Forces of Valor 85046 USAAF Martin B-26B Marauder Medium Bomber - "Shootin' In", 556th Bombardment Squadron, 387th Bombardment Group, Germany, 1945 (1:72 Scale)
"In the future, war will be waged essentially against the unarmed populations of the cities and great industrial centers."
- Italian General Giulio Douhet
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.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a Martin B-26B Marauder medium bomber known as "Shootin' In", which was attached to the 556th Bombardment Squadron, 387th Bombardment Group, then deployed to Europe during 1945.
Wingspan: 11.75 inches
Length: 9.25 inches
Release Date: August 2007
Historical Account: "One a Day in Tampa Bay" - While the B-26 was a fast plane with better performance than the contemporary B-25 Mitchell, its relatively small wing area and resulting high wing loading (the highest of any aircraft used at that time) required an unprecedented landing speed (120-135 mph indicated airspeed depending on load). At least two of the earliest B-26s suffered hard landings and damage to the main landing gear, engine mounts, propellers and fuselage. The type was grounded briefly in April 1941 to investigate the landing difficulties. Two causes were found: insufficient landing speed (producing a stall) and improper weight distribution. The latter was due to the lack of a dorsal turret; the Martin power turret was not ready yet.
Some of the very earliest B-26s suffered collapses of the nose landing gear. It is said that they were caused by improper weight distribution but that is probably not the only reason. They occurred during low-speed taxiing, takeoffs and landings. Occasionally the strut unlocked.
The Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines were reliable but the Curtiss electric pitch change mechanism in the propellers required impeccable maintenance. Human error and some failures of the mechanism occasionally placed the propeller blades in flat pitch and resulted in an overspeeding propeller, sometimes known as a "runaway prop". Due to its sound and the possibility that the propeller blades could disintegrate, this situation was particularly frightening for aircrews. More challenging was a loss of power in one engine during takeoff. These and other malfunctions, as well as human error, claimed a number of planes and the commanding officer of the 22nd Bombardment Group, Col. Mark Lewis.
The Martin B-26 suffered only two fatal accidents during its first year of flights, November 1940-November 1941: a crash shortly after takeoff near Martin's Middle River plant (cause unknown but engine malfunction strongly suggested) and the loss of a 38th Bombardment Group plane when its vertical stabilizer and rudder separated from the plane at altitude (cause unknown, but accident report discussed the possibility that a canopy hatch broke off and struck the vertical stabilizer).
The B-26 was not an airplane for novices. Unfortunately, due to the need to quickly train many pilots for the war, a number of relatively inexperienced pilots got into the cockpit and the accident rate increased accordingly. This occurred at the same time as more experienced B-26 pilots of the 22nd, 38th and 42nd Bombardment Groups were proving the merits of the airplane.
For a time in 1942, pilots in training believed that the B-26 could not be flown on one engine. This was disproved by a number of experienced pilots, including Jimmy Doolittle.
In 1942, Senator Harry Truman was a leading member of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program (the so-called Truman Committee), which was investigating defense contracting abuses. When Truman and other committee members arrived at the Avon Park Army Air Field, they were greeted by the still-burning wreckage of two crashed B-26s. Truman criticized both Glenn L. Martin and the B-26. Indeed, the regularity of crashes by pilots training at MacDill Field—up to fifteen in one 30-day period—led to the only mildly exaggerated catchphrase, "One a day in Tampa Bay."
The B-26 received the nickname "Widowmaker". Other colorful nicknames included "Martin Murderer", "Flying Coffin", "B-Dash-Crash", "Flying Prostitute" (so-named because it had no visible means of support, referring to its small wings) and "Baltimore Whore" (a reference to the city where Martin was based).
The B-26 is said to have had the lowest combat loss rate of any U.S. aircraft used during the war. Nevertheless, it remained a challenging plane to fly and continued to be unpopular with some pilots throughout its military career.