Featured Aircraft DataBank – B-26 Marauder

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It’s always fun to get additional information about specific aircraft, so here’s my latest article describing some very interesting Martin B-26 Marauders. (Click any image to get a larger version). Enjoy!

B-26B-50-MA
42-95864 7I*B "VALKYRIE"

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344th Bomb Group (Medium), 497th Bomb Squadron
Station A-59, France, January 1945
ANA 613 Olive Drab over ANA 603 Sea Gray (usually still called Neutral Gray)
[NOTE: These are for all practical purposes the same colors as 41 Dark Olive Drab and 43 Neutral Gray]

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I love the dramatic and extremely well executed nose art on VALKYRIE, which made this ship one of my very first choices of decal subjects to do.

VALKYRIE was a Block 50 Marauder with the longer wings introduced on Block 10, the short-chord rudder on Block 20, and the external curved armor plates around the cockpit inaugurated on Block 30. She carried the ring-and-bead gunsight for the package guns and sealed rear bomb bay that started with Block 45. Note that she DID still carry the fixed forward firing .50 machine gun in the nose transparency; it was not deleted on the production line until 42-94979. Neither did it use the Lycoming prop blades that were not fitted until 42-95942.

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Our photos and scheme show VALKYRIE merely weeks before she crashed on takeoff from Station A-59 (Cormeilles-en-Vexin, just north of Paris), France, on 28 January 1945. Shortly after takeoff in a severe snowstorm, VALKYRIE lost her right engine during climb-out. Pilots Capt R. M. Mitchell and Lt R. C. Bernard were concerned they couldn’t circle back to their field in the poor visibility and elected to crash land on a frozen lake. Unfortunately the ship slid across the slick ice surface so fast the fuselage telescoped when it hit the bank on the opposite side, killing everyone aboard.

 

B-26B-4-MA
41-18054 DR*H "JEZABELLE"

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322nd Bomb Group (Medium, 452nd Bomb Squadron
Andrews Field, UK, October 1943
41 Dark Olive Drab with minimal 42 Medium Green splotches over 43 Neutral Gray

JEZABELLE was built in the fall of 1942 as a Block 4 Marauder, which put her in a very early configuration indeed. She had the original short wing (65′ rather than the later 71′ wing introduced on Block 10 B-26s). She also had the original short fin and rudder, which was 20" shorter than the final configuration. Block 4 was the first time package guns were mounted at the factory. JEZABELLE had the original "sharp" tail gun stinger with twin hand-held .50 machine guns. No tunnel guns were fitted on the production line, but were obviously added later.

Note that JEZABELLE left the factory with the simple national insignia cocardes consisting of a white star on a blue disk in six positions (above and below each wing and on both sides of the rear fuselage). However, by the time the photo below was taken in July or August 1943, white bars had been added to the sides of the star cocardes along with a thin red outline around the entire insignia. The star insignia had certainly been removed from the upper right and lower left wing surfaces, leaving wing stars-and-bars on only the upper left and lower right wing surfaces. By the time of the scheme illustrated the red outlines had been replaced with insignia blue.

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Also note in this photo the extremely beat-up camouflage finish on this old ship. Large patches of fresh ANA 612 Olive Drab and ANA 603 Sea Gray have been painted all over the airframe. You can really go to town weathering your model of this plane!

Little is known about JEZABELLE’s combat career with the 322nd Bomb Group. We know she was one of the early ships assigned to the 452nd BS, and based at AAF 485, Great Saling, Essex, United Kingdom, which had been named "Andrews Field" in honor of Lt Gen Frank Andrews (see above). We also know that one of her crews had a pet dog named "Salvo" (but we don’t know the crewmen’s names!).

However, by April 1944–well after the time period depicted in the photos and artwork–she had been assigned to the 3rd Combat Crew Replacement Center at Toome, Northern Ireland, about 15 miles NNE of Belfast. It’s believed she was broken up at Stansted, United Kingdom, in February 1945, making her one of the oldest USAAF ships left in Europe.

 

B-26B-20-MA
41-31765 ER*X "FIGHTIN COCK"

322nd Bomb Group (Medium), 450th Bomb Squadron
Andrews Field, UK, March 1944
41 Dark Olive Drab with minimal 42 Medium Green splotches over 43 Neutral Gray

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FIGHTIN COCK was a late-production Block 20 Marauder. Block 20 aircraft had the longer wing inaugurated on Block 10 ships, but also introduced the power-assisted Martin-Bell M6 tail turret with a wider field of fire than the hand-held twin tail guns of the earlier models. This very blunt tail turret dramatically changed the rear profile from the earlier versions’ much sharper "stinger" shape. Also remarkable was the shorter-chord rudder introduced on this production block. The major internal change from earlier models was the provision for two extra fuel tanks in the aft bomb bay, but it’s not clear these were commonly used in the ETO and in any case can’t be seen from outside the aircraft.

The 322nd Bomb Group (Medium) flew combat in Europe from 14 May 1943 to the end of the war in Europe. It was (in)famous for its low-level attack on Ijmuiden, Holland, where 100% of the ten aircraft sent on the mission were lost.

You may have noticed the dramatic photo leading this article is FIGHTIN COCK from head-on. Notice the camouflage abraided away from the leading edges of the package gun nacelles. This was common on Marauders–maybe the subcontractor who built the gun covers didn’t know how to paint!

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At the time the markings shown here are depicted, the unit was flying from AAF 485, Great Saling, Essex, United Kingdom, which had been named "Andrews Field" in honor of Lt Gen Frank Andrews, who had been killed in an air crash in Iceland on 3 May 1943. (Note that the better-known Andrews AFB [now idiotically named Joint Base Andrews], Washington, DC, was not renamed from Camp Springs Army Air Field until 7 February 1945.)

Starting in March 1944 the 322nd bombed railroad and highway bridges, oil tanks, and missile sites in preparation for the opening of the Second Front (the invasion at Normandy). FIGHTIN COCK was engaged in these missions at the time she wore these markings. There is discussion related this ship being assigned to the 449th Bomb Squadron, but was in the 450th at the time of these markings.

On 12 August 1944 FIGHTIN COCK was hit by flak over France and had her electrical and hydraulic systems destroyed. Although the pilot was able to nurse her back to their home field in England and had the other crew to bail out, both he and his copilot were killed in the crash landing when the ship skidded off the runway into the control tower.

 

B-26C-45-MO
42-107733 #99 "MY DARLING AGITATOR"

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320th Bomb Group (Medium), 444th Bomb Squadron
Italy & France, late 1944 – early 1945
Natural metal with what was probably a very light ANA 612 Medium Green overspray on the fuselage and wings. One illustrator has shown this with an ANA 613 Olive Drab overspray and the color is MUCH too dark. This ship left the factory in an ANA 613 Olive Drab over ANA 603 Sea Gray camouflage scheme, but all the original camouflage paint except the area of the antiglare panel in front of the cockpit had been removed by the time this scheme was photographed.

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MY DARLING AGITATOR, produced in Block 45, was one of the final 97 combat-configured Marauders built at the government-owned Martin factory at Omaha, Nebraska, in early 1944–all the B-26Cs produced after Block 45 were built as target tugs (AT-23B).

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She was configured like the later Martin Baltimore-built B-26Bs, with the longer wing, taller tail, fuselage side package guns, Bell power tail turret, curved external armor plate for the pilot and copilot, ring-and-bead gunsight for the package guns, and sealed rear bomb bay. At least one photo of MY DARLING AGITATOR exists showing NO .50 gun in the nose transparency. Martin stopped installing this nose gun at some point in the middle of the Block 45 production run and it’s not clear whether it was ever installed.

Once again we don’t know much about MY DARLING AGITATOR’s career in the Mediterranean with the 320th Bomb Group of 15th Air Force. Certainly there must have been a good story behind the name–perhaps one of the crewmembers had a girlfriend who was good at stirring up a bunch of trouble with the rest of the crew!

She joined the rest of the group in interdiction bombing missions in the Po Valley, support for the invasion of Southern France, and attacks on enemy communications in northern Italy. She have moved to France in November 1944 and bombed bridges, rail lines, gun positions, barracks, supply points, ammunition dumps, and other targets in France and Germany until V-E Day. The group received a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for operations on 15 March 1945 when they bombed pillboxes, trenches, weapon pits, and roads in the Siegfried Line to enable a breakthrough by the American Seventh Army.

Indications are this ship survived to the end of the war.

The nose art was most probably painted by Vernon Prince, who painted several other 320th ships’ nose art.

B-26C-45-MO
42-107542 K9*X "MARY ANN"

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344th Bomb Group (Medium), 494th Bomb Squadron
AAF Station 169, Stansted, Essex, England, early 1944
ANA 613 Olive Drab over ANA 603 Sea Gray

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MARY ANN was one of the final 288 combat-configured Marauders built at the government-owned Martin factory at Omaha, Nebraska, late 1943 or very early 1944–all the B-26Cs produced after Block 45 were built as target tugs (AT-23B).

She was configured like the later Martin Baltimore-built B-26Bs, with the longer wing, taller tail, fuselage side package guns, Bell power tail turret, curved external armor plate for the pilot and copilot, ring-and-bead gunsight for the package guns, and sealed rear bomb bay. Although the .50 machine gun mounted in the nose transparency was discontinued midway through the Block 45 production run, MARY ANN clearly had it installed.

As was not uncommon on B-26s (and extremely common on B-24s), MARY ANN broke her nose gear strut during a hard landing.

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Once again we unfortunately don’t know much about MARY ANN’s combat career with the 344th, except that she ended the war intact and with a huge number of missions, although the decal markings depict her much earlier in her career, soon after the 344th arrived in England.

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B-26B-50-MA
42-95903 7I*F "HARD TO GET"

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344th Bomb Group (Medium), 497th Bomb Squadron
AAF Station 169, Stansted, Essex, England, Summer 1944
Left the factory with ANA 613 Olive Drab over ANA 603 Sea Gray camouflage; in mid 1944 camouflage was removed from all but the top surfaces above the shoulder level.

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HARD TO GET carried some of the most dramatic nose art seen on an USAAF aircraft during World War II, made even more dramatic by the high quality of the rendering and the fact that the artwork was completely different on each side of the nose. Obviously no expense was spared to create this flying masterpiece.

She was a Block 50 Marauder with the longer wings introduced on Block 10, the short-chord rudder on Block 20, and the external curved armor plates around the cockpit inaugurated on Block 30. She carried the ring-and-bead gunsight for the package guns and sealed rear bomb bay that started with Block 45. Note that she DID still carry the fixed forward firing .50 machine gun, which was not deleted on the production line until 42-94979, nor the Lycoming prop blades that were not fitted until 42-95942.

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HARD TO GET was the personal mount of Major (later Lt. Col) Delwin D. Bentley, the cowboy boot-wearing commander of the 497th Bomb Squadron. Bentley was famous for having flown a B-26 Marauder with both engines shut down as a demonstration to the crews in training that were terrified of the Marauder’s "widow-maker" reputation. After Bentley was promoted to deputy commander of the 322nd Bomb Group, a pilot named Simmons took over this ship. We believe she survived the war and was broken up France or Germany in 1945.

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The quality of this last pic is horrible, but it shows the kind of thing you have to do to find all possible details on the markings of any given airplane. This awful pic clearly shows the painted-out D-Day invasion stripes on the top wing of HARD TO GET, with the overpaint now fading badly and the stripes clearly showing through. This is a great effect on a model!

 

 

B-26C-40-MO
42-107534 #22 "BELLE RINGER"

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320th Bomb Group (Medium), 441st Bomb Squadron
Italy & France, late 1944 – early 1945
ANA 613 Olive Drab over ANA 603 Sea Gray camouflage

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This is a fun scheme for a modeler, as the paint was extremely worn and the old D-Day stripes above the wings are easily seen through the worn OD overpaint. Another interesting point is that the crew ran out of space on the fuselage for additional mission markings, so they were continued on the nose gear door!

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BELLE RINGER, produced at Omaha in Block 40, was basically configured like the later Martin Baltimore-built B-26Bs, with the longer wing, taller tail, fuselage side package guns, Bell power tail turret, and curved external armor plate for the pilot and copilot. However, the sealed rear bomb bay was not introduced until Block 45 and available photos suggest the rear bomb bay was not sealed even in the field on this ship. Also, the ring-and-bead gunsight for the package guns was not introduced at the factory until Block 45, but has clearly been fitted in the field.

Details about BELLE RINGER’s combat career are sparse, but we know in more than 100 missions she joined the rest of the 320th Bomb Group of 15th Air Force in the Mediterranean on interdiction bombing missions in the Po Valley, support for the invasion of Southern France, and attacks on enemy communications in northern Italy. She have moved to France in November 1944 and bombed bridges, rail lines, gun positions, barracks, supply points, ammunition dumps, and other targets in France and Germany until V-E Day. The group received a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for operations on 15 March 1945 when they bombed pillboxes, trenches, weapon pits, and roads in the Siegfried Line to enable a breakthrough by the American Seventh Army.

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Her nose gear collapsed on landing by pilot Jack E. Dillon on 4 May 1944 at Decimomannu (pronunciation guide) airfield near Cagliari, Sardinia. The damage was repaired and she soldiered on with distinction to the end of the war.

Nose art was painted by Sgt Ruesch.

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Finally, it takes me quite a long time to put these info sheets together, so PLEASE tell me if you’re not interested and I’ll stop doing them (I have LOTS of other things to do!). I’m not "begging compliments," but if you don’t find these useful there’s no point in doing them. Email me your opinion here.


I have a few of the following B-26 Marauder decal sets left:

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Camouflaged B-26B Marauders with remarkable nose art. ER*X, "Fighting Cock," 450 BS/322 BG; 71*B, "Valkyrie," 497 BS/344 BG; DR*H, "Jezabelle," 452 BG/322 BG

Add to Goodie Bag
$19.97


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Marauding Babes #1. B-26C-45-MO, "My Darling/Agitator", with a huge sharkmouth and huge nose art, and thin green overspray over natural metal camouflage, 320 BG/444 BS; B-26C-45-MO, "Mary Ann," 344 BG/494 BS, Lt B. W. Seth, Stanstead, England, Early 1944.

Add to Goodie Bag
$36.97


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PYN-up Decals B-26 Marauding Babes #2. This set features two famous Marauders. First is one of the most elaborate (and to my mind, most beautiful) artwork ever applied to any WW II aircraft. B-26B-50-MA "Hard To Get" had completely different – and very large — artwork on each side of the nose featuring swimsuit-clad beauties. Flown by Maj Delwin D. Bentley, commander of the 497th BS, 344th BG, Stanstead, England, in 1944, obviously no expense was spared to create this flying masterpiece. The other bird is the oft-photographed B-26C-40-MO, "Belle Ringer," of the 320 BG/441 BS, in Dark Olive Drab over Neutral Gray. This is a fun scheme for a modeler, as the paint was extremely worn and the old D-Day stripes above the wings are easily seen through the worn OD overpaint. Another interesting point is that the crew ran out of space on the fuselage for additional mission markings, so they were continued on the nose gear door!

Add to Goodie Bag
$34.97

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PYN-up Decals B-26 Marauding Babes #1. The first subject is B-26C-45-MO, "My Darling/Agitator", with a huge sharkmouth and huge nose art, and thin green overspray over natural metal camouflage, 320 BG/444 BS. The second is the standard camouflaged B-26C-45-MO, "Mary Ann," 344 BG/494 BS, Lt B. W. Seth, Stanstead, England, Early 1944.

$23.97

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PYN-up Decals B-26 Marauding Babes #2. This set features two famous Marauders. First is one of the most elaborate (and to my mind, most beautiful) artwork ever applied to any WW II aircraft. B-26B-50-MA "Hard To Get" had completely different – and very large — swimsuit-clad beauties painted on each side of the nose . Flown by Maj Delwin D. Bentley, commander of the 497th BS, 344th BG, Stanstead, England, in 1944, obviously no expense was spared to create this flying masterpiece. The other bird is the oft-photographed B-26C-40-MO, "Belle Ringer," of the 320 BG/441 BS, in Dark Olive Drab over Neutral Gray. This is a fun scheme for a modeler, as the paint was extremely worn and the old D-Day stripes above the wings are easily seen through the worn OD overpaint. Another interesting point is that the crew ran out of space on the fuselage for additional mission markings, so they were continued on the nose gear door!

Only 14 sets still available.

$28.97

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