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The World's Greatest Aircraft

Martin's Midway Medium

Despite its exceptionally high wing-loading and tricky handling characteristics, which led to constant criticism during its operational life, the Marauder saw service throughout America's involvement in World War 2 and, once afforded the respect it demanded, proved a highly potent medium bomber in many war theatres.

During the last years of the 1930s the US Army Air Corps was singularly poorly equipped with medium bombers, dependence being laid almost exclusively upon the aged Douglas B-18 and Martin B-10, neither of which possessed the performance, bomb load or defensive armament comparable with modern aircraft in service in Europe. When in January 1939 the AAC circulated among American manufacturers outline proposals for a new medium bomber, emphasis was given to high speed, long range and a bomb load of 2,0001b (907 kg), it being tacitly accepted that achievement of these characteristics would likely result in high wing loading, and therefore high landing speed and lengthy take-off run.

(P)500-pounders string from B-26Bs of the 444th Squadron, 320th Bomb Group over Italy, 1944. The Marauder took a measure of experience to handle her high performance. But, mastered, she was a reliable and durable mount, and her crews amassed an astounding combat record, with a loss rate of less than one per cent.(P)

Prepared by Peyton M. Magruder and submitted to the Air Board by the Glenn L. Martin Company on 5 July 1939, the Martin 179 design was adjudged the best of all competing tenders and, despite the highest-ever wing-loading of an aircraft intended for the AAC, was ordered into production immediately after the design had been accepted, an expedient prompted by the worsening international situation. With five-man crew, the Martin 179 was to be powered by two 1,850-hp (1380-kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radials in nacelles under slung from a shoulder-mounted wing of only moderate area. Two 0.3-in (7.62-mm) and two 0.5-in (12.7-mm) machine-guns constituted the defensive armament, and the centre portion of the beautifully streamlined, circular-section fuselage featured an unrestricted bay to accommodate the bomb load.

(P)Newly-arrived in the ETO was this B-26G25 (44-68119) of the 585th Squadron, 394th Bomb Group, based at Cambrai-Niergnies, France, in November 1944. This unit was heavily involved in the Rhine Crossing operations and in the Battle of the Ardennes.(P)

From drawing board to Air Force

Designated B-26, 1,100 aircraft were ordered in September 1939 and the first aircraft (40-1361) was flown by William K. Ebel on 25 November 1940. There were no prototypes as such. The first 201 examples were powered by R-2800-5 engines and most were retained for experimental and training purposes, the latter proving to be a lengthy and somewhat hazardous procedure as a result of pilot unfamiliarity with the nose wheel type of landing gear and the high landing speed: at a gross weight of 32,000 lb (14515 kg) and wing area of 602.0 sq ft (55.93 m2), the wing loading was 53.21b/sq ft (260 kg/m2) and at a normal landing weight the touchdown speed was around 96 mph (154 km/h). The maximum bomb load of 5,8001b (2631 kg) far exceeded the original requirement and the top speed of 315 mph (507 km/h) was the highest of all B-26 variants.

First deliveries to the AAF started in 1941, and during the second half of that year production switched to the B-26A which, introducing provision for optional bomb-bay fuel tanks, shackles for a 22-in (55.88-cm) torpedo under the fuselage and 0.5-in (12.7-mm) guns in place of the 0.3-in (7.62-mm) guns in nose and tail, had a maximum all-up weight of 32,200 lb (14606 kg). At the same time the electrical system was changed from 12-volt to 24-volt.

A total of 139 B-24As was built, and it was with this version that the 22nd Bomb Group (Medium) moved to Australia immediately after Pearl Harbor in December 1941; with extra fuel replacing part of the bomb load these aircraft flew attacks against targets in New Guinea the following April. In June that year torpedo-carrying B-26As went into action during the great Battle of Midway, as others of the 73rd and 77th Bomb Squadrons attacked shipping in the Aleutians.

Production of the B-26A continued at the Baltimore, Maryland, factory until May 1942 when the first B-2613s appeared. With a total of 1,883 built, the B-2613 was the most-produced version. The B-2613-1. introduced increased armour protection, improved engine cowling; shape (without propeller spinners), a ventral gun position and a twine 0.5-in (12.7-mm) tail gun position. These alterations increased they gross weight to 36,500 lb (16556 kg) without any change in power-plant, but in the B-2, -3 and -4 production blocks the engines were the uprated 1,920-hp (1432-kW) R-2800-41 or -43 version.

The B-2613-4 sub-variant introduced a lengthened nose wheel leg; as an attempt to provide increased wing incidence on take-off, an& single 0.5-in (12.7-mm) beam guns replaced the ventral gun. The B-5i featured slotted flaps to improve landing approach handling. A total of 641 B-1s, -2s, -3s, -4s and -5s was produced.

Still the B-26 attracted harsh comment from the service and the! B-10 (and subsequent versions) featured a wing span increased toe 71 ft 0 in (21.64 m) to reduce the wing-loading, but this was accompanied by yet further weight increases (to a gross weight of 38,200lb/' 17328 kg) by the addition of four 0.5-in (12.7-mm) `package' machine-guns on the sides of the nose, and a Martin-Bell power-operated tail. turret. Far from being significantly reduced, the wing-loading at: all-up weight had advanced to 58.05 lb/sq ft (283.4 kg/m2) and the! normal touchdown speed to 103 mph (166 km/h). As a means of limiting the critical speed and of improving lateral stability, the! vertical tail was also increased in height and area.

The Baltimore plant produced 1,242 B-10s and their derivatives, and Martin went on to open a new facility at Omaha, Nebraska, late in 1942 where 1,235 B-26Cs (equivalent to the B-10 and subsequent blocks) were produced.

Into action around the world

War operations by the B-26 during the USA's first 11 months of war were confined to the Pacific theatre but, in support of they campaign following the `Torch' landings, the 17th, 319th and 320th. Bomb Groups (Medium), comprising the 34th, 37th, 95th, 432nd, 437th, 438th, 439th, 440th, 441st, 442nd, 443rd and 444th Squadrons, operated with the 12th Air Force in North Africa with B-26Bs and. B-26Cs from December 1942, thereafter accompanying and supporting the Allied armies in Sicily, Italy, Sardinia, Corsica and southern France.

In northern Europe the B-26's early operations were disappointing. Following a partly successful baptism by the 8th Air Force's first B-26 group, the 322nd, in an attack on the Velsen generating station at Ijmuiden on 14 May 1943, a second attack by 10 aircraft, led by Colonel Robert M. Stillman on the same target three days later resulted in the loss of the entire formation to Flak, German fighters and collision. In recognition of the B-26's apparent vulnerability to ground fire, operations moved to medium and high altitudes. The Marauder's full potential was not realized, however, until, assigned to the newly formed 9th Air Force at the end of 1943, the aircraft assumed the role of medium-altitude strategic attack (albeit under fighter escort) against targets in preparation for the forthcoming invasion of Europe. By May 1944 the 9th Air Force operated eight B-26 groups, the 322nd, 323rd, 344th, 386th, 387th, 391st, 394th and 397th, comprising 28 squadrons.

(P)No prototype of the B-26 as such was built, and the first aircraft (shown here, 40-1361) Two aircraft (nearest is a B-268-25-MA, 41-31788, beyond a B-26C-5-MO, 41-34763) of (P)

(P)Martin B-26B-55 (42-96152) of the 598th Squadron, 397th Bomb Group, based at Dreux and Gorges, France, in September 1944. Removal of the white segments of the invasion stripes on the upper surfaces (exposing the dull primer) was adopted by some American crews in the interests of camouflage from enemy fighter attention. Note mule head on nose, and hind quarters on tail.(P)

(P)Distinguishable from later long-span versions, the RAF's Marauder Mk I featured the 65-ft (19.81-m) wing span. No. 14 (Bomber) Squadron was the first in the RAF to receive the aircraft, this example (FK375, named Dominion Revenge) being taken on charge at Fayid in August 1942 and flown on operations from LG 224. (P)

Meanwhile the B-26 had entered service with the Royal Air Force. In July 1942 the first Marauder Mk Is (equivalent to the 65-ft/19.81-m span B-26A) had reached Egypt and the following month No. 14 Squadron started disposing of its Bristol Blenheims in favour of the American aircraft. However, the RAF repeated the criticisms voiced elsewhere, and these were confirmed by trials with an aircraft in the United Kingdom, with the result that deliveries to the Middle East were stockpiled at Maintenance Units and No. 14 Squadron for many months remained the only RAF Marauder-equipped squadron, persevering with their aircraft until September 1944.

The rapid expansion and deployment of the South African Air Force in North Africa resulted, however, in the long-span Marauder Mk II (equivalent to the B-26C-30-MO) being issued to Nos 12, 21, 24, 25 and 30 Squadrons, SAAF. Nineteen short-span B-26Bs remained on RAF charge. In 1944, Marauder Mk Ills (equivalent to the B-26F and B-26G) arrived in the Mediterranean theatre and joined the SAAF as well as six squadrons of the newly reconstituted French Air Force. In all, a total of 525 Marauders was acquired by the UK on Lend-Lease. Production of the B-2613 ended at Baltimore in February 1944 with delivery of the last B-2613-55-MA. In addition, Martin produced 208 AT-23As for the USAAF, these being a target tug/trainer version of the B-2613 without armour, guns or turret, but with a C-5 target winch. Omaha production ended in April 1944 with the B-26C-45-MO and 350 AT-2313 target tug/trainers; 225 of the target tugs were delivered to the US Navy and US Marine Corps under the designation JM-1. The USAAF aircraft were redesignated TB-26s in 1944.

Further changes, further orders

A single XB-26D was produced after modification of an early aircraft to test anti-icing systems, but the planned B-26E, with reduced weight and the dorsal turret moved forward to the navigator's compartment, was not built.

Two other production versions were built, however. Both featured the long-span wings but the wing incidence was increased by 3.5: this was considered by most pilots to improve take-off and landing characteristics and certainly resulted in better approach handling, but sharply reduced the maximum speed to 277 mph (446 km/h). Production of the B-26F-1-MA started late in 1943, with the first deliveries to the USAAF being made the following February. Some 300 B-26Fs were completed, of which 200 were delivered to the Middle East under Lend-Lease as Marauder Mk IIIs (equivalent to the B-26F-2 and B-26F-6).

Numerous minor changes in equipment and fittings identified the B-26G, of which Martin produced 893, with 150 purchased by the UK also as Marauder Mk IIIs. Some 57 TB-26Gs were also produced in 1944, of which the last 15 went to the US Navy and US Marine Corps as the JM-2.

With the take-off and landing problems largely sorted out, a second RAF squadron, No. 39, started to receive Marauder Mk Ills at Alghero, Italy, in February 1945, retaining them in the Middle East until September 1946.

(P)The Martin Marauder Mk II corresponded to the USAAF's B-26C with 71-ft (21.64-m) (P)

(P)Martin B-26F-1-MA (42-962461) of the 556th Squadron. 387th Bomb Group 98th Bomb Wing, based at Chipping Ongar (P)

The final B-26 was delivered on 30 March 1945 for a total of 5,157 Marauders completed. (One other aircraft, the XB-26H, 44-28221, was produced to test the four-wheel bicycle landing gear planned for the Boeing B-47 and Martin XB-48 bombers.)

Despite the problems stemming from the relatively advanced design philosophy, the B-26 had an impressive war record, including a total of 129,943 operational sorties flown in the European and Mediterranean theatres alone, during which B-26s dropped 169,382 tons of bombs; their crews claimed the destruction of 402 enemy aircraft, while the loss of 911 aircraft in combat represented an overall loss rate of less than one per cent. The USAAF's B-26 inventory peaked in March 1944 when 11 groups were operational (comprising 43 squadrons), and 1,931 B-26s were on charge in the ETO alone.

(P)The US Navy acquired a total of 272 Marauders, principally for target towing duties during World War 2. This JM-2 (91987) corresponded to the USAAF TB-26G, and is pictured at the Naval Air Station, Moffett Field, California.(P)

Martin B-26 Marauder variants

B-26: 201 aircraft built by Martin at Baltimore, Md; R2800-5 engines; mostly training and test aircraft (40-1361 to-1561)

B-26A: 139 aircraft built at Baltimore; R-2800-9 or -39 engines (41-7345 to -7483, 52 to RAF as Marauder Mk I)

B-26B: 1,883 aircraft built at Baltimore; first 791 had-5 engines, remainder with-41 or -43 engines; B-268-4 introduced lengthened nose wheel leg and ventral gun: B-5 introduced slotted flaps; B-10 introduced 71-ft (21.64in) span wings; 19 short-span and 104 long-span aircraft purchased by UK as Marauder Mk IA (41-17544 to-18334; 41-31573 to -32072; 42-43260 to -43357; 42 -43360 and -43361; 42-43459; 42-95738 to-96228)

AT-23A: (later T&238):208 target tug/trainers; stripped version of B-26B (42-43358 and -43359; 42-43362 to -43458; 42-95629 to -95737; many to US Navy and US Marine Corps as JM-1)

B-26C: 1,235 aircraft built of Omaha, NA, similar to B-26C (41-34673 to -35560, less 21 AT-23B listed below; 42-107497 to-107855; 123 purchased by UK as Marauder Mk II)

AT-238: (later TB-23C): 350 target tug/trainers; shipped version of B-26C (41-35371, -35373, -35516, -35539; 41-35541 to -35547; -35552; 41-35561 to-35872; 42-107471 to -107496)

XB-26D: single aircraft converted to test anti-icing systems

B-26E: projected lightened version (see text); not built

B-26F: 300 Baltimore-built aircraft with increased wing incidence; R-2800-43 engines (42-96229 to-96528; 200 to RAF as Marauder Mk llls. ex-B-26F-2 and -6)

B-26G: 893 Baltimore-built aircraft with minor equipment changes from B-26F (43-34115 to-34614; 44-67805 to -67944; 44-67970 to -68221; 44-68254; 150 to RAF as Marauder Mk III with serials HD602-HD751)

TB-26G: 57 target tug/trainers; stripped version of B-26G (44-67945 to-67969; 44-68222 to-68253; 32 of these to US Navy and US Marine Corps as JM-2)

XB-26H: one experimental aircraft, 44-28221, with zero-track tandem landing gear

(P)Free French pilots of 31e Escadre de Bombardment pre-flight their Marauder in the African desert prior to a strike against Italian target, 1943. The Marauder's offensive firepower in the form of four 0.5 inch (12.7mm) machine guns in fuselage blisters made the aircraft a powerful attack weapon as well as bomber.(P)

(P)The B-26 was one of the principal aircraft selected to equip the bomber units of the re-constituted Armee de I'Air at the end of the war. This late-standard G-26G-25 (4468165) was flown by Groupe de Bombardement 1/32 'Bourgogne' at St Dizier in 1945. (P)

(P)The black and yellow diagonal stripes on the tail of this B-26C-45(42-107812) identify it as belonging to the 387th Bombardment Group of the 98th Bombardment Wing, while the KS code indicates an aircraft of the 557th Squadron. For much of its time spent at Chipping Ongar in England between 25 June 1943 and 18 July 1944 the group was commanded by Colonel Jack E. Caldwell, and was heavily committed to daylight attacks on the V-weapon sites and airfields in Northern Europe. The aircraft as pictured here carries the invasion stripes applied at the time of the Normandy landings of June 1944; the squadron moved to Maupertius in France on 22 August 1944. (P)


Martin B-26B-10-MA (Marauder Mk 11)
Type: seven-seat medium day bomber
Power plant: two 1,920-hp (1432-kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-43 radial piston engines
Performance: maximum speed 282 mph (454 km/h) at 15,000 ft (4570 m); climb to 15,000 ft (4600 m) in 13 minutes 0 seconds; service ceiling 21,000 ft (6400 m); range 1,150 miles (1851 km) with 3,000 lb (1361 kg) of bombs and 961 Imp gal (4367 litres) of fuel; maximum ferry range (overload fuel) 2,850 miles (4587 km)
Weights: empty 24,000 lb (10886 kg); normal take-off 37,000 lb (16783 kg)
Dimensions: span 71 ft 0 in (21.64 m); length 58 ft 3 in (17.75 m); height 21 ft 6 in (6.55 m); wing area 658.0 sq ft (61.13 m2)
Armament: 0.5-in (12.7-mm) machine-guns with 3,950 rounds, plus a maximum bomb load of 5,200 lb (2359 kg)

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