Martin B-26 Marauder

Martin B-26 Marauder

Martin B-26 Marauder

The Martin B-26 Marauder was the designation given to the first 201 Marauders, ordered straight off the drawing board in 1940 and delivered during 1941.

The B-26 was an elegant aircraft with a streamlined cigar shaped fuselage, and short stubby wings (for the time) dominated by the powerful 1,850hp Double Wasp engines. Despite being a ton heavier than expected the aircraft had a top speed of 315mph, but it also had a high stalling speed and a landing speed of 103mph, which made it difficult for inexperienced pilots to handle.

The B-26 carried two .30in guns and two .50in guns. The .30in guns were carried on flexible mountings in the nose and tail, while the .50in guns were mounted in a Martin 25CE power turret in the dorsal position, making the B-26 the first American bomber to carry a power operated turret. The 22nd Bombardment Group, the first unit to take the B-26 into combat, added an extra .50in gun on a ball mounting in the nose and mountings for extra guns on both waist hatches. Some sources suggest that the B-26 also carried a .30in gun mounted in the floor of the aircraft, but that probably didn't happen until the appearance of the B-26B.

The first unit to receive the B-26 was the 22nd Bombardment Group, and the aircraft almost immediately ran into the first of a series of problems. The aircraft had been delivered without their guns but with ballast to restore the correct centre of gravity. When this was removed the aircraft became nose-heavy and suffered from a series of nose wheel failures which meant that by June 1941 only 21 of the 66 B-26s that had been completed had been delivered. The problem disappeared when the guns were installed, and production of the 201 B-26s was completed by October 1941.

Engine: Pratt & Whitney R-2800-5 Double Wasp radial engines
Power: 1,850hp each
Wing span: 65ft
Length: 56ft
Empty Weight: 21,375lb
Gross Weight: 30,035lb or 32,000lb
Max Speed: 315mph
Cruising Speed: 265mph
Landing Speed: 130mph
Range: 1,000 miles
Bomb-load: 5,800lb

Martin B-26 Marauder - History

Martin B-26 Marauder

(Variants/Other Names: JM-1 See History below)

B-26 Marauder on display at the US Air Force Museum, Dayton, Ohio, USA.
(Photo courtesy USAF Museum.)

History: Responding to the US Army Air Corps’ need for a high speed medium bomber, the Martin Company submitted an unusual design a cantilever shoulder wing monoplane carrying five (later seven) crewmen. While the plane met or exceeded all performance requirements, with a wing optimized for high speed cruising, it was found to be unstable at low speeds during take-offs and landings. After a number of training accidents, modifications were made and the Marauder went on to record the lowest attrition rate of any American aircraft serving with the Air Corps' 9th Air Force in Europe, a remarkable feat considering the plane's undeserved nickname of "Widow-maker," among others (see Nicknames below.)

The B-26 carried a normal bomb load of 3,000 pounds, though another 1,000 pounds could be added when fitted with special wing hardpoints. Armament included eleven 12.7-mm machine guns in fixed, forward-firing, nose and waist mounts, and in powered dorsal- and tail-turrets. Though its service ceiling was 19,800 feet, the Marauder’s primary role was close tactical ground support. As such, it was widely used in the Pacific theater and the Mediterranean by both the USAAC and the RAF, which had acquired 522 B-26’s under Lend-Lease.

Some of the twenty variants of this aircraft included the B-26A (increased added fuel capacity, externally mounted torpedo, system revisions and heavier armament, of which 139 were built) the B-26B (bigger engines, armament revisions and better armor protection, a 6-foot increase in wing span, taller vertical tail and more armament, of which 1,883 were built) the B26-F (improved take-off performance and equipment changes, of which 300 were built) and the JM-1 (one of several designations for US Navy models of the Marauder, used mainly for training of shipboard anti-air crews and photo-reconnaissance.)

Nicknames: Widow-Maker The Flying Coffin B-Dash-Crash The Flying Prostitute The Baltimore Whore (The last two because it had no visible means of support "Baltimore" because the Martin Company was located there.)

Specifications (B-26G):
Engines: Two 2,000-hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-43 Double Wasp radial piston engines.
Weight: Empty 25,300 lbs., Max Takeoff 38,200 lbs.
Wing Span: 71ft. 0in.
Length: 56ft. 1in.
Height: 20ft. 4in.
Maximum Speed: 283mph
Ceiling: 19,800 ft.
Range: 1,100 miles
11 12.7-mm (0.5-inch) machine guns
Up to 4,000 pounds of bombs

Number Built: 5,157

Number Still Airworthy: One, with at least one more undergoing restoration to flying condition.

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Martin B-26 Marauder

During World War II the Martin B-26 Marauder was considered a 'hot' ship - high-powered, unforgiving and risky to fly. But in spite of unflattering nicknames like 'Widowmaker' and 'Flying Coffin', the Marauder was not as dangerous as was widely believed. In fact, it was a potent warplane - a silvery sleek bullet of a medium bomber which could carry a respectable bombload and outrun the opposition.

The Martin Marauder went straight into production, the first aircraft to fly being a service model and not a prototype. It made an immediate impact, rumour giving the new medium bomber an (exaggerated) top speed of almost 600 km/h (370mph), faster than most fighters then in service. Its engines were in streamlined nacelles underslung from a shoulder-mounted wing, enhancing the image of the Marauder as a silvery 'Flying Torpedo'.

Although employed to good effect for conventional and torpedo bombing, the Marauder never made its mark in the Pacific theatre where the more conventional, less challenging B-25 Mitchell was preffered.

In Europe the story was very different, with B-26s joining US squadrons in 1942. The initial deployment by the 319th Bomb Group was trouble-plagued. The Marauder landed at 210 km/h (130 mph) and could betray an unskilled pilot. But the B-26 soon made its mark over the continent, proving to be a rugged, accurate and extremely hard-hitting tactical weapon.

Earl with 558th Bomb Squadron

387th Reunion, Oct 2001

Earl Seagars joined the US Army Air Corps. As a 1st Lt. and co-pilot he flew 39 missions out of England in a Martin Marauder B-26 bomber until he was shot down behind enemy lines over France. He was hidden by the Aurolet family of the French underground for 5 weeks. After Amiens was liberated, he was returned to the states to serve as a pilot instructor until wars end. He remained in the Air Force Reserve for 23 years where he discovered and honed his natural ability to teach. He retired at Lt. Colonel. His pride in service was reflected in his role as President, reunion Coordinator, and newsletter editor for the 558th Bomb Squadron. He never lost his love for flight.

Martin B-26 Marauder - History

The Martin B-26 Marauder was the most advanced medium bomber in the world when it was introduced. The earliest model, the B-26A, entered service in February 1941. Its wing design optimized cruising speed, but made landing difficult, especially for inexperienced pilots. As a result, the aircraft acquired the reputation of being a &ldquowidow maker.&rdquo

A revised United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) training program was implemented to train pilots to better handle the plane. B-26As were posted to Australia immediately following Pearl Harbor. Later, B-26Bs, modified for long-range operations, saw extensive action in the Southwest Pacific Theater. The B-26B was a five to seven man medium bomber with a maximum speed of 310 mph, a ceiling of 23,000 feet, and a bomb load of 2,000 pounds.

Starting in May 1943, the Marauder became the main medium bomber of the United States 9th Air Force in southern Europe, where it had the lowest loss rate of any American bomber. Production continued until March 1945. In total, 5,157 Marauders were constructed throughout the war, including approximately 500 used in Italy by the Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force. In addition, the United States Navy operated several dozen reconnaissance and utility models.*

* Information adapted from Elizabeth-Anne Wheal and Stephen Pope, The Macmillan Dictionary of the Second World War, Second edition (Oxford: Macmillan Publishing, Ltd., 1997)

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“One a Day Into Tampa Bay”, Martin B-26 Marauder

The Martin B-26 Marauder was a very effective World War II medium bomber, after some design problems were corrected.

The Martin B-26 had the best lines of any twin engine light bomber in World War II. Its completely rounded fuselage, shoulder wing with low aspect ratio wings and generally low drag components all blended into a very pretty aircraft, that is if a deadly bomber can be called pretty. And that is the other side of the story. When the Glenn L Martin company finally tweaked the design the B-26 also became one of the most effective light bombers in the inventory. It was much faster and more deadly in combat than the B-25. At several points in its early development the Marauder was almost cancelled due to the Martin Company dragging their feet in retrofitting a larger wing and the failure of the Curtiss Electric propeller being delivered on time. But that was not the only problem. The powered gun turret never did arrive on time. Hamilton Standard hydraulic props were substituted for the Curtiss but there was no substitute for the gun turret so Martin built the aircraft without them. But, their weight had been figured into the CG of the aircraft and their absence upset the balance of the aircraft. So many B-26s were lost or damaged, supposedly to so called pilot error, that the Army Air Force called the US Congress and Senator Harry Truman for help. History recorded this event.

“The B-26 was not an aircraft for novices. Unfortunately, due to the need of training many pilots quickly for the war, a number of relatively inexperienced pilots got into the cockpit and the accident rate increased accordingly. This occurred at the same time as more experienced B-26 pilots of the 22nd, 38th and 42d Bombardment Groups were proving the merits of the bomber.

For a time in 1942, pilots in training believed that the B-26 could not be flown on one engine. This was disproved by a number of experienced pilots, including Jimmy Doolittle.

The B-26 had a crew of seven and was heavily armed with machine guns in all vulnerable positions.

In 1942, Glenn Martin was called before the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, which was investigating defense contracting abuses. Senator Harry Truman, chair of the so-called Truman Committee, asked Martin why the B-26 had troubles. Martin responded that the wings were too short. Truman asked why the wings weren’t changed. When Martin said the plans were too far along and besides, his company already had the contract, Truman’s response was quick and to the point: In that case, the contract would be canceled. Martin said corrections to the wings would be made. (By February 1943, the newest model, the B-26B-10, had an additional 6 feet of wingspan, plus more powerful engines, more armor and larger guns.)

Indeed, the regularity of crashes by pilots training at MacDill Field—up to 15 in one 30-day period—led to the exaggerated catchphrase, “One a day in Tampa Bay.” Apart from accidents occurring over land, 13 Marauders ditched in Tampa Bay in the 14 months between the first one on August 5, 1942 to the final one on October 8, 1943.

This is the Martin B-26 on display at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

B-26 crews gave the plane the nickname “Widowmaker”. Other colorful nicknames included “Martin Murderer”, “Flying Coffin”, “B-Dash-Crash”, “Flying Prostitute” (so-named because it was so fast and had “no visible means of support,” referring to its small wings) and “Baltimore Whore” (a reference to the city where Martin was based).”

The problems were related to the design of the short but wide wing (low aspect ratio) which gave the B-26 the highest wing loading of any aircraft accepted by the USAAF to date. The original wing loading was over 50 pounds per square foot of area. The B-26 qualified for the lead sled reputation. Non other then Jimmy Doolittle was called in to show new pilots how to properly fly the B-26 and it was simple, ” Don’t slow the plane down below 120-135 mph depending on the weight. Pilots were not used to such high landing speeds and throttled back to slow it down and the B-26 would stall out and crash. Landings and take offs were involved in many crashes due to lack of altitude to recover from the stall. Later models with the added six feet of wingspan and added vertical surfaces, more power and much more training slowed the accident rate down to acceptable numbers.

The B-26 Marauder was used mostly in Europe but also saw action in the Mediterranean and the Pacific. In early combat the aircraft took heavy losses but was still one of the most successful medium-range bombers used by the U.S. Army Air Forces. The B-26 was initially deployed on combat missions in the South West Pacific in the spring of 1942, but most of the B-26s subsequently assigned to operational theaters were sent to England and the Mediterranean area.

The B-26 was ferried from the Baltimore plant to various military bases by women ferry pilots who had no problems flying the tricky Marauder.

The Martin B-26 Marauder was built in 1940, and it was built for speed. Like many aircraft built in the lead-up to World War II, the B-26 was rushed into production. While the typical development cycle of an aircraft from paper to first flight was three years, the B-26 went from idea to air in just a year. In the early years of the war, it was also flown by pilots who didn’t have the experience to get it safely off the ground and back down again.

The landing speed of the B-26 was 150 MPH, which was far in excess of what most pilots were prepared to handle. It had the highest wing loading of any other aircraft used during the war, and didn’t have the automatic braking systems that come standard today. This made the B-26 a beast to be reckoned with – and highly unpopular early on in the war.

Created by Peyton M. Magruder, the B-26’s streamlined fuselage and short wing enabled it to reach speeds of over 320 MPH and a range of 1,800 miles. It could carry over 7,000 lbs of gear to a height of 26,440 ft, and came standard with four .30 caliber machine guns. It was used primarily as a bomber, and later – with some upgrades to its machine guns – a virtual flying fortress.

The B-26 first saw action in the Pacific. It was deployed to Australia with the 22 nd Bombardment Group on December 8 th , 1941, right after the Pearl Harbor attack. The B-26 performed regular missions against targets across New Guinea and the Aleutians. It was also operated from bases in Alaska.

After crews were re-trained and some aerodynamic features improved, the B-26 became a safer aircraft to operate. Great Britain used the B-26 with fine results across Europe and North Africa. Its most successful missions were on night flights in bombing raids across Europe. It had the speed and the range to make the runs without as much risk of damage from other aircraft.

Martin B-26 Marauder - History

The B-26 Marauder Historical Society (B-26 MHS) is the largest organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the B-26 Martin Marauder, the nearly 300,000 service personnel who were associated with the aircraft during World War II, and their joint contributions to the greatest military victories in human history.


The world’s premier medium range bomber served in every WWII theater of operation and was also employed in post-war civilian operations. Society members hail from all over the world and represent all of the wartime Allied powers and many other nations. Authentic archival materials relating to the Marauder can be located at the Pima Air and Space Museum, which houses the B-26 Marauder archival materials and other related collections.

It is a little-known fact that the Martin B-26 Marauder was employed not only by the United States Army Air Forces, but also by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, British Royal Air Force, South African Air Force, and Free French Air Force. The Royal Australian Air Force also played an instrumental supporting role during the early days of WWII.

Have memorabilia you would like to share?
MHS does not and will not financially profit from any memorabilia provided to us. Because of this, only MHS HQ located in Tucson, AZ is authorized to accept memorabilia donations. Any donations sent to any other individuals, including MHS members or officials, can not be assured that it will find their proper place in preserving our history for all to view. Please makes sure that all memorabilia is sent to: 3900 E. Timrod Street, Tucson AZ 85711 or arranged through our HQ office by phone: 520-881-1778 or email: [email protected]

Marauder Mission Briefs Archive

Marauder Mission Briefs is proudly presented by the B-26 Marauder Historical Society.
Marauder Mission Briefs is a free monthly publication that highlights contemporaneous stories about the Marauder and related personnel during the Second World War.

Meet the B-26 Marauder: The Most Controversial Bomber of World War II?

Meet the B-26 Marauder: The Most Controversial Bomber of World War II?

Of all the better-known Allied aircraft of World War II, the most controversial was Martin’s B-26 Marauder, a twin-engine cigar-shaped medium bomber that was loved by some and hated by many. Among those who hated the airplane were the crews of the Air Transport Command’s Ferrying Division who picked the Marauders up at the factory and delivered them to combat units. Those who loved it included Lt. Gen. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, who used a B-26 Marauder as his personal airplane, and most of the pilots and crew members who flew the airplane in combat.

On three different occasions, efforts were made to cancel future B-26 production, but in each case proponents of the airplane managed to prevail, thanks in no small measure to the efforts of a diminutive former airshow pilot from Lynchburg, Va., named Vincent “Squeek” Burnett. However, after gaining a terrible reputation due to the loss of dozens of crewmembers in training accidents, the Martin B-26 finished the war with the lowest combat loss ratio of any of the American bombers.

“Advanced Design” From A 26-Year-Old Engineer

The B-26 came about as a result of an Army Air Corps requirement set forth in January 1939 for a twin-engine, high-speed medium bomber. The Glenn L. Martin Company submitted a design that had been drafted by Peyton Magruder, a young aeronautical engineer who had come to the Martin Company by way of the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Alabama.

Only 26 years old when he drafted the design, Magruder was well ahead of his time when he designed an airplane that would utilize a high wing loading to reduce drag and allow higher cruise speeds. Of four designs submitted, Martin’s received the highest score from the Army and was awarded the contract. The concept did not come without a price. The thinner wing required much faster than normal takeoff and landing speeds. It also had a consequently high “minimum control speed,” the speed at which a multiengine airplane can lose the “critical” engine without becoming uncontrollable. The advanced design would be largely responsible for the problems that plagued the airplane after it entered service.

Effective Tactics…

The high speed of the B-26—it had a top speed of 315 miles per hour—gave the Marauder an advantage lacked by the much slower B-17s. The B-26 also featured a dorsal turret, waist and tail guns, and additional guns in the nose. Fixed forward-firing guns were added in pods on the sides of the fuselage. The B-26 crews of the 22nd also used the low-level attack tactics that came to prevail in the Fifth Air Force to which they were assigned, tactics that made the airplanes impossible to attack from below. In more than a year of combat, the 22nd only lost 14 airplanes to enemy fighters, while group gunners put in claims for 94 Japanese aircraft.

…But Quickly Replaced

However, even though B-26s initially held their own against the Japanese, their days in the Pacific were numbered. While the Southwest Pacific air forces commander, Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, was impressed by the Marauder, it was not the medium bomber he wanted in his theater. Fifth Air Force A-20 and B-25 squadrons had mastered the art of low-level attack, and dozens of the light and medium bombers had been modified to become powerful gunships. Kenney believed his command should be limited to one type each of fighter, light bomber, medium bomber, heavy bomber, and transport. His preferences were for the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter, the A-20, B-25, and Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers, and the Douglas C-47 transport.

The B-26s were left out in the cold. B-25s replaced the B-26s in the 22nd Group and the decision was then made to turn the group into a heavy bomber outfit and equip it with B-24s. A few B-26s continued to fly missions with the 22nd until early 1944, but they eventually completely disappeared from the theater. The two former 38th Group squadrons in the South Pacific also transitioned to B-25s.

A Bad Airplane, or Inexperienced Pilots?

The airplane was also gaining a bad reputation at the training bases back in the United States. It started among the ferry pilots who picked the airplanes up at the factories and delivered them to the bases. The problem was that the high wing loading of the first versions of the B-26 made it a “hot” airplane, and it became uncontrollable if a pilot failed to maintain adequate airspeed after an engine loss.

Engine losses on B-26s were frequent. The Pratt and Whitney R2800 engines were prone to failure, and when an engine failed, the pilot had to maintain a fairly high airspeed or the airplane would roll upside down and go into the ground. After several ferry crews lost their lives in B-26 accidents, many refused to fly the airplane. An increase in the span of the wing on later models enhanced the Marauder’s performance.

Accident after accident occurred among the crews who were in training, so many that a special committee known as the Truman Committee was appointed to look at the problem. There were several reasons for the accidents. Few of the trainees—or many of their instructors—had acquired any multiengine experience before they were assigned to the B-26 Marauder. Furthermore, the Army had made a number of modifications to the production airplanes to prepare them for combat. The basic weight of the airplane had increased and the center of gravity had moved rearward, thus rendering the airplane unstable.

While these were problems that an experienced pilot could handle, the pilots who were filling the ranks of the combat squadrons were severely lacking. Because of the accident rate, the Truman Committee recommended that the B-26s be removed from service. Martin turned to the men who had flown the airplane in combat in the Southwest Pacific for help. The combat pilots took up the cause and saved the airplane from extinction.

Originally Published January 30, 2019

This article by Sam McGowan originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Watch the video: Martin B-26 Marauder - Flight u0026 FlyBys