient landing speed (producing a stall) and improper weight distribution. The latter was due to the lack of a dorsal turret; the Martin power turret was not ready yet.
Some of the very earliest B-26s suffered collapses of the nose landing gear. It is said that they were caused by improper weight distribution but that is probably not the only reason. They occurred during low-speed taxiing, takeoffs and landings. Occasionally the strut unlocked.
The Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines were reliable but the Curtiss electric pitch change mechanism in the propellers required impeccable maintenance. Human error and some failures of the mechanism occasionally placed the propeller blades in flat pitch and resulted in an overspeeding propeller, sometimes known as a "runaway prop". Due to its sound and the possibility that the propeller blades could disintegrate, this situation was particularly frightening for aircrews. More challenging was a loss of power in one engine during takeoff. These and other malfunctions, as well as human error, claimed a number of planes and the commanding officer of the 22nd Bombardment Group, Col. Mark Lewis.
The Martin B-26 suffered only two fatal accidents during its first year of flights, November 1940-November 1941: a crash shortly after takeoff near Martin's Middle River plant (cause unknown but engine malfunction strongly suggested) and the loss of a 38th Bombardment Group plane when its vertical stabilizer and rudder separated from the plane at altitude (cause unknown, but accident report discussed the possibility that a canopy hatch broke off and struck the vertical stabilizer).
The B-26 was not an airplane for novices. Unfortunately, due to the need to quickly train many pilots for the war, a number of relatively inexperienced pilots got into the cockpit and the accident rate increased accordingly. This occurred at the same time as more experienced B-26 pilots of the 22nd, 38th and 42nd Bombardment Groups were proving the merits of the airplane.
For a time in 1942, pilots in training believed that the B-26 could not be flown on one engine. This was disproved by a number of experienced pilots, including Jimmy Doolittle.
In 1942, Senator Harry Truman was a leading member of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program (the so-called Truman Committee), which was investigating defense contracting abuses. When Truman and other committee members arrived at the Avon Park Army Air Field in Florida, they were greeted by the still-burning wreckage of two crashed B-26s. Truman criticized both Glenn L. Martin and the B-26. Indeed, the regularity of crashes by pilots training at nearby MacDill Field—up to fifteen in one 30-day period—led to the only mildly exaggerated catchphrase, "One a day in Tampa Bay."
The B-26 received the nickname "Widowmaker". Other colorful nicknames included "Martin Murderer", "Flying Coffin", "B-Dash-Crash", "Flying Prostitute" (so-named because it had "no visible means of support," referring to its small wings) and "Baltimore Whore" (a reference to the city where Martin was based).
The B-26 is said to have had the lowest combat loss rate of any U.S. aircraft used during the war. Nevertheless, it remained a challenging plane to fly and continued to be unpopular with some pilots throughout its military career.
The B-26 Marauder was used mostly in Europe but also saw action in the Mediterranean and the Pacific. In early combat the aircraft took heavy losses but was still one of the most successful medium-range bombers used by the U.S. Army Air Forces.
In September 1940, the Army Air Corps ordered 1,131 B-26s. The airplane began flying combat missions in the Southwest Pacific in the spring of 1942, but most of the B-26s subsequently assigned to operational theaters were sent to England and the Mediterranean area.
Bombing from medium altitudes of 10,000-15,000 ft (3,048-4,572 m), the Marauder had the lowest loss rate of any Allied bomber - less than ½%. By the end of World War II, it had flown more than 110,000 sorties and had dropped 150,000 tons (136,078 tonnes) of bombs, and had been used in combat by British, Free French and South African forces in addition to U.S. units. In 1945, when B-26 production was halted, 5,266 had been built.
The B-26 was phased out of US Army Air Forces service before the end of the war. Its last mission was flown in May 1945. According to an article in the April edition of AOPA Pilot on Kermit Weeks' "Fantasy of Flight", the Marauder had a tendency to "hunt" in yaw. This instability is similar to "Dutch roll". This would make for a very uncomfortable ride, especially for the tail gunner.
* B-26 - The first produced model of the B-26, ordered based upon design alone. The armament on this model consisted of two 0.3 inches (7.62 mm) and two 0.5 inches (12.7 mm) machine guns. (The last model was armed with nearly three times that number.) Approximate pcost then: $80,226.80/plane.
* B-26B, part of the Fantasy of Flight collection in Polk City, Florida.
Data from Quest for Performance and Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II
* Crew: 7: (2 pilots, bombardier, navigator/radio operator, 3 gunners)
* Maximum speed: 287 mph (250 knots, 460 km/h) at 5,000 feet (1,500 m)
* Guns: 12 × .50 in (12.7 mm) Browning machine guns
On February 22, 1941, the first four Martin B-26s were accepted by the USAAF. First to use the B-26 was the 22nd Bombardment Group (Medium) based at Langley Field, Virginia. The new B-26s replaced the Douglas B-18s that were formerly operated by this unit. The fact that the B-26 weighed two and one half times as much as the B-18 and had a landing speed that was 50 percent higher caused lots of problems for the 22nd BG. A series of failures of the front wheel strut resulted in a delay in bringing the B-26 to full operational status. Although the forward landing gear strut was strengthened in an attempt to correct this problem, the true cause was ultimately traced to an improper weight distribution. The manufacturer had been forced to deliver the first few B-26s to the Army without guns, and had trimmed these planes for delivery flights by carefully loading service tools and spare parts as ballast. When the Army took the planes over, they removed the ballast without replacement and the resultant forward movement of the center of gravity had multiplied the loads on the nosewheel, causing the accidents. The installation of the guns corrected the problem.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the 22nd Bombardment Group was transferred to California to fly coastal patrols in case the Japanese fleet attempted to raid the American mainland. In February of 1942, the 22nd BG was ordered to Australia. The 22nd Bombardment Group's Marauders were disassembled and loaded aboard ships and left San Francisco on February 6, 1942 bound for Hawaii. The B-26s were unloaded and reassembled at Hickam Field and then flew sea patrol duty until they were fitted with bomb bay ferry tanks and flown to Brisbane where they were based at Amberley Field under the command of Lt. Gen. George H. Brett. By March 22, the first flight of B-26s had arrived in Australia.
Subsequently, the 22nd BG moved northward to bases at Townsville. The B-26 first entered combat on April 5, 1942, when the 22nd Group took off from from Townsville, refuelled at Port Moresby, and then attacked Japanese facilities at Rabaul. Each B-26 had a 250-gallon bomb bay and carried a 2000- pound bombload.
On these missions, the B-26s took off from the mainland loaded with bombs, landed at Port Moresby to be refueled, then taking off again for targets in New Guinea. Targets were attacked with small formations of from two to six aircraft. The aircraft generally carried four 500-pound or twenty 100-pound bombs, which they dropped from medium altitudes of 10,000 to 15,000 feet. Generally, no fighter escort was available and the Marauders were on their own if they encountered enemy fighters. There were two groups equipped with B-26s in this theatre, the 22nd and 38th, with two squadrons of the 38th Bombardment Group (69th and 70th) equipped with B-26s.
In this series of attacks on Japanese-held facilities in the East Indies, the B-26s gained a reputation for speed and ruggedness against strong opposition from Japanese Zero fighters. Attacks on Rabaul ended on May 24, after 80 sorties had flown.
A series of unescorted raids were made on Japanese installations in the Lae area. These raids were vigorously opposed by Zero fighters. In the 84 sorties flown against Lae between April 24 and July 4, 1942, three Marauders were lost.
Elements of the 22nd Group which had been left behind in the US were used to activate the 21st Bombardment Group at Jackson Army Air Base in Mississippi. The 21st would eventually be moved to MacDill Field, Florida to serve as a B-26 OTU.
The Marauder could carry an 18-inch 2000-pound torpedo slung on an external rack underneath the fuselage. On the ground, the torpedo only cleared the ground by about four inches when taxiing. In June, the B-26A made its debut as a torpedo bomber, being used against Japanese warships during the Battle of Midway. Four Marauders were equipped with external torpedo racks underneath the keel and took off on June 4, 1942 in an attempt to attack Japanese carriers. The torpedo runs began at 800 feet altitude, the B-26s then dropping down to only ten feet above the water under heavy attack from Japanese fighters. Two of the Marauders were lost in this action, and the other two were heavily damaged. No hits were made on the Japanese carriers. The B-26 was much too large an aircraft for this type of attack.
After numerous frontal attacks by enemy fighters, it was decided to fit Marauders with additional guns in the nose. A 0.50-inch gun replaced the former 0.30-inch weapon and a pair of flexible 0.30-inch guns were installed on each side of the nose bubble. However, these extra guns caused the bombardier to bump his head for lack of space and were eventually removed.
After the Battle of Midway, it was concluded that additional forward-firing armament was needed. In the field, several B-26s were fitted with an additional 0.50-inch machine gun mounted on each side of the fuselage on each side of the fuselage just aft of the nosewheel well to be fired by the pilot. At first, no streamlined pod was fitted over the gun. This extra armament was eventually introduced on the B-26B production line.
As the Allies pushed northward in the South Pacific, temporary airfields had to be cut out of the jungle and these runways were generally fairly short. The North American B-25 Mitchell had a shorter takeoff run than the B-26, and it began to take over the medium bomber duties in that theatre. Although it was admitted that the B-26 could take greater punishment, was defensively superior, and could fly faster with a heavier bomb load, the B-25 had better short-field characteristics, good sortie rate, and minimal maintenance requirements. In addition, the B-25 was considerably easier to manufacture and had suffered from fewer developmental problems. At this time, there were more B-25s available for South Pacific duty because it had been decided to send them to the Mediterranean but not to the European theatre. Consequently, it was decided to adopt the B-25 as the standard medium bomber for the entire Pacific theatre, and to use the B-26 exclusively in the Mediterranean and European theatres.
Three of the 22nd Bombardment Group's squadrons switched over to to the B-25 between January and October of 1943, leaving only the 19th Squadron with the Marauder. Eventually, all medium bomber groups in the South Pacific were equipped with the B-25. Some of the B-26 crewmembers stayed with the B-25s when the changeovers took place, some were sent back stateside to aid in the instruction of new B-26 crews, and some went to North Africa for another tour with B-26s. A dwindling number of B-26s would remain in the Pacific for a few more months. The last mission flown by B-26s in the South Pacific was on January 9, 1944.
The following Marauder groups served in the Pacific theatre with the 5th Air Force:
22nd Bombardment Group (Medium). 2nd, 19th, 33rd, and 408th BS. Used B-26s until Oct 1943 when B-25s were added. Re-equipped with B-24s in Feb 1944 and redesignated 22nd Bombardment Group (Heavy) 38th Bombardment Group (Medium). 69th, 70th, 71st, 405th, 822nd, and 823rd BS. Activated Jan 15, 1941 with B-18, B-25, and B-26 aircraft. Assigned to 5th AF and equipped with B-25s.
The 28th Composite Group in the Alaskan Air Command of the 11th Air Force was formed in 1941 with one heavy bombardment squadron, two medium bombardment squadrons, and one fighter squadron. The 11th Bombardment Squadron left for Elmendorf Field with 14 B-26s during January of 1942. They carried out numerous raids against Japanese forces involved in the Aleutian campaign. However, in early 1943, the Marauders were withdrawn from the Alaskan theatre, being replaced by B-25s.
The first Marauder group to cross the Atlantic was the 319th, which had moved to Shipdham in England in September of 1942. It moved to Algeria in November. It was soon joined by the 17th Group, which had converted to Marauders from Mitchells in September of 1942. Beginning in November of 1942, the USAAF sent three Marauder-equipped groups (the 17th, the 319th, and the 320th Bombardment Groups) to North Africa, where they were assigned to the 12th Air Force. The 319th Bomb Group was first to become operational, flying its first mission on December 30, 1942, a flight over Tunis. The 320th Bombardment Group entered combat in April of 1943 with the 12th Air Force.
In late December, General Doolittle had ordered the B-26 units under his command to operate at medium altitudes (around 10,000 feet) on all but sea sweeps against enemy shipping. The 319th was equipped with D-8 bombsights, so the few missions it did fly at medium altitudes before being equipped with Norden bombsights were not very successful. The aircraft of the 17th Group left for Africa equipped with the Norden, and later on the 320th would also come over with one out every four of its planes being equipped with a Norden. The D-8 was good enough for low-altitude work, but at medium and high altitudes the Norden was required. Generally, only the leader of each flight carried the Norden, with the remainder dropping their bombs when the leader dropped USAAF Marauders were particularly effective during the latter stages of the Tunisian campaign, when their heavy armament, high speed, and long range enabled them to intercept Me 323 and Ju 52/3m transports far out over the Mediterranean, shooting them down in droves and cutting off attempts to evacuate the defeated German forces.
As German fighter opposition declined, the Marauder crews in the Mediterranean began removing the four package guns. Sometimes the entire installation was removed, while other removed only the guns, leaving the pod housings intact.
In May of 1943, after the North African campaign was over, a comparison was made between B-25 and B-26 operational statistics. Even though there had been more B-26s in the theatre than B-25s, the figures were as follows: B-25 B-26 Total Sorties Flown 2689 1587 Losses 65 80 Percentage loss per sortie 2.4 5.00 Percentage aborts 3.0 12.0
The B-26 did not look good in comparison to the B-25, and for a third time, serious thought was given to discontinuance of the Marauder. However, improved Marauder performance during the Italian campaign and in the ETO saved the plane. As part of the Ninth Air Force, these Marauder-equipped groups followed the Allied forces from North Africa through Sicily to Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, and into the south of France, and eventually into Germany as the war came to an end.
The following B-26 Groups were active in the Mediterranean theatre with the 12th Air Force:
17th Bombardment Group. 34th, 37th, 95th, 432nd BS. Converted from B-25s to B-26s summer 1942. Assigned initially to 12th AF, then to 15th AF Nov 1943 and again to 12th AF Jan 1944.
319th Bombardment Group (Medium). 437th, 438th, 439th, and 440th BS. Operated with Twelfth AF until Jan 1945, except for a brief assignment to Fifteenth, Nov 1943-Jan 1944. Converted to B-25 Nov 1944.
320th Bombardment Group (Medium) Jun 19, 1942 to December 4, 1945. 441, 442, 443, and 444th BS. Assigned to 12th Air Force
It was to be in the European theatre where the Marauder was to achieve its greatest success. In the United Kingdom, the Marauder formed the basis of the medium bomber forces of the Eighth Air Force. The first B-26s arrived in the United Kingdom in February of 1943. They were to be used in low-level missions against German military targets on the Continent. These B-26Bs were not equipped with the Norden bombsight, but carried instead a modified N-6 gunsight mounted in the cockpit for the copilot to use in releasing the bombs. The first operational raid took place on On May 14, 1943. Flying through heavy flak at altitudes of 100 to 300 feet, Marauders from the 322nd Bombardment Group dropped a group 500-pound delayed-fuse bombs on the Velsen generating station at Ijmuiden in the Netherlands. All planes returned safely to base. However, the delayed fuse bombs which allowed Dutch workmen to escape also gave the Germans enough time to defuse or remove them. It is probable that the 322nd only escaped the attention of Luftwaffe fighters because of a battle taking place elsewhere with 8th Air Force heavy bombers.
On May 17, 1943, eleven Marauders returned at low level to attack German installations at Ijmuiden and Haarlem in the Netherlands. This time the Luftwaffe was ready, and the raid was a disaster, with all but one aircraft (which had aborted due to an electrical failure) being shot down by flak and fighters.
The disastrous raid at Ijmuiden proved that the B-26 was totally unsuited for low-level operations over Europe, where enemy flak was heavy and accurate and enemy fighters were numerous and particularly effective. After the Ijmuiden raid, low-level operations by Marauders over Europe were discontinued, and for a fourth time thought was given to withdrawing the type from combat. In the meantime, the B-26 equipped units stood down to retrain for attacks against strategic targets from medium altitudes (10,000-14,000 feet) with heavy fighter escort.
In July of 1943, some consideration was given to adapting the B-26 as a escort fighter for the Flying Fortress heavy bombers of the 8th Air Force which were at that time experiencing heavy losses to German fighters. This suggestion was immediately dropped, since the Marauder had an entirely different performance envelope from the Fortress and in addition had proven that it was itself unable to survive without fighter escort in hostile European skies.
The B-26 did not return to action over Europe until July 17, 1943. This time, the B-26 was more successful in its new role of medium-altitude bombing, and proposals to withdraw the Marauder from combat over Europe were quietly shelved. Marauders developed tight formation flying tactics to ensure a close pattern of bombs on the target and to protect themselves against fighter attacks. Because of the tremendous concentration of defensive firepower that the B-26 offered, the Luftwaffe was reluctant to press home attacks on Marauder formations. However, in the European theatre fighter escort was absolutely essential to defend against determined German fighter attacks. The German 88-mm antiaircraft guns were most accurate at the altitudes at which the Marauder normally operated, and it was determined that a straight and level flight for as little as 30 seconds gave the German radar gun detectors sufficient time to track the formation and place shots right in its midst. Consequently, evasive actions every 15 or 20 seconds was absolutely necessary to minimize flak losses. However, once committed to the bomb run, there was no evasive action possible and runs of 25 seconds or longer were considered quite dangerous.
Medium-altitude pinpoint bombing became routine with the Marauders of the 9th Air Force. Prior to D-Day, typical targets were bridges, airfields, railroad marshaling yards, gun positions, ammunition and oil storage dumps, and V-1 flying bomb sites. In November of 1943, all Eighth Air Force B-26 groups were transferred to the re-formed Ninth Air Force. By May of 1944, the 9th Air Force had eight B-26 groups.
The groups which prepared the way for the invasion of Normandy were the 322nd, 3234d, 344th, 386th, 387th, 391st, 394th, and 397th Bombardment Groups. The 335th and 336th Bombardment Groups were replacement training units based back in the States until they were disbanded in May of 1944.
A few Marauders were converted for Pathfinder missions for bad weather actions. These planes were equipped to work with the OBOE system, which consisted of a series of ground transmission stations which broadcasted narrow radio beams which directed the aircraft to their targets during those times when the weather was so bad that the ground could not be seen. It was arranged that beams from two separate stations would intersect immediately over the target. The receiver aboard the aircraft transmitted a tone to the pilot in the form of a Morse code E if he was to the left of course and a T when he was to the right. A steady hum was heard when he was on course. A separate panel on the pilot's instrument panel (which was duplicated at the bombardier's position) directed when the bombs should be dropped. The system had a CEP of only 300 feet. OBOE-equipped B-26s could be distinguished by by the presence of an antenna which consisted of a plexiglas tube sticking out of the belly just forward of the waist windows. The OBOE system was mostly of British design and was of course highly classified. When Pathfinder Marauders were parked on their airfields, there was always an armed guard posted, and there was a destruct mechanism installed to prevent the system from falling into enemy hands. The system was still in its infancy during the war, and the slightest malfunction in any portion of the equipment would usually cause the entire mission to be scrubbed.
Soon after V-E Day, some B-26 groups were demobilized, but others moved to Germany to serve with the occupation forces.
The following Bombardment Groups flew the B-26 Marauder with the 9th AF in the European theatre:
322nd Bombardment Group (Medium): May 14, 1943 to April 24, 1945. 449, 450, 451, 452nd BS. Assigned to 8th Air Force, but reassigned to 9th Air Force in Oct 1943.
323rd Bombardment Group (Medium) : July 16, 1943 to April 25, 1945. Reassigned to 9th AF Oct 1943.
344th Bombardment Group (Medium): March 6, 1944 to April 25, 1945. 494th, 495th, 496th, and 497th BS. Served with 9th Air Force.
386th Bombardment Group (Medium): June 20, 1943 to May 3, 1945. 552, 553, 554 and 555th BS. Reassigned to 9th AF Oct 1943.
387th Bombardment Group (Medium) : June 30, 1943 to April 19, 1945. 556, 557, 558th and 559th BS. Reassigned to 9th AF Oct 1943
391st Bombardment Group (Medium): February 15, 1944 to May 3, 1945 . 572, 573, 574, and 575 th BS. Assigned to 9th AF.
394th Bombardment Group: March 23, 1944 to April 20, 1945. 584, 585, 586 and 587th BS. Assigned to 9th AF
397th Bombardment Group: April 20, 1944 to April 20, 1945. 596, 597, 598, and 599th BS. Assigned to 9th AF
After the war in Europe was over, most of the Marauder-equipped units were quickly disbanded and their planes were scrapped. In the late fall of 1945, all of some 500 Marauders operating in the ETO were ferried to a disposal site near Landsberg, Germany where they were all scrapped. In the fall of 1945, a gigantic aircraft disposal operation began at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas and handled the disposal of nearly 1000 surplus USAAF Marauders In the beginning, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation handled the disposal task, but this was later taken over by the General Services Administration. The surplus aircraft were first offered for sale and many were bought by France, China, and South American countries for military or airline use. The remainder were scrapped.
A few Marauders were sold on the commercial market and were converted as executive transports.
Because of the massive scrapping effort immediately after the war, very few Marauders survive today. I am aware of only three Marauders that are still in existence today.
Flak Bait, a B-26 serial number 41-31773 of the 449th Squadron of the 322nd Bombardment Group was the first Allied bomber in the ETO to fly 200 combat sorties. Its nose section is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. The rest of the plane is presumably somewhere in storage within the Paul Garber restoration facility at Suitland, Maryland.
B-26G-10 serial number 43-34581 was given to the French Air Force during World War 2. After the war, it went into storage at Mont de Marsan. In 1951, it was turned over to Air France as a ground-based aircraft for use in training mechanics. In 1965, 43-34581 was donated to the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, where it is currently displayed painted as a 387th Bombardment Group B-26B-50 serial number 42-95857.
On January 3, 1942, three B-26 Marauders of the 77th BS were forced to crash-land in British Columbia while in transit to Alaska. The crewmen were all rescued, but the aircraft were forced to remain. In 1971, an expedition was mounted to recover these planes, headed by David C. Tallichet, president of the Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation, a subsidiary of Specialty Restaurants Corporation. which was based in Chino, California. The three Marauders were dismantled and flown out by helicopter. Once back in Chino, the best airframe of the three (40-1459) was restored to flying condition, using parts scavenged from the other two. It took to the air for the first time in July of 1992. In 1996, the plane was sold to Kermit Weeks of Kissimmee, Florida, and it now carries the civilian registration N4297J.
B-26C-20-MO serial number 41-35071 had been delivered to the USAAF on May 24, 1943. Following the end of the war, it was purchased from the Walnut Ridge disposal operation by a commercial operator. It went through a succession of operators, including the Tennessee Gas Corporation which converted it as an executive transport. In 1967, the Confederate Air Force bought the plane and attempted to restore it to flying condition, no mean feat since no structural B-26 parts were then available anywhere in the world and all B-26 engineering and production data had been destroyed in a fire at Martin's Baltimore plant. Restoration began in 1976, but progress was slow since most needed components had to be made by hand. The first flight did not take place until 1984. The aircraft was named Carolyn in honor of a generous contributor, and carried the civilian registration number N5546N. It was a popular participant in Confederate Air Force shows. Tragically, Carolyn crashed near Midland, Texas on September 28, 1995, killing all five people onboard.
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