The Airplane - B-26 Martin Marauder

On January 25, 1939 the U.S. Army put out a request for bids for a new aircraft. From the specifications for speed, bomb load, and armament, it was clear that they wanted a medium bomber with pursuit ship speed. On July 5, 1939 the Glenn L. Martin Company of Baltimore, Maryland was awarded the contract.

Due to the intensification of the war in Europe there was no time to build a prototype for testing. They had to take the first airplane off the production line and make it stand or fall on it's merit. This first airplane came off the line in November 1940. The tests were gratifyingly successful and the plane was turned over to the Army to be service tested.

In February 1941 the flow of planes to the Army began. The first four, which made up the test fleet, flew 131 hours during the Accelerated Service Tests. Just three months later these four airplanes were assigned to the 22nd Bomb Group at Langley Field, Virginia.

The early airplanes had what was then the highest wing loading of any military airplane. The cigar-shaped fuselage and stubby wings, powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney R-2800-5 eighteen cylinder engines, turning four-bladed Curtiss Electric hollow steel propellers, over 13 feet in diameter, made it a most attractive, and at the same time, menacing sight. The armament, at that time, consisted of two .30 caliber machine guns, one each in the nose and tail, and twin .50 caliber's in a Martin designed power turret atop the fuselage. This armament grew with each design change and by the time the 386th received their combat airplanes, they were literally bristling with .50 caliber's, some models with as many as 12, this due to earlier combat experience in the Pacific Theater. The guns and other modifications that came from the Pacific experience had added 4,500 pounds to the airplane. It was overloaded beyond all considerations of the laws of aerodynamics!

By September 1942 the accident rate of the B-26 at the training fields had become so high that the Air Safety Board and the Senate Investigating Committee were looking into the causes. It became the most maligned airplane ever built. It was in this 'Flying Brick' that the 386th took their transition training.

The early transition training at MacDill was done mostly in 'A' models or the very early B's. All were the "short" wing configuration with only a 65 foot span. This training was done by the 21st Bomb Group, the OTU at MacDill. With the start of Phase I and through to the completion of training, the B-4 models were the most common. They also had the short wingspan, but had R-2800-43 engines with additional power. They also weighed a lot more, making the weight/horepower ratio about the same as the A's. The change from 12 to 24 volt electrical systems and an increase in the size of the generators from 50 to 100 amps solved almost all the overspeeding engine (runaway propeller) problems.

Arriving at Selfridge (or Omaha, for those few who picked up their airplanes there) the 386th found that all had the longer wingspan - 71 feet - and many other refinements which were designed to make the Marauder an outstanding fighting machine. The vertical fin had been lengthened, increasing control in single engine emergencies. Four .50 caliber "package" guns were mounted, two on each side of the fuselage, firing forward. some had Bell hydraulic power tail turret in place of the twin flexible mount .50's. All the bomb stations in the rear bomb bays had been removed and the doors sealed.

The Bombardier's position in the plexiglas nose held all the controls for the bomb doors and the bomb racks, provisions for a bomb sight and a flexible .50 caliber machine gun. A few models also had a fixed .50 caliber firing forward. This fixed gun was generally removed after the 386th reached England.

A navigator's and radio operator's compartment, located just aft of the cockpit, provided space and facilities for the navigators and carried the long range liaison radio. A hatch which was equipped with an astro-dome, allowed sextant shooting for celestial navigation. It also provided a spot for a crewmember to ride during taxi in congested areas. He was thus able to clear the wingtips and the tail section and prevent collisions with other aircraft or fixed objects.

Flight engineers were often, although not always, the top turret gunners. The turret was equipped with firing interrupters which prevented the guns from firing when pointed at any part of the B-26. The tail gunners were usually the armorers and as a rule the radio operators operated the waist guns.

The pilot's compartment was arranged for side-by-side seating of the pilot and copilot. There was a tunnel in front of the co-pilot's seat which allowed the bombardier to enter and exit the nose section. Folding rudder pedals at the co-pilots position made it easier for the bombardier to crawl through the tunnel.
Engine and propeller controls were located on a pedestal, between and forward of the two seats, accessible to either pilot. Landing gear and flap controls were also located on the pedestal as were the aileron and elevator trim controls. The rudder trim was above the pedestal between the top hatches.

Fuel was carried in four tanks in the wings, two main and two auxiliaries. It was necessary to transfer fuel from the auxiliaries to the mains which then fed the engines. The main tank capacity was 360 gallons each while the auxiliary held 121 gallons each, or a total of 962 gallons. For ferry purposes a pair of bomb bay tanks added another 500 gallons. During normal flight the flight engineer handled the fuel transfer, and in combat situations this job fell to the co-pilot. The transfer valves were located on the forward wall of the bomb bay.

The original design of the Model 179, which evolved over some four years into the B-26's of the 386th Group, made provisions for each of the crewmembers to accomplish his assigned tasks with the utmost efficiency considering the time period. A look back from 1988 technology makes the B-26 look primitive. Primitive or not she took her crews through many rough missions, achieving the lowest loss rate of any combat aircraft in World War II. She was hot, she was sometimes unpredictable, but to a man, the crews who flew her in combat, loved her.

Specifications changed with each model and to list the details of each modification would require many pages. The airplanes that the 386th took to combat were of approximately the following specifications:

Wingspan 71 ft.
Length 58 ft. 6 in.
Height (top of fin) 20 ft. 4 in.
Wing Area 658 sq. ft.
Empty Weight 24,000 lbs.
Max. gross Weight 38,200 lbs.
Wing Loading 49 lbs. per sq. ft.
Max. Airspeed 323 mph
Cruise Airspeed 230 mph.
Service Ceiling 21,500 ft.
Combat Radius 575 miles
Max. Bomb Load 5,200 lbs. (20-260 lb. frag. bombs)
Normal Bomb Load 4,000 bls.
Ferry Range 2,000 miles
Normal Crew 6
Armament 12- .50 caliber machine guns
Engines 2- P&W R-2800-43 18 cyl. radial
Fuel 100-130 octane Aviation Grade
Maximum Power 2,000 HP @2700 rpm. & 51 in. Hg.

"The Airplane - B-26 Marauder" from "The Story of The Crusaders"
Posted with permission
Copyright 1999 Skip Young - 386th Bomb Group

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