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B-26 Marauder
A US Army Air Forces B-26B with D-Day invasion stripes
Role Medium bomber
National origin United States
Manufacturer Glenn L. Martin Company
First flight 25 November 1940
Introduced 1941
Status Retired
Primary users United States Army Air Forces
United States Army Air Corps
Royal Air Force
South African Air Force
Produced 1941–1945
Number built 5,288[1]
Unit cost $102,659.33/B-26A[2]

The Martin B-26 Marauder was a World War II twin-engine medium bomber built by the Glenn L. Martin Company.

The first US medium bomber used in the Pacific Theater in early 1942, it was also used in the Mediterranean Theater and in Western Europe. The aircraft distinguished itself as "the chief bombardment weapon on the Western Front" according to a United States Army Air Forces dispatch from 1946, and later variants maintained the lowest loss record of any U.S. combat aircraft during World War II. Its late-war loss record stands in sharp contrast to its unofficial nickname "The Widowmaker"—earned due to early models' high rate of accidents during takeoff.

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, separate from the Army, all Martin B-26's had been retired from US service; The Douglas A-26 Invader then assumed the B-26 designation.

Contents

Design and development

In March 1939, the United States Army Air Corps issued Circular Proposal 39-640, a specification for a twin-engined medium bomber, demanding a maximum speed of 350 mph (560 km/h), a range of 3,000 mi (4,800 km) and a bomb load of 2,000 lb (910 kg). On 5 July 1939, the Glenn L. Martin Company submitted its design, produced by a team lead by Peyton M. Magruder, to meet the requirement, the Martin Model 179. Martin's design was evaluated as superior to the other proposals and was awarded a contract for 201 aircraft, to be designated B-26.[3] The B-26 went from paper concept to an operational bomber in approximately two years.[4] Additional orders for a further 930 B-26s followed in September 1940, still prior to the first flight of the type.[5]

Closeup view of Martin B-26C in flight.

The B-26 was a shoulder-winged monoplane of all metal construction, fitted with a tricycle undercarriage. It had a streamlined, circular section fuselage, housing the crew, consisting of a bombardier in the nose, which was armed with a .30 in (7.62 mm) machine gun, a pilot and co-pilot sitting side by side, with positions for radio operator and navigator behind the pilots. A gunner manned a dorsal turret armed with two .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns (the first powered dorsal turret to be fitted to a US bomber), while an additional .30 in (7.62 mm) machine gun was fitted in the tail. Two bomb bays were fitted mid-fuselage, capable of carrying 5,800 lb (2,600 kg) of bombs, although in practice, such a bombload reduced range too much, with the aft bomb bay usually fitted with additional fuel tanks. It was powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engines in nacelles slung under the wing, driving four-bladed propellers. The wings were of low aspect ratio and relatively small area for an aircraft of its weight, giving the required high performance, but also resulting in a wing loading of 53 lb/sq ft (259 kg/m²) for the initial versions, which at the time was the highest of any aircraft accepted for service by the Army Air Force.[6]

The first B-26, with Martin test pilot William K. "Ken" Ebel at the controls, flew on 25 November 1940 and was effectively the prototype. Deliveries to the U.S. Army Air Corps began in February 1941 with the second aircraft, 40-1362.[5] In March 1941, the Army Air Corps started Accelerated Service Testing of the B-26 at Patterson Field, Ohio.

The Martin electric turret was retrofitted to some of the first B-26s. Martin began testing a taller vertical stabilizer and revised tail gunner's position in 1941.

Accidents

While the B-26 was a fast aircraft with better performance than the contemporary B-25 Mitchell, its relatively small wing area and resulting high wing loading (the highest of any aircraft used at that time) required an unprecedented landing speed of 120 to 135 mph (190 to 220 km/h) indicated airspeed depending on load. At least two of the earliest B-26s suffered hard landings and damage to the main landing gear, engine mounts, propellers and fuselage. The type was grounded briefly in April 1941 to investigate the landing difficulties. Two causes were found: insufficient landing speed (producing a stall) and improper weight distribution. The latter was due to the lack of a dorsal turret; the Martin power turret was not ready yet.

Some of the very earliest B-26s suffered collapses of the nose landing gear. It is said that they were caused by improper weight distribution but that is probably not the only reason. They occurred during low-speed taxiing, takeoffs and landings. Occasionally the strut unlocked.

The Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines were reliable but the Curtiss electric pitch change mechanism in the propellers required impeccable maintenance. Human error and some failures of the mechanism occasionally placed the propeller blades in flat pitch and resulted in an overspeeding propeller, sometimes known as a "runaway prop". Due to its sound and the possibility that the propeller blades could disintegrate, this situation was particularly frightening for aircrews. More challenging was a loss of power in one engine during takeoff. These and other malfunctions, as well as human error, claimed a number of aircraft and the commanding officer of the 22nd Bombardment Group, Col. Mark Lewis.

The Martin B-26 suffered only two fatal accidents during its first year of flights, November 1940 – November 1941: a crash shortly after takeoff near Martin's Middle River plant (cause unknown but engine malfunction strongly suggested) and the loss of a 38th Bombardment Group B-26 when its vertical stabilizer and rudder separated from the aircraft at altitude (cause unknown, but accident report discussed the possibility that a canopy hatch broke off and struck the vertical stabilizer).

The B-26 was not an aircraft for novices. Unfortunately, due to the need to quickly train many pilots 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 42nd 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.

In 1942, Senator Harry Truman was a leading member of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program (the so-called Truman Committee), which was investigating defense contracting abuses. When Truman and other committee members arrived at the Avon Park Army Air Field in Florida, they were greeted by the still-burning wreckage of two crashed B-26s. Truman criticized both Glenn L. Martin and the B-26. Indeed, the regularity of crashes by pilots training at nearby 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 5 August 1942 to the final one on 8 October 1943.[7]

The B-26 received the nickname "Widowmaker".[4] Other colorful nicknames included "Martin Murderer", "Flying Coffin", "B-Dash-Crash", "Flying Prostitute" (so-named because it had "no visible means of support," referring to its small wings) and "Baltimore Whore" (a reference to the city where Martin was based).[8]

According to an article in the April edition of AOPA Pilot on Kermit Weeks' "Fantasy of Flight", the Marauder had a tendency to "hunt" in yaw. This instability is similar to "Dutch roll". This would make for a very uncomfortable ride, especially for the tail gunner.

The B-26 is said to have had the lowest combat loss rate of any U.S. aircraft used during the war. Nevertheless, it remained a challenging aircraft to fly and continued to be unpopular with some pilots throughout its military career.

Operational history

B-26 flying over its target during World War II.

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.[9] 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.

By the end of World War II, it had flown more than 110,000 sorties and had dropped 150,000 tons (136,078 tonnes) of bombs, and had been used in combat by British, Free French and South African forces in addition to U.S. units. In 1945, when B-26 production was halted, 5,266 had been built.[10]

Pacific theatre

The B-26 began to equip the 22d Bombardment Group at Langley Field, Virginia in February 1941, replacing the B-18 Bolo, with a further two Bombardment groups equipping with the B-26 by December.[5][11] Immediately following the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, the 22d was deployed to the South West Pacific,[12][13] being sent by ship to Hawaii and then flown to Australia. The 22d flew its first combat mission, an attack on Rabaul which required an intermediate stop at Port Moresby, New Guinea, on 5 April 1942.[11]

A second Group, the 38th Bombardment Group was planned to be sent to the South West Pacific later in the year, to be equipped with B-26Bs fitted with more auxiliary fuel tanks and provisions for carrying aerial torpedos.[11] Four of these aircraft were deployed to Midway Island in the build-up to the Battle of Midway, and carried out torpedo attack against the Japanese Fleet on 4 June 1942. Two B-26s were shot down with the remaining two badly damaged, while their torpedoes failed to hit any Japanese ships, although they did shoot down one A6M Zero fighter, and killed two seamen aboard the Aircraft carrier Akagi with machine gun fire.[11][14]

Two squadrons of the 38th were deployed to Australia to join the 22d, but it was decided to standardize on the B-25 Mitchell in the South West Pacific theatre, and the B-26 flew its last combat missions in the theatre on 9 January 1944.[11] Two more squadrons of torpedo armed Marauders were used for anti-shipping operations in the Aleutian Islands Campaign, but there are no records of any successful torpedo attack by a USAAF B-26.[11]

Mediterranean theatre

Three Bombardment Groups were allocated to support the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November 1942. They were initially used to carry out low-level attacks against heavily defended targets, receiving heavy losses with poor results, before switching to medium level attacks. By the end of the North Africa campaign, the three B-26 groups had flown 1,587 sorties, losing 80 aircraft. This was double the loss rate of the B-25, which also flew 70% more sorties with fewer aircraft.[15] Despite this, the B-26 continued in service with the Twelfth Air Force, supporting the Allied advance through Sicily, Italy and Southern France.[16][17]. Air Marshall Slessor considered the 42nd Bombardment Group (Marauders) to be the "best day-bomber unit in the world."[18]

North West Europe

The B-26 entered service with the Eighth Air Force in England in early 1943, with the 322d Bombardment Group flying its first missions in May 1943. Missions were similar to those flown in North Africa with B-26s flying at low level and were unsuccessful. The second mission, an unescorted attack on a power station at IJmuiden, Netherlands resulted in the loss of the entire attacking force of 11 B-26s to anti-aircraft fire and Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters.[19] Following this disaster, the UK based B-26 force was switched to medium altitude operations, and transferred to the Ninth Air Force, set up to support the planned Invasion of France.[19]

Bombing from medium altitudes of 10,000 to 15,000 feet (3,000 to 4,600 m) and with appropriate fighter escort, the Marauder proved far more successful, striking against a variety of targets, including bridges and V-1 launching sites in the build-up to D-Day, and moving to bases in France as they became available. The Marauder operating from medium altitude proved to be a highly accurate bomber, with the 9th Air Force rating it the most accurate bomber available in the final month of the war in Europe.[20] Loss rates were far lower than in the early, low-level days, with the B-26 stated by the 9th Air Force as having the lowest loss rate in the European Theatre of Operations at less than 0.5 %.[5]

The B-26 flew its last combat missions against the German garrison at the Île d'Oléron on 1 May 1945, with the last units disbanding in early 1946.[21]

British Commonwealth

In 1942, a batch of 52 B-26A Marauders (designated Marauder I by the RAF) were offered to the United Kingdom under Lend-Lease. Like the earlier Martin Maryland and Baltimore bombers, these were sent to the Mediterranean, replacing the Bristol Blenheims of No. 14 Squadron in Egypt. No. 14 Squadron flew its first operational mission on 6 November 1942, being used for long range reconnaissance, mine-laying and anti-shipping strikes.[22] Unlike the USAAF, 14 Squadron made productive use of the option for carrying torpedoes, sinking several merchant ships with this weapon. The Marauder also proved useful in disrupting enemy air transport, shooting down considerable numbers of German and Italian transport aircraft flying between Italy and North Africa.[23]

In 1943, deliveries of 100 long wingspan B-26C-30s (Marauder II), allowed two squadrons of the South African Air Force, 12 and 24 Squadron, these being used for bombing missions over the Aegean, Crete and Italy. A further 350 B-26F and Gs were supplied in 1944, with two more South African Squadrons (24 and 30) joining No 12 and 24 in Italy to form an all Marauder wing, while one further SAAF squadron (25) and a new RAF Squadron (39 Squadron) re-equipped with Marauders as part of the Balkan Air Force supporting Tito's Partisans in Yugoslavia. A Marauder of 25 Squadron SAAF, lost on the unit's last mission of the Second World War on 4 May 1945, was the last Marauder to be lost in combat by any user.[24] The British and South African aircraft were quickly scrapped following the end of the war, the United States not wanting the return of the Lend-Lease aircraft.[22]

France

Following Operation Torch, a number of French bomber squadrons were re-equipped with the B-26, being used to support operations in Italy and the Allied invasion of southern France.[25][26] Replaced in squadron service by 1947, two lingered on as testbeds for the SNECMA Atar jet engine, one of these remaining in use until 1958.[25]

Variants

The development of the B-26 in illustrated form.
U.S. Army Air Forces B-26B bomber in flight.
  • B-26—The first produced model of the B-26, ordered based upon design alone. The armament on this model consisted of two .30 caliber and two .50 caliber machine guns.[27] (The last model was armed with nearly three times that number.) Approximate cost then: $80,226.80/aircraft.
  • B-26A—Incorporated changes made on the production line to the B-26, including upgrading the two .30 caliber machine guns in the nose and tail to .50 caliber.[2] A total of 52 B-26As were sent to the United Kingdom, which were used as the Marauder Mk I. Approximate cost then: $102,659.33/aircraft (×139)
  • B-26B—Model with further improvements on the B-26A.[28] Nineteen were sent to the United Kingdom, which were used as the Marauder Mk.IA. Production blocks of the 1,883 aircraft built:
    • AT-23A or TB-26B—208 B-26Bs converted into target tugs and gunnery trainers designated JM-1 by the Navy.
    • B-26B—Single tail gun replaced with twin gun; belly-mounted "tunnel gun" added. (×81)
    • B-26B-1—Improved B-26B. (×225)
    • B-26B-2—Pratt & Whitney R-2800-41 radials. (×96)
    • B-26B-3—Larger carburetor intakes; upgrade to R-2800-43 radials. (×28)
    • B-26B-4—Improved B-26B-3. (×211)
    • B-26B-10 through B-26B-55—Beginning with block 10, the wingspan was increased from 65 feet (20 m) to 71 feet (22 m), to improve handling problems during landing caused by a high wing load; flaps were added outboard of the engine nacelles for this purpose also. The vertical stabiliser height was increased from 19 feet 10 inches (6.05 m) to 21 feet 6 inches (6.55 m). The armament was increased from six to twelve .50 caliber machine guns; this was done in the forward section so that the B-26 could perform strafing missions. The tail gun was upgraded from manual to power operated. Armor was added to protect the pilot and copilot. (×1,242)
    • CB-26B—12 B-26Bs were converted into transport aircraft (all were delivered to the US Marine Corps for use in the Philippines).[29]
  • B-26C—Designation assigned to those B-26Bs built in Omaha, Nebraska instead of Baltimore, Maryland.[30] Although nominally the B-26B-10 was the first variant to receive the longer wing, it was actually installed on B-26Cs before the B-26B-10, both being in production simultaneously. 123 B-26Cs were used by the RAF as the Marauder Mk II. Approximate cost then: $138,551.27/aircraft (×1,210)
    • TB-26C—Originally designated AT-23B. Trainer modification of B-26C. (×>300)
  • XB-26D—Modified B-26 used to test hot air de-icing equipment, in which heat exchangers transferred heat from engine exhaust to air circulated to the leading and trailing edges of the wing and empennage surfaces.[31] This system, while promising, was not incorporated into any production aircraft made during World War II. (×1, converted)
  • B-26E—Modified B-26B constructed to test the effectiveness of moving the dorsal gun turret from the aft fuselage to just behind the cockpit.[32] The offensive and defensive abilities of the B-26E was tested against in combat simulations against normal aircraft. Although test showed that gains were made with the new arrangement, the gain was insignificant. After a cost analysis, it was concluded that the effort needed to convert production lines to the B-26E arrangement was not worth the effort. (×1, converted)
  • B-26F—Angle of incidence of wings increased by 3.5º; fixed .50 caliber machine gun in nose removed; tail turret and associated armour improved.[33] The first B-26F was produced in February 1944. One hundred of these were B-26F-1-MAs. Starting with 42-96231, a revised oil cooler was added, along with wing bottom panels redesigned for easier removal. A total of 200 of the 300 aircraft were B-26F-2s and F-6s, all of which were used by the RAF as the Marauder Mk III. The Marauder III carried the RAF serials HD402 through HD601 (ex-USAAF serials 42-96329 through 96528). The F-2 had the Bell M-6 power turret replaced by an M-6A with a flexible canvas cover over the guns. The T-1 bombsight was installed instead of the M-series sight. British bomb fusing and radio equipment were provided. (×300)
  • B-26G—B-26F with standardized interior equipment.[34] A total of 150 bombers were used by the RAF as the Marauder Mk III. (×893)
    • TB-26G—B-26G converted for crew training. Most, possibly all, were delivered to the United States Navy as the JM-2. (×57)
  • XB-26H—Test aircraft for tandem landing gear, and nicknamed the "Middle River Stump Jumper" from its "bicycle" gear configuration, to see if it could be used on the Martin XB-48.[35] (×1, converted)
  • JM-1P—A small number of JM-1s were converted into photo-reconnaissance aircraft.[29]

With the exception of the B-26C, all models and variants of the B-26 were produced at Martin's Middle River, Maryland manufacturing plant. The B-26C was built at the Martin plant in Omaha, Nebraska[36]

Operators

WASPs on flightline at Laredo Army Air Field, Texas, 22 January 1944.
 France
 South Africa
 United Kingdom
 United States

Survivors

  • B-26B, part of the Fantasy of Flight collection in Polk City, Florida.
  • B-26G (s/n 43-34581) is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. This aircraft was flown in combat by the Free French during the final months of World War II. It was obtained from the French airline Air France training school near Paris in June 1965. It is painted as a 9th Air Force B-26B assigned to the 387th Bomb Group in 1945.[37]
  • B-26G-25-MA (s/n 44-68219) is on display at the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace in Le Bourget, France. It was also recovered from the Air France training school.[38]
  • B-26 on display in Marietta, Georgia. Provenance unknown.
  • B-26B-25-MA (s/n 41-31773) "Flak Bait." The nose section is on display at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC. The remainder (mid and tail fuselage sections, wings, engines, and empennage) are stored at NASM's Paul E. Garber facility in Suitland MD. This aircraft survived 207 operational missions over Europe, more than any other American aircraft during World War II and will, one day, be restored and displayed at NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport VA.

Specifications (B-26G)

Martin B-26G Marauder at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Data from Quest for Performance[39] and Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II[40]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 7: (2 pilots, bombardier, navigator/radio operator, 3 gunners)
  • Length: 58 ft 3 in (17.8 m)
  • Wingspan: 71 ft 0 in (21.65 m)
  • Height: 21 ft 6 in (6.55 m)
  • Wing area: 658 ft2 (61.1 m2)
  • Empty weight: 24,000 lb (11,000 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 37,000 lb (17,000 kg)
  • Powerplant:Pratt & Whitney R-2800-43 radial engines, 1,900 hp (1,400 kW) each

Performance

Armament

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists

References

Notes
  1. ^ Mendenhall, Charles. Deadly Duo. North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press Publishers & Wholesalers, 1981. ISBN 0-933424-22-1. Note: The 5,288 serial numbers published in this book effectively refutes the lesser count of the National Air & Space Museum.
  2. ^ a b "B-26A." wpafb.af.mil. Retrieved: 5 October 2009.
  3. ^ Air International January 1988, p. 23.
  4. ^ a b Trent 2008, p. 647.
  5. ^ a b c d Air International January 1988, p. 25.
  6. ^ Air International January 1988, pp. 23–25.
  7. ^ Scutts, Jerry. (1997) B-26 Marauder units of the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces, p. 13. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 185532637X
  8. ^ Higham, Roy and Carol Williams (eds.). Flying Combat Aircraft of USAAF–USAF (Vol. 1). Andrews AFB, MD: Air Force Historical Foundation, 1975. ISBN 0-8138-0325-X.
  9. ^ "Army Air Forces Aircraft: A Definitive Moment." Air Force Historical Studies Office. Retrieved: 5 October 2009.
  10. ^ "Martin B-26G Marauder." airforcehistory.hq.af.mil. Retrieved: 5 October 2009.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Air International February 1988, p.75.
  12. ^ Donald 1995, p.76.
  13. ^ Swanborough and Bowers 1963, p.335.
  14. ^ Parshall and Tulley 2005, pp. 151–153.
  15. ^ Air International February 1988, pp. 76–77.
  16. ^ Donald 1995, p. 177.
  17. ^ Swanborough and Bowers 1963, p. 338.
  18. ^ Slessor 1957, p.572.
  19. ^ a b Air International February 1988, p. 77.
  20. ^ Air International February 1988, pp. 78–79.
  21. ^ Air International February 1988, p. 79.
  22. ^ a b March 1998, p. 174.
  23. ^ Air International February 1988, p. 81.
  24. ^ Air International February 1988, p. 82.
  25. ^ a b Air International February 1988, pp. 82, 94.
  26. ^ Rickard, J."Martin B-26 Marauder with Free French Air Force". historyofwar.org, 4 May 2009. Retrieved: 9 October 2009.
  27. ^ "Factsheets:Martin B-26." National Museum of the US Air Force. Retrieved 7 January 2009.
  28. ^ "B-26B." wpafb.af.mil. Retrieved: 5 October 2009.
  29. ^ a b Trent 2008, p. 648.
  30. ^ "B-26C." wpafb.af.mil. Retrieved: 5 October 2009.
  31. ^ "XB-26D." wpafb.af.mil. Retrieved: 5 October 2009.
  32. ^ "B-26 cockpit." wpafb.af.mil. Retrieved: 5 October 2009.
  33. ^ "B-26F." wpafb.af.mil. Retrieved: 5 October 2009.
  34. ^ "B-26G." wpafb.af.mil. Retrieved: 5 October 2009.
  35. ^ "XB-26H." wpafb.af.mil. Retrieved: 5 October 2009.
  36. ^ Dean, Francis H. America's Hundred Thousand: U.S. Production Fighters of World War II. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2000. ISBN 0-76430-072-5.
  37. ^ United States Air Force Museum 1975, p. 37.
  38. ^ "Glenn Martin B-26G-25-MA n°44-68219." pyperpote.tonsite.biz. Retrieved: 5 October 2009.
  39. ^ Loftin, L.K. Jr. "Quest for performance: The Evolution of Modern Aircraft." NASA SP-468. Retrieved: 22 April 2006.
  40. ^ Bridgman 1946, pp. 245–246.
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  • Trent, Jack. " 'Fat-Bottomed Girls': The Martin B-26 Marauder." Scale Aircraft Modeller, Volume 14, No. 7, July 2008.
  • United States Air Force Museum guidebook. Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio: Air Force Museum Foundation, 1975.
  • Wagner, Ray. The Martin B-26B & C Marauder (Aircraft in Profile No.112). Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1965. Reprinted 1971.

External links








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