The B-26 Marauder
The B-26 Marauder
National origin:- United States Role:- Medium bomber Manufacturer:- Glenn L. Martin Company Designer:- produced by a team led by Peyton M. Magruder First flight:- 25th November 1940 Introduction:- 1941; Retired:- Status Retired Primary users:- United States Army Air Forces, Free French Air Force, Royal Air Force, South African Air Force Produced:- between 1941–1945 Number built:- 5,288 Unit cost:- $102,659.33/B-26A Development:- into XB-33 Super Marauder (Unbuilt)
Specifications Martin B-26 Marauder
General characteristics Crew: 7: (2 pilots, bombardier/radio operator, navigator/radio operator, 3 gunners) Length: 58 ft 3 in (17.8 m) Wingspan: 71 ft 0 in (21.65 m) Height: 21 ft 6 in (6.55 m) Wing area: 658 ft2 (61.1 m2) Airfoil: NACA 2213 (root) NACA 2209.4 (tip) Empty weight: 24,000 lb (11,000 kg) Loaded weight: 37,000 lb (17,000 kg) Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-43 radial engines, 2,000–2,200 hp (1,491 kW) each Performance Maximum speed: 287 mph (250 knots, 460 km/h) at 5,000 feet (1,500 m) Cruise speed: 216 mph (188 knots, 358 km/h) Landing speed: 114 mph (90 knots, 167 km/h)) Combat radius: 1,150 mi (999 nmi, 1,850 km) Ferry range: 2,850 mi (2,480 nmi, 4,590 km) Service ceiling: 21,000 ft (6,400 m) Wing loading: 46.4 lb/ft² (228 kg/m²) Power/mass: 0.10 hp/lb (170 W/kg) Armament Guns: Guns: 12 × .50 in (12.7 mm) Browning machine guns Bombs: 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg)
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.
The B-26 was initially deployed on combat missions in the South West 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.
By the end of World War II, it had flown more than 110,000 sorties, 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 US units. In 1945, when B-26 production was halted, 5,266 had been built
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.
Martin B-26B Marauder
The Martin B-26 Marauder was an American World War II twin-engined medium bomber built by the Glenn L. Martin Company in Middle River, Maryland (just east of Baltimore) from 1941 to 1945. First used in the Pacific Theater in early 1942, it was also used in the Mediterranean Theater and in Western Europe.
After entering service with the United States Army aviation units, the aircraft received the reputation of a "Widowmaker" due to the early models' high accident rate during takeoffs and landings. The Marauder had to be flown at exact airspeeds, particularly on final runway approach and when one engine was out. The 150 mph (241 km/h) speed on short final runway approach was intimidating to pilots who were used to much slower speeds, and whenever they slowed down to speeds below what the manual stated, the aircraft would stall and crash.
The B-26 became a safer aircraft once crews were re-trained, and after aerodynamics modifications (an increase of wingspan and wing angle-of-incidence to give better takeoff performance, and a larger vertical stabilizer and rudder). After aerodynamic and design changes, the aircraft distinguished itself as "the chief bombardment weapon on the Western Front" according to a United States Army Air Forces dispatch from 1946. The Marauder ended World War II with the lowest loss rate of any USAAF bomber.
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. By the time the United States Air Force was created as an independent military service separate from the United States Army in 1947, all Martin B-26s had been retired from U.S. service. The Douglas A-26 Invader then assumed the "B-26" designation — before officially returning to the earlier "A for Attack" designation in May 1966.
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 with a maximum speed of 350 mph (560 km/h), a range of 3,000 mi (4,800 km) and a bomb load of 2,000 lb (910 kg). On 5 July 1939, the Glenn L. Martin Company submitted its design, produced by a team led by Peyton M. Magruder, to meet the requirement, the Martin Model 179. Martin's design was evaluated as superior to the other proposals and was awarded a contract for 201 aircraft, to be designated B-26. The B-26 went from paper concept to an operational bomber in approximately two years. Additional orders for a further 930 B-26s followed in September 1940, still prior to the first flight of the type.
The B-26 was a shoulder-winged monoplane of all-metal construction, fitted with a tricycle landing gear. It had a streamlined, circular section fuselage housing the crew, consisting of a bombardier in the nose, armed with a .30 in (7.62 mm) machine gun, a pilot and co-pilot sitting side by side, with positions for the radio operator and navigator behind the pilots. A gunner manned a dorsal turret armed with two .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns (the first powered dorsal turret to be fitted to a U.S. bomber), while an additional .30 in (7.62 mm) machine gun was fitted in the tail.
Two bomb bays were fitted mid-fuselage, capable of carrying 5,800 lb (2,600 kg) of bombs, although in practice such a bomb load reduced range too much, and the aft bomb bay was usually fitted with additional fuel tanks instead of bombs. The aircraft was powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engines in nacelles slung under the wing, driving four-bladed propellers. The engines were manufactured at the Ford Dearborn Engine plant in Dearborn, Michigan, USA. The wings were of low aspect ratio and relatively small in area for an aircraft of its weight, giving the required high performance, but also resulting in a wing loading of 53 lb/sq ft (259 kg/m²) for the initial versions, which at the time was the highest of any aircraft accepted for service by the Army Air Corps.
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 aircraft, 40-1362. In March 1941, the Army Air Corps started Accelerated Service Testing of the B-26 at Patterson Field, near Dayton, Ohio.
The B-26 relatively small wing area and resulting high wing loading required a high landing speed of 120 to 135 mph (193 to 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 yet ready.
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 not likely to have been the only reason. The incidents occurred during low-speed taxiing, takeoffs and landings, and occasionally the strut unlocked. Later the Martin electric dorsal turret was retrofitted to some of the first B-26s. Martin also began testing a taller vertical stabilizer and revised tail gunner's position in 1941.
The Pratt & Whitney R-2800-5 engines were reliable, but the Curtiss electric pitch change mechanism in the propellers required impeccable maintenance, not always attainable in the field. Human error and some failures of the mechanism occasionally placed the propeller blades in flat pitch resulting 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 aircraft and the commanding officer of the 22nd Bombardment Group, Colonel Mark Lewis.
The Martin B-26 suffered only two fatal accidents during its first year of flight, from November 1940 to November 1941: a crash shortly after takeoff near Martin's Middle River plant in Maryland (cause unknown, but engine malfunction strongly suggested) and the loss of a 38th Bombardment Group B-26 when its vertical stabilizer and rudder separated from the aircraft at altitude (cause unknown, but the accident report discussed the possibility that a canopy hatch broke off and struck the vertical stabilizer).
Due to the need for training many pilots quickly for the war, a number of relatively inexperienced pilots entered 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 bomber.
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 Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, who flew demonstration flights at MacDill Army Air Field, which featured take offs and landings with only one engine.
In 1942, aviation pioneer and company founder Glenn L. Martin was called before the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, (or also known as the "Truman Committee"), which was investigating defense contracting abuses. Senator Harry S Truman of Missouri, the committee chairman (and future Vice President and 33rd President of the United States in 1945-1952), asked Martin why the B-26 had issues. Martin responded that the wings were too short. Senator Truman curtly asked why the wings were not changed?. When Martin replied that the plans were too far along and besides, his company already had the contract, Truman's testy response was quick and to the point: In that case, the contract would be canceled. Martin quickly said corrections to the wings would be made immediately. (By February 1943, the newest model aircraft, the B-26B-10, had an additional 6 feet (1.8 m) of wingspan, plus uprated engines, more armor and larger guns.)
Indeed, the regularity of crashes by pilots training at MacDill Field — up to 15 in one 30-day period — led to the exaggerated catchphrase, "One a day in Tampa Bay." Apart from accidents occurring over land, 13 Marauders ditched in Tampa Bay in the 14 months between the first airplane on 5 August 1942 to the final one on 8 October 1943.
B-26 crews gave the aircraft the nickname "Widowmaker". Other colorful nicknames included "Martin Murderer", "Flying Coffin", "B-Dash-Crash", "Flying Prostitute" (so-named because it was so fast and had "no visible means of support," referring to its small wings) and "Baltimore Whore" (a reference to the city where Martin was based).
According to an article in the April 2009 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.
The B-26 is stated by the 9th Air Force to have had the lowest combat loss rate of any US aircraft used during the war. Nevertheless, it remained a challenging aircraft to fly and continued to be unpopular with some pilots throughout its military career. In 1944, in answer to many pilots complaining to the press and their relatives back home, the USAAF and Martin took the unusual step during war, of commissioning large articles to be placed in various popular publications, "educating" and defending the so-called flying/accident record of the B-26 against "slanders". One of the largest of these articles was in the May 1944 issue of Popular Mechanics.
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 US Army Air Forces. The B-26 was initially deployed on combat missions in the South West 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.
By the end of World War II, it had flown more than 110,000 sorties, 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 US units. In 1945, when B-26 production was halted, 5,266 had been built.
The B-26 began to equip the 22nd Bombardment Group at Langley Field, Virginia, in February 1941, replacing the Douglas B-18 Bolo, with a further two groups, the 38th and 28th, beginning to equip with the B-26 by December 1941. Immediately following the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, the 22nd BG was deployed to the South West Pacific, first by ship to Hawaii, then its air echelon flew the planes to Australia. The 22nd BG flew its first combat mission, an attack on Rabaul which required an intermediate stop at Port Moresby, New Guinea, on 5 April 1942.
A second group, the 38th, began receiving B-26s in November 1941 and began transitioning into them at Patterson Field, Ohio. There, the 38th continued the testing of the B-26, including its range and fuel efficiency. Immediately after the entry of the United States into World War II, plans were tentatively developed to send the 38th BG to the South West Pacific and to equip it with B-26Bs fitted with more auxiliary fuel tanks and provisions for carrying aerial torpedoes. Three 38th BG B-26Bs were detached to Midway Island in the buildup to that battle, and two of them, along with two B-26s detached from the 22nd BG, carried out torpedo attacks against the Japanese Fleet on 4 June 1942. Two were shot down and the other two were so badly damaged that they were written off after the mission. Their torpedoes failed to hit any Japanese ships, although they did shoot down one Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter and killed two seamen aboard the aircraft carrier Akagi with machine-gun fire. Notably, one of them, Susie Q, after dropping its single torpedo and searching for a safer escape route, flew directly down the length of the Akagi while being chased by interceptors and anti-aircraft fire, which had to hold their fire to avoid hitting their own flagship.
From approximately June 1942, B-26 squadrons of the 38th BG were based in New Caledonia and Fiji. From New Caledonia, missions were flown against Japanese bases in the Solomon Islands. On one occasion, a B-26 was credited with shooting down a Kawanishi H6K flying boat. In 1943, it was decided that the B-26 would be phased out of operations in the South West Pacific Theatre in favor of the North American B-25 Mitchell. Nevertheless, the 19th Bombardment Squadron of the 22nd BG continued to fly missions in the B-26. The B-26 flew its last combat mission in the theatre on 9 January 1944.
Two more squadrons of torpedo armed B-26s equipped the 28th Composite Group and were used for anti-shipping operations in the Aleutian Islands Campaign, but there are no records of any successful torpedo attack by a USAAF B-26.
Comedian George Gobel famously joked about being a trainer for this aircraft at Frederick Army Airfield (now Frederick Regional Airport) during the Pacific battles, boasting that "not one Japanese aircraft got past Tulsa".
Three Bombardment Groups were allocated to support the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November 1942. They were initially used to carry out low-level attacks against heavily defended targets, incurring heavy losses with poor results, before switching to medium level attacks. By the end of the North African Campaign, the three B-26 groups had flown 1,587 sorties, losing 80 aircraft. This was double the loss rate of the B-25, which also flew 70% more sorties with fewer aircraft. Despite this, the B-26 continued in service with the Twelfth Air Force, supporting the Allied advance through Sicily, Italy and southern France. Air Marshal Sir John Slessor, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, wrote of "the astonishing accuracy of the experienced medium bomber groups – particularly the Marauders; I think that the 42nd Bombardment Group in Sardinia is probably the best day-bomber unit in the world." Slessor in fact meant the 42nd Bomb Wing—17th, 319th and 320th Bomb Groups—but a US 'wing' equated roughly to a British 'group', and vice versa.
The B-26 entered service with the Eighth Air Force in England in early 1943, with the 322nd Bombardment Group flying its first missions in May 1943. Operations were similar to those flown in North Africa with B-26s flying at low level and were unsuccessful. The second mission, an unescorted attack on a power station at IJmuiden, Netherlands, resulted in the loss of the entire attacking force of 11 B-26s to anti-aircraft fire and Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters. Following this disaster, the UK-based B-26 force was switched to medium altitude operations, and transferred to the Ninth Air Force, set up to support the planned invasion of France.
Bombing from medium altitudes of 10,000 to 15,000 feet (3,000 to 4,600 m) and with appropriate fighter escort, the Marauder proved far more successful, striking against a variety of targets, including bridges and V-1 launching sites in the buildup to D-Day, and moving to bases in France as they became available. The Marauder, operating from medium altitude, proved to be a highly accurate aircraft, with the 9th Air Force rating it the most accurate bomber available in the final month of the war in Europe. Loss rates were far lower than in the early, low-level days, with the B-26 stated by the 9th Air Force as having the lowest loss rate in the European Theatre of Operations at less than 0.5%.
The B-26 flew its last combat missions against the German garrison at the Île d'Oléron on 1 May 1945, with the last units disbanding in early 1946.
In 1942, a batch of 52 B-26A Marauders (designated Marauder I by the RAF) were offered to the United Kingdom under Lend-Lease. Like the earlier Martin Maryland and Baltimore, these aircraft were sent to the Mediterranean, replacing the Bristol Blenheims of No. 14 Squadron in Egypt. The Squadron flew its first operational mission on 6 November 1942, being used for long range reconnaissance, mine-laying and anti-shipping strikes. Unlike the USAAF, 14 Squadron made productive use of the equipment for carrying torpedoes, sinking several merchant ships with this weapon. The Marauder also proved useful in disrupting enemy air transport, shooting down considerable numbers of German and Italian transport aircraft flying between Italy and North Africa.
In 1943, deliveries of 100 long-wingspan B-26C-30s (Marauder II) allowed two squadrons of the South African Air Force, 12 and 24 Squadron to be equipped, these being used for bombing missions over the Aegean Sea, Crete and Italy. A further 350 B-26Fs and Gs were supplied in 1944, with two more South African squadrons (21 and 30) joining No 12 and 24 in Italy to form an all-Marauder equipped wing, while one further SAAF squadron (25) and a new RAF squadron (39 Squadron), re-equipped with Marauders as part of the Balkan Air Force supporting Tito's Partisans in Yugoslavia. A Marauder of 25 Squadron SAAF, shot down on the unit's last mission of World War II on 4 May 1945, was the last Marauder lost in combat by any user. The British and South African aircraft were quickly scrapped following the end of the war, the United States not wanting the return of the Lend-Lease aircraft.
Following Operation Torch, (the Allied invasion of North Africa), the Free French Air Force re-equipped three squadrons with Marauders for medium-bombing operations in Italy and the Allied invasion of southern France. These B-26s replaced Lioré et Olivier LeO 451s and Douglas DB-7s. Toward the end of the war, seven of the nine French Groupes de Bombardement used the Marauder, taking part in 270 missions with 4,884 aircraft sorties in combat. Free French B-26 groups were disbanded in June 1945. Replaced in squadron service by 1947, two lingered on as testbeds for the Snecma Atar jet engine, one of these remaining in use until 1958.
In the immediate post-war years, a small number of Marauders were converted as high-speed executive transports, accommodating up to fifteen passengers. The specifications of the individual conversions differed considerably. The example shown in the image was completed in 1948 and had streamlined nose and tail fairings and windows inserted in the rear fuselage. It served United Airlines before being sold to Mexico. It was purchased by the Confederate Air Force and restored to wartime markings for air display purposes before being lost in a fatal crash in 1995.
The lone XB-26H, used for testing "bicycle" landing gear
B-26G "Shootin' In" at Wright-Patterson National Air Force Museum
B-26 — The first 201 planes were ordered based upon design alone. Prototypes were not characterized with the usual "X" or "Y" designations. They had Pratt & Whitney R-2800-5 engines. Armament consisted of two .30 caliber and two .50 caliber machine guns. (The last model was armed with nearly three times that number.) Approximate cost then: $80,226.80/aircraft (201 built).
B-26A — Incorporated changes made on the production line to the B-26, including upgrading the two .30 caliber machine guns in the nose and tail to .50 caliber. A total of 52 B-26As were delivered to the Royal Air Force, which were used as the Marauder Mk I. Approximate cost then: $102,659.33/aircraft (139 built)
B-26B — Model with further improvements on the B-26A, including revised tail gunner's glazing. Nineteen were delivered to the Royal Air Forces as the Marauder Mk.IA. Production blocks of the 1,883 aircraft built:
AT-23A or TB-26B—208 B-26Bs converted into target tugs and gunnery trainers designated JM-1 by the US Navy.
B-26B—Single tail gun replaced with twin guns; belly-mounted "tunnel gun" added. (81-built)
B-26B-1—Improved B-26B. (225 built)
B-26B-2—Pratt & Whitney R-2800-41 radials. (96 built)
B-26B-3—Larger carburetor intakes; upgrade to R-2800-43 radials. (28 built)
B-26B-4—Improved B-26B-3. (211 built)
B-26B-10 through B-26B-55 — Beginning with block 10, the wingspan was increased from 65 feet (20 m) to 71 feet (22 m), to improve handling problems during landing caused by a high wing load; flaps were added outboard of the engine nacelles for this purpose also. The vertical stabilizer height was increased from 19 feet 10 inches (6.05 m) to 21 feet 6 inches (6.55 m). Armament was increased from six to twelve .50 caliber machine guns; this was done in the forward section so that the B-26 could perform strafing missions. The tail gun was upgraded from manual to power operated. Armor was added to protect the pilot and copilot. (1,242-built)
CB-26B—12 B-26Bs were converted into transport aircraft (all were delivered to the US Marine Corps for use in the Philippines).
B-26C—Designation assigned to those B-26Bs built in Omaha, Nebraska instead of Baltimore, Maryland. Although nominally the B-26B-10 was the first variant to receive the longer wing, it was actually installed on B-26Cs before the B-26B-10, both being in production simultaneously. A total of 123 B-26Cs were used by the RAF and SAAF as the Marauder Mk II. Approximate cost then: $138,551.27/aircraft (1,210 built)
TB-26C—Originally designated AT-23B. Trainer modification of B-26C. (Approximately 300 modified)
XB-26D—Modified B-26 used to test hot air de-icing equipment, in which heat exchangers transferred heat from engine exhaust to air circulated to the leading and trailing edges of the wing and empennage surfaces. This system, while promising, was not incorporated into any production aircraft made during World War II. (One converted)
B-26E—Modified B-26B constructed to test the effectiveness of moving the dorsal gun turret from the aft fuselage to just behind the cockpit. The offensive and defensive abilities of the B-26E was tested in combat simulations against normal aircraft. Although the tests showed that gains were made with the new arrangement, it was insignificant. After a cost analysis, it was concluded that the effort needed to convert production lines to the B-26E arrangement was not worth the effort. (one converted)
B-26F—Angle-of-incidence of wings increased by 3.5º; fixed .50 caliber machine gun in nose removed; tail turret and associated armor improved. The first B-26F was produced in February 1944. One hundred of these were B-26F-1-MAs. Starting with 42-96231, a revised oil cooler was added, along with wing bottom panels redesigned for easier removal. A total of 200 of the 300 aircraft were B-26F-2s and F-6s, all of which were used by the RAF and SAAF as the Marauder Mk III. The F-2 had the Bell M-6 power turret replaced by an M-6A with a flexible canvas cover over the guns. The T-1 bombsight was installed instead of the M-series sight. British bomb fusing and radio equipment were provided. (300 built)
B-26G—B-26F with standardized interior equipment. A total of 150 bombers were used by the RAF as the Marauder Mk III. (893-built)
TB-26G—B-26G converted for crew training. Most, possibly all, were delivered to the United States Navy as the JM-2. (57 converted)
XB-26H—Test aircraft for tandem landing gear, and nicknamed the "Middle River Stump Jumper" from its "bicycle" gear configuration, to see if it could be used on the Martin XB-48. (One converted)
JM-1P—A small number of JM-1s were converted into photo-reconnaissance aircraft for the US Navy.
British designation for 52 B-26As for the Royal Air Force.
British designation for 19 B-26Bs for the Royal Air Force.
British designation for 123 B-26Cs for the Royal Air Force and South African Air Force.
British designation for 350 B-26F and B-26Gs for the Royal Air Force and South African Air Force.
With the exception of the B-26C, all models and variants of the B-26 were produced at Martin's Middle River, Maryland manufacturing plant. The B-26C was built at the Martin plant in Omaha, Nebraska
France: Free France
South Africa: South African Air Force
United Kingdom: Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Corps
United States Army Air Forces
United States Marine Corps
United States Navy
Women Airforce Service Pilots
Martin B-26B s/n 40-1459 on display at MAPS Air Museum in North Canton, Ohio
B-26G 44-68219 Dinah Might - Utah Beach Museum (Musée du Débarquement Utah Beach) on loan from the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace in Le Bourget. It was previously recovered from the Air France training school.
B-26 40-1464 – part of the Fantasy of Flight collection in Polk City, Florida.
B-26 40-1459 Charley's Jewel – MAPS Air Museum in Akron, Ohio.
B-26G 43-34581 Shootin In – National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. This aircraft was flown in combat by the Free French Air Force during the final months of World War II. It was obtained from the mechanics' training school of French airline Air France near Paris in June 1965. It is painted as a 9th Air Force B-26B assigned to the 387th Bombardment Group in 1945.
40-1370 – for display by Hill Aerospace Museum, Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
40-1501 – for display by David Tallichet's Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation of Anaheim, California; at the Pima Air & Space Museum, adjacent to Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona.
41-31773 Flak Bait – for display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia. This aircraft survived 207 operational missions over Europe, more than any other American aircraft during World War II.
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
41-17625 Martin B-26B-3-MA Marauder
41-17626/17851 Martin B-26B Marauder
41-17852/17946 Martin B-26B-2-MA Marauder
41-17947/17973 Martin B-26B-3-MA Marauder
41-17974/18184 Martin B-26B-4-MA Marauder
41-18185/18334 Martin B-26B-10-MA Marauder
41-31573/31672 Martin B-26B-15-MA Marauder
41-31673/31772 Martin B-26B-20-MA Marauder
41-31773/31872 Martin B-26B-25-MA Marauder
41-31773 was 'Flak Bait' the first Allied bomber in the ETO to complete 200 sorties. Nose section is on display at NASM.
41-31873/31972 Martin B-26B-30-MA Marauder
41-31973/32072 Martin B-26B-35-MA Marauder
42-43260/43357 Martin B-26B-40-MA Marauder
42-43358/43359 Martin AT-23A
B-26B modified as unarmed target tug
42-43360/43361 Martin B-26B-40-MA Marauder
42-43362/43458 Martin AT-23A
B-26B modified as unarmed target tug
42-43459 Martin B-26B-40-MA Marauder
42-95629/95737 Martin AT-23A
B-26B modified as unarmed target tug
42-95738/95828 Martin B-26B-45-MA Marauder
42-95829/96028 Martin B-26B-50-MA Marauder
42-96029/96228 Martin B-26B-55-MA Marauder
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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Magazine References: +
- Airfix Magazines (English) - http://www.airfix.com/
- Avions (French) - http://www.aerostories.org/~aerobiblio/rubrique10.html
- FlyPast (English) - http://www.flypast.com/
- Flugzeug Publikations GmbH (German) - http://vdmedien.com/flugzeug-publikations-gmbh-hersteller_verlag-vdm-heinz-nickel-33.html
- Flugzeug Classic (German) - http://www.flugzeugclassic.de/
- Klassiker (German) - http://shop.flugrevue.de/abo/klassiker-der-luftfahrt
- Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) - http://boutique.editions-lariviere.fr/site/abonnement-le-fana-de-l-aviation-626-4-6.html
- Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) - http://www.pdfmagazines.org/tags/Le+Fana+De+L+Aviation/
- Osprey (English) - http://www.ospreypublishing.com/
- Revi Magazines (Czech) - http://www.revi.cz/
Web References: +
- Wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_B-26_Marauder
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