07 June 2010
Marauders were blighted early on by numerous crashes caused by pilot inexperience but would go on to fly over 110,000 missions in the Second World War with a combat loss rate of only 0.5%, the lowest of any Allied bomber of the war.
But there were a lot more things that made the B-26 Marauder a milestone in aviation history that aren't as well known to the annals of history:
-It was the first Allied bomber type in Europe to complete 100 missions, a B-26 named "Mild and Bitter" with a mission against the Luftwaffe airfield at Evreaux, France on 9 May 1944.
-It was also the first Allied bomber type to complete 200 missions, a famous B-26 named "Flak Bait" that completed its 202nd mission in May 1945 before the German surrender.
-It was the first US Army Air Forces bomber to use aerial torpedoes during the war- a two-thousand pound naval torpedo could be slung under the fuselage from an external rack (most torpedo missions were flown in the Pacific).
-It was the first twin engine medium bomber to be able to carry a greater bomb payload than the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, the heavyweight of the day.
-It was the first US Army Air Forces aircraft to use external gun pods- two self-contained 50-caliber machine guns were mounted two to each side of the forward fuselage for ground strafing.
-It was the first bomber to have an all-plexiglass nose which happened to be a Martin innovation in shaping plexiglass into the necessary aerodynamic curves.
-It was the first combat aircraft to use butt seams for the skin rather than overlapping seams. This improved the aerodynamics of the bomber by reducing drag.
-It was the fist bomber to use an all-electric bomb release mechanism.
-It was the first US combat aircraft with self-sealing fuel tanks, another Martin innovation which was called "Mareng Cells"- short for Martin Engineering.
-It was the first bomber to use flexible tracks to bring ammunition from its storage boxes in the mid-fuselage bomb bay to the tail gunner's position. And the maker of those flexible tracks? Lionel. Of Lionel trains fame.
-It was the first combat aircraft to substitute plastic for metal in over 400 components for weight savings.
Source: Raise Heaven and Earth: The Story of Martin Marietta People and Their Pioneering Achievements by William Harwood. Simon & Schuster, 1993, p193-212.