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|April, 1943: Barksdale Air Base, near Shreveport, Louisiana.
It seems that anybody that ever flew in a Martin B-26 Marauder has a nerve twitching experience to tell about while flying on single engine. I had a dandy while in training at Barksdale Air Base.
We were on a single engine training flight flying at 8,000 feet. The pilot I was to go into combat with, one Flight Officer Donald E. Vincent. He was in the left seat, the instructor pilot was in the right seat, another pilot was standing on the flight deck just behind the two pilots, there was another pilot riding down in the nose compartment as a lookout for other aircraft flying nearby. All would take turns in the left seat.
I was the flight engineer. We had been flying for about two hours, I went back to the bomb bay to transfer fuel from the auxiliary tanks to the main tanks. The fuel transfer controls were mounted on the left side of the forward bulkhead. I had set up the valve controls to transfer fuel from right auxiliary to the left main tank as was required. Suddenly all engine noise ceased, with my hands on each side of bulkhead door opening I pushed my way into the radio compartment headed for the flight deck. I heard a lot of laughing from the pilots, it seems my pilot had switched off the power developing engine in his attempt to start up the dead engine! I noted that two of the pilots were smoking at the time - a no-no when transferring fuel! Now both engines were up to full power, I returned to the bomb bay - to my horror I saw that there was gasoline right up to the top of the catwalk in the forward bomb bay. I shut off both transfer valves and raced up to the cockpit yelling, "There is fuel sloshing in the bomb bay!" I swear those two pilots ate their cigarettes. The pilot in the nose asked me if he should open the bomb bay doors to drain out the fuel, I said no. The steel sprocket and chain door linkage could spark. Maybe the slipstream would suck it out. There is a slight opening where the bomb bay doors meet the cat- walk. Luck was with us because that is just what happened after about five minutes. When my heart left my mouth and returned to its regular place, I had time to think what might have started all the calamity in the first place. I deduced when I pushed myself out of the bomb bay my hand must have flipped a selector valve to the bomb bay tank position - there was no bomb bay tank installed in this plane, hence the fuel cascaded into the bomb bay.
The fuel odor in the plane was very potent on our flight back to base. I went aft to open both waist windows in order to help suck the gasoline fumes out of the plane. We landed at our field without further incident.
Chester P. Klier