The B-26 Was a Pilot Killer
"One a day in Tampa Bay” was the catchphrase attending Martin’s
B-26 Marauder at MacDill Field in 1942–43. But although the sleek, fast twin-engine bomber established a sterling record against all three major Axis powers, it never fully shook off its early man-killer reputation.
In fact, the B-26 airframe was not always to blame for its widow-maker notoriety. The span was extended after the early B models to reduce wing loading and landing speed, with beneficial results. The Marauder used two Pratt & Whitney R2800s, arguably the finest radial engines ever made, but the main problem was the CurtissElectric propellers. Their pitch control could fail at the worst possible moment—especially on takeoff—with often disastrous results. Additional care in maintenance was necessary to avoid the problem.
The Marauder established an overall superb safety record, far ahead of all AAF single-engine fighters and nearly even with the Douglas A-26 Invader (57 accidents per 100,000 hours versus 55, respectively). In Europe, the Martin’s combat loss rate was less than half of that of the B-17 and B-24, and nearly identical to that of the Douglas A-20.
Nonetheless, like the much-maligned Brewster Buffalo, the Martin Marauder has never quite shed its undeserved enmity.
The CAF Martin B-26 flying over South Texas in 1994. This type had an exceptional combat loss record. (Photo by Bill Crump)