The B-26 was known as many names but was best known as the widowmaker due to so many accidents in the early models during takeoffs and landings. This medium bomber was used in the Pacific and the European theatres throughout WWII with devastating effect. While originally the plane was not popular the Martin company bomber proved vital in its roles in New Guinea and then in Europe leading up to and following the D-Day invasion.
While the B-26 served throughout many theatres it certainly had an important and less well-known role during the fight against Germany. The planes were used with the 8th Air Force and later the 9th Air Force starting in early 1943. Just like the B-25, the B-26 was used as an attack bomber against small targets like bridges, rail yards, and even submarine pens. They performed these operations so well that by the end of the war in 1945, the 9th Air Force gave the B-26 the highest rating for accuracy at medium altitude. Even after D-Day the men on the ground would call in for tactical support and B-26’s would be one of the planes used to support the troops. It was fast, rugged and the men depended on it.
One of my favorite aircraft is of course one that there isn’t two many left. This is the B-26 Marauder which was used as a ground attack bomber. It was a medium bomber that did a really good job at supporting ground troops by going after bridges, railroad yards, tanks and other obstacles. It really was just a nasty plane that did a good job at disrupting troop movement. Sadly today not many survive and even fewer are flying.
One interesting story about this plane involved Bob Hoover. Hoover was an aerobatic master that most considered to be one of the best pilots of the century. During Operation Torch which was the allied invasion of Africa and later Italy, Hoover was given an assignment to recover a B-26 that was crash landed on a beach in Mesina. It was believed that this particular flight could not be done. After some slight repairs and an extension to the beach of 400ft he was able to get the plane up and landed on a captured allied base not far away. This flight earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross.
This one particular aircraft is another of Fantasy of Flight’s impressive collection of rare aircraft. It usually sits inside on of the public hangers but on this rare day it was out for everyone to enjoy.