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Historic Marauder Firsts
by Jack Havener

Historic "firsts" adds significant accomplishments of the Martin B-26 Marauder that placed it will ahead of its time and proved it to be the premier USAAF bomber of WWII.  A recognition it never received during the war nor since.

1. It was the first combat aircraft to use butted seam skin covering instead of overlapping: reduced drag.

2. It had the first aerodynamically perfect fuselage. An early nickname was "Flying Torpedo".

3. It was the first combat aircraft to use plastics as metal substitutes on a grand scale: over 400 parts.

4. It was the first WWII vintage bomber to use a four-bladed propeller: Curtiss-Electric.

5. It had the first horizontal tail plans with a marked dihedral: 8 degrees.

6. The first model off the production line was the prototype - and it flew! The Army Air Corps was so anxious to get the revolutionary high speed bomber that it didn't allow for the usual prototype models for tasting.

7. It was the first twin engine bomber to carry more payload of bombs then the B-17 of the time: 4000 pounds.

8. It was the first American WWII bomber to carry a power-operated gun turret. Built by Martin and used on many other U.S. bombers and also the British Lancaster.

9. It was the first U.S. combat aircraft with self-sealing fuel tanks as regular equipment. Developed by Martin in 1936, manufactured by U. S. Rubber Co., and called Mareng cells.

10. It had the first all Plexiglas bombardier's nose.

11. It was the first to use flexible tracks for transferring ammunition from storage boxes in the waist section to the tail guns. These were made by Lionel Trains.

12. It was the first medium bomber in which the tail gunner could sit upright.

13. It was the first combat bomber to employ an all-electrical bomb release system.

14. It comprised the first Air Force bombardment group to leave the USA for a combat zone in WWII. The 22nd Bomb Group left Langley Field, VA an 8 December and flew to the west coast and flew coastal defense duty for a time. On 6 February 1942 it left San Francisco by ship to Hawaii. At Hickam Field the planes were reassembled and flown to Australia.

15. The 22nd was also the first completely armed Air Force group to fly the Pacific (Hawaii to Australia) in total.

16. The B-26 was used by more Air Forces in WWII then any other U.S. combat aircraft - U.S. Army Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, British RAF Balkan Air Force, British RAF South African Air Force, and the Free French Air Force.

17. The B-26s of the 69th and 70th Squadrons of the 38th Bomb Group were the first twin engine bomber outfits to fly from California to Hawaii. They were on their way to the South Pacific to join the 22nd Bomb Group. It was never done thereafter doing WWII.

18. It was the first U.S. medium bomber to fly combat in the South Pacific: 22nd Bomb Group on 5 April 1942.

19. It was the first army bomber to use torpedoes against a Japanese fleet in the South Pacific: in early June 1942 at the Battle of Midway.

20. A few days later it was the first army bomber to launch torpedoes against a Japanese task force in the Aleutians which was trying to maintain a foothold on the islands of Attu and Kiska. This was the first and only time during WWII that an enemy force occupied U.S. territory.

21. The B-26 was the first WWII American aircraft to we weapons pods. Two on either side of the forward fuselage carrying .50 caliber machine guns firing forward and operated by a button on the pilot's control wheel.

22. In November 1943 the first Marauder built was finally retired to the Ford Dearborn Engine school for instructional purposes. Ford built the Pratt A Whitney R-20W engine for Martin and the B-26. "Old Gran Pappy" was the only first bomber of any type to still be on active service! It was used for training purposes at many airfields and finally at Laughlin Army Air Field, Del Rio, Texas where it set an endurance record for training planes by hauling more than 100 pilots on flights teaching them to fly the B-26, for a total of 2180 hours without a serious mishap or casualties of any kind.

23. The first ever B-26 to complete 50 combat missions was "Hell Cat", a B-26 B2 of the 17th Bomb Group. The event occurred in late spring 1943 when the group was stationed at Djedaida, Tunisia. Subsequently, "Hell Cat" and her crew, including the crew chief, were sent back to the States to participate in war bond tours. Evan today one of the 1/72 scale plastic model kits of the B-26 is "Hell Cat".

24. The 319th Bomb Group became the first outfit of any USAAF aircraft type to try six abreast takeoffs and landings in North Africa to saw time and fuel. The dust created became a hazard so it me discontinued until the group was based at Decimomannu Airfield in Sardinia, where a 1200 foot wide harder surface runway was available with oiled down takeoff lanes.

25. The 17th Bomb Group, "The Daddy of Them All," racked up more total combat missions during its tour in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations than any other Marauder group in WWII - 606! Their last mission was flown on 1 May 1945 and not only did they fly one that day, but they want out in a blaze of glory by flying two!

26. The B-26 was the first medium bomber modified for tow target use in aerial gunnery training became, in a stripped down configuration, it had pursuit plane speed. It was designated AT-23 but was later changed to TB-26.

27. The first Allied bomber in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations to complete 100 combat missions me B-2E "Hells Bells II" an 1 May 1944.

28. The first Allied bomber in the European Theater of Operations to complete 100 combat missions was B-26 "Mild and Bitter" on 9 May 1944.

29. The proudest accomplishment of the Martin Marauder came on D-Day 8 June 1944, when it was chosen by General Eisenhower to spearhead Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. Eight 9th Air Force groups of B-26s led the entire Allied bomber stream and bombed shore installations at Utah and Omaha beaches just minutes ahead of the troop landings. The first to bomb on D-Day!

30. The B-26 was the first Allied bomber in the European Theater of Operations to complete 200 combat missions. This was accomplished on 17 April 1945 and the forward section of "Flak Bait" now resides in the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.

31. The B-26 had the lowest combat loss rate of any U.S. aircraft - less than one half of one percent!

32. The only B-26H (which was actually a G model retrofitted) became the first aircraft to test a bicycle-type landing gear as would later be incorporated an the B-47 and B-52 jet bombers. This took place at the Glenn L. Martin Company's Middle River, MD factory in October 1945.

33. Tragically, it was the only combat aircraft of WWII that the Air Force dictated that all that survived the war be scrapped! Those left in the South Pacific ware scrapped in Australia, all those left in the European Theater of War were scrapped in Germany, the ones in the Aleutians that had been replaced by the B-25 in 1943 were flown back to the States to join all those in the U.S. scrapped out in a huge reclamation facility at Walnut Ridge, AR. Fortunately a very few still exist. The only one in flying condition belong to the Kermit Weeks Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, FL and was salvaged from a wreck of three that force landed in Canada on their way to Alaska. They were all the B-26 "straight" - the first ones built. The other two hulks are painstakingly being restored to static display condition at the MAPS Museum in Canton, OH and the Beaver Falls Museum in PA. "Flak Bait" is on static display (at least part of it) in the Smithsonian, a G model is on static display at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH (this airplane was traded to our museum by the French Air Force, that was using it for mechanical instructional purposes, for a C-47. The only other one left is being resorted at the Paris Air Museum and it was the other G model that the French Air Force and later Air France used for mechanical instructional purposes.

"that's war!"

"the best (men) of the best"

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