Friday, March 28, 2014

The Friday Flyby - 28 March

It appears to be Marauder week here at Chant du Départ. The research into and the writing of those two posts concerning the crew of B-26G serial number 44-68168 sparked my interest in this very impressive warbird. (Here and here.)

I've always thought the B-26 was an awesome looking bird, very streamlined, yet muscular looking as well. Let's take a closer look at this product of the Glenn L. Martin Company.

The Martin B-26 Marauder was a World War II twin-engined medium bomber built by the Glenn L. Martin Company. First used in the Pacific Theater in early 1942, it was also used in the Mediterranean Theater and in Western Europe.

After entering service with the U.S. Army, the aircraft received the reputation of a "Widowmaker" due to the early models' high rate of accidents during takeoff and landings. The Marauder had to be flown at exact airspeeds, particularly on final runway approach and when one engine was out. The 150 mph (241 km/h) speed on short final runway approach was intimidating to pilots who were used to much slower speeds, and whenever they slowed down below what the manual stated, the aircraft would stall and crash.The B-26 became a safer aircraft once crews were re-trained, and after aerodynamics modifications (an increase of wingspan and wing angle-of-incidence to give better takeoff performance, and a larger vertical stabilizer and rudder). After aerodynamic and design changes, the aircraft distinguished itself as "the chief bombardment weapon on the Western Front" according to a United States Army Air Forces dispatch from 1946. The Marauder ended World War II with the lowest loss rate of any USAAF bomber.

A total of 5,288 were produced between February 1941 and March 1945; 522 of these were flown by the Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force. By the time the United States Air Force was created as an independent service separate from the Army in 1947, all Martin B-26s had been retired from US service. - Wikipedia
This head on view gives you a good idea of how cramped the bombardier's station was in the nose.

Crew size for the Marauder is given by some sources as seven men: 2 pilots, a bombardier, a navigator/radio operator and 3 gunners. Some references I've seen call these gunners out as: engineer gunner, armament gunner and radio gunner. Another source I've seen (written by a gentlemen who served on B-26s as a gunner called out the positions this way:
  • engineer tail gunner
  • radio waist gunner
  • armament top turret gunner

The standard crew size listed in many sources (and shown in most photos) is a crew size of six men only, dispensing with the navigator/radio operator. (Who, if aboard, would be in the Radio Room.)

Standard armament for the B-26:

  • 12 × .50 in (12.7 mm) Browning machine guns (I don't know where they put all of those guns. I only count seven above!)
  • 4,000 pound (1,800 kg) bomb load
There were two .50 caliber Browning machine guns for the waist gunner to serve, one to port and one to starboard. He actually had to be on his knees while "standing" to his guns.

Waist gunner's position, looking aft.

The aircraft wasn't what you'd call "roomy". Even with just six men aboard, you wouldn't have a lot of room to move around and stretch. The radio room seems to be the biggest space on-board the aircraft.

B-26 Cockpit

In the cockpit photograph, in front of the co-pilot's position, you can just discern that there is an opening for the bombardier to get in and out of the nose of the aircraft. I wonder where the co-pilot's rudder pedals are in this photo? Let's look at the co-pilot's position from a different perspective.

2nd Lieutenant Everett Glen Hanes poses for a picture with his Norden Bombsight in the nose of his Martin B-26.

Yes, great shot. But we need to turn around, excuse us lieutenant! (Again note that the nose isn't all that roomy, yet there are two men in there in this photo.)

This is what Lieutenant Hanes would see from his position looking aft.
I've circled the co-pilot's rudder pedals in yellow.
Also the co-pilot's seat could be moved out of the way if need be.

Moving aft, we come to the radio room.
(Cockpit is to the right.)

The Bomb Bay

Sitting under the top turret, looking aft.

Well, we saw the waist gunner's position up above, so... What's that? You want to see it again? Okay, here it is.

That's SSgt Hightower manning one of his guns.
Note that the windows are very low on the fuselage.

Now we're at the tail gunner's position. At least he has a stool.
I doubt the view out the back is that great.
(Note the tracks for the .50 caliber ammo running along the sides of the aircraft.)

SSgt Manny Blumenthal says the view isn't that bad!

Let's have a look at the crews who flew these machines into combat.


This bird is in the Smithsonian.
I plan on paying her a visit next time I'm in DC!
The B-26, now that was one Hell of a war-fighting machine. I hope you liked this salute to those brave men who flew this bird into combat.

Here's two links you should definitely check out, the first is by the Steeljaw Scribe and tells a story of the Marauder in the Pacific, here.

The other is a story titled Flying and Fighting in the Marauder, written by a man who was there. That link is here.

Go on. We're done here. I'll be back...


  1. I think the other four guns were the fixed mounted forward firing ones that are just below and aft of the cockpit.

    1. D'oh!

      You're absolutely right Jon. I was fixated on that orange diagram when that head on shot of the Marauder was yelling "What about the cheek guns?"

      Thanks for pointing that out.

    2. Yep, I missed them also. I fixated on the indication of how much things have changed. The bombardier smoking a cigarette, while airborne. I don't think that would happen today.

      Another great job Sarge, with another of my favorites. I've visited the Smithsonian and seen FlakBait. That was a highlight of the visit. (but there were many.)

    3. I noticed the bombardier with the cigarette too. That wouldn't happen in today's PC world. (Not to mention the nose art!)

  2. Another great post. Loved the cigarette, too....................

    1. Thanks Bob.

      (Love your avatar by the way. Heh.)

  3. Excellent post. Most of this I never knew. I always thought the Marauder was one of the forgotten bombers of WW II. They never put them in the movies and I've never seen them in the battle clips from the war..

    1. Thanks Russ. The Marauder was quite an aircraft.

  4. They also used to call that plane "the incredible prostitute" because it's wings were so short that it had no visible means of support.
    And by 1947, they were all gone, while the type-similar Douglas A-26, later renamed B-26, served on into Vietnam.

    1. Heh.

      I know, the last one was retired before the Air Force became a separate service in October of '47.

  5. Does anyone know the meaning of the planes name "Lady Aud Mar Eid" that is my great uncles plane Rex W. Kates lower left in the crew photo.


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Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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