Merrick assumed command to be followed in October by Major Mark K. Lewis, former C.O. of the 18th Reconnaissance Squadron.
For the first eight months of its history, the 22nd Bombardment Group was little more than a "paper" organization. Headquarters Squadron had a few B-18's which even then, in the face of the European War, were rapidly becoming obsolete.
A big majority of the pilots were fresh from flying schools. Most of them had to be content at first to fly BT-14's or whatever they could lay their hands on. Gradually they were checked out in the slow clumsy B-18's. A few of them managed to receive some transition time in the two or three B-25's with which the more experienced 18th Reconnaissance Squadron was equipped. Although the pilot requirements for the B-18 were strict and although a constant flying schedule was maintained both day and night, the B-26's when they finally did arrive taxed the new pilots' abilities to the utmost. The 22nd Bombardment Group was the first group to be equipped with the new revolutionary Martin Marauder.
When the B-26 made its first appearance at Langley Field early in '41, its exceptionally powerful motors and stubby wings confirmed the pilots' suspicions that it was as fast and as tricky as rumor had it. At first it was, dubbed ..The Flying Coffin", "The Flying Prostitute" (no visible means means of support), and many other such nicknames. Later these same pilots were to defend hotly the Marauder against all comers.
For most of the pilots this ship was their first with tricycle landing gear. It landed at about the same speed at which the B-18 cruised 1 Landings were "hot" and a few ships were washed out until the pilots became accustomed to holding the nose wheel off the ground for the first third of the runway. In the beginning, too, the electrically-operated, controllable-pitch propellers presented new difficulties. A defect in the electrical system would throw the automatic pitch out of its proper setting, causing the propellers to lose pitch on take-off and "run away". This accounted for several crack-ups until a simple modification remedied the trouble. Nevertheless, for a plane that had been rushed into mass production direct from the blueprint stage, the Marauder was singularly free from "bugs".
To familiarize the pilots more thoroughly with the ship, the Group assigned crews for transition at Patterson Field, as the B-26's came off the line and were put through service tests.
A serious bottle-neck - the production of the new Curtis electric propellers - prevented the Group from receiving more than a mere trickle of Marauders. The pilots,