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Remember the Marauder Men

Major General John O. Moench, USAF (Ret)
B-26 Marauder pilot and historian

They were true heroes – the male pilots and aircrews, some of them still in their teens, who mastered the much-maligned Martin B-26 Marauder, took it into war, and made it one of the best of the best. These men were not just Americans, they also wore the uniforms of England, France and South Africa. From the Battle of Midway, across the Pacific, in the jungles of New Guinea, in the cold of Alaska and the Aleutians, over ocean and sea the U.S Marauder Men first fought against Japan – for the British and some others the conflict with Germany and Italy was already on-going. In the heat and sand of Africa, across the Mediterranean, and in the Balkans, the Marauder Men went on to support the invasion of Italy and then France from the north and the south, continuing to take on the forces of Germany until the war in Europe was no more. Their aircraft worn out, these men then picked up other aircraft and assignments for the final battle against Japan.

In the end, no assembly of World War II aviators faced more “friendly” enemies than did these Marauder Men and the aircraft they flew. Confronted by an advanced aircraft design, the faint-hearted shunned the B-26; those focused on strategic air warfare and heavy bombers thought the B-26 was a waste of resources; those focused on money placed their bet on the simpler medium bomber – the B-25; the naysayers falsely claimed that the B-26 would not fly on one engine; the U.S. Congress, including Senator Harry Truman, sought the termination of the production of the B-26 – as did some military leaders; media would run out of bad words criticizing the B-26; some commentary was that the B-26 Marauder ran like a Model T and flew like a brick. For many, the B-26 was an accident about to happen – a killer; others manufactured endless pejorative titles to describe and demean the B-26: Martin’s Murderer, the Widow-Maker, the Flying Coffin. The British praised the B-26 Marauder – especially when the U.S. B-26 Marauder Men in England took on the German missile threat. U.S. and allied ground forces also praised the B-26. The Japanese and German forces hated the aircraft. On the operational side of the coin, the men who flew the B-26 fell in love with the aircraft. Soon, just to be a Marauder Man was a mark of achievement with many a pilot seeking flight in a B-26 “only to have it on his record.”

When World War II came to an end, the end also came to the B-26 Marauders – with this medium bomber being replaced by newer and better aircraft. As to the men who had flown the B-26 Marauder – they went on to do other things and, by way of many postwar writings, they soon became the stuff of legends. Still, as befalls many heroes and legends, they and the B-26 Marauder they flew would soon come under attack by the prejudiced, the uninformed, and the unworthy.

While the negative attack against the B-26 Marauder Men was mounted from diverse persons and communities, the most significant and lasting demagoguery would come from pilots serving in the U.S. Women Airforce Service Pilots (the WASP) – female pilots who did not share in the tumultuous beginnings of the B-26 Marauder, female pilots of limited experience with none of it in combat, and female pilots whose short-lived WASP organization would be disbanded well before the end of World War II – a time before the still-fighting B-26 Marauder Men accepted some of their highest casualties during the infamous Battle of the Bulge. To put it bluntly, the leaders of the WASP, along with all too many members thereof, were dedicated to male pilot demagoguery mixed with layers of hatred of men and, as a part of that embedded attitude, the desire to belittle all Marauder Men, even all male pilots, in some cases all men. And what formed the basis of that embedded attitude? From WASP writings, it appears that it arose especially from the view that the men were oriented to diminish the women for little more reason than men were men and, in the contest of World War II and following, it was essential to the WASP that they continue to engage in and prioritize their own private war – a “gender war” intended to defeat their defined enemy: the men and “masculinity.”

But, with the extended array of military aircraft made available to and flown by the WASP, why did the WASP elect to focus so completely on the B-26 Marauder medium bomber and the Marauder Men for their self-serving diatribe? The B-26 Marauder Men had never raised their voices against the WASP and, when called on by their commander to train some WASP to fly the B-26 airframe, in spite of the urgent need to train male pilots for combat, they saluted and turned there attention to that task – accepting, as a result, to send male pilots into combat without desired training – even sending overseas some newly-graduated Aviation Cadets to replenish the combat pilot shortfall – men whose first flight in a B-26 would be in combat.

The answer to the cited question seems to emerge from the fact that the B-26 Marauder came to be possessed of one of the most controversial but outstanding reputations, and the leader of the WASP, Jacqueline Cochran, was determined that her girls be made a part of the male B-26 Marauder community so as to share in this aircraft’s recognized achievements and the attention and honors accorded the Marauder Men. Accordingly, in 1943, a major push was made by Cochran to have some of her girls fly the B-26 Marauder – actually, however, the male Air Force leadership had already decided to do this as a planned progression of WASP training – the new step in the progressive exposure of the WASP including the B-17, B-25, B-26 and some other aircraft. This decision by the Air Force leadership was not, however, based on the B-26 Marauder Men rationale that would then be proclaimed by the WASP. What appears to have developed is that the Air Force male leadership unilaterally decided to advance the WASP to the B-26 airframe, but, in a “I caused the sun to rise” format, Cochran turned the story around to give herself credit for the action taken and, concurrently, set forth a “shame the men” rationale for the action – attributing this rationale to General Arnold. The simple fact was that it was not necessary to “shame the men” into flying the B-26 Marauder, they were doing what they had been assigned to do – with many who could actually manipulating their assignment to the B-26 Marauder as a matter of choice.

The resulting “promotional lie” that would emerge from the WASP was an invented “story” that, avoiding supporting/proving detail, would be told and retold by the WASP far beyond the next half century—and, with each “telling,” the “story” would grow. This was a severe case of rumor mongering – otherwise known as gossip mongering.

Military forces, often impacted by the need for security, do tend to be especially susceptible to rumors. As an example, when a ship is loaded with combat troops, it may be that only the ship’s captain knows the destination – or he may not know the destination until, when at sea, he opens “sealed orders.”

Many things can stimulate a rumor. When, after World War II, by accident a shipment of skis and snowshoes arrived in the Philippines, the troops stationed there immediately thought that they were about to be redeployed to a cold weather assignment – and rumors ran rampant.

Because rumors can have a serious impact on morale, commanders are ever alert to squelch them. However, there are times when the semblance of believability to a rumor is so strong that commanders are caught up in what really is gossip and become a part of the on-going “rumor mill.”

With the many rumors surrounding the B-26 Marauder spreading like wildfire, when the WASP were suddenly introduced to this aircraft, it was easy for the WASP community to accept the prevailing rumors about this aircraft and the men who flew them -- and otherwise conclude that it had become necessary to train the WASP to fly the “notorious and dangerous” B-26 Marauder in order to prove to the male pilots that the B-26 Marauder “was safe to fly.” In other words, the WASP accepted and expanded on a false scenario to prove that they were better than male pilots and in an aircraft that they would promote as the hottest and most difficult aircraft of all to fly – which, while not tolerating fools, it wasn’t. To support what emerged as Cochran’s self-generated myth, the WASP readily joined with surrounding naysayers and, regardless of the lack of proof, committed themselves to the support of their leader by repeating the Cochran claim that the male pilots were afraid to fly the B-26, refused to fly the B-26, and walked away rather than fly this notable aircraft. This was in spite of the U.S. Air Corps pilots having flown the B-26 from well before the date the U.S. entered World War II, and, following the Japanese attack, had immediately launched B-26s with male pilots and aircrews to then attack and continually engage the enemies of the U.S. Further, in the pre and post time frame of the WASP-asserted story, the B-26s were also flown successfully by the USN and USMC along with allied air units – none of this factual history being recognized by the WASP in “the rest of the story” fashion in that, to them, the rumor-based stories were so believable and WASP-inspiring that their rumor-mongering became a near full-time occupation.

The few male B-26 Marauder pilots who actually came to learn of the alleged WASP claims of male B-26 Marauder pilot failure to perform and the rumored tasking of the neophyte WASP to somehow correct the male situation, simply laughed and shrugged off the story as no more than more of a stream of female braggadocio. After all, the male pilots had already been flying the B-26 for years. Actually, at the time the WASP first began transition training in the B-26 airframe, all the U.S. B-26 combat units that were to be formed had already been deployed to and returned from combat, were then deployed in combat, or were en route to combat – and out of reach of WASP story-telling and claimed influence. But the WASP were dead serious in their “story-telling” and, notwithstanding the fact that the story was no more than “hot air,” in keeping with their dedicated “gender war” orientation, the WASP doggedly persisted in spreading their B-26 Marauder and other claims of superiority over male pilots until they captured the minds of media, political leaders, and many others – thereby proving that a lie told often enough will eventually become accepted as truth. For the WASP, however, their B-26 Marauder “story” was not a lie -- the connective proof being that the male B-26 Marauder pilots and aircrews succeeded so well. In many ways, the WASPs were like the ants on a log drifting downstream believing that they were steering the log,

Ultimately and long after the B-26 Marauder and the Marauder Men had transitioned into history, citing their invented B-26 “story” as a primary claim to fame, the WASP would mount an extensive propaganda effort to influence public leaders and the U.S. Congress for the purpose of obtaining recognition via the award of a Congressional Gold Medal. By then the much repeated and embellished WASP “story” had been magnified to the point that by utility flying some B-26 airframes in the contiguous forty-eight states during a period of some twelve months (1944), mostly with such flying as took place being in the stripped down version of the B-26 (the AT-23) used to train Aviation Cadets and the stripped down TB-26 for towing gunnery targets, they had instantaneously improved the morale of the male pilots to the point that these men no longer feared to fly the B-26 Marauder; that as a result of WASP’s demonstrated performance they had bettered the overall B-26 accident rate; and that the WASP influence was such that the performance of the deployed combat units in Africa and Europe was materially improved -- this by way of some unexplained, long-distance, across-the-ocean magic. Plausibility was absent in these WASP claims, but there was much more to the diabolical WASP story. Some of this fabricated or otherwise misleading story had come from the leader of the WASP who, among other things, would assert that she had, based on a single flight in a B-26 Marauder (this being instructed by a male pilot), instantly originated a fundamental redesign of the aircraft, on landing advised General Arnold of what she viewed as an essential B-26 redesign, with her recommendation then promptly implemented. Although, out of respect to Cochran, this and other Cochran “stories” were never contested, the design change she claimed to have authored not only came from others but had already been incorporated in production B-26s.

When examined, a host of other WASP claims and “stories” proved to be misleading, half truth distortions, or actual fabrications. Unfazed and reversing fact (i.e. B-26 Marauder flight instruction being by Marauder Men), the WASP would claim that they taught “the men” how to fly – which had a narrow foundation in truth – that being in regard to some limited Aviation Cadet instruction and instrument training.

With little concern for reality, truth or even logic, in pursuit of their B-26 Marauder claims and through loose writing of the claims made and supported – while possibly not intended -- the WASP proceeded not just to disparage U.S Air Corps pilots and aircrews but, in total, an estimated 20,000 U.S. and foreign male B-26 Marauder pilots and untold others. The then unfortunate result came wherein the later knowledge gap between World War II and the present day was so great that the continuing (still uncontested) WASP presentations served to dominate the perception and thinking of the decades later military leaders, politicians, media and others, even the U.S. Congress and President, all of whom blindly accepted the “stories” of the WASP – after all, why would a woman lie? And, by then, the few writings that took note of the negative B-26 Marauder claims being derived from rumor had been shoved aside by the more attractive and inspiring claims of the WASP as well as by the mounting influence of political correctness.

The day then came that, surrounded by surviving and smiling WASP, with a stroke of the pen the U,S. President and Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces approved a Public Law containing (Item 17 therein) support of the manufactured WASP B-26 “story” – a story that, in extension, labeled the Marauder Men of the U.S. and those of World War II allies, as lacking in commitment and proficiency, being cowards, and avoiding combat. And why did this take place? Allegorically, it was, for the WASP, the influence of the proverbial twenty pieces of silver or, in this case, a Congressional Gold Medal.

During the more than half century of WASP ranting, did the media or anyone else vet the WASP stories? Apparently not! And now, having obtained their gold medal, the surviving WASP continue to applaud and congratulate themselves while they retreat into the shadows of history, refusing to provide proof for the outlandish B-26 Marauder stories and accounts they manufactured and propagated, refusing to accept responsibility for the damage they inflicted on the heroic Marauder Men of World War II and the memory of their outstanding achievements, and even refusing to enter the open door to B-26 Marauder historians and other Marauder Men for the purpose of engaging in a mature and constructive dialogue to jointly prove or correct the WASP-sponsored historical record of the Marauder Men.

Hopefully, the newer generations of female military pilots will not follow the unworthy modus operandi of their preceding WASP, and that there will be perceptive and thinking U.S. and foreign citizens who will …

Remember the Achievements of the U.S. and Other Marauder Men of World War II

… and honor the WASP for the really worthy things they accomplished rather than the other WASP-asserted kind – to include not for what the WASP did not achieve or do.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As a postscript, some untruth readily shines through in WASP accounts that elaborate on their B-26 experience. As an example, a typical WASP lead in to assertive statements may include the admittance as we heard and as we were told (avoiding a statement of “by whom”) or otherwise noting that the statement being made was the copy of what some WASP or others wrote (seldom noting the source). Without facts in hand, repeating unverified statements of others or admitted hearsay is placing one’s reputation in the hands of unworthy sources and adding a tier of questionable information to the historical record.

It is apparent that an underlying problem in the WASP scenario was that the WASP leadership leaned to keeping their girls misinformed, uninformed and negatively oriented toward the men. Thus, when a group of WASP entered B-26 transition in Dodge City, Kansas, Jacqueline Cochran wanted them separated from the men so that they would not be confronted with so-called male pilot fears and other “scuttlebutt.” The resulting modus operandi of many of the girls was to follow the male-negative direction of the WASP leadership and replicate that unfortunate appreciation in their own mood and later writings – leading to an embedded “hate men” overview with ever-expanded assertions of negative male attributes that then had to be enhanced with even more assertions of male ineptness and shortfall. Notwithstanding the direction of WASP leadership, the WASP student pilots did socialize with the male B-26 instructor pilots – with none of those male pilots being classed as per WASP claims: fearing the B-26 and avoiding combat – most of them managing to obtain combat assignments at the first opportunity.

Instilling in WASP an anti-men attitude by employing trumped up rationale was contrary to the maintenance of good order and discipline, the facts and mature sense. Eventually and as is evident in WASP writings, it led to the papering of the male B-26 pilot and aircrew community with falsehoods, negatives, and imagined lack of male spine, knowledge, dedication and performance.

Apparently this distorted view of males arose from the fact that the WASP exposure to male B-26 Marauder pilots was limited to what took place in the contiguous forty-eight states with only tidbits of what was transpiring there and, for all intent, little or no real knowledge of the nitty-gritty of combat operations and male performance reaching them. This is evident in the shallow (mostly incorrect) WASP coverage of combat tours which, in WASP writings, often are treated as something akin to a vacation. Spasmodically addressing the combat tour as consisting of 25 missions (this being applicable to the early deployments to Europe of the heavy bombers, the B-17 and B-24) after which the pilots and aircrews returned to the states. One would never realize from WASP writings the number of those men who never returned or who came back injured – nor the rationale for the original combat tour of 25 missions – in the 1942-1943 time frame that was a reflection of the forecast maximum survival of pilots and aircrews. The WASP writings might have read differently had they come face-to-face with a barracks of empty beds that the day prior were filled with healthy men. Unfortunately, when those men who did survive returned from combat, the WASP simply brushed them aside as being in the way of WASP objectives – worthless creatures trying to get back into the cockpit, intent on replacing WASP, and interested only in their flight pay.

In the instance of the B-26 Marauder, the WASP writings reflect little or no understanding of the pilot and aircrew situation that, to keep the aircraft flying, led to a change in the combat tour such that, approaching D-Day in Europe, incrementally crept up to 50 missions, then 65 missions, with finally the Ninth Bomber Command declaring that there would be no combat tour – that these men were to fly until dead, a POW, or damaged beyond repair. By then, many men had accumulated 80 or more combat missions with some reaching 100 and beyond. In the comfort of the contiguous forty-eight states, the WASP came to absorb little to none of the exterior real world, and the associated judgments they made regarding “the men” were usually worth no more than a “three dollar bill.”

That said and as noted in some WASP accounts, there was a core of the ladies that simply wanted to fly – neither attack the men nor attempt to reorder a world they did not understand. But, in the sense of the hidden WASP attitude toward men, consider the Cochran directive to her WASP: “When a man wants to put your parachute in the airplane and take it out, let him. That’s what men are for – to be nice to us. If you [the WASP] are going to run around trying to act like men, they are going to treat us like men. If we act like ladies, we’ll be treated that way.” Thus, when an instructor pilot slapped the hand of a WASP in an attempt to cause her to keep her hands on the controls as they should be, rather than accepting this forceful instruction, the WASP would write that the instructor pilot was “really mean.”

Later, academic writers covering the WASP experience would inordinately focus not on what the WASP accomplished but on the biological and social differences of men and women and, in regard to history, a claimed cultural need of males to deny the role of women in war – to, among other things, erase women from war narratives. This embedded indoctrination of women is revealed in the 2001 claim of the recent, apparently self-appointed head of the WASP, Nancy Parrish, wherein she asserts that the Marauder Men failed to include the WASP in their published histories. While that claim was factually wrong in that, as appropriate, the contributions of the WASP were noted in Ferry Group and some other B-26 Marauder writings, the truth was that the WASP had no material impact on the many U.S. and foreign B-26 combat units and their “histories” – and those WASP claims to the contrary were no more than historical distortions, e.g. a totally unreal and geographically illogical 2009 WASP claim reading that: “As a result of [the WASP] efforts, the B-26 … went on to achieve one of the lowest loss rates of any American aircraft during the war.” This type of claim parallels that of the person who runs to the head of a parade claiming to be leading it. Just consider that the male B-26 pilot timeline, which includes male pilots functioning from 1939 through the end of World War II, sets forth active service in all theaters of war vs. the handful of B-26 WASP that flew unloaded B-26 airframes pulling targets and accomplishing utility flying in the contiguous forty-eight states – and this only for a limited twelve months in the near end of that timeline.

Setting the foregoing aside, from the aspect of Marauder Men, the WASP probably have the right to be awarded and accept the Congressional Gold Medal – but it should be for what they really accomplished and not for what they simply imagined they accomplished.

In the years following the end of World War II, much effort has gone into “correcting the record.” Mistakes were made then and later. In the more current period the need to examine the past for injustice rendered is evidenced by the inquiry by the Department of Defense into a vicious magazine article that resulted in the abrupt, forced retirement of General Stanley A. McChrystal – an inquiry that cleared McChrystal of wrongdoing but which can never alter the damage that was done. Similarly but less recent were the charges made against Air Force General John D. Lavelle (SEAsia War) that finally were overturned with his four star grade returned – but, by then, General Lavelle was dead.

Today, we have some 20,000 U.S. and foreign Marauder Men of World War II, living and dead, whose reputation was damaged by the self-serving actions of the WASP and others. The established modus operandi associated with other serious wrongs of the past now needs to be extended to these 20,000 heroes.

As to those many persons who wrongly asserted and/or endorsed the improper WASP claims that the B-26 Marauder male pilots and others were weak, unprofessional and cowardly – their actions serve not only to shame themselves and others for what they did (or failed to do), but for the good of all (that including themselves), but notably for the Marauder Men and the countries they served, and most especially for those Marauder Men who perished in World War II or returned home with damaged or lost body parts:


In connection therewith, the WASP, having been the primary source of the undeserved criticism of the B-26 Marauder male communities and having wrongly benefited themselves thereby, should now take the constructive lead in ensuring that the cited corrective action takes place and otherwise corrects their own historical record.

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The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) and its predecessor groups the Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS)

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