B-26 Marauders, A-26 Invaders

★ Martin B-26 Marauder ★ The B-26 was a medium bomber that could deliver 4,000 pounds of bombs on a target 1,000 miles from its home base. Built by the Glenn L. Martin Company near Baltimore, Maryland, the bomber got the nickname “Martin Murderer" because of the high number of landing accidents. Its fast approach speeds were a challenge for inexperienced pilots. By the end of the war, it held a different title: “most survivable.” It had the lowest loss rate of any Allied bomber. The B-26 being restored at the National Air and Space Museum flew more missions in Europe than any other U.S. aircraft: 207.

Hours before sunrise on June 6, 1944, B-26 Marauder pilots stationed in England woke up to find their airplanes freshly painted in black and white stripes: The Allied invasion of occupied Europe was under way. Any airplane without stripes was likely to be shot down by Allied gunners.

The Marauders took off in rain. A low cloud front pushed them down as low as 3,500 feet, where the bombardiers could see their targets: German guns aimed at anything that tried to cross the narrow strand code-named Utah Beach. Nearly 300 Marauders dropped more than a million pounds of explosives, keeping losses among landing forces low, compared to the carnage on Omaha Beach, targeted by high-flying heavy bombers.

B-26 Marauders, A-26 Invaders
★ Douglas A-26 Invader ★ Just weeks too late for D-Day, the A-26 became the fastest U.S. bomber of the war. Designed by Douglas Aircraft mastermind Ed Heinemann, the A-26 carried an impressive amount of armament: Some variations were outfitted with as many as 22 .50-caliber machine guns and could carry between 4,000 and 8,000 pounds of bombs and rockets. The A-26 later flew in Korea and Vietnam, one of the few U.S. bombers to fly in three wars.

Still, the B-26 was not what Hap Arnold had in mind for Normandy. He had wanted its successor, the Douglas A-26 Invader. That aircraft became the fastest U.S. bomber of the war. The A-26 earned its own kind of stripes through a long, successful life, including service in Korea and Vietnam.

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