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Douglas A-26 Invader

The Douglas A-26 Invader saw its gestation before Pearl Harbor, when the U.S. Army Air Corps was seeking a replacement for the Douglas A-20, the North American B-25, and the Martin B-26 before those types even saw squadron service. Designed under the steady leadership of Ed Heinemann, three prototypes were built at the Douglas facility at El Segundo, California, near what is today Los Angeles International Airport. Though the XA-26 successfully flew in July 1942 and enjoyed a high priority granted by Chief of the Air Corps Gen. Henry 'Hap' Arnold, the Invader wasn't available in bomb group strength until the war was nearly over. Even with production underway by Douglas at both Long Beach, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, the deployment of the new attack bomber was hindered by frustrating delays and mistakes by both the Air Corps and Douglas. Nonetheless, the A-26 enjoyed a modest role in both the European and Pacific Theaters with the Army Air Forces before the war ended in August 1945. When the Martin B-26 was consigned to the scrap heap after the war, and the B-25 was relegated to support roles in the new USAF, the A-26 was redesignated as the new B-26 and it became the primary light bomber in postwar service. Though it was only supposed to bridge the gap until the new jet bombers were available, the B-26 assumed a new role in June 1950 when North Korea pounced upon a vulnerable South Korea. The Invader became part of the thin line that held the Communists at bay while the United Nations responded to the aggression. The B-26 went on to play a pivotal role in night interdiction during the war, a role it was neither designed nor equipped to perform, but for which it proved admirably suited.

A decade later, the USAF was looking for a capable counter-insurgency weapon for use in Southeast Asia, and turned once again to the venerable B-26. The old airframes were tired by then, but the USAF had forty Invaders remanufactured to become new B-26Ks and they served from bases in Thailand and South Vietnam until 1969. Other users of a more covert nature also found the B-26 very capable. The American CIA fell in love with the reliable workhorse, and employed Invaders in operations from Indonesia to Cuba. The hot but simple B-26 was also used in the conflicts of revolution and counter-revolution fought on the fringes of the Cold War, and equipped numerous air forces, both legitimate and rebellious, around the world for over thirty years.

Its aggressive capability aside, the B-26 also found a peacetime role. Surplus Invaders became fast company transports, electronic test beds, and air tankers for forest fire fighting. Today, the old B-26 Invader soldiers on, no longer fighting wars nor making money, but now to commemorate airmen and battles of years past. A small number of Invaders still fly as warbirds, some meticulously restored to conditions not seen since the original assembly line.

The Invader has often been overshadowed by other aircraft and circumstances. It saw service too late in World War II to lay claim to a distinctive heritage. By Korea, it was seen as a workhorse and just an old propeller job, spotlight now ceded to new jet fighters. In Southeast Asia, it was covertly operated and lost in the ambiguities of that conflict. Even today, the slim fuselage, huge nacelles, and graceful lines are not enough to prevent perpetual confusion by many people between the Douglas B-26 Invader and the Martin B-26 Marauder, its somewhat portly predecessor.

This new volume presents the complete story of the Douglas Invader, from its design and early history through wartime service and peacetime uses. A complete description of the aircraft is included, as are details of each of the many Invader variants. A selection of rare photographs, many never-before-published, are used to illustrate this history of the oft-forgotten but nonetheless impressive Douglas A-26 and B-26 Invader.

Specifications: Hardbound, 200 pages with eight page color section

Table of Contents
1. Background
2. Design and Development
3. Development and Production
4. Description in Detail
5. The A-26 in World War II
6. Post-War, Air National Guard, Air Reserve, and U.S. Navy Service
7. Korean War Service
8. A-26 and B-26 in Foreign Service
9. The CIA, the USAF and Southeast Asia: Encore
10. The Civil A-26 and B-26

Appendix One: A-26 Production List
Appendix Two: Civil Invaders
Appendix Three: Civil Registrations Assigned

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