B-26 Maurader - History

B-26 Maurader - History

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The Martin Maurader was a medium bomberthat was used in the Pacific, North Africa and Europe. A total of 5,137were produced.

The B-26 Marauder: World War II Medium Bomber

On April 17, 1945, Flak-Bait’s 200th mission was leading the entire 322nd Bombardment Group on a mission to bomb Magdeburg, Germany.

Employees of the Glenn L. Martin Company rolled the B-26B Marauder that would soon be dubbed Flak-Bait off the Baltimore production line on April 26, 1943. Identified as B-26B-25 MA Bureau No. 41-31173, the twin-engine medium bomber then took its place in a long line of identical aircraft on the Martin Company’s airfield awaiting transfer into the U.S. Army Air Forces.

Its olive-drab fuselage was 58 feet 3 inches long and stood 21 feet 6 inches off the concrete. The wings spanned 71 feet and provided a wing area of 658 square feet. From the wings hung two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-43 18-cylinder, air-cooled radial engines with two-speed superchargers that produced 1,920 hp at takeoff and 1,490 hp at 14,300 feet. Each engine turned a Curtiss 13-foot 6-inch four-blade propeller.

After a 3,500-foot takeoff run, the bomber could lift from the runway and climb at 1,200 feet per minute to a service ceiling of 21,700 feet. At 15,000 feet, the Pratt & Whitney engines could take the aircraft to a maximum speed of 282 mph.

The B-26B carried a crew of seven. The pilot and co-pilot sat side by side in armored seats behind an armored bulkhead. The navigator, who also served as the radio operator, worked out of a small compartment behind the pilots. The bombardier sat behind a plexiglass nose cone and — when not preparing to drop the B-26’s bombload — operated a .50-caliber machine gun. Three gunners stationed in the rear of the bomber rounded out the crew.

Despite the fact that war raged on two fronts as B-26B-25 MA 41-31173 sat on the Martin airfield, the Army Air Forces had little love for the Marauder. The brass considered the medium bomber an operational dog.

The genesis of the B-26 had grown out of an exchange of letters between aviation pioneer Charles A. Lindbergh and General Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold, chief of what was then the U.S. Army Air Corps. While touring Europe in 1938, Lindbergh pointed out Germany’s aeronautical developments in medium bombers and expressed concern over the United States’ lethargy in aircraft development. Lindbergh emphasized the need to increase the top speed of U.S. combat aircraft. Arnold shared Lindbergh’s concerns.

In 1939 the Army Air Corps called on the U.S. aircraft industry to design a medium bomber able to operate at high speed and carry a large bombload — essentially a bomber with the speed of a fighter. The Glenn L. Martin Company, which won the contract, delivered the first aircraft in record time. The B-26 first flew on November 29, 1940, and the Army Air Corps accepted it into operational service on February 8, 1941 — a feat that led Time magazine to declare the B-26 ‘Martin’s Miracle.’

But the pilots who first flew the B-26 gave the twin-engine, shoulder-wing bomber less flattering names. The high wing loading of the early short-wing model required the pilot to execute immediate and proper responses to an engine loss when flying low, slow and heavy — a situation that often arose during landing or takeoff. The resulting crashes led to the nicknames the Widow-Maker and the Incredible Prostitute (a reference to its wings, which supposedly provided it with no visible means of support).

After the united states entered World War II on December 7, 1941, the 22nd Bombardment Group flew the B-26 against the Japanese in New Guinea and Rabaul in 1942. Both the Japanese and Army Air Forces pilots quickly learned that the rugged B-26 could take anti-aircraft fire and stay aloft. It could defend itself as well. The 60 Marauders of the 22nd Group claimed 94 enemy aircraft in the air in their first 10 months of combat. Due to logistical considerations, however, the Fifth Air Force in the Southwest Pacific chose the North American B-25 Mitchell as its sole medium bomber because it needed less maintenance, could operate from unimproved airfields and enjoyed favorable press following the April 18, 1942, Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.

Meanwhile, in the European and North African theaters, heavy German anti-aircraft fire had taken a grievous toll on American bombers. Recognizing the B-26’s ability to withstand punishment, the Army Air Forces began transferring B-26s and aircrews to North Africa toward the end of 1942.

Even before the B-26 entered combat in North Africa, Material Command personnel began a campaign against the aircraft. The bomber had already survived a special investigation board appointed by General Arnold in March 1942 to determine whether production of the B-26 should continue. Headed by Maj. Gen. Carl Spaatz, the board recommended several changes to the bomber’s design — mainly a larger wing — but stressed continued use of the B-26. Despite the findings of the board, on October 7, 1942, Maj. Gen. Muir S. Fairchild, the director of military requirements, ordered Maj. Gen. O.P. Echols, the commanding general of Material Command, to create plans for ‘pinching out B-26 production and replacing it with some other type which would be of greater utility.’

After the North African campaign, the Twelfth Air Force reported on May 13, 1943, that the B-25 had once again flown more sorties than the B-26, seemingly supporting a decision to terminate B-26 production. War correspondent Lee McCardell came to a different conclusion. He pointed out that the B-26 had a better record of destroying the targets it attacked than any other bomber in the North African theater.

The Pacific theater had rejected the B-26, and the commanders in North Africa and the Mediterranean had given it less than glowing reviews. With no other options, the Army Air Forces sent the B-26 into the toughest combat environment of the war — northern Europe.

B-26B 41-31173 transferred from Martin to the Army Air Forces on April 26, 1943. Three days later, the B-26 was flown to the Martin Modification Center in Omaha, Neb., for the alterations needed to ready it for war service. After modification, the aircraft flew to New Castle Army Airfield, Md., on May 13, 1943, to begin its operational life.

On May 25, 1943, the Marauder took off from Presque Isle Army Airfield, Maine, and started across the Atlantic, headed for the 449th Bombardment Squadron, 322nd Bombardment Group, Eighth Air Force, based in Rougham, England. Lieutenant James J. Farrell, the B-26’s pilot, christened the bomber Flak-Bait. (His brother had nicknamed the family dog Flea Bait.)

Flak-Bait‘s crew arrived to find that the 322nd had stood down. The group had begun combat operations on May 14, 1943, when it launched 12 B-26s for a low-level attack on a power plant in Holland. Attacking coastal areas with medium bombers at low level had worked well in the Pacific, and the Eighth Air Force wanted to try its luck along the European coast. All 12 B-26s returned from the mission.

Just three days later the 322nd dispatched 11 B-26s on a similar mission. One Marauder returned to base because of mechanical problems, and heavy flak and swarms of German fighters brought down all 10 of the remaining planes. As a result, the Eighth Air Force realized that low-level attacks by medium bombers would not work against the heavily defended European coast. The 322nd stood down to retrain for medium-altitude bombing.

Flak-Bait flew bombing missions against airfields, fuel depots and other targets in the effort to win air supremacy over France. After a few such missions, Lieutenant Farrell realized he had either aptly named the B-26 or jinxed it — the bomber rarely returned to base without taking hits from flak. Farrell recalled, ‘It was hit plenty of times hit all the time.’

For example, a Messerschmitt Me-109 approached Flak-Bait out of the sun on September 10, 1943, and sent a 20mm shell through the bomber’s nose. The shell struck the back of Farrell’s instrument panel and exploded, wounding the bombardier and Farrell and knocking out all flight instruments. Farrell managed to bring Flak-Bait back for a textbook landing in England.

The Ninth Air Force had transferred to England in October 1943 and assumed the role of providing tactical air support for the Allied invasion of Europe. Flak-Bait and the 322nd became a part of the Ninth Air Force and began to strike tactical targets such as bridges, railroad yards and coastal artillery emplacements.

Flak-Bait continued to live both a charmed and jinxed life as D-Day approached. Aircraft and crew reached their 100th mission on June 1, 1944. They flew two missions on June 6 in support of the invasion of Normandy. Farrell and all his crew survived their tour despite many close calls and returned to the United States in July 1944.

Lieutenant Graydon K. Eubank of San Antonio, Texas, then took command of Flak-Bait for a short time, but Lieutenant Henry Bozarth of Shreveport, La., soon took the left seat and remained there. As the Allied armies advanced into France, the 449th and Flak-Bait transferred to an airfield at Beauvais-Tille, France.

The veteran aircraft continued to live up to its reputation despite the crew change. Flak-Bait flew missions supporting the British forces slugging it out with German armor at Caen, in addition to the Americans fighting their way toward St. L — the battle that would prove vital to the Allied breakout from Normandy’s hedgerow country.

With the Germans in headlong retreat, Flak-Bait aided Lt. Gen. George Patton’s Third Army as it stormed across France in August and September. From October to December, the group once again bombed bridges, road junctions and ordnance depots in the assault on the Siegfried Line.

On December 16, 1944, the Germans struck back, sending 600,000 men into the Ardennes in an effort to capture Antwerp and choke off the Allies’ supply conduit. The Battle of the Bulge, as it became known, raged until January 28, 1945. Flak-Bait played a role in that battle by attacking road and rail bridges used by the Germans during their attack and withdrawal. On its 180th mission, Flak-Bait took 700 hits from flak fragments. McDonal Darnell Jr., Bozarth’s radio operator, remembered, ‘Everybody was afraid of the damn thing, but she always got back for us.’

Advancing to an airfield at Le Culot, Belgium, on March 30, 1945, Flak-Bait completed its 200th mission in style — it led the entire 322nd Bomb Group to Magdeburg, Germany, and back on April 17, 1945. When Germany surrendered on May 8, Flak-Bait had survived 207 missions — more than any other American bomber in World War II. During those harrowing 725 hours of combat time it had returned twice on one engine, survived an engine fire, had its electrical system knocked out twice and lost its hydraulic system once.

No longer needed in Europe, Flak-Bait returned to the United States on December 7, 1946. Because of the aircraft’s unique history, the U.S. Army Air Forces transferred the B-26 to museum status on December 21, 1946.

Today Flak-Bait is undergoing preservation in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, just outside Washington, D.C.. Plans are to reassemble and display the storied aircraft as a complete aircraft, a fitting tribute to a much-maligned bomber that played a critical role in winning the war in Europe.

This article was written by David F. Crosby and originally published in the March 2006 issue of Aviation History magazine. For more great articles subscribe to Aviation History magazine today!


The A-26 was Douglas Aircraft's successor to the A-20 (DB-7) Havoc, also known as Douglas Boston, one of the most successful and widely operated types flown by Allied air forces in World War II.

Designed by Ed Heinemann, Robert Donovan, and Ted R. Smith, [4] the innovative NACA 65-215 laminar flow airfoil wing of the A-26 was the work of project aerodynamicist A.M.O. Smith. [5] [6]

The Douglas XA-26 prototype (AAC Ser. No. 41-19504) first flew on 10 July 1942 at Mines Field, El Segundo, with test pilot Benny Howard at the controls. Flight tests revealed excellent performance and handling, but engine cooling problems led to cowling changes and elimination of the propeller spinners on production aircraft. Repeated collapses during testing led to reinforcement of the nose landing gear. [7]

The early A-26 versions were built in two configurations:

  • The A-26B gun-nose could be equipped with a combination of armament including .50 caliber machine guns, 20mm or 37mm auto cannon, or an experimental 75mm pack howitzer (never used operationally). The 'B' gun-nose version housed six (and later, eight) .50 caliber machine guns, officially the "all-purpose nose", later known as the "six-gun nose" or "eight-gun nose".
  • The A-26C ' s "glass" "Bombardier nose", contained a Norden bombsight for medium-altitude precision-bombing. The A-26C nose section included two fixed M-2 guns, but those were eliminated after underwing gun packs or internal guns in the wings proved effective during colder weather. [8]

After about 1,570 production aircraft, three guns were installed in each wing, coinciding with the introduction of the "eight-gun nose" for A-26Bs, giving some configurations as many as 14 .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns in fixed forward mounts. An A-26C nose section could be replaced with an A-26B nose section, or vice versa, in a few man-hours, thus physically (and officially) changing the designation and operational role. The "flat-topped" canopy was changed in late 1944 after about 820 production aircraft, to a clamshell style with greatly improved visibility. [9] [10]

Alongside the pilot in an A-26B, a crew member served as navigator and gun loader for the pilot-operated nose guns. In an A-26C, that crew member served as navigator and bombardier, and re-located to the nose section for the bombing phase of an operation. A small number of A-26Cs were fitted with dual flight-controls, some parts of which could be disabled in flight for access to the nose section. Access for the bombardier was through the lower section of the right-hand instrument panel he normally sat next to the pilot. This was similar to British designs like the Lancaster, Blenheim/Beaufort, Wellington, etc. A tractor-style "jump-seat" was behind the "navigator's seat." In most missions, a third crew member in the rear gunner's compartment operated the remote-controlled dorsal and ventral gun turrets, with access to-and-from the cockpit via the bomb bay only if that was empty. The gunner operated both dorsal and ventral turrets via a novel and complex (and problematic) dual-ended periscope sight, a vertical column running through the center of the rear compartment, with traversing and elevating/depressing periscope sights on each end. The gunner sat on a seat facing rearward looking into a binocular periscope sight mounted on the column, controlling the guns with a pair of handles on the sides of the column. Aimed above the centerline of the aircraft, the mirror in the center of the column 'flipped', showing the gunner a limited view similar to the view the upper periscope was seeing. As he pressed the handles downward, and as the bead passed the centerline, the mirror automatically flipped, transferring the sight ". seamlessly. " to the lower periscope. The guns aimed in the approximate direction the periscope was aimed, automatically transferring between upper and lower turrets as required, and computing for parallax and other factors. While novel and sound in principle, the developers invested a great deal of time and effort in their attempts to get the system to work effectively, delaying production. As might be expected, the complex system was difficult to maintain in the field. [11]

World War II Edit

Pacific Edit

The Douglas company delivered production model A-26B aircraft to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 10 September 1943, [12] with the new bomber seeing action with the Fifth Air Force in the Southwest Pacific theater on 23 June 1944, while Japanese-held islands near Manokwari were attacked. [13] The pilots in the 3rd Bomb Group's 13th Squadron, "The Grim Reapers", receiving the first four A-26s for evaluation, suddenly discovered the downward view from the cockpit was hindered by the engines, and woefully inadequate for its intended role as ground-support. General George Kenney, commander of the Far East Air Forces stated "We do not want the A-26 under any circumstances as a replacement for anything." [14]

Until changes could be made, the 3d Bomb Group requested additional Douglas A-20 Havocs, although both types were used in composite flights. [15] The 319th Bomb Group worked on the A-26 in March 1945, joining the initial 3rd BG, with the 319th flying until 12 August 1945. The A-26 operations wound-down in mid-August 1945 after a few dozen missions. [15] Some A-20 and B-25 AAF units in the Pacific received the A-26 for trials in limited quantities.

Europe Edit

Douglas needed better results from the Invader's second combat test, so ferried A-26s arrived in Europe in late September 1944 for assignment to the Ninth Air Force. The initial deployment involved 18 aircraft and crews assigned to the 553d Squadron of the 386th Bomb Group. This unit flew their first mission on 6 September 1944. No aircraft were lost on the eight test missions, and the Ninth Air Force announced they were satisfied, eventually replacing their A-20s and B-26s with the A-26 Invader.

The first group to convert to the A-26B was 416th Bombardment Group. With it, they entered combat on 17 November, and the 409th Bombardment Group, whose A-26s became operational in late November. [16] Due to a shortage of A-26C variants, the groups flew a combined A-20/A-26 unit until deliveries of the glass-nose version caught-up. Besides bombing and strafing, tactical reconnaissance and night interdiction missions were successful. In contrast to the Pacific-based units, the A-26 was well received by pilots and crew alike, and by 1945, the 9th AF had 11,567 missions, dropping 18,054 tons of bombs, recording seven confirmed kills while losing 67 aircraft. [16]

In Italy, the Twelfth Air Force's 47th Bomb Group also received the A-26 starting in January 1945. They were used against German transport links, and for direct support and interdiction against tanks and troop concentrations in the Po valley in the final campaigns in Italy.

Postwar era Edit

United States Edit

With the establishment of the United States Air Force as an independent service in 1947, the Strategic Air Command operated the again re-designated B-26 as an RB-26 reconnaissance aircraft in service 1949 to 1950. U.S. Air Forces in Europe continued operating the B-26 until 1957. Tactical Air Command operated the aircraft as both a B-26 and later designated back to A-26 the final variant was designated B-26K until 1966, then it again became the A-26A. This final version continued in service through the late 1960s with active-duty special-operations TAC units, and through 1972 with TAC-gained special-operations units of the Air National Guard. [ citation needed ]

The U.S. Navy obtained Invaders from the Air Force to use these aircraft in their utility squadrons (VU) for target towing and general utility until super-seded by the DC-130A variant of the C-130 Hercules. The Navy designation was JD-1 and JD-1D until 1962, then the JD-1 was re-designated UB-26J. The JD-1D was re-designated DB-26J. [ citation needed ] The CIA also used the type for covert operations. [17]

The last A-26 in active US service was assigned to the Air National Guard that aircraft was retired from military service in 1972 by the U.S. Air Force and the National Guard Bureau, and donated to the National Air and Space Museum. [ citation needed ]

Korean War Edit

B-26 Invaders of the 3d Bombardment Group, operating from bases in southern Japan, were among the first USAF aircraft engaged in the Korean War, carrying-out missions over South Korea on 27 and 28 June, before carrying-out the first USAF bombing mission on North Korea on 29 June 1950, bombing an airfield near Pyongyang. [18]

Meet the B-26 Marauder: The Most Controversial Bomber of World War II?

Loved by some and hated by many, the B-26 Marauder is often considered the most controversial bomber of World War II. But did it deserve its reputation?

Of all the better-known Allied aircraft of World War II, the most controversial was Martin’s B-26 Marauder, a twin-engine cigar-shaped medium bomber that was loved by some and hated by many. Among those who hated the airplane were the crews of the Air Transport Command’s Ferrying Division who picked the Marauders up at the factory and delivered them to combat units. Those who loved it included Lt. Gen. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, who used a B-26 Marauder as his personal airplane, and most of the pilots and crew members who flew the airplane in combat.

On three different occasions, efforts were made to cancel future B-26 production, but in each case proponents of the airplane managed to prevail, thanks in no small measure to the efforts of a diminutive former airshow pilot from Lynchburg, Va., named Vincent “Squeek” Burnett. However, after gaining a terrible reputation due to the loss of dozens of crewmembers in training accidents, the Martin B-26 finished the war with the lowest combat loss ratio of any of the American bombers.

“Advanced Design” From A 26-Year-Old Engineer

The B-26 came about as a result of an Army Air Corps requirement set forth in January 1939 for a twin-engine, high-speed medium bomber. The Glenn L. Martin Company submitted a design that had been drafted by Peyton Magruder, a young aeronautical engineer who had come to the Martin Company by way of the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Alabama.

Only 26 years old when he drafted the design, Magruder was well ahead of his time when he designed an airplane that would utilize a high wing loading to reduce drag and allow higher cruise speeds. Of four designs submitted, Martin’s received the highest score from the Army and was awarded the contract. The concept did not come without a price. The thinner wing required much faster than normal takeoff and landing speeds. It also had a consequently high “minimum control speed,” the speed at which a multiengine airplane can lose the “critical” engine without becoming uncontrollable. The advanced design would be largely responsible for the problems that plagued the airplane after it entered service.

Effective Tactics…

The high speed of the B-26—it had a top speed of 315 miles per hour—gave the Marauder an advantage lacked by the much slower B-17s. The B-26 also featured a dorsal turret, waist and tail guns, and additional guns in the nose. Fixed forward-firing guns were added in pods on the sides of the fuselage. The B-26 crews of the 22nd also used the low-level attack tactics that came to prevail in the Fifth Air Force to which they were assigned, tactics that made the airplanes impossible to attack from below. In more than a year of combat, the 22nd only lost 14 airplanes to enemy fighters, while group gunners put in claims for 94 Japanese aircraft.

…But Quickly Replaced

However, even though B-26s initially held their own against the Japanese, their days in the Pacific were numbered. While the Southwest Pacific air forces commander, Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, was impressed by the Marauder, it was not the medium bomber he wanted in his theater. Fifth Air Force A-20 and B-25 squadrons had mastered the art of low-level attack, and dozens of the light and medium bombers had been modified to become powerful gunships. Kenney believed his command should be limited to one type each of fighter, light bomber, medium bomber, heavy bomber, and transport. His preferences were for the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter, the A-20, B-25, and Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers, and the Douglas C-47 transport.

The B-26s were left out in the cold. B-25s replaced the B-26s in the 22nd Group and the decision was then made to turn the group into a heavy bomber outfit and equip it with B-24s. A few B-26s continued to fly missions with the 22nd until early 1944, but they eventually completely disappeared from the theater. The two former 38th Group squadrons in the South Pacific also transitioned to B-25s.

A Bad Airplane, or Inexperienced Pilots?

The airplane was also gaining a bad reputation at the training bases back in the United States. It started among the ferry pilots who picked the airplanes up at the factories and delivered them to the bases. The problem was that the high wing loading of the first versions of the B-26 made it a “hot” airplane, and it became uncontrollable if a pilot failed to maintain adequate airspeed after an engine loss.

Engine losses on B-26s were frequent. The Pratt and Whitney R2800 engines were prone to failure, and when an engine failed, the pilot had to maintain a fairly high airspeed or the airplane would roll upside down and go into the ground. After several ferry crews lost their lives in B-26 accidents, many refused to fly the airplane. An increase in the span of the wing on later models enhanced the Marauder’s performance.

Accident after accident occurred among the crews who were in training, so many that a special committee known as the Truman Committee was appointed to look at the problem. There were several reasons for the accidents. Few of the trainees—or many of their instructors—had acquired any multiengine experience before they were assigned to the B-26 Marauder. Furthermore, the Army had made a number of modifications to the production airplanes to prepare them for combat. The basic weight of the airplane had increased and the center of gravity had moved rearward, thus rendering the airplane unstable.

While these were problems that an experienced pilot could handle, the pilots who were filling the ranks of the combat squadrons were severely lacking. Because of the accident rate, the Truman Committee recommended that the B-26s be removed from service. Martin turned to the men who had flown the airplane in combat in the Southwest Pacific for help. The combat pilots took up the cause and saved the airplane from extinction.

Originally Published January 30, 2019

This article by Sam McGowan originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.

History: Martin B-26 Marauder

The Glenn L. Martin Company's Model 179 answered a January 1939 Army Air Corps specification for a high-speed bomber. The Army ordered the streamline twin-engine, all-metal monoplane, designated the B-26 Marauder, in September and the first production example flew in November 1940. The design incorporated several new innovations. The high wing loading of the design and the resultant increased landing and take-off speeds caused many accidents in training. Intimidating epithets such as the "Widow Maker" and "One-a-Day-in-Tampa-Bay" added to the B-26's initial reputation as it underwent Congressional scrutiny.

As those problems were being resolved, Marauders immediately went into combat after American entry into World War II. On June 4, 1942, Army Air Forces (AAF) Marauders defending Midway Island attacked Japanese aircraft carriers with torpedoes, but failed to score hits. The AAF sent Marauders to North Africa after the Allied invasion in November 1942 for service with the Twelfth Air Force. Eighth Air Force B-26s flew the first bombing mission against German forces in Europe on May 14, 1943. In preparation for the invasion of France, the Eighth's Marauders were transferred to the Ninth Air Force, the primary American tactical air force in Europe, in October 1943.

Like the M1 Garand combat rifle, the Sherman tank, and the LST, the Marauder was an important weapon in the war against the Axis powers. B-26 crews flew over 100,000 sorties and dropped approximately 150,000 tons of bombs, primarily against Nazi Germany. The AAF lost fewer Marauders than any Allied bomber it flew—less than one-half of one percent. Besides the United States, the air forces of Great Britain and France operated Marauders in combat. Few Marauders survive today out of the 5,266 produced by Martin.

It got a bum rap from aircrews

The B-26 had a reputation for being difficult to fly and accident prone. The core of the problem that caused the early accidents was not the design, but the dramatic increase in weight.

The maximum take-off weight increased from the first airplane’s 26,625 to 34,000 pounds for the B’s and ultimately 37,000 pounds for the C and G models. For an airplane designed from the beginning to have a high wing-loading, the increase in empty and maximum gross weights reduced the pilots margin of error in single-engine operations. Even with the wing extension, the landing speed of the B-26 remained at 130 m.p.h. (112 knots).

Most of the early accidents were caused by pilots trying to land or continue to climb below the airplane’s minimum single engine control airspeed that we now call VMC. Keep a B-26 above 160 m.p.h (140 knots) and the plane was “perfectly” controllable.

In five years of operations during the war, the B-26 was involved in 270 non-combat related accidents the B-25 crashed 294 times. Despite this, the B-26’s dubious status as a pilot killer, particularly when flying on only one engine, began to solidify. Air crews dubbed it the “Widowmaker,” “Marin Murderer” and even “the Flying Coffin.”

The solution was simple – better pilot training and when approaching for a landing on one engine, stay above 150 m.p.h. (120 knots) until one had the runway made. Once this procedure was adapted, the accident rate dropped precipitously.

Remarkably, of all the medium bombers used during the Second World War, the B-26 had the lowest average loss rate at 0.5 per cent per mission. In fact, the first bomber in the Second World war to complete 50 missions was a B-26B (s/n 117858) named Coughin’ Coffin from the 34 th Bomb Squadron, 17 th Bomb Group. One B-26, model 41-31773, dubbed Flak Bait by her crew, survived a total of 207 operational missions over Europe, a record for any American combat plane of the war.

Martin B-26 Marauder

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 06/05/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Martin B-26 Marauder overcame a rocky start to become one of the finest medium bombers of World War 2. The aircraft was designed with speed from the outset and, as such, a few problems emerged from that approach. The Marauder went on to amount an impressive service record and faded from service almost as soon as it had arrived. Nevertheless, the B-26 proved a capable aircraft in the hands of a trained pilot - and a trained pilot would be required to fly the type to its fullest potential considering the amount of knowledge needed to keep the needy bird airborne.


January of 1939 saw the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) issue a new requirement for a long-range light-to-medium bomber of considerable speed with the capability to mount at least 3,000lb of ordnance. The Glen L. Martin Company entered the competition with their B-26 Marauder (then known as the Glen L. Martin "Model 179", detailed elsewhere on this site) design and successfully obtained an initial order for 201 B-26's without so much as a single prototype let alone pre-production aircraft for evaluation. The considerably deteriorating situation in Europe and in the Pacific necessitated the need for speed in production of such a design and thusly the B-26 was put to the assembly lines in little time (covering just two years from paper to working model). Within 12 months, the first B-26 was ready and made her first flight on November 25th, 1940 while 1,131 B-26A and B-26B models were already delivered.

The B-26 design was driven by the simple factor of pure speed. This was accomplished by selecting rather large, powerful engines and incorporating a small wing area with high wing loading. This produced an airframe that surpassed the USAAC requirements and then some, but provided for an aircraft with deadly-fast take-off and landing speeds and generally poor handling at lower speeds. In fact, landing speeds were between 120 and 135 miles per hour increasing the chances of damage to the airframe or injuries and fatalities to the crew substantially. Speeds became such a concern that the aircraft soon earned the nickname of "Widowmaker" due to at least one speed-related accident early on. As such, special military boards met to decide the fate of the Marauder project as a whole, grounding the aircraft in April of 1941 and instituting a few modifications in an effort to keep the type flying. This resulted in a B-26 with an increased wing area and redesigned taller vertical tail fin. Additionally, the Martin-produced powered dorsal turret had yet to be installed on previous models, leading to an imbalance of weight across the airframe, adding to the instability of the aircraft at lower speeds (effectively producing a stall on arrival).

Initial B-26's were fitted with the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-5 radial engine of 1,850 horsepower and produced in a batch of 201 examples. These were followed by the B-26A model series featuring the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-9 or R-2800-39 series engines. A-models were also the first to offer provision for a single internally-held torpedo. In addition to other subtle changes, the B-26A also increased its fuel capacity and therefore endurance. B-26A model production totaled about 139 examples.

The B-26B fitted the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-41 and R-2800-43 radial engines of 2,000 horsepower. These appeared in May of 1942 as a generally improved B-26A. Featured included better armoring and armament with a widened wingspan (642nd production model onwards) and propellers sans the spinners found on A-models. Production of the type numbered some 1,883 examples. The B-model series was in fact broken down into subvariants categorizing various subtle differences in construction. The base B-26B featured twin tail guns instead of one with a ventral gun added. The B-26B-1 was a slightly more improved B-26B model. The B-26B-2 featured the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-41 radial engines. The B-26B-3 was fitted with larger carburetors intakes and Pratt & Whitney R-2800-43 radial engines. The B-26B-4 was nothing more than a slightly improved B-26B-3 model. B-26B-10 throuh B-26B-55 included a myriad of changes covering the wingspan increase, addition of outboard flaps, taller vertical tail fin, a power-operated tail gun, cockpit armor protection and an increase to defensive armament.

The B-26C model was fitted with the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-41 series 2,000 horsepower engines. Like the B-26B before it, the C-model had their wingspan increased by exactly six feet. This was intended to reduced the issue of wing load common in the early B-26 design but was generally negated due to the increase in the wing's weight overall. B-26C's, for all intents and purposes, were generally similar to the B-26B models though constructed at Martin's Omaha subsidiary plant. Production totaled 1,210 examples.

The B-26F was brought online with a new angled wing in an effort to improve performance, particularly during take-off. These were completed in a batch of 300 examples. The B-26G were generally similar to the F-models and produced between 893 and 950 examples (sources differ on the exact total), becoming the last production models of the B-26 Marauder.

Some Marauders were converted as target tugs for gunnery trainer and designated as the AT-23A and AT-23B models. There were later updated with designations of TB-26B and TB-26C respectively. TB-26B conversions totaled 208 while 375 TB-26Cs were known to exist. TB-26C's were later granted for use by the United States Navy as JM-1 models with these totaling 225 on loan.

The Marauder airframe was also designed as an new-build crew trainer in the form of 57 TB-26G's. Like the TB-26C trainers loaned to the USN, the TB-26G was also loaned out as 47 JM-2's.

Marauder's were also sent via Lend-Lease to Britain (as Marauder Mk I, Mk IA, Mk II and Mk III marks) while others made their way into the inventories of Free French Forces and the South African Air Force.

The B-26 was noted for its tubular rounded fuselage, earning the press nickname of "Flying Torpedo" in the process. The pilot and co-pilot were positioned in the cockpit with windowed views to the front, sides and above. Engines could easily be kept a watchful eye on thanks to their forward placement on the wings. The nose assembly also contained a glazed windowed position for a single crew member acting as bombardier. Other positions included a dorsal turret gunner whose position was held near the tail vertical fin. The tail gunner occupied the aft-most position. Some Marauders fitted a ventral gun station while still others were seen with gun mounts on the fuselage sides, just behind and underneath the cockpit. Wings were shoulder-mounted monoplanes containing each engine nacelle. The nacelles extended beyond the leading edge and continued past the tailing edge to a point, adding to the types sleek look. The empennage was completed with a rounded vertical tail fin and high-mounted and rounded horizontal planes. The undercarriage was a unique tricycle type with main landing gears and a nose wheel - a departure from traditional main landing gears and a tail wheel. In all, the Marauder appeared every bit the impressive design with only years of war ahead of it to put the machine through its paces.

Typical armament for the Marauder consisted of well-placed defensive machine gun positions throughout the fuselage. No fewer than twelve heavy 0.50 caliber machine guns could defend the aircraft from nose to tail. The rear-mounted dorsal turret contained a pair of 0.50 caliber machine guns as did the tail gun position - the former position possibly offering up the best view of the action above while the latter position charged with the very important task of fending off rear attackers. A ventral gun position - fitting a 0.30 caliber or 0.50 caliber machine gun - was found on some models while, traditionally, this was replaced by twin beam gun pod positions located on either side of the lower front fuselage, a move that would bring the gun total to 12 and allow for lethal strafing runs. A nose gun position was also commonplace and could fit either a 0.30 caliber or 0.50 caliber machine gun as needed. Internally, the Marauder could carry upwards of 4,000 to 5,000lb of ordnance in the form of drop bombs or traditional strike sorties or a single torpedo for anti-shipping duty.

The cockpit was noted as having a utilitarian look and feel - sparse in contrast to other American bombers - consisting of all the necessary controls and gauges in a neatly organized arrangement. The pilot sat in an armored-plated position with access to all controls while the instrument panel ran about three quarters of the width of the cockpit, stopping at about the co-pilot's left knee. As may be expected, both pilot positions had control columns situated before them. A center console held the throttle, propeller and mixture controls within easy reach of both pilot and co-pilot. Landing gear and flap controls were positioned to the rear of the console.

Operational Service

The 22nd Bomb Group was the first American air group to receive the B-26, this at Langley Field in February of 1941. This initial group consisted of B-26 and B-26A models. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the official declaration of war on the Empire by America, the 22nd was the only group with B-26's in stock and were expectedly pressed into service in the South West Pacific. The 22nd BG arrived in Brisbane, Australia after a short stop in Muroc, California, becoming part of the US Fifth Air Force, and was soon put to task with engaging Japanese targets beginning with Rabaul on April 5th, 1942. Other attacks followed and a flight of four B-26A's took part in the Battle of Midway, providing an offensive punch via torpedo strikes on enemy vessels. Despite its usefulness, the North American B-25 Mitchell - a similar twin-engine medium bomber - was finding more success and therefore more use in the theater than the B-26's. The 22nd BG was eventually upgraded with B-26B models by May of 1942. These improved Marauders allowed for continued use of the type that even included actions in along the Aleutian Island chain in 1942. During its first year of action, B-26's were generally restricted to the Pacific Theater but eventually saw extended use - and better results - in Europe and the Mediterranean.

Marauders were used in anger during the Operation Torch landings in North Africa. In this action, Marauders proved their worth, flying with bomb group elements of the 12th Air Force. The B-26 under the RAF Middle East Command in North Africa were noted by their designation of Marauder Mk I (B-26A), Marauder Mk IA (B-26B), Marauder Mk II (B-26C/B-26F) and Marauder Mk III (B-26G). The RAF, which fielded no more than two complete squadrons of Marauders (No. 14 and No. 39) received a batch of 52 Mk I and Mk IA models while totals of Mk II's and Mk III's topped 250 and 150 respectively.

American B-26 units arrived in England by March of 1943, Though results were initially poor with low-level bombing runs, the type saw new life in medium- and high-altitude attacks. In one such case, the complete 322nd Bomber Group flying at low-level was eliminated by ground and aircraft fire in an attempted strike on Ijmuiden, forcing the hand of Allied warplanners to make changes in their approach when utilizing the potent B-26. After adoption of higher-flying bombing techniques, the B-26 was repositioned as a proven and valued stalwart of the Allied bombing campaigns throughout the rest of the war in Europe though phasing out of the type began in 1945.

In the end, the B-26 proved to be a fitting addition to the Allied air arsenal, posting an impeccable service record. B-26's went on to have the lowest combat loss rate of any American aircraft in the conflict, owing something to its stellar design but more to the crews who flew her through her 110,000 sorties.

The B-26 was produced to the tune of some 4,708 to 5,288 total examples when production ceased in 1945. Despite its rough origins, the Marauder was otherwise an excellent medium bomber on par with the North American B-25 Mitchells which starred in the Pacific. The B-26 was undoubtedly fast, adequately armed and could carried an excellent bombload for an aircraft of this type. Marauders and their fighting men served well in their limited role in the Pacific but more than made up for their presence in the volatile fronts of Europe and North Africa, truly becoming one of America's finest warbirds of the conflict.

B-26 Maurader - History

Air Force Case History Files

After the close of World War II, the US Air Force commissioned a number of Case History Files that examined various research and development efforts conducted by the Air Force and its contractors. Most of these reports are available as 16mm microfilm reels from the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

A list of reports available on microfilm appears below.

Microfilm Reels are available via mail order for US $30.00 each from:
AFHRA/RSA (microfilm)
600 Chennault Circle
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6424

Checks drawn on US banks should be payable to DDO MAFB.

When ordering, please specify IRIS Reference Number (IRIS Ref.), Reel No., Call No. and IRIS No.
The difference between End Frame and Start Frame provides an approximate page count.


IRIS Ref. A2061 Reel No. 3829 Start Frame 514 End Frame 755 Call No. 202.1-18 IRIS No. 142048



IRIS Ref. A2061 Reel No. 3829 Start Frame 756 End Frame 1041 Call No. 202.1-18 IRIS No. 142049


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World War Photos

B-26 40-1509 “Ole Tomato” of the 2nd Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group Marauders from 386th Bomb Group, at Bassingbourne on November 9, 1943 Crew in flak armour by B-26C 41-34692 “Mr. Fala” of 454th BS, 323rd Bomb Group B-26 “Southern Cross” 40-1363 of the 22nd BG, 19th BS belly landing at 7-Mile Drome, June 9, 1942
Inspection of Flak damage to 320th BG, 441st Bomb Squadron B-26B 41-17776 “Most Likely” B-26 40-1415 “Fury” of the 19th Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group 394th Bomb Group Marauders at unfinished Boreham Airfield 1944 Ordnance unit in Italy replaces nose of B-26 “Eunice from Tunis” 1944
95th Bomb Squadron B-26C “Helen” crew North Africa 1943 Marauder attacking German defenses at Dunkirk 1944 Martin B-26B Marauder 41-17876 August 1942 B-26 Marauders of the 391st Bomb Group
Capt Ralph Michaelis in 22nd BG B-26 “Calamity Charlie” New Guinea October 1942 Marauders attacking target along Seine River France B-26B “Barbara Ann” 42-96195, 4T-P of the 585th Bombardment Squadron, 394th BG B-26 40-1432 “Little Audrey” of the 22nd Bomb Squadron
French bomber returns to Sardinia Base after raid 1944 397th Bomb Group Marauders raid over France Spring 1944. 9F-Y 42-96137 and 9F-N 42-96191 on the foreground. Martin B-26G 43-34580 of French AF 1945 Martin B-26G-10-MA Marauder 43-34396 in flight
B-26B 42-96129 U2-A from 397th BG, 598th Bomb Squadron B-26B 41-31624 “Loretta Young” 386th Bomb Group, 555th Bomb Squadron in flight B-26C 41-34683 PN-V of the 322nd BG, 449th Bomb Squadron Mission St. Omer fort Rouge, 9 August 1943 TB-26 trainer LW4
Martin B-26B 75 41-17704 in flight 1942 9th AF Marauders enroute to Ijmuiden Holland 1944 Flak riddled B-26 “Truman Committee” of the 322nd Bomb Group B-26 42-107609 H9-R of the 394th Bomb Group, 586th BS
B-26 42-107566 06 shot down by Flak during an attack on rail bridge at Marzabotto, Italy Jul 10, 1944 NAS Moffett Field JM Marauders target tugs and ASW blimps 1944 Lt Joe McCarthy and 322nd BG crew with RAF 617 Sqn Dam Busters 1943 Ground crewman loading bomb racks of B-26 for raid on Sicily 1943
Crashed B-26 AN-R from 386th Bomb Group 28 July 1944 Martin JM-1 BuNo 66722 23 December 1943 B-26B “Bucket of Bolts” of the 319th BG North Africa 1943 1st Lt Ralph G McConnell occupying his position in the nose of his B-26 1944
Martin B-26 in flight July 1941 B-26 40-1407 “Our Gal” of the 22nd Bomb Group Marauders of the 444th BS, 320th Bomb Group at Tunisia Air Base B 26B 75 1942 2
B-26 “Yankee Guerrilla” 41-34946 of the 386th Bomb Group, 555th BS French Marauder B-26C #04 12th AF B-26 flies thru Flak during raid on Ceprano 1944 B-26C 99 in flight MTO
B-26G-15-MA Marauder 44-67835 H9-U of the 586th BS, 394th Bomb Group Martin B-26G-1-MA 43-34130 May 1944 Bomber in flight heading to target British Marauder Mk I FK138
320th BG B-26 after crash landing at North African base 1943 1st Tactical Air Force Marauders in formation over Germany 1945 B-26 40-1516 of the 22nd Bomb Group in flight B-26 named “Mammy Yokum II” and crew, 9th AF June 1944
397th Bomb Group B-26 “By Golly” after crash landing in France 1944 B-26 40-1368 of the 22nd BG New Guinea 1943 B-26C of French 31st Escadrille GBM 1/22 Maroc 1944 B-26 42-107735 “Flossies Fury” of the 17th BG, 95th BS with engine blown off near Toulon, France August 20, 1944
B-26B-55-MA Marauder 42-96151 taxiing 1944 B-26 crew Mr. Five-by-Five, 555th BS July 1944 Damaged B-26B 41-17747 of the 17th BG, 37th BS. 23 March 1943 North Africa B-26B 41-17876 21 August 1942
Crew loading ammunition belts on 9th AF Marauder 44 Bombardierr examines a hole in the tail of his plane “Idiot s Delight II” 1943 B-26B 41-18319 tail gunner 455th BS B-26C 41-35000 “Swamp Chicken” with engine blown off April 1944
B-26G 43-34552 H9-E of the 586th BS, 394th Bomb Group Martin JM-1 of the VJ-4 Marauders of 323rd Bomb Group at Laon-Athies Air Base 1945 B-26 and crew “Clark’s Little Pill” from 451st Bomb Squadron
British B-26F-2 Marauder Mk III, March 1944 B-26 of the RAF B-26F-1-MA Marauder 42-96231 B-26 “Winnie” of the 386th Bomb Group
Tail gunner position in a B-26 B-26G serial 43-34130 XB-26H 1947 77th BS B-26 with torpedo Adak Island fall 1942
9th AF Marauders over French coastline 1944 B-26B 42-96120 of the 397th Bomb Group, 597th BS 319th BG B-26B “Bucket of Bolts” crew North Africa 1943 Bombs fall from B-26 42-95857 FW-K of 556th BS, 387th Bomb Group
B 26 40 1491 Major Monsoon of the 33rd Bomb Squadron 22nd BG Marauder Mk I FK375 “Dominion Revenge” of No. 14 Squadron RAF, Africa 1942/43 XB-26H 2 319th Bomb Group B-26C “Lil Angel’s Big Sis’ Taffy” crew, North Africa 1943
B-26 from 22nd Bomb Group, Langley Field 1941 9th AF bombardier in B-26 with Norden bombsight British B 26 Marauder RAF +M B-26 Marauders in the 22nd BG dispersal area at 7 Mile Drome Summer 1942
Martin B-26 Marauder 40-1373 of 77th Bomb Squadron Adak Island in the Aleutians November 1942 B-26 Marauder Bomber Hit By Flak over France 9th Air Force 397th Bomb Group 596 BS, Martin B-26B-55-MA Marauder s/n 42-96154 X2+O, after a crash landing in France 24 February 1945 Martin B-26 Marauder bomber in flight
B-26 Marauder Bombers Formation of the 386th Bomb Group 553rd BS 9th Air Force. B-26 with D-Day stripes coded AN-T. Martin B-26C front view Martin B-26B-10-MA Marauder 41-18186 #37 of the 320th BG 442nd BS Martin B-26B Marauder 97 of the 320th BG Take Ooff Dole France. Shark mouth nose art.
Martin B-26 Marauder in France A torpedo armed 22nd Bomb Group B-26B Marauder Port Moresby 1942 41-17589 Martin B-26 Marauder bombers formation The cockpit interior of B-26C: control column and instrument panels
US Navy Martin B-26 JM-1 A pair of 323rd BG B-26B and C Marauders after an accident on a French airfield. 41-31813 RJ+G and 41-34871. Martin B-26B-15-MA Marauder code AN-U s/n 41-31600 crew “Mad Russian” nose art. 386th Bomb Group 553rd Bomb Squadron 9th Air Force England January 1944. Martin B-26G-20-MA Marauder code 4T+B of the 394th Bomb Group 585th BS, and P-47 Fighters 9th AF
B-26 Marauder Bomber code YA+V of the 386th Bomb Group 555th BS 9th Air Force. D-Day stripes. B-26B Bombers On Flight Line 17th Bomb Group 37th BS November 1942 22nd Bomb Group B-26 Marauder at Port Moresby 7 Mile Drome New Guinea 1942 B-26 Marauder Bomber Ruthless Nose Art 391st Bomb Group 9th Air Force 2
B-26 Marauder Bomber Bomb Trailer 391st Bomb Group 9th Air Force Martin B-26B Marauder near Corsica B-26 Marauder Bomber Crash, 391st Bomb Group 9th Air Force 2 British B-26 Marauder Mk IA of 14 Sqn RAF FK375 1942
323rd Bomb Group Crew in Damaged B-26C-6-MO Marauder “Miss Emily” B-26B Marauder of the 452nd BS “Mild And Bitter” Returning From 100th Mission, 9th AF May 1944 Martin XB-26 Marauder 1940 B-26 Marauder Bomber Damaged 391st Bomb Group 9th Air Force
B-26 Marauder Bomber Bob Robin Nose Art and Crew 9th Air Force B-26 and B-25 ground collision at New Caledonia in the South Pacific March 11 1943 Martin B-26 Marauder 1941 344th Bomb Group, Martin B-26C-45-MO Marauder s/n 42-107574 in England 1944
Martin B-26G-25-MA Marauder Bomber 44-68154 Crashed B-26B Marauder Bomber of the 391st Bomb Group 575th BS 9th Air Force The cockpit interior of a B-26 Marauder bomber Martin B-26 Marauder “Crew 13” nose art
Martin B-26 Marauder in flight B-26 Marauder Bomber Sharks Mouth Italy B-26 Marauder Klondike II nose art B-26 Marauder Bomber Nose Art US Navy Version JM-1
Martin B-26B Marauder 41-17704 75 B-26G Marauder of the 323rd Bomb Group 454th Bomb Squadron 43-34348 Martin B-26 Marauder bombers formation in flight Martin B-26B-2 Marauder s/n 41-17858 “Coughin’ Coffin” of the 17th BG 34th BS. Crew by Battle Record Nose Art
B-26 Marauder Judy Martin B-26 Marauder crew 2 B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group 443rd Bomb Squadron North Africa 1943 early B-26 Marauder bomber
/> B-26 Marauders rear view /> B-26 Marauder Bomber at Airbase B-26 Marauder crew B-26 Marauder 17 Bomb Group 1943
B-26 Marauder Bomber “Coughin Coffin” Nose Art B-26 Marauder Units 9AF England B-26 Marauder front view B-26 Marauder Bomber “Lonesome Pole Cat” Nose Art
Martin B-26 Marauder “U.S.O.” 9AF England B-26 “Pappys Pram” Nose Art 322nd Bomb Group B-26 Marauder 391st Bomb Group winter 1944 B-26 Marauder “Lil Pokchop” Nose Art 322nd Bomb Group
B-26 Marauder Bomber “Mister Period Twice” nose art Martin B-26 Marauder bombers in flight B-26 Marauder “Pikes Little Peek” Nose Art 322 Bomb Group B-26 Marauder Over D-Day Invasion Fleet June 1944
Free French Martin B-26 Marauder 1944 B 26 Marauder “The Dark Angel” nose art /> Martin B-26 Marauder crew B-26 “Truman Committee” Nose Art 322nd Bomb Group
Free French Martin B-26 Marauder Over Bologne 1944 Martin B-26B-45-MA Marauder, 391th BG 572nd BS 42-95797 /> Martin B-26 Marauder /> Martin B-26 Marauder over Europe
B-26 Marauder and A-20 Clark Field Luzon Philippines 1945 Martin B-26C Marauder Bombs Amsterdam Holland November 1943 B-26 Marauder 391st Bomb Group in winter /> Martin B-26 Marauder bombing
Martin B-26B Marauder, Pacific 41-17569 B-26 Marauder Units 9AF airfield, England /> B-26 Marauder bombing B-26 Marauder Bomber “Pistol Packing Mama” Nose Art 22nd Bomb Group PTO
B-26B Marauder over Amsterdam Holland 1943 386th Bomb Group 552nd Bomb Squadron Martin B-26 Marauder code 60 /> B-26 Marauder Crash Landed Pacific Martin B-26 Marauder Crashed In Normandy June 1944, 387th Bomb Group 557th Bomb Squadron
B-26 Marauder Foggia Airfield Comp Italy /> B-26 Marauder of the 323rd Bomb Group, 453rd BS /> B-26 Marauder in flight B-26 Marauder pre war photo 1941
B-26 “Texas Peacemaker” Nose Art 322nd Bomb Group Martin B-26C-25-MO Marauder, 17 Bomb Group 34th BS 1943 41-35177

Watch the video: B-26 Marauder Historical Society June 2017 Washington DC