By Leonard Engel
Air Trails Pictorial Feb 1945, P.30
|SPECTACULAR efficiency over Fortress Europe has brought fame in the past year to the Martin B-26 Marauder, the Glenn Martin Co., and many an airman. Still largely unknown, however, a victim of the strange obscurity in which we seem to hide the creators of most of our weapons, is Peyton Marshall Magruder, the Marauder's designer.|
Peyton "Marauder" Magruder
Magruder's idea of rotating an airfoil curve for a nacelle or fuselage provides a shape that has the least amount of drag or aerodynamic resistance.
Magruder, who sketched out the B-26 on a hot June Sunday night five years ago, is one of the half dozen ablest U.S. aeronautical engineers. At the time, he was 27 and a rather junior member of the Martin engineering staff. Now not yet 33, he has been chief of its new design section for nearly two years. Although his. contribution to the Marauder is greatest, the famous Martin aircraft turret, the Mars and the Maryland, and the twin-engined attack bomber Martin built for the French in 1939 (later modified and used as the Baltimore by the RAF), also bear his stamp. Few individuals have contributed more to the United Nations' cause.
Magruder is tall, dark-haired, and slender. As is to be expected from the Marauder's many pioneering features-rotated airfoil fuselage and nacelles, center-sectionless wing construction, quarter-circle skin panels, remotely controlled tail turret, remote ammunition feed, one-piece plastic nose, auxiliary exhaust jet propulsion, and electric turret-bold imagination -is his outstanding characteristic. He puts out ideas with the speed and ease of a forming machine extruding aluminum rod. Unhappily, for reasons of military security, discussion of the most recent is taboo. They are as far ahead of 1944, however, as the Marauder was of 1939.
Like many top air designers, Magruder entered aeronautical engineering more or less by accident and his engineering knowledge is more than a product of the shop than class. The son of an old Maryland military family - his father is Maj. Gen. Marshall Magruder of War Department Manpower Board, and kin included Confederate artillery leader Gen. John Bankhead Magruder, World War chief of staff Gen. Peyton March, Maj. Gen. Bruce Magruder, first commander of the, first American armored division, Brig. Gen. John Magruder, former head of our lend-lease mission to China, and the late Vice Adm. T. P. Magruder-his early intention was to become a naval officer. He resigned from Annapolis during his senior year, however, and decided to apply for enlistment as an Army aviation cadet. At that time, 1934, the Army was loath to take in Annapolis men, for flying cadet berths were limited in number and the Navy had its own air school. To bolster his chances of acceptance, therefore, he signed up with one of the National Guard's few air units, and, as the Guard required only part of his time, he also enrolled in the air engineering division at the nearby University of Alabama. But before the year was out, he was engaged to be married and in search of a job. His most salable asset was his one year acquaintance with air engineering.
Magruder soon obtained a position at the Naval Aircraft Factory, the Navy air arsenal at Philadelphia, through a fortuitous Washington encounter with Adm. King, who was then chief of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics. The King and Magruder families had been neighbors at Newport, R.I. while Adm., King and Gen. Marshall Magruder studied at the Naval War College. The Admiral, who knows a future winner when he sees one, had Magruder at work at the Naval Aircraft Factory within 48 hours, a blitzing of government employment red tape which has few equals even today.
Magruder stayed at the NAF for two years. It was an ideal school. The NAP, which designs and manufactures planes as well as carries out test work such as that at Wright Field, was then quite small, and a newcomer gained experience in many departments in short order.
Young Magruder went to Martin in 1937. He began, of course, as just an other cog in the engineering department of the Middle River, Md., company. He had been there scarcely two years, however, when opportunity knocked loudly. Early in 1939, the Army scheduled a design competition, to close July 5 for a medium bomber to replace the outmoded Douglas B-18. Glenn Martin was especially desirous of submitting a winning entry, for his Model 167, the twin-engined attack bomber later produced for the French and British, had just been turned down by the Army, and Martin; the man who had shown the way for so long in the bomber field was unrepresented among Army planes. The endless succession of preliminary sketches turned out by the company's veterans failed to pass Martin's knowing inspection. Almost in desperation, junior engineer Magruder was finally asked, to see what he could do. His design, which became the B-26, was beyond Martin's dearest hopes.
The details of the Marauder's principal design, features, and the foolish difficulties which at first gave it an ill name have already been reported (Air Trails, July, 1944), as was also how Magruder, with a staff of 50, completed the preliminary engineering drawings in the two weeks remaining before the July 5 deadline. The Marauders combat record has been detailed as well.
To the latter should be added, however, the fact. that not one but over 250 Marauders were past the 100-mission mark by the middle of October; a number of Ninth Air Force craft had passed 150. "Impatient Virgin," the sixth to do so in the Northwest European theater, attained the 100-mark without any crew casualties whatever and without hurt to herself save flak damage on her 75th combat flight. In Italy, by the same elate several squadrons had half a dozen planes approaching their 150th sortie. No other plane type in the European theater can boast any that have fought so hard and survived so long.
When Magruder, who takes a direct interest in armament design and has advocated heavy-caliber installations since away back in 1939, rough-sketched the plane, lie proposed fitting it with a semi-power-operated turret-power- traversed, but hand-elevated. Such an installation would have been a distinct advance; in 1939, the RAF alone had full-power turrets in regular use. By the time the first production contract was awarded, however, the Army, miler pressure of events abroad-the fine performance of the RAE turrets-and criticism at home, was also in the market for fully powered equipment. So Magruder and two associates, Homer Huey (now Martin turret armament chief) and George Towner (Huey's assistant), built and test-fired in three weeks the first all-powered electric turret. Martin's specially organized Sinclair division now turns out the turret in booming quantity for installation not only in the Marauder, but in nearly a dozen other bombers as well.
Two and a half years ago, shortly after his 30-second visit to Tokyo, Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle who, like Magruder, possesses a radical engineering imagination, decided that the Marauder, with its better than 300-mile-an-hour speed, would make a fine fighter-bomber, provided it were suitably armed. Only one model embodying his, and Magruder's, conception of suitable armament was built. The Army turned it down (B-26 had to be retained as a medium bomber, since our only other medium, the B-25, was already undergoing re-equipment as a fighter-bomber) and when last reported it was in retirement at Wright Field.
Early in 1942, a conversation' with Col. "Jake" 'Harmon of the Wright Field bombardment section (now Brig. Gen. Harmon of- the Super Fortresses) led to the rigging of the Marauder as the first and only Army torpedo bomber ever to see action. Magruder found that the Marauder's keel was a nearly ideal support from which to hang a torpedo. Only a few days, a few holes in the bomb bay doors, some, wires and a saddle were necessary. Unfortunately, the then acute shortage of torpedoes (among the most difficult of all military items to produce) forced the Army to abandon torpedo bombing. But before that happened, four of the Marauders launched the first attacks on the Japanese fleet at Midway on the historic morning of June 4. Two vital hits were scored on Japanese carriers and two of the four planes returned, a high proportion that victorious, but costly, day.
In the time he has been with Martin, Marauders functions and manner of work have undergone a change. As new design chief with a staff of a hundred, increased as necessary by borrowing from other departments, he has had to devote a great deal of his time to executive work. He now spends so little time at the drawing board that he doesn't even have one in his office, and the execution of his ideas is entrusted to others. Not that he dislikes the change: he is not a fast draftsman and finds much engineering detail work an onerous chore.
During the two weeks when preliminary design of the Marauder was completed, Magruder stayed at the plant and according to his associates, averaged eighteen hours a day of actual work. That manner of work has since become habitual. Even when the job before him is not ticketed "rush," he will keep at it all hours until it is finished. His over-all working average is well over 60 hours a week and fortunately he thrives on only five or six hours of sleep a night.
As is to be expected of an individual of sharp and original intelligence and with a record of solid achievement, the Marauders creator is cocky and self-assured. He does not hesitate to make definite assertions and willingly talks at length on many subjects: aerodynamics, armament, the probable duration of the war, tactical versus independent strategic bombing (lie thinks the latter overrated), the greater efficiency of the medium bomber compared with the heavy. He points out that planes like the Marauder are smaller targets, are hence able to bomb from lower, more accurate levels, and have both a smaller rate of loss and unit cost. In other words, he considers the medium the most efficient bomber, which he defines as the one which puts on the target the maximum ton-miles of bomb per man-hour-expended.
Magruder, whose Scottish forebears spelled the name MacGregor until a seventeenth century British edict proscribing the members of rebellious Highland clans (subjecting them to arrest and imprisonment or worse on sight), was born at Ft. Riley, Kans., in 1911. His father, a field artillery lieutenant, was then a student at the Cavalry School of Equitation. His early life was typical Army, a succession of moves from one post and one platoon of identical officer bungalows to another, yet not monotonous for a youngster because they took him to Manila, Yokahama, Hawaii, and a dozen other fascinating places. He had to attend four different high schools.
The future engineer won appointments to Annapolis and West Point both, but chose to accept the former. At Annapolis, which he entered in 1930, he studied less and enjoyed himself more than most, but was nevertheless in the upper part of his class. He also pole-vaulted for the track team, was a member of the swimming team, once won $350 in bets by running five miles in 29 minutes and 37' seconds, witnessed the start of the Spanish Revolution in 1931 and became the subject of a lurid Naval Academy legend.
The subjects of the Annapolis legend, which any plebe can recite complete with gestures, is a bath in Madeira and explains how Magruder came to resign from the Naval Academy. Boiled down, a generally accepted version goes like this: when the old battleship Wyoming, with Magruder, and other midshipmen aboard, arrived at Funchal, Madeira, on a training cruise in 1933, across the bay was a German merchantman with future wives for South African colonists on its passenger list.
Wyoming scuttlebutt quickly translated this into a shipload of beauteous maidens. That night, Magruder and a classmate (now a well-known submarine commander in the Pacific) were preparing to turn in when the classmate decided he wanted a date with one of those beauteous maidens. Before Magruder could dissuade him, he had dived overboard front the gun deck. Magruder, knowing his bunkmate was a poor swimmer, went after him. He should, however, have sung out "man overboard" instead. By not so doing, he had, in Navy parlance, unnecessarily endangered a life (his own). So the commendation for saving his classmate was accompanied by a whopping block of demerits for violating Navy regulations. He now had so many demerits that even the most trivial offense would result in his automatic expulsion of the Academy. Several months later, he decided discretion was the better part of valor and resigned. He is more useful to the nation where lie is, however, than he could ever have been as a still quite junior naval officer.
Magruder lives, with his wife and three children, Marshall, five, Bruce, two, and Douglas, one, in an old-shoe-comfortable Baltimore suburban home whose distinguishing features are nearness to the country club where he golf's and swims on Sundays, and a fabulously expensive small aluminum model of the Marauder, the gift of a friend.
Before the war gave him design tasks requiring his full energies, Magruder also worked as an aviation consultant to Time magazine. In addition, in a single year, lie whipped out 21 lengthy technical aviation articles in English many a professional writer would envy. He likes writing well enough that he may resume it as an avocation when the war job is done.
As a vocation, Magruder will doubtless stick to plane designing, for he is as interested in transports as in bombers. However, last summer, he spent two months in and out of London dodging German robot bombs (as well as studying Allied and enemy aircraft as a U. 5. Navy civilian technical observer). He came back enormously impressed with the robot aircraft's possibilities. He is not at all unlikely to be working in that field, too, when his current duties slack off and he has the lime.