Notes on B26 Marauder development
by Sherman V.N. Best Capt. USAF Retired

The B26 Marauder and its crews have not been given their just due when the history of WW2 is discussed or written about. Today I would like to correct much misinformation and provide important facts, which have not been provided in most history books.

It all goes back to March 11, 1939 when the Army Air Corps issued a proposal for the design of a medium bomber .It was to have a bomb load of over 3,000 pounds, a range of 2,000 miles and a top speed of 300 miles per hour or better, carrying a crew of five with 4 .30 caliber machine guns. This was submitted to the four most likely aircraft manufacturers and the Glen L. Martin Company was assigned the Model #179. A young engineer named Peyton Magruder was designated Project Engineer for this proposal.

This team developed a circular cross section fuselage with low drag, a shoulder mounted midwing style with a wingspan of 65 feet leaving the bomb bays clear for loading. Originally the engines were a pair if 1850 HP, P&W radials with a 13 , four bladed propeller. Later, 2,00 HP engines became available and proved to be more appropriate. On July 5, 1939 the design was submitted and on August 10, 1939 the Army issued a contract for 201 aircraft to be designated the B26.This aircraft was ordered off the drawing board with no prototype being constructed. The first one flew on November 25, 1940.

Note that the initial request took place on March 11, 1939 and the first aircraft was delivered on November 25, 1940-A year and eight months from concept to reality and it's cost was $227,000 each.

Despite problems, which originally gave the Marauder a bad name, the crews, when properly trained, liked the aircraft and were proud of her performance.
In the spring of 1942 the first combat missions were flown in the South Pacific, but the majority of them were sent to England and the Mediterranean area. The Marauder had the lowest loss rate of any bomber, less than %.

In Europe the first low level raid was successful, but the second raid was wiped out by flak and it was decided that the B26 was not suitable for low level operations. At this time it was being considered to withdraw them from combat, but the units were retrained for medium altitude strategic targets with accompanying fighter escorts.

July 17, 1943 found the Marauder back in action in its new roll, flying close formation at altitudes of 10,000 to 14,000 feet. It was necessary to use constant evasive action as the German radar detectors were very efficient and if they picked you up they could fire within 15 to 20 seconds with deadly accuracy. Therefore the bomb runs of 25 to 30 seconds were extremely hazardous.

Up to this time, all B26 Groups were in the 8th Air Force, but in November of 1943 they were transferred to the newly formed 9th Air Force, which grew to be eight B26 Groups, by May of 1944.

Participating in the Normandy Invasion were the 322nd, 323rd, 344th, 386th, 387th, 391st, 394th and 397th Bombardment Groups.

Eventually 5,266 aircraft were built, each one weighing 38,000 pounds with twelve .50 caliber machine guns and carrying 4,000 pounds of bombs. The specs were Max speed 317 miles per hour, range 1,150 miles and a service ceiling of 23, 500 feet.

My first contact with the Marauder took place when I arrived in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I left the railroad station and as I was boarding a cab I noticed that there were several B26's flying overhead. I had graduated from single engine school just two weeks before and was hoping to be assigned to P51's or P47's for combat training, but my orders merely said Lake Charles Army Air Base and gave no indication of the type of aircraft that I would find there. I checked in and was told to report to Colonel Manson, the base CO, in the morning. I reported as ordered and he explained the combat training program to me and asked if there were any questions, my first question was, " What am I doing here? I should be in a fighter squadron, shouldn't I?" The Colonel's answer was that my orders stated the Lake Charles Army Air Base and that I would fly whatever was assigned to me. Second Lieutenants do not question orders or Colonels so I reported to the flight line the next morning and was assigned to Lieutenant Hank Bozarth as co pilot.

I explained to Hank that I had no experience in twin-engine aircraft and he told me that he had been advised of that and would be happy to give me any instruction that was required. We got aboard and Hank ran through the check list with me and we took off and flew for about 15 minutes when he handed me the controls and said," Here, try her out."

I was in for a surprise as I had been of the opinion that this thing was a large clumsy piece of aluminum and was extremely upset because I wanted fighters so badly. This airplane could fly and maneuver as well as the P40's I had trained in and quite possibly was faster. For the next four hours of flying time I learned much about this airplane and also found out that much of what has been said about was rumor and not at all true. I soon became acquainted with all the eccentricities of this plane and learned to respect her and eventually to love and trust her.

A few weeks later Hank and I were sent to Hunter Field in Savannah, GA, along with an engineer, radio operator and navigator to test fly a new airplane from the factory at Baltimore and subsequently fly it to England via South America and Africa. In the course of events we had several adventures, the first of which was the failure of our fuel transfer pumps while over Brazil. We had plenty of fuel but were unable to transfer it from the auxiliary tanks to the main tanks and had to find a spot to land, this was a problem as there was nothing but jungle beneath us. Irv Pincus, our navigator located a landing strip at Forteleza, Brazil and calculated that we had just enough fuel in the mains to get there providing we did not run into any headwinds. When we landed a jeep was there to guide us to a parking hardstand and as we followed the engines stalled for lack of fuel and we had to be towed to the parking ramp. The fuel was a pyramid of 5 gallon cans alongside of the runway and the crew had to dump over 500 gallons by hand into the mains so that we could proceed to Belem for our next stopover before moving on to Natal, then to Ascension Island, next was Robert Field in Liberia followed by Dakar and Marrakech, Morocco.

After waiting 2 days for good weather we attempted to take off for England, but as we reached 100 mph the front end began to shake so badly that the Plexiglas nose cracked and we had to abort. It was found that the shimmy damper for the nose wheel had malfunctioned and while that was replaced easily, there was no replacement for the nose cone. This meant that we had to sit in Morocco until a replacement arrived from the replacement depot in New York.

About 14 days later we finally were able to leave and fly to England and deliver our airplane. We finally arrived at St Mawgen, Lands End, England. Unknown to us, we would later be assigned to the group that received that plane and it would be named Murder Inc. and it's picture has appeared in many publications.

I was eventually assigned to the 322nd Bomb Group (M) 449th Bomb Squadron and flew 63 missions, including 3 on D-Day, and attribute the Marauder with my survival. She took many hits without faltering and brought me home along with most of the other crews.

It is unfortunate that the general public has never been made aware of the fact that the B26 had the best survival rating and one of the best success ratings at bombing than any other aircraft in Europe. That is why I am here today. I want to make sure that the designer, Peyton Magruder and the Glen L. Martin Co. get recognition for their contribution to the war effort, along with the pilots and crews who flew them.


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Last edited: 29 June 2002
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