The Martin B-26 Marauder was a consistent and solid performer as a WW II medium bomber. Operating from medium altitudes (10,000 to 15,000 feet), the B-26 was flown in combat by American, British, Free French, Australian, South African and Canadian forces in all theaters of operation for the duration of World War II. Although tricky to fly at landing speeds, the sturdy Marauder had the lowest loss rate of any Allied bomber. By the end of World War II in 1945, B-26 crews had flown more than 110,000 sorties and had dropped 150,000 tons of bombs.
Three Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers droping bombs on ports, bridges, and railroad yards in central Italy north of Rome, U.S. Fifteenth and Twenty-first Air Force, Operation Strangle, 1943-1944.
The Martin B-26 Marauder was ordered by the Army Air Corps for production based solely on its design. The Glenn L. Martin Co. responded to the Army Air Corps Circular Proposal 39-640 with its Model 179 mid-1939 design concept. In the rush to arm at the outset of World War II, no B-26 prototype was built. The design was so promising that the Army Air Corps ordered 1,131 B-26s in September 1940, two months prior to its maiden flight on 25 November 1940.
The first four B-26s were used for tests from November 1940 through February 1941. Upon acceptance by the Air Corps, the four test aircraft were delivered to the 22nd Bomb Group at Langley Field, VA, on 22 February 1941, the first unit to receive the B-26. The B-26 began flying combat missions in the Southwest Pacific by the spring of 1942, while most B-26s were subsequently assigned to Europe and the Mediterranean.
Although development of the B-26 Marauder moved swiftly, it was not without problems. The B-26 was called the "Flying Prostitute" because it had no visible means of support. Its small wings had an unprecedented loading of 51 lbs per square foot. Although initially ordered at the same time as the B-25 Mitchell bomber, in the end, fewer Marauders were built than Mitchells because the B-26 proved to be more expensive to build, maintain, and had higher accident rates.
The B-26 Marauder was manufactured by Martin at plants in Middle River, MD and Omaha, NE. The Martin B-26 was produced in variants B-26 and B-26A through XB-26H. Changes from one model variant to the next involved defensive armament improvements, increased performance, and tests or adoption of new equipment as well as changes in the plane's dimensions. The last mass production model was the B-26G. The last B-26 of any model built was delivered on 30 March 1945, named "Tail End Charlie." When B-26 production was halted, 5,266 had been built. For a complete list and details of B-26 models, consult Early 1940s Bomber Aircraft from the National Museum of the USAF.
The few remaining Martin B-26s were declared obsolete in 1948. The B-26 designation was transferred to the Douglas A-26 in June 1948 after the Martin bomber was withdrawn from service. The Douglas A-26 and the later Douglas B-26 that was a renamed A-26 have no relationship to the Martin B-26 Marauder.
Martin B-26 Marauder Bomber Characteristics
Eleven .50 cal. machine guns
Normal bomb load
4,000 lbs., 5,200 lbs. of bombs (max overload)
Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-43 "Double Wasp" radials of 2,000 hp each
283 mph at 5,000 ft.
1,100 miles with 4,000 lbs. bomb load
71 ft. 0 in.
56 ft. 1 in.
20 ft. 4 in.
38,200 lbs. (maximum)
Specifications based on B-26G model.
B-26B Marauder production at Glenn L. Martin Co., Middle River, MD.
B-26 Marauder dropping its bomb load, World War II.
USAAF B-26 Marauder with left wing and engine housing riddled by antiaircraft fire during a bombing raid in Tunisia, returned to base with a safe belly landing, 1943.
B-26 Marauder in flight, during World War II.
B-26 Marauder on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Dayton, OH. It was flown in combat by the Free French during the final months of WW II and is painted as a 9th Air Force B-26B assigned to the 387th Bomb Group in 1945.
Cockpit photo of B-26 Marauder on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Dayton, OH.