Saturday, February 7, 2015

Flak Bait

Box Cover Art Hasegawa Corporation's (Shizuoka, Japan) 1/72 scale B-26B/C Marauder Model Kit
Back in March of '14 I did a Friday Flyby on the B-26 Marauder which featured that lovely painting above which came from the box cover art of Hasegawa Corporation's kit of the B-26 "Flak Bait".

Imagine my surprise upon checking the overnight mail and finding an e-mail wanting to know where I had found that painting above.

Well, having run afoul of the copyright monsters once before, I did have a moment's panic. That's when I noticed the return address, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Seems they want to get permission from the original artist to make a reproduction of that painting.

Wow! I have to say that I was pretty excited.

Now back in November, Murphy's Law and Your Humble Scribe visited the Smithsonian Institution's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center out at Dulles and got to see Flak Bait undergoing restoration in the back room. (The "back room" as I so blithely call it, is formally known as the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar. You can see the name up on the wall in the background in the next photo.)

The next four photos were all taken by me back in November.

On the left in this photo are tires, struts, ailerons and other pieces of Flak Bait all waiting as the talented folks at the Smithsonian perform their magic. The three parts of the old girl's fuselage are lined up and you can see the wings behind those three sections of fuselage.
Another view of some of the parts of Flak Bait.
The nose of the aircraft, sans the glass forward of the bombardier's position.

A closer look at the nose. This used to be on display at the National Air and Space Museum on the Mall.

Well, I responded to the nice lady from the Smithsonian and let her know where I had found the painting. Wouldn't that be cool if Hasegawa re-released that kit in conjunction with the Smithsonian rolling out the refurbished Flak Bait?

Pretty heady stuff,  I can tell you, for this old backwoods blogger.

Here's a link to a great article at the Smithsonian's website regarding the restoration (some great photos of the aircraft as well). Here's another link to a great Smithsonian blog article on Flak Bait.

Here's a blurb from Wikipedia:
"Flak Bait" is a Martin B-26 Marauder aircraft that holds the record within the United States Army Air Forces for the number of bombing missions survived during World War II. Manufactured in Baltimore, Maryland as a B-26B-25-MA, by Martin, it was completed in April, 1943 and christened Flak Bait by one of the pilots, James J. Farrell, who adapted the nickname of a family dog, "Flea Bait". Flak Bait was assigned to the 449th Bombardment Squadron, 322nd Bombardment Group stationed in eastern England.

During the course of its 202 (some sources say 207) bombing missions over Germany as well as the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, Flak Bait lived up to its name by being shot with over 1000 holes, returned twice on one engine and once with an engine on fire, lost its electrical system once and its hydraulic system twice, and participated in bombing missions in support of Normandy Landings and the Battle of the Bulge.
The B-26 is one of my favorite WWII bombers. It just looks sporty. There's an old saying, if it looks fast, it is fast. (Not sure how true that is, but I still like the saying.) To me the Marauder looks fast.

I can't wait to see the job the museum does on this proud old warbird. To have given even the tiniest bit of assistance to this project is pretty neat. At least to me.

As things progress, I'll be keeping an eye on this project. I'm sure Murph will too.

After all, he lives a heck of a lot closer to Dulles.

26 comments:

  1. Gotta thank you again for all the great research you and your sphere of military men did for me on that old B-26 crew photo a few months back. It's hard to describe how much that meant to me. I have an icon on my desktop that lets me pop right back to it whenever the urge strikes me. After reading this latest post, I think it's that time again.

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    1. That was pretty exciting for me too Bob. Being able to bring to light the story of those brave men was an honor.

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  2. That is way cool. Sarge!

    I always loved the Marauder too. I remember being quite cross (as an eight-or-so year old historian) that Douglas called their old clunker the B-26 too. Had less than a complete understanding of how those things work. I'm still a little peeved that the Invader was so much better than the Marauder, because the Martin is so much prettier. Good example of how very quickly the industry was learning and improving. The Marauder was cutting edge and state of the art in 1940 but was old and busted by 1942 when the Invader came along.

    The Marauder has one of the best informal nicknames, too. The Baltimore Whore -- no visible means of support. Really had to keep the smack on to get lifties out of that wing.

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    1. I share your sentiment regarding the Invader's nomenclature.

      The Marauder had a couple of good nicknames.

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  3. The B-26 was also known as "The Widow maker" because of its "Interesting" flight characteristics. It needed careful handling, but was a winner when properly handled.

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    1. ..."Interesting" flight characteristics.

      Well put Cap'n!

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  4. One a day in Tampa Bay, (which is still a saying at MacDill with that one engine thing they fly there) originated with the B-26.

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    1. I hadn't heard that one before. My education continues...

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    2. Look into Jimmy Doolittle's efforts on behalf of the B-26. Between him, and adding a few feet to the wingspan, the Marauder went from being The Widowmaker to having the lowest loss rate of bombers in Europe.

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    3. Thanks for the tip Brad, I'll be looking that up.

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  5. Great plane and a great museum visit that day.

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    1. Concur 100%. Can't wait to do it again!

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  6. As you and I talked before, Sarg, there is an entire book about "Flak Bait" by the same name recalling the entire ETO tour which is excellent reading. FWIW (as the book points out) Flak Bait's record mission number was eventually surpassed by another B-26 (also pictured in the book) named "Mild and Bitter" so "WIKI is WRONG! (whoever posted the entry obviously never having read the original "Flak Bait.")

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  7. PS: My B-26 model as a child was from the Monogram series, so no Flak Bait decals, (sigh.) How about you Sarge?
    (was a big sucker, too, was one of my largest models besides the Canadian Arvo CF-105 Arrow, another Monogram model.

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    1. It must have been a Monogram, though it was so long ago I don't really remember.

      Not to mention which, between my brothers and I, we had enough aircraft models to fill the "skies" above at least two bedrooms!

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  8. PPS: Perhaps the Smithsonian should check their records before they label the exhibit as well. Of course that was always the complaint by the "Mild and Bitter" crew at the time: Flak Bait got all the PR because of the name and the fact it was shot up so much. So when the Mild and Bitter crew logged their final msn and broke Flak Bait's record they got hardly any PR at all

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    1. My brain cells have obviously decayed. My memory was wrong. I googled Mild & Bitter and found it completed only 100 msns, although w.o. a single bullet hole, Don't know how my memory was SO wrong. (Of course I read Flak Bait) as a child from our public library and it's now out of print, so don't have it on my shelf to refer to..)

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    2. With all the information we old guys carry around in our heads it's easy to misplace a piece now and then.

      Of the two aircraft, I think I would have opted for the one which came home without holes!

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    3. Mild and Bitter was the first allied plane to reach 100 missions. Flak Bait had 98 or 99 missions when Mild and Bitter reached 100. Mild and Bitter was sent back to the USA for a War Bond tour, so it never got close to 200 missions. I believe one other Marauder, The Old Vet, reached 200 missions, but this occurred after Flak Bait reached that mark.

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    4. I do believe you're right.

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    5. I've lived with the Flak Bait story my entire life. Jim "Boss" Farrell is my father.

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    6. That's pretty cool. I've seen some pictures of your Dad over at the Flak Bait website. Of course, I've seen the actual aircraft being restored at the Udvar-Hazy Center out at Dulles. Great story! Thanks for sharing that.

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  9. Hey Gents! Also a fan of the Baltimore Whore! I have Monograms'1/48 scale B26 "Mild and Bitter" on a shelf downstairs. Over a dozen years ago I attended the SAO course at Wright-Pat. Weekends were free and I spent all three buried in the USAF museum. Met and sat down with a fine gent next to their B-26 Marauder, a pilot thereof he was. Related his story and his shoot-down over Germany in early '45. One of those memories I cherish.

    FWIW, if anyone has an interest, I can direct one to a website where they may find many of those 1/48 scale monogram kits.

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    1. Direct us please!

      (Not sure how The Missus Herself will feel about it but a fellow can dream can't he?)

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