Unimax 35084 USAAF Martin B-26B-25 Marauder Medium Bomber - "Flak Bait", 449th Bombardment Squadron, 322nd Bombardment Group, Grottaglie Airfield, Taranto, Italy, 1944 (1:72 Scale)
"It was hit plenty of times, hit all the time. I guess it was hit more than any other plane in the group."
- Lt. James J. Farrell, pilot of "Flak Bait", a Martin B-26B-25 Marauder Medium Bomber
The Martin B-26 Marauder was one of the most controversial American combat aircraft of the Second World War. It was primarily used in Europe, and was in fact numerically the most important USAAF medium bomber used in that theatre of action. However, on four occasions, investigation boards had met to decide if the development and production of the Marauder should continue. The Marauder survived all attempts to remove it from service, and by 1944, the B-26s of the US 9th Air Force had the lowest loss rate on operational missions of any American aircraft in the European theatre, reaching a point less than one half of one percent.
Despite its high landing speed of 130 mph, which remained essentially unchanged throughout the entire production career of the B-26 in spite of numerous modifications made to reduce it, the Marauder had no really vicious flying characteristics and its single-engine performance was actually fairly good. Although at one time the B-26 was considered so dangerous an aircraft that aircrews tried to avoid getting assigned to Marauder-equipped units and civilian ferry crews actually refused to fly B-26s, it turned out that the Marauder could be safely flown if crews were adequately trained and knew what they were doing. It nevertheless did demand somewhat of a higher standard of training from its crews than did its stablemate, the B-25 Mitchell. However, once mastered, the B-26 offered a level of operational immunity to its crews unmatched by any other aircraft in its class.
A total of 5157 B-26 Marauders were built. Although on paper the B-26 was a more advanced aircraft than its stablemate, the North American B-25 Mitchell, it was built in much fewer numbers because it was more expensive to manufacture and had a higher accident rate.
This particular 1:72 scale replica of a B-26B-25 Marauder was nicknamed "Flak Bait" and flown by the USAAF's 449th Bombardment Squadron, 322nd Bombardment Group, then deployed to Grottaglie Airfield, Taranto, Italy, during 1944.
Release Date: February 2013
Historical Account: "Flak Bait" - The NASM B-26B-25-MA nicknamed "Flak Bait" (AAF serial number 41-31173) survived 207 operational missions over Europe, more than any other American aircraft during World War II (A de Havilland Mosquito B. Mk. IX bomber completed 213 missions but this aircraft was destroyed in a crash at Calgary Airport in Canada, two days after V-E Day, see NASM D. H. 98 Mosquito). Workers at the Baltimore factory completed "Flak Bait" in April 1943 and a crew flew it to England. The AAF assigned it to the 449th Bombardment Squadron, 322nd Bombardment Group (nicknamed the 'Annihilators'), and gave the bomber the fuselage identification codes "PN-O." Lt. James J. Farrell of Greenwich, Connecticut, flew more missions in "Flak Bait" than any other pilot. He named the bomber after "Flea Bait," his brother's nickname for the family dog.
This Marauder earned its nickname after just a few missions. Other bombers returned unscathed but "Flak Bait" invariably returned full of holes. "It was hit plenty of times, hit all the time," recalls Farrell. "I guess it was hit more than any other plane in the group." "Flak Bait" completed 100 missions by June 1st, 1944, making it the third Marauder based in Britain to hit the century-mission mark. The bomber soaked up 700 metal splinters on mission 180 in March 1945. On September 10th, 1943, during a mission to Amiens, France, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 approached unseen with the sun at its back. The German pilot attacked "Flak Bait" and a 20-mm cannon shell penetrated the Plexiglas nose, wounding the bombardier, and exploded against the back of the instrument panel. Despite having his instruments knocked out, and a metal fragment lodged in his leg, Farrell brought "Flak Bait" back to England. "It was the best landing I ever saw the boss make," commented Sgt. Don Tyler, tail gunner. During other missions, "Flak Bait" gunners downed at least three German aircraft but only one was officially credited to the bomber.
"Flak Bait's" hour of glory came on April 17th, 1945, when it completed its 200th mission, leading the entire 322nd BG to Magdeburg and back. In its career, this bomber flew from four airfields-two of them on the continent after D-Day-and logged 725 hours of combat time. It returned twice on one engine and once with an engine on fire, suffered complete electrical failure twice and lost the hydraulic system on one mission. The bomber also bombed coastal targets, flew two missions on D-Day and twenty-one missions against V-1 flying bomb launch sites in the Pas de Calais area of France, and attacked targets in Holland, Belgium. The 322nd was the first American bombardment group in the European Theater to bomb in force at night. "Flak Bait" flew three night bombing missions and a black bomb symbol painted on the left fuselage below the cockpit represents one of these night missions.
Few Marauders survive today. One is preserved at the Air Force Museum, Dayton, Ohio, and another can be seen at the Muse de l'Air. Because it has a special history, General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold selected "Flak Bait" to include in a collection of World War II aircraft from different countries that the general set aside for the National Aeronautical Collection. The Air Force transferred the bomber to the National Air Museum in May 1949 but it was not moved to the suburbs of Washington, D. C., until 1960. The original paint is still bright, but more than a thousand patched flak holes bear witness to the fact that this famous Marauder was indeed appropriately named.