Hobby Master HA3201 US Army Air Force Douglas A-26B Invader Light Attack Bomber - "Stinky," 552nd Bomb Squadron, 386th Bomb Group, Beaumont-sur-Oise, France, 1945 (1:72 Scale)
"Although separated by miles and communities, we are one in purpose and policy ... To build the largest number possible of the best airplanes in the shortest possible time."
- Donald Douglas Sr., founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company
The Douglas A-26 Invader (B-26 between 1948–1965) was a United States twin-engined light attack bomber built by the Douglas Aircraft Co. during World War II that also saw service during several of the Cold War's major conflicts. A limited number of highly modified aircraft (designation A-26 restored) served in combat until 1969. The redesignation of the type from A-26 to B-26 has led to popular confusion with the Martin B-26. Although both types used the R-2800 engine, they are completely different designs. 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 US Air Force and the National Guard Bureau and donated to the National Air and Space Museum.
The A-26 was an unusual design for an attack bomber of the early 1940s period, as it was designed as a single-pilot aircraft (sharing this characteristic with the RAF's de Havilland Mosquito, among others). The aircraft was designed by Edward Heinemann, Robert Donovan, and Ted R. Smith. The Douglas XA-26 prototype (41-19504) first flew on July 10th, 1942, at Mines Field, El Segundo, with test pilot Benny Howard at the controls. Flight tests revealed excellent performance and handling, but there were problems with engine cooling which led to cowling changes and omission of the propeller spinners on production aircraft, plus modification of the nose landing gear after repeated collapses during testing.
The A-26B had a "solid" nose, which originally could be equipped with a combination of anything from .50 caliber machine guns, 37mm auto cannon, 20mm or even a 75mm pack howitzer, but normally the solid nose version housed six (or later eight) .50 caliber machine guns, officially termed the "all-purpose nose", later commonly known as the "six-gun nose" or "eight-gun nose". The A-26C's "glass" nose, officially termed the "Bombardier nose", contained a Norden bombsight for medium altitude precision bombing. The A-26C nose section included two fixed M-2 guns, later replaced by underwing gun packs or internal guns in the wings.
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 a fixed forward mount. An A-26C nose section could be exchanged for 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.
Alongside the pilot in an A-26B, a crew member typically 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 relocated 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 to allow limited access to the nose section. A tractor-style "jump seat" was located behind the "navigator's seat." In most missions, a third crew member in the rear gunner's compartment operated the remotely-controlled dorsal and ventral gun turrets, with access to and from the cockpit only possible via the bomb bay when that was empty.
This particular US Army Air Force Douglas A-26B Invader Light Attack Bomber was nicknamed "Stinky," and attached to the 552nd Bomb Squadron, 386th Bomb Group, then deployed to Beaumont, France, in 1945.
Release Date: February 2011
Historical Account: "Bombs Away" - This unit was constituted as the 386th Bombardment Group (Medium) on November 25th, 1942, and was activated on December 1st, 1942, at MacDill Field, Florida. The group was equipped with the Martin B-26 Marauder medium bomber. Its operational squadrons were the 552d (RG), 553d (AN), 554th (RU) and 555th (YA). After training at several airfields in the United States, the group was deployed to Europe in June 1943 and was assigned initially to the Eighth Air Force 3rd Bombardment Wing at RAF Snetterton Heath, England. The group remained at Snetterton Heath only a few days, being transferred to RAF Boxted on June 10th, 1943, in north Essex where the Martin B-26 Marauder groups were being consolidated for operations. The group flew its first mission on July 20th, with operations concentrating on airfields but also attacked marshalling yards and gun positions along the channel coast.
The 386th was again transferred to RAF Great Dunmow on September 24th, 1943. Missions of the 386th concentrated on airfields but also bombed marshalling yards and gun positions during the first months of combat. In common with other B-26 Marauder units of the 3d Bomb Wing, the 386th was transferred to Ninth Air Force on October 16th, 1943.
Tactical operations were carried out against V-weapon sites along the coast of France in the winter of 1943-1944, and bombed airfields in Holland and Belgium during Big Week, February 20th-25th,1944. Great Dunmow was the first airfield visited by General Eisenhower in his USAAF airfield tour on Tuesday, April 11th, 1944, and he arrived in time to see thirty-nine Ninth Air Force Marauders take off at twenty second intervals for a mission to attack the marshalling yards in Charleroi Belgium.
The 386th hammered gun positions, and airfields preceding the invasion of Normandy and made numerous assaults on bridges of the Seinelate in May. Struck coastal batteries on D-Day and hit bridges, supply and fuel stores, gun positions, and defended areas during the remainder of the Battle of Normandy. Supported Allied forces at Caen, and participated in the massive blows against the enemy at Saint-Lo on July 25th, 1944. Knocked out targets to help clear the Falaise pocket of German forces in August 1944 and hit strong points at Brest during September.
In July 1944, the 553d Bomb Squadron was selected to perform operational testing on the new Douglas A-26 Invader. However due to technical troubles with the aircraft, the type was withdrawn in September. Several damaged aircraft were moved to one side of the airfield, being abandoned along with wrecks of several Marauders and a Boeing B-17 which crash-landed at the airfield.
On October 2nd, 1944, the 386th Bomb Group moved to Beaumont-sur-Oise (A-60) Airfield, in Normandy, France.