- I will tell you what I knew and felt about the B-26.
- To put it all in perspective we need to look at the dates: Feb 1941,
First B-26 delivered to the Army Air Corps; Of the first 56 B-26
delivered 53 of them left December 8, 1941 (next day after Pearl Harbor)
for Australia. In 1942, B-26 were in the Aleutian Isles area; later in
1942 the first group was sent to England.
- The first mission at low level to avoid detection by radar etc , was
ten aircraft. One was lost, the rest were badly damaged, but got back to
base. On second low level mission of ten. all ten were shot down. This
was devastating -- I never knew of these missions until a year or more
- I completed pilot school at Lubbock Army Airfield, November 10,
1942. I had a choice of C-47 or B-26 and I ask for the B-26. I did not
know much about the airplane then...just that it was new, and the
fastest bomber which out ran fighters when delivered to the Air Corps.
- My first assignment was to Tarrant Field, Ft Worth TX...ten of the
early, short wing model B-26s were there. This was to become the first
class of the B-26 Transition School at Del Rio-- the new base at Del Rio
was not opened yet.. As I recall, we flew these planes to Del Rio in
late January or early February 1943.
- We did not get much flying time in at Ft Worth... as I remember, we
were not checked out as a B-26 pilot until later at Del Rio.
- I must admit, that it appeared, in a B-26 as though we were buzzing
the field when we came into land. The AT-9 was good preparation for the
B-26-- it was a two engine plane that would not fly on one engine.--the
talk was that the AT-9 took off at 120, cruised at 120 and landed at 120
mph. I did not like the AT-9 and nearly washed out of flying school on
my first solo flight in it.
- The instructor pilots we fly with seemed competent to me, and I
detected no fear from them... although a few months later, I did fly
with a Captain or two when I was a 2nd Lt, and after we landed the B-26
I noticed that the Captain would be filling in the flight hours with a
pencil and his fingers were quivering. I never said anything about that,
but under my breath, I said to myself if flying airplanes causes me to
be nervous, I will quit flying.
- From the first time I flew in a B-26, I felt that all I needed to do
was understand and know the aircraft and I could fly it like any other
aircraft. I paid no attention to rumors that it was a "hot" airplane
etc.. I just felt it was a matter of being checked out properly and
knowing the aircraft. I took the emergency procedures very
seriously...before every take off, I would go over emergency procedures,
especially, what to do if an engine loses power on take off? I had heard
of run-a-way props as a cause of B-26 crashes on takeoff. I came to
believe that my having been through airplane mechanics school at Chanute
Field in December 1940-June 1941 saved me by being able to know the
Curtis electric props and their control switches. I thought some pilots
crashed on take off because they did not hit those switches quick
enough. Or, they had not mastered emergency procedures so that they
could react quickly with little or no thinking about it.
- I knew of three or four 2nd Lt. pilots at Del Rio who ask for a
transfer out of B-26s.. one of my good friends decided to ask for B-24s.
He was really determined not to fly the B-26 -he thought it was too
dangerous. I never agreed with that -- I just thought it was a matter of
learning how to fly it. So, any talk about the B-26 being dangerous
never bothered me. I thought my friend was a good man and he was a brave
soul...he just honestly thought the B-26 should have been a safer plane.
He went on to successfully compete a combat tour in the B-24.
- From Del Rio, I was assigned to Eglin Field, Florida to a special
secret mission-- the unit was like a squadron--it was called, the First
Minimum Altitude Bomber Torpedo Unit. These new B-26s had the 3 1/2 feet
added on each wing tip. We flew about sixty days preparing for a mission
to harass the Japanese ships. Capt Jim Muri was the torpedo instructor
at Eglin. Four B-26s at the Battle of Midway, were equipped with
torpedoes--Muri flew one of the two B-26s that survived . Night and day
we practiced short field take offs and landings, low level, skip
bombing, fixed gunnery--to drop a torpedo we were instructed that our
speed approaching a ship must be lowered to 165 mph. to drop a torpedo.
- I suppose the only reason we survived WWII is because this mission
was canceled in late April 1943. Most of the personnel were assigned to
MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida in a B-26 Bomb Group preparing to go to
England. I joined the 397th BG/596 Sq. We flew new B-26B-55 aircraft the
Southern Route to England departing Savannah, Georgia February 27, 1944.
I with the 397th until the war in Europe was over. I arrived in NY on
the Queen Mary, August 2, 1945.
- I have heard that there were a good number of pilots who opted to
get out of the B-26 assignment -- I don't know what magnitude this was.
And, I would not criticize anyone who decided to fly another
bird...because many of them were brave men like my friend who just saw
it as the better part of wisdom to select another aircraft.
- George Parker
- P.S. Mike, I started on this --instead of a simple, short answer, I
have rambled on and on....
- That's OK George - I learned a lot! Thank you.