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Douglas A-26 Invader, 3rd Bombardment Group, 1944

Douglas A-26 Invader, 3rd Bombardment Group, 1944

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Douglas A-26 Invader, 3rd Bombardment Group, 1944

139118 was one of four Douglas A-26 Invaders tested by the 3rd Bombardment Group during 1944. At this point the aircraft was judged to be unsatisfactory and it didn't service in the Far East until 1945.

Picture provided by Scott Lindley, originally from the Jack Wheeler collection, now with Craig Myhre.

Douglas A-26 Invader, 3rd Bombardment Group, 1944 - History

The A-26 against Germany

  • Eighteen A-26s were received by the 553rd Bomb Squadron in Great Dunmow, England.
  • The first mission of the A-26s was on November 9, 1944, with the 9th Air Froce.
  • 11,567 missions were flown and 18,054 tons / 18,344 tonnes bombs dropped.
  • One aircraft was credited with a probable kill of a Me 262 jet fighter.

The Douglas A-26 Invader saw most combat during the Second World War against the Germans, serving in significant numbers with the Ninth Air Force. The aircraft's combat debut in the Pacific had been unimpressive – four early B-26s with the original flush canopy and their under-wing gun pods removed to improve their performance had been tested by the 13th Bombardment Squadron of the 3rd Bombardment Group on New Guinea, and had made a very bad impression, mostly because of the poor visibility from the cockpit.

Douglas needed better results from the Invader's second combat test, which was to be carried out by the 553rd Bombardment Squadron of the 386th Bombardment Group, part of the Ninth Air Force, which by the late summer of 1944 was heavily involved in the campaign in north-western Europe. Eighteen A-26s were sent to Britain, and between 6 and 19 September took part in eight medium level bombing missions, starting with an attack on Brest.

The Ninth Air Force report was overwhelmingly positive. The A-26 could carry more bombs than the A-20 , and had a larger combat radius, better single engine performance, flying characteristics and manoeuvrability than either the A-20 or the B-26 . No aircraft were lost on the eight test missions, and the Ninth Air Force announced that it was happy to replace all of it’s A-20s and B-26s with the A-26 Invader.

The Ninth Air Force became the main wartime user of the A-26, and eventually five bombardment groups saw some action against the Germans. The first to enter combat were the 409th and 416th Bombardment Groups, which received their A-26s in time to use them against German communications during the battle of the Bulge. The 386th Bombardment Group entered combat soon after the end of the battle, and in April the 391st became the last group to convert entirely to the A-26, using against them against the German transport network. The 410th Bombardment Group was in the process of converting to the A-26 when the war ended, although it did receive a small number in January which it used as pathfinders to guide the group's A-20s and B-26 Marauders to their targets.

In Italy the Twelfth Air Force's 47th Bomb Group also received the A-26, starting in January 1945. Once again they were used against German transport links, but also for direct support and interdiction against tanks and troop concentrations in the Po valley in the final campaigns in Italy.

Finally the 492nd Bomb Group received a small number of A-26s, which it used on carpetbagger missions behind German lines, dropping agents and supplies to support clandestine operations and resistance groups,

Douglas A-26 / B-26 Invader

Authored By: Dan Alex | Last Edited: 05/30/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Douglas A-26 Invader was a distinguished twin-engine light bomber whose origins were well-placed in the Second World War. The system proved adept at day and night flying, attacking targets with a bevy of machine guns or drop bombs and operating at low and medium altitudes with equal success. The type was fielded throughout the conflict in both Pacific and European theaters and went on to see action in the global wars to follow including Korea, Indo-China and Vietnam. In the end, the Invader served American forces for some twenty years before being officially retired and removed from service - such was the reach of this magnificent airplane.


With design beginning as early as 1940, the Invader was first flown on July 10th, 1942 as the XA-26 pre-production prototype. The XA-26 appeared as a successor to the Douglas A-20 Havoc, an aircraft of similar role and design layout and featured a glass nose and 5,000 of internal and external ordnance capability. Armament consisted of 2 x 12.7mm forward-mounted machine guns and a remote-control periscope-fired dorsal and ventral barbette, each with 2 x 12.7mm machine guns (an arrangement very similar to the production A-26C models). A mockup was completed and showcased in early 1941 with the contract finalized in June of that year. The contract originally called for just two prototype aircraft types that included the XA-26 light attack bomber and the XA-26A dedicated night attack fighter.

The resulting tests revealed some structural issues with the nose landing gear - it proving prone to collapse - and, as such, the component was redesigned. Other modifications centered on engine overheating to which the original propeller spinners (intended to promote streamlining of the aircraft) were removed for improved cooling airflow and the engine cowlings were redesigned for better performance. Overall, the tests proved the aircraft design sound and capable of great speed. Handling was regarded as above average and very responsive. What made the XA-26 unique was its single pilot cockpit, not requiring the need for a dedicated co-pilot and thusly keeping the fuselage a slender shape ala the Northrop P-61 Black Widow and Douglas A-20 Havoc. The XA-26 was ordered by the USAAF with the series designation of A-26 and consisted of several major variants, though no A-26A production model existed. Production of the A-26 series progressed slowly as most of Douglas' plants were tied to previous contract aircraft production. As such, the A-26 would have to wait until 1944 to see any complete forms.

The XA-26A model was a prototype night-fighter and attack platform. This model deserves mention for its dedicated role introducing the solid nose covering the search radar system. A ventral gun tub was devised to compensate for the aircrafts lack of forward armament and resulted in a battery of 4 x 20mm cannon. Bombload was a diminutive 2,000lbs thanks to the space committed to the radar system and cannon armament (and ammunition). The dorsal remote-controlled barbette was retained with its 2 x 12.7mm machine guns. The Northrop P-61 Black Widow beat the XA-26A to the night-fighter punch, being already in production and offering the same performance specifications as the XA-26A. Power was to be from a pair of Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 radial engines rated at 2,000 horsepower each. The XA-26A existed in just a single prototype offering.

In June of 1942, the initial Army Air Corps contract was amended to and added a third prototype aircraft in the form of a single XA-26B example completed at the Douglas El Segundo plant. This aircraft model was to fit the mold of low-altitude attacker platform with Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 engines of 2,000 horsepower each and an internal/external bomb capacity of 6,000lbs with a crew of three. Visually, the XA-26B was similar to the XA-26A model series and featured a similar solid nose covering but this over an embedded 75mm cannon. In theory, the aircraft proved a sound weapon but in practice, the cannon was slow to fire and prone to jamming with a high level of required maintenance. This forced the Douglas team to try a host of alternative armament combinations including the use of 37mm cannon or heavy machine guns or both. Some early production B-models were pulled off the line for testing various armament load outs. Impressive ideas were covered but proved fleeting such as mounting the 75mm cannon with two 12.7mm machine guns or twin 37mm cannons with 4 x 12.7mm machine guns. This developmental delay eventually resulted in an early batch of production B-models fitted with 6 x 12.7mm machine guns and a later block of production B-models with 8 x 12.7mm machine guns as production of the type had already begun while testing of the armament ensued. The USAAF accepted the design on June 30th, 1943.

The A-26B model series became the production version of the XA-26B, with its mounted collection of heavy machine guns in a solid nose assembly and a top speed of 350-355 miles per hour with her Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27, -71 or -79 series engines of 2,000 horsepower. A crew of three operated this type and consisted of a pilot, navigator/loader and gunner. Some 1,355 B-26B model series aircraft were eventually produced along with 25 other aircraft that were never delivered. Production was handled at two Douglas plants - one in Long Beach, California and the other in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

These Invader models were eventually followed by an A-26C model with a glassed-in nose and bombardier-manned Norden bombsight along with a top speed increase to 370 miles per hour. These were more in line with the dedicated light attack bomber role than the preceding A-26B models, whose forte was generally strafing with machine guns. A-26C models were built concurrently alongside A-26B systems. Early A-26C's were seen with a framed cockpit but this was later changed to the clamshell type glass cockpit, improving both range and emergency exiting of the aircraft. C-models were fitted with more powerful engines in the form of 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines of 2,000 horsepower each with water injection. Wings were also strengthened to mount up to 14 x 5" rockets or 2,000lbs of bombs. The wings were slightly altered to accommodate 6 x 12.7mm wing-mounted machine guns to make up for the lack of punch caused by the removal of the nose-mounted armament common to the B-models. 1,091 A-26C models were delivered.

A-26C models had a distinction in becoming "lead ships" for solid-nose A-26B models. As lead ships, the A-26C would register its target and drop her bombs, signaling the trailing A-26B's to do the same. This method of bombing proved commonplace for aircraft in the light bombing role such as the A-20 Havoc. A-26C models eventually replaced the specially designed A-20 Havoc lead ships (A-20J's and A-20K's) in this role.

RB-26B and RB-26C represented unarmed photo reconnaissance models modified from existing B-26B and B-26C models respectively whereas trainer B-26's were designated as TB-26B and TB-26C based on their respective letter models. VB-26B served in an administrative role. Post-war production Invaders were to spawn from the proposed A-26Z configuration which would have covered both a solid nose A-26G and glass nose A-26H model. These were never produced. The US Navy utilized a few Douglas Invaders in limited roles and designated them as a target tug series JD-1. Drone directors were known as JD-1D with both redesignated in 1962 as UB-26J and DB-26J respectively. The YB-26K was a highly-modified B-26B model, becoming the B-26K "Counter Invader" and ultimately redesignated back to the A-26A. These two-man aircraft flew with Pratt & Whitney R-2800-103W engines of 2,500 horsepower with water injection and operated in the Vietnam War.

Design of the A-26 Invader was typical of light attack bomber design in the Second World War. The fuselage was streamlined and contained the cockpit, bomb bay and gun positions. The nose on the B-26B was a "solid" nose when utilizing the 6 or 8 x 12.7mm machine gun arrangement. The glassed-in nose found on A-26C models indicated the use of a bombardier/navigator and bombsight controls in place of the nose-mounted guns. An Invader crew of three traditionally consisted of the pilot, navigator/radio operator and gunner, the latter manning dorsal and ventral gun turrets. The C-model featured a bombardier/navigator crewmember along with two nose-mounted 12.7mm machine guns. The airframe proved a well-put together structure as many an Invader was known to receive substantial amounts of damage and still return her crews to home bases. Flying on a single engine was possible, this occurring even with a full bombload. The empennage was traditional and featured the identifiable rounded vertical fin extending from the upper aft fuselage.

The A-26B Invader shined when it came to its armament loadout. More noticeable was the battery of 6 x 12.7mm (.50 caliber) heavy machine guns (early block A-26B models ) all allocated in the nose housing. Later block B-26Bs featured a total of 8 x 12.7mm nose-mounted machine guns. This assembly allowed the Invader to make devastating strafing sweeps on enemy ground targets with usually destructive results, combining the concentrated power of six to eight heavy caliber machine guns into one focal burst of hot lead. In addition to the nose armament, two 12.7mm machine guns were held in a dorsal barbette while another two were featured in a ventral barbette. The ventral barbette was sometimes removed in favor of an additional fuel cell. Invaders could also sport 8 x underwing gun pods and 6 x 12.7mm machine guns mounted in each wing leading edge (three guns to a side) along with blister mounts on the fuselage sides - all concentrated in a forward-firing position. With a single burst of the all machine guns, the entire aircraft would buffet violently rearward, a consideration for the crew to keep in mind in terms of their own safety. In total, a given A-26 could sport as many as 22 x 12.7mm machine guns with up to 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

The Douglas Invader's lethality was furthermore accented by the option of carrying between 4,000 and 8,000lbs of internal and external ordnance in the form of drop bombs or 8 to 14 x 5" rockets (the latter held externally on eight or fourteen underwing pylons - the full 16 rocket deployment was achievable in lieu of the drop tanks and wing mounted bombs). In fact, Invaders were known to be able to carry greater bombloads than that as found on the larger Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses. Endurance could be extended with the addition of 165-gallon underwing drop tanks, increasing the aircraft's range by up to 300 miles. C-model Invaders with the glassed-in nose were fitted with 2 x 12.7mm machine guns in the nose along with the 2 x 12.7mm gun systems in each turret but forward firepower was augmented with the addition of the 6 x wing-mounted machine guns.

Operational Service

Deliveries of the A-26 in the B-26B model form began in August of 1943 and the system instantly became the fastest American bomber of World War 2. The system saw extensive action in varying roles throughout the conflict both in the European Front and along the Pacific Front. A-26's were put into action with the Fifth Air Force in the Pacific Theater and flew their first sortie on June 23rd, 1944. European deliveries occurred in September of 1944 and were stationed with the Ninth Air Force, seeing their first combat sorties just two months later. Invaders served through to the end of the war to which many served in the post-war world with the United States Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command. The USAF dropped the "attack" designation of the aircraft in 1948 and officially redesignated the Invader as the B-26 (not to be confused with the World War 2-era Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers).

The A-26B and A-26C saw extended use in the upcoming Korean War with at least 37 aircraft in hand on June 25, 1950. Elements of the 3rd Bombardment Group (8th, 13th and 90th Squadrons) were some of the first units put into action in the conflict, launching from Japanese bases to strike targets on the peninsula. Later that year, group strength increased to 90 aircraft. These Invaders could be counted on to operate at low levels in the dark of night, maneuvering over and around the dangerous mountain terrain in Korea. Invaders would be credited with thousands of enemy vehicles destroyed by the end of the war, totaling some 232,000 flight hours and close to 20 million rounds of 12.7mm ammunition fired. Initially, Invaders stationed in Japan were intended to provide cover fire for US citizens evacuating the South Korean capital of Seoul. But by June 29, 1950, the aircraft was directly hitting North Korea targets as required. The B-26 proved an invaluable asset in the disruption of supply lines running along known roads where the Invader could bring the brunt of its firepower to bear on unarmored targets. Tactics changed with operational experience and Invader crews learned to bomb with precision those moving targets that they may have - in past sorties - attempted to strafe with their guns. Invaders targeted airfields with equal fervor, utilizing their formidable bombloads (including napalm) along with their machine guns and rockets against targets of opportunity. The A-26 itself proved a success in its night missions though the foe proved undoubtedly resilient, able to change their routing patterns on the ground in reaction to American attack patterns.

B-26 aircraft would also be the last USAF aircraft to drop ordnance in the conflict before the cessation of hostilities. After the war, a North Korean general would admit that the B-26 was one of the most feared weapons of the conflict - such was its terrorizing reach on ground targets at night. At least 7 B-26 squadrons were stationed for action in the Korean War including one RB-26 element. American B-26 models were temporarily removed from service in 1958 and served in strictly liaison mission and staff transportation roles.

France became another Invader operator, utilizing the USAF on lease in their Indo-China conflict of the 1950's. These carried the unofficial designation of B-26N and were based on B-26C models with AI Mk X radar systems from old Meteor NF.11 jet-powered night-fighters. French systems operated their Invaders with gun pods and underwing rockets.

American B-26B systems were called to action once again, this time in 1961 with the USAF as tactical bombers in the early years of the Vietnam War. President John F. Kennedy's assistance initiative called the aircraft back into action from storage and the Invader was brought online in reconnaissance and attack roles. This action was short-lived, however, as the systems fought from 1961 through 1964. Aircraft taking part in this early action actually fought with South Vietnamese markings and under RB-26 reconnaissance designations but were fully combat ready. Missions of the aircraft soon grew to include escort and close air support along with traditional attack roles. By this time, the war-weary B-26's began to show their age. Years of operational use began to take their toll on airframes as constant operation decreased the overall safety of the type. The B-26B was soon withdrawn from service for safety's sake, as the crash of at least two such aircraft from structural failure necessitated the move.

In 1963, at least 40 B-26 aircraft became the two-seat B-26K "Counter Invader" model for the USAF following the successful trials of the YB-26K program. The YB-26 featured water injection Pratt & Whitney R-2800-103W engines of 2,500 horsepower, 8x 12.7mm nose machine guns, 6 x 12.7mm wing machine guns with external pylons for up to 8,000lbs of ordnance, an internal capacity of 4,000lbs and dual cockpit controls with updated avionics.

With modification handled by On Mark Engineering Company, these aircraft appeared in production form with Pratt & Whitney R-2800-52W engines with water injection, reversible propellers, reinforced wings with modified wing flaps, rebuilt tail section with larger rudder and wingtip fuel tanks for increased endurance. Additionally, these B-26K models had their 6 x 12.7mm wing-mounted machine guns removed but retained the formidable 8 x 12.7mm formation in the solid nose assembly. These Invaders, like their Korean brethren, were charged with disruption of enemy supply lines. In 1966, these B-26K models were now officially redesignated as A-26A. in Counter Invaders operated in Southeast Asia up until 1969 before retirement from the USAF. By this time, the role of the A-26A was overtaken by the cannon-laden Lockheed AC-130 Hercules gunships among other more capable aircraft. Production of the B-26K/A-26A occurred between 1963 and 1964 at a unit cost of $577,000.

The final A-26 was retired from service in 1969 and the entire line was removed from service by 1972. Some 2,452 Invaders were produced. In all, 18 different countries operated the Invader at one time in civilian and military guises.

A-26's also served with US Air National Guard units, becoming some of the final American users of the aircraft. ANG units received their Invaders in the post-war years. This was abruptly abandoned at the start of the Korea Conflict as B-26's were earmarked for war once again. With the jet age progressing and the Korean War drawing to a close, A-26 deliveries continued to the ANG which operated the type throughout the 1950's. The B-26 would see its last noticeable ANG occurrence in early 1970 as a converted staff transport.

The Douglas A-26/B-26 lived a very long and productive operational life considering her origins in a World War 2 requirement. Not only taking part in that conflict, the Invader saw prolonged use and unnatural long life for a bomber in the ensuing Korean and Vietnam Wars. In any case, the Invader retained many of the qualities that her crews admired - speed, survivability and offensive firepower. The system endured for decades since its inception and went on to prove her mettle in conflicts that tested most any other machine in the skies - leaving the fabled Invader to pass with flying colors.

Douglas A-26 Invader

XA-26 41-19504, the Invader prototype, first took to the air on 10 July 1942. This aircraft had the glazed nose of the projected A-26C bomber variant. The A-26A night fighter would have had a radar set in the nose, with four 20 mm cannon in a ventral pack.

For attack missions, the A-26B had six 12.7 mm (0.50 cal) machine guns in its nose, remotely controlled dorsal and ventral turrets, each with two 12.7 mm machine guns, and up to 10 more in underwing and under fuselage packs.

The night fighter was cancelled, but the A-26B and A-26C models were rushed into production. The first Invaders in combat were four A-26Bs used in New Guinea, where the aircraft proved unpopular on low level sorties. Clearly, all the type's 'bugs' had yet to be ironed out.

In September 1944 the 553rd Bomb Squadron at Great Dunmow, England received 18 machines. Their results were more promising. Eventually, 11,567 missions were flown, delivering 18,344 tonnes (18,054 tons) of bombs. One aircraft was even credited with a probable 'kill' of an Me 262 jet fighter.

In the Pacific, air to ground and anti shipping strikes were typical. Three USAAF bomb groups used A-26s against targets in Okinawa, Formosa and mainland Japan A-26s were active near Nagasaki when the second A-bomb was dropped on 9 August 1945.

Perhaps better known for its post war exploits, the Douglas A-26 Invader first served in the European and Pacific theatres of World War II from September 1944. Designed by ED Heinemann to replace the A-20 Havoc, the A-26 was very similar to the Havoc in configuration. The roles of bomber, night fighter and ground attack aircraft were envisaged for the type, but it was for air to ground roles that production aircraft were ordered.

Douglas A-26 Invader, 3rd Bombardment Group, 1944 - History

The New England Air Museum is home to a memorial for the 416th Bomb Group (Light). The 416th flew the A-26 "Invader" in Europe during World War II.

The museum’s A-26, named the “Reida Rae,” flew with the 416th during World War II after it was given to the U.S. Air Force in 1944. The aircraft flew over thirty combat missions with the group. After changing hands and eventually being abandoned in Stratford, CT, the museum acquired the plane in 1971.

Restoration began in 2003. It was decided that the exhibits surrounding the aircraft would focus on the 416th Bomb Group (Light) and serve as a memorial to the group. Restoration was completed in 2012 under Crew Chief Carl Sgamboti. The New England Air Museum has hosted many reunions for the 416th veterans and their families, in which many of the original crew of the “Reida Rae” have been able to see the amazing restoration of the aircraft they flew all those years ago. NEAM docents love to tell the stories of the “Reida Rae,” and keep the history of the aircraft and the bomb group alive for the visitors that come through the museum.

Members of the 416th Bomb Group (Light) reunite for the A-26's dedication, 2011

Douglas A-26 Invader

The Douglas A-26 Invader (designated B-26 between 1948 and 1965) is an American twin-engined light bomber and ground attack aircraft. Built by Douglas Aircraft Company during World War II, the Invader also saw service during several major Cold War conflicts. A limited number of highly modified United States Air Force aircraft served in Southeast Asia until 1969. It was a fast aircraft capable of carrying a large bomb load. A range of guns could be fitted to produce a formidable ground-attack aircraft.

A re-designation of the type from A-26 to B-26 led to confusion with the Martin B-26 Marauder, which first flew in November 1940, some 20 months before the Douglas design's maiden flight. Although both types were powered by the widely used Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp eighteen-cylinder, double-row radial engine, they were completely different and separate designs – the Martin bomber originated in 1939, with more than twice as many Marauders (nearly 5,300) produced in comparison to the Douglas design.

The A-26s began arriving in Europe in late September 1944 for assignment to the Ninth Air Force. The initial deployment involved 18 aircraft and crews assigned to the 553d Squadron of the 386th Bomb Group. This unit flew its first mission on 6 September 1944. No aircraft were lost on the eight test missions, and the Ninth Air Force announced that it was happy to replace all of its A-20s and B-26s with the A-26 Invader.

The first group to fully convert to the A-26B was 416th Bombardment Group with which it entered combat on 17 November, and the 409th Bombardment Group, whose A-26s became operational in late November. Due to a shortage of A-26C variants, the groups flew a combined A-20/A-26 unit until deliveries of the glass-nose version caught up. Besides bombing and strafing, tactical reconnaissance and night interdiction missions were undertaken successfully. In contrast to the Pacific-based units, the A-26 was well received by pilots and crew alike, and by 1945, the 9th AF had flown 11,567 missions, dropping 18,054 tons of bombs, recording seven confirmed kills while losing 67 aircraft.

In Italy the Twelfth Air Force's 47th Bomb Group also received the A-26, starting in January 1945. They were used against German transport links, but also for direct support and interdiction against tanks and troop concentrations in the Po valley in the final campaigns in Italy.

Douglas A-26 Invader, 3rd Bombardment Group, 1944 - History

A-26 ETO Combat Evaluation

What does the A-26 ETO Combat Evaluation have to do with the 416th Bomb Group?

The Douglas A-26 Invader aircraft was introduced to the European Theater of Operations (ETO) by the A-26 ETO Combat Evaluation Project Squadron. These men flew Invader aircraft on eight Combat Missions during the month of September, 1944 to evaluate and determine the suitability of the A-26 in actual combat situations. After these successful missions, the A-26 ETO Combat Evaluation Project Squadron and associated Mobile Training Units moved to Station A-55, Melun, France to train the 416th Bomb Group on the Invader in October 1944, then on to the 409th and 410th Douglas A-20 Havoc Bomb Groups, followed by the European Martin B-26 Maurader Groups.

Many of these Project Squadron personnel subsequently joined the 416th BG. While many of the Project Squadron aircraft were used in the 416th BG A-20 to A-26 transition training, none participated in subsequent 416th Combat Missions.

The "Case History of A-26 Airplane" includes several important documents related to the planning and successful accomplishment of the Combat Evaluation of the A-26 Invader in the ETO.

One of these documents (#64) is a May 18, 1944 "Memorandum for Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (Brigadier General Timberlake)", "Subject: Introduction of A-26 Aircraft to the European Theatre". This Memo details the requests for eighteen (18) A-26's (proportion of 1/3 bombardier (glass) nose (A-26C), 2/3 gun (solid) nose (A-26B)) and 18 trained crews to be ready for departure by 1 August 1944. Colonel John R. Kelly was assigned project officer for this movement to monitor the project and go with the airplanes overseas. The Memo further notes that an original idea of having the 18 A-26's ferried to the ETO by Air Transport Command would cause Combat Evaluation delays because it would require two separate training periods - one for the Air Transport Command crews to ferry the aircraft (since they were not yet familiar with the A-26), the second for the B-26 combat crews already in the theatre. A better plan was to rapidly train experienced twin-engine aircraft instructor pilots currently in the States prior to the 1-Aug-1944 planned departure, have them ferry the A-26's to England, fly the Combat Evaluation missions and then assist with the conversion program of the Groups already in Europe.

Section 3 of this Memo outlines the plans for subsequent "Conversion of B-26 groups in the United Kingdom to A-26 type aircraft", including paragraph 3.a as follows: "Four (4) A-26 Mobile Training Units, consisting of nine (9) to eleven (11) instructors and complete mockups, turrets, sighting stations, computers, hydraulic systems, etc., are en route to the United Kingdom along with four (4) A-26 aircraft which are to be assigned to one Group until the ground crew conversion is accomplished, after which they are to be moved along with the mobile training unit to the next group to be converted.".

This Memo likely caused the initiation of Special Orders No 205, Project 3AF JY 30 Class TM 0725, forming the 18 crews into the A-26 ETO Combat Evaluation Project Squadron. [Roeder, p13]

Most men of the Project Squadron began their A-26 training May through July of 1944 in the USA with the 335th Bombardment Group (Medium), a Martin B-26 Marauder combat crew Operational Training Unit (OTU) transition school at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. For example, May, June and July 1944 Individual Flight Records for Lt John A. Buskirk, a Project Squadron pilot, show his intensive A-26 training hours. Additional training documents are available on the Jack Buskirk Photo and Document Collection page.

On 1-May-1944, the 335th Bomb Group was redesignated as the 331st Army Air Force Base Unit Replacement Training Unit (Medium Bombardment) ("331st AAFBU RTU (MB)"). The Squadrons were also renamed as follows: Hqs, 335th Bombardment Group (M) was designated Section "N". The "Bomb Crew Section", responsible for the training of Combat Crews for overseas duty, was designated Section "S". The 474th, 475th, 476th and 477th Squadrons were renamed Sections "O", "P", "T" and "U" respectively. All "Section" designations were later renamed to "Squadron" on 15-Jun-1944. On 11-Jun-1944, Squadron "F" was also established to train Free French Air Forces crews in the B-26.

The Group and Squadron histories of the Barksdale Field RTU for the months of May, June and July 1944 identify a number of personnel involved in the state-side A-26 training, including:

The June 1944 Squadron "O" history notes "Squadron "S" were still in need of flying personnel and the following named officers were transferred. Captain J. K. Coleman, 1st Lt. F. S. Brewster, 1st Lt. R. C. Hanna, 1st Lt. J. E. Burk, 1st Lt. H. R. Nevitt, 2nd Lt. J. A. Buskirk, 2nd Lt. W. R. Heinke, and 2nd Lt. C. J. Brown." And the June 1944 Squadron "T" history shows "Several more men were transferred to Squadron "S", the Combat Crew Section of the Group, to go into the A-26 unit which if now training for overseas duty. To this unit we lost one of the original Squadron members. 2nd Lieut. Lewis W. Dennis, a bombardier instructor. This Officer was on the original activation orders. Another Officer, 2nd Lieut. John J. Chalmers, had been with the Squadron since December of 1942 and was also transferred to the A-26 Unit."

Barksdale Field RTU (MB)'s monthly historical summary for July 1944 notes "Eighteen (18) combat crews completed training in A-26 planes on this field, and were sent to a staging area. Colonel John R. Kelly [of Squadron "S"] was the Commanding Officer of this unit. Two other crew members were Major Howard Burhanna and Lt. Barton D. Stebbins, both of whom were formerly with Squadron "P". Major Burhanna served in the Carribean area."

Additional personnel known to be involved in A-26 training included: 1st Lt. W. W. Mills, S/Sgt Neppes, Lt Phillip L. Russell, S/Sgt Walter Mifflin, Sgt Cecil L. Roberts, S/Sgts Herbert Sunderland, Charles Houston Corbitt, Jr., Mike Williams.

Left: Lt. Claude Brown (on right) and S/Sgt Herbert Sunderland (on left) during A-26 training at Barksdale Field, LA

Right: "Group photo of the First A-26 Combat Crews, (G1685-331 A.A.F.) (6 July 44) Barksdale Field, LA."
Back Row: Lts Claude Brown (7th from left) and John Buskirk (8th from left)
Front Row: S/Sgts Herbert Sunderland (2nd from left), Mike Williams (6th from left), Charles Corbitt, Jr. (8th from left)
A B-26 Marauder was used for these photographs because the A-26 Invader was still considered Classified.

(Left: Herb Sunderland Photo and Document Collection
Right: ww2buddies.com Pilot - Lt Claude J 'Brownie' Brown)

Sadly, A-26 training, as with any other aircraft, often involved accidents three were documented during the A-26 training at Barksdale Field RTU.

As noted in the Squadron "P" June, 1944 monthly history, "On the twenty eighth of June 1st Lt. W. W. Mills in an A-26 type airplane was forced to perform a 'Belly Landing' due to a malfunction of the landing gear locking mechanism. Considerable damage was done to the ship but neither he nor S/Sgt Neppes, engineer on the plane, were injured."
AAR 44-6-27-63 shows the accident actually occured on 27 June 1944 and the aircraft was A-26B 41-39121. The crew included 1st Lt William W. Mills (Pilot, ASN O-793815) and Gunner S/Sgt Charles E. Neppes (33153844). Both crew members continued as members of the A-26 ETO Combat Evaluation Project Squadron, flying some of the Combat Evaluation Missions from Great Dunmow, England in September 1944. This Accident Report noted that this was the second failure of this type.

Pilot 2nd Lt Phillip L. Russell (ASN O-683591) and Gunner S/Sgt Walace (NMI) Mifflin (39184309) of Squadron "S" were both killed July 11, 1944 in a training accident in A-26B Invader 43-22253. They were on a Long range training flight from Barksdale Field, Louisiana to Bradley Field, Connecticut to Portland, Maine. When they arrived at the Portland Municipal Airport, a fog bank had covered the south edge of the airport. While attempting to circle, Russell made a steep right turn, flying into the fog bank, where his right wing struck the ground cartwheeling the airplane into a group of buildings. Sadly, not only was the flight crew killed, but also a number of civilians in these buildings where killed and injured. See Aircraft Accident Report AAR 45-7-11-25 for additional information.

Also, the July 1944 monthly history of Squadron "T" describes the following non-flying accident: "The second accident, which happened the next day, 18 July 1944, as a non-flying accident. Sgt. Cecil L. Roberts, an armament man of the Squadron, was assisting in trouble shooting a defective bomb release light circuit on an A-26 aircraft. The main landing gear collapsed, and in an attempt to get clear, Sgt Roberts was pinned beneath the right bomb bay door. The gear was found to be faulty, as down locks were not installed. The locks had been lost and were on order. They would normally have been on, preventing the accident. Sgt. Roberts was severely injured, but latest reports from the hospital state that his condition is greatly improved."
The A-26B-5-DT Invader was Serial Number 43-22254. In addition to the injured Sgt Roberts, Armorer Inspectors who were working on the aircraft included S/Sgt Ralph E. Burson (ASN 35043994), Sgt William L. Groover (35350430) and Sgt Frank L. Pondolfino (32369845), all were not injured. The aircraft was sent for repairs to the 8th Sub-Depot. (AAR 45-7-18-11)

As noted above in the Barksdale Field RTU July 1944 summary, "Eighteen (18) combat crews completed training in A-26 planes on this field, and were sent to a staging area." This staging area was at Hunter Field, Savannah, Georgia where crews and aircraft were stationed prior to their overseas ETO assignment.

First Lt John A. "Jack" Buskirk was one of the Project Squadron pilots and his Individual Flight Records (IFR) show he was transferred on 24 July 1944 [from Barksdale to Hunter] and he ferried an A-26B model Invader to the ETO between August 7 and 24, 1944. The ferry route was: Hunter Field, Savannah, GA -to- Dow Field, Bangor, ME -to- Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada -to- Bluie West-3, Greenland -to- Meeks Airfield, Reykjavik, Iceland -to- Nutts Corner, North Ireland -to- Great Dunmow, Essex, England.

July and August, 1944 Individual Flight Records - 1Lt John A. "Jack" Buskirk
(Jack Buskirk Photo and Document Collection)

On August 24, 1944, eight Douglas A-26 Invaders being ferried from the USA, were gathered at Nutts Corner, North Ireland waiting to fly to their new base: Serial Numbers 41-39187, 41-39189, 41-39193, 41-39196, 41-39197, 41-39200, 41-39201 and 41-39202. Aircraft 41-39193 and 41-39200 were bombardier (glass) nosed model A-26C's and the remaining 6 were gun (solid) nosed A-26B models.

They were joined by A-26B Invader 41-39143, which had been in England since 22-Jul-1944 and was sent to Nutts Corner to lead the flight to USAAF Station AAF-164, Great Dunmow, Essex, England, home base of the Martin B-26 Maurader 386th Bombardment Group (M).

The flight of nine A-26's successfully made the trip to Great Dunmow, but unfortunately encountered bad weather and slippery runway conditions upon landing. Three aircraft (41-39193, 41-39201 and 41-39143) were damaged. The following transcription from Aircraft Accident Report (AAR) AAR 45-8-24-540 describes the landing:

Note that aircraft are identified by the last 3 digits of their Serial Numbers (S/N) (e.g. "143" is S/N 41-39143, "196" is S/N 41-39196, etc.). Also, the above references aircraft No. 195 (S/N 41-39195), however according to its Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC), 41-39195 was an A-26C model and did not arrive in England until 13-Sep-1944. I believe the correct aircaft S/N is 41-39197 (A-26B), which arrived on 24-Aug-1944 per its IARC.

A description of this event by Lt Col. Harry G. "Tad" Hankey (386th BG Deputy Group Commander and Group Air Executive Officer as of July 1944 and 386th BG Aircraft Accident Review Board President (AAR 45-8-24-540)), originally published in "The Story of the Crusaders: the 386th Bomb Group (M) in World War II" and re-published or summarized in subsequent publications (e.g. Thompson, p76 Roeder, p14-15 Bowman, p116), differs from both the information contained in AAR 45-8-24-540 (documented immediately after the accident) and research by Roeder (p15-17).

AAR 45-8-24-540 does not list all personnel of the nine aircraft, but does identify the crews of the 3 damaged aircraft as:
41-39143 - Lt Col Franklin W. "Frank" Harris (Pilot, ASN O-348673) and 1st Lt William P. Anton (Navigator, O-796939)
41-39201 - 2nd Lt Mark L. Robb (Pilot, O-745182) and Sgt Millard A. Presson (Gunner, 34507829)
41-39193 - Maj Collins H. Ferris (Pilot, O-411820), 1st Lt Robert C. Hanna (Navigator, O-732466) and S/Sgt Dominic J. Rio (Gunner, 13007285).

Based on additional sources, the following men were also in this flight from the USA, but on which aircraft is unknown:
1st Lt Francis S. Brewster (Pilot), Capt Claude J. Brown (Pilot) with S/Sgt Herbert E. Sunderland (Gunner) and 1st Lt John A. Buskirk (Pilot).

A-26C-2-DL S/N 41-39193
Rear caption: "This Douglas A-26 was badly damaged when it made a crash Landing at the 386Th Bomb Group base in
Great Dunmow, Essex, England on 26 August 1944." [actually, 24 August]
(NARA ID: 342-FH-3A15463-70021AC)

386th BG, 553rd BS Combat Evaluation

The August 1944 386th Bomb Group (M), 553rd Bomb Squadron monthly history includes the note: "Twelve A-26 airplanes arrived during August and were assigned to this organization. Also assigned to this Squadron were one line chief and seventeen crew chiefs for the A-26's. In addition, twenty officers and fifteen gunners - crews of the A-26 planes - were attached to this organization." and the September 1944 squadron history further shows "Three A-26 crews were assigned on 12 September 1944. The pilots were Lts Sutton, Heinke and Turner."

Aside from these three pilots, specific Project Squadron aircraft serial numbers and names of the soldiers are not documented in the 386th Bomb Group or 553rd Bomb Squadron histories.
The individual Combat Evaluation Mission documents do provide the names of the crewmembers who participated in each Mission, along with the Aircraft Numbers.

Upon arrival at Great Dunmow, the A-26 aircraft were painted with 386th Bomb Group (M) tail markings
and assigned 553rd Bomb Squadron Fuselage Codes (AN) and Call Letters.
As shown in this photo of 5 planes, aircraft S/N 41-39187 (left of center) does not yet have a Fuselage Code.
41-39200 (center of photo) was assigned as AN-L.
Aircraft 41-39202 (far right) was AN-K and already had the horizontal yellow 386th BG band on the tail.
(Rust, p114)

At 1500 hours on August 30, 1944, Capt Thomas L. Adams (Pilot, ASN O-670482), with crew members T/Sgt F. McDaniels (Crew Chief, 6988826) and S/Sgt Harry J. Jacobs (Gunner, 6953109), was attempting to take off on a "Local test hop" in A-26B Invader 41-39145, but before the aircraft was airborne, the nose wheel started to shimmy. Adams cut the throttles, but the nose strut bent back and partially collapsed, causing damage to both propellers when they hit the ground. The cause was found to be due to the fact that the nose strut shimmy dampener lock pin was not completely seated. None of the crew were injured. See AAR 45-8-30-522 for more information.

The May 18, 1944 "Memorandum for Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (Brigadier General Timberlake)", "Subject: Introduction of A-26 Aircraft to the European Theatre" document #64 (included in the "Case History of A-26 Airplane") details the request for eighteen (18) A-26's (proportion of 1/3 (6) bombardier (glass) nose (A-26C), 2/3 (12) gun (solid) nose (A-26B)), giving rise to the common belief (as noted in other published accounts such as Bowman, p116 Roeder, p13 Thompson, p40) that only 18 Invaders were used in the ETO Combat Evaluation. However, due to accidents or other reasons which eliminated some A/C from service, 24 Invaders have been identified as being sent overseas for participation in the ETO Combat Evaluation and subsequent Conversion Training. 4 were A-26C (bombardier/glass nosed) models (41-39193, 41-39195, 41-39199 and 41-39200), the remaining 20 were A-26B (gun/solid nosed) models.

Combat Evaluation Missions

Eight Combat Evaluation Missions were flown in September 1944 using the Douglas A-26 Invaders by the Project Squadron crews attached to the 553rd Bomb Squadron.
The brief mission summaries below are extracted from the September 1944 553rd Bomb Squadron history. Additional information is available on the individual mission web pages.

Evaluation Mission # 1 (386th BG #269) -- 6 September 1944 -- Brest, France
Having completed their oversees training, the new A-26 planes went out on their first operational mission against the enemy this date. Thirteen air- craft were dispatched and thirteen aircraft attacked enemy strong-points at Brest. There was no enemy opposition. 1000 lb. bombs were dropped with fair to good results.

On 8 September 1944, Field Order Number 261 detailed the attack of 13 A-26's against target ZH-52 in Holland. However, this mission was never planned or executed.

Evaluation Mission # 2 (386th BG #272) -- 10 September 1944 -- Custine, France
A-26 aircraft continue their operations against the enemy by dropping 1000 lb. bombs on the bridge at Nancy [Custine]. Results were fair to excellent. Major Burhanna led this A-26 mission.

Evaluation Mission # 3 (386th BG #274) -- 11 September 1944 -- Metz, France
With Major Ferris leading, the A-26 aircraft attacked Metz, dropping 1000 lb. bombs with good results. This was the third operational mission for the A-26's.

Evaluation Mission # 4 (386th BG #276) -- 11 September 1944 -- Leeuwarden, Holland
Again this afternoon, the A-26's were out, bombing Leeuwarden. Good to excellent results were obtained. Major Burhanna led this formation of 12 aircraft which dropped 250 lb. bombs.

Evaluation Mission # 5 (386th BG #277) -- 12 September 1944 -- Scheld, Germany
Fortifications at Scheld were bombed by our A-26 aircraft. 1000 lb. bombs were dropped with good to excellent results.

Two of the aircraft during the September 12th Mission collided as they were starting to taxi from their hardstands to form up in line for take off. 1st Lt Lee J. Sutton, Jr., with Bombardier 1st Lt Adolphus S. Callaway and Gunnner S/Sgt Delbert C. Gilliam, assigned to fly the #2 position on this mission in A/C 41-39190, was entering the perimeter track behind the lead aircraft. To Sutton's left, 2nd Lt Dan O. Turner, Jr with Gunner S/Sgt Manuel R. Reyes in A/C 41-39185 also started out from his hardstand onto the perimeter track. Turner's windshield had moisture on it which Turner was unable to clean off, and Turner was taxiing into the sun, the combination of which made visibility poor causing Turner to not see Sutton's aircraft and collide with it.
Turner did not take off for this mission and Sutton had to abort after take off.
See AAR 45-9-12-529.

Evaluation Mission # 6 (386th BG #279) -- 14 September 1944 -- Brest, France
Stront points at Brest were bombed by our A-26 aircraft today. 1000 lb. bombs were dropped with good to excellent results on these enemy positions. Major Burhanna led this formation of 11 aircraft.

Evaluation Mission # 7 (386th BG #280) -- 16 September 1944 -- Bergen-op-Zoom, Holland
Excellet results were obtained by our A-26 aircraft as they dropped 1000 lb. bombs on the Bergen-op-Zoom Dike. This mission was led by Major Ferris.

Evaluation Mission # 8 (386th BG #282) -- 19 September 1944 -- Duren, Germany
Our A-26 aircraft attacked this same target today, the Duren marshalling yards. They dropped 500 lb. bombs with good to excellent results.

September, 1944 Individual Flight Records - 1Lt John A. "Jack" Buskirk (left) and S/Sgt. Herb E. Sunderland (right)
(Jack Buskirk and Herb Sunderland Photo and Document Collections)

In his book "US 9th Air Force Bases in Essex 1943-44", Martin W. Bowman notes on page 118 "Thereafter the Invaders were 'returned to depots' with a list of modifications that would delay full deployment by the 386th Group until 1945." Similarly, Barnett Young's "The Story of the Crusaders: the 386th Bomb Group (M) in World War II" book, page 104 states "At that time the decision was made to pull the airplanes already in England out of combat for major modifications. They were flown away to the depot and the 386th went back to the Marauders." and Scott Thompson states "Before the group moved, the A-26s were flown to an air depot for further assignment." on page 76 in "Douglas A-26 and B-26 Invader". These statements might imply that all of these ETO Combat Evaluation A-26's were grounded immediately after the conclusion of the 8 Combat Evaluation Missions. However, at least 21 of these Invaders were actually used to train the A-20 Havoc equipped Bomb Groups, starting with the 416th Bombardment Group (L) at the beginning of October 1944.

416th BG A-26 Conversion Training

On September 30, 1944, Sixteen of the Project Squadron Invaders transferred to Station A-55 Melun/Villaroche, France to begin training the 416th Bomb Group. 5 additional aircraft arrived over the next few days, with the first A-26 Mobile Training Unit arriving October 6th, 1944.

The original plan was for one six-crew flight and one-fourth of the engineering personnel from each Squadron to be taken off operations and trained on the Invader. Due to multiple difficulties, the decision was made that, when this first cadre of trainees had completed training, one entire Squadron would be taken off operations for training. The 670th Bomb Squadron was the first, starting October 13th and completing on the 18th. The 671st Squadron was next from 18 to 29 October. This Squadron's training was held up by bad weather that limited flying between 20-25 October. On October 30th, the 669th BS began their A-26 training, completely converting in 5 days. The 668th likely trained during this same period because the A-26 conversion training was considered complete for the entire 416th Bomb Group on November 5th, 1944.

The 5th of November also marked another milestone in the 416th BG history. On this day all but a few glass-nosed A-20 Havocs were flown back to England and two days later (due to weather delays in England), the first A-26 Invaders assigned to the 416th landed at A-55. These were immediately given Acceptance checks and were operationally ready by November 9th.

On 11 November 1944 the Project Squadron A-26's, some of the Project Squadron Transition Crews and the Mobile Training Units left Melun to begin the conversion training for the 409th Bomb Group.

Due to the bad weather, no Combat Missions were flown by the 416th Bomb Group between October 18 and November 16, 1944. Mission # 159 against a Supply Depot at Hageunau, France on November 17, 1944, was the first Combat Mission flown by the 416th using 28 A-26 Invaders.

Some of the Project Squadron Transition Crew Members did not move to the 409th and were flying Combat Missions with the 416th BG starting with Missions # 159 and 160 (17 and 18 November, 1944). Some others likely did transfer to the 409th and possibly other groups, but later returned to the 416th BG and began flying on 416th Combat Missions 164 (Dec 2, 1944) and 196 or 197 (Feb 1 and 2, 1945).

See the "Conversion from A-20 to A-26 type aircraft" for more details on the 416th Bomb Group Conversion,
including the conversion memo from Col Aylesworth and Group and Squadron History extracts.

The following Accidents and Incidents occurred during the 416th BG A-26 Conversion Training

A-26 ETO Combat Evaluation Evaluation Mission pages:
Evaluation Mission # 1 (386th BG #269) -- 6 September 1944 -- Brest, France
Evaluation Mission # 2 (386th BG #272) -- 10 September 1944 -- Custine, France
Evaluation Mission # 3 (386th BG #274) -- 11 September 1944 -- Metz, France
Evaluation Mission # 4 (386th BG #276) -- 11 September 1944 -- Leeuwarden, Holland
Evaluation Mission # 5 (386th BG #277) -- 12 September 1944 -- Scheld, Germany
Evaluation Mission # 6 (386th BG #279) -- 14 September 1944 -- Brest, France
Evaluation Mission # 7 (386th BG #280) -- 16 September 1944 -- Bergen-op-Zoom, Holland
Evaluation Mission # 8 (386th BG #282) -- 19 September 1944 -- Duren, Germany

Museum Info

Ansel M. Stroud Jr. Military History & Weapons Museum (Jackson Barracks)
View Map

Tues - Fri: 9 AM - 5 PM
Sat - 9 AM - 2 pm

If St Claude Gate closed, proceed north around the block to N. Claiborne/W. Judge Perez Gate.

After hours & weekends, arrangements can be made by calling 504-278-8024.

Louisiana Maneuvers & Military Museum (Camp Beauregard)
View Map

After hours & weekends, arrangements can be made by calling 318-641-5733.

After hours & weekend arrangements can be made by calling 318-641-5733.

There is no cost for admission however, all exhibit development is funded exclusively through your generous donations.

CAF’s Douglas A-26 Invader Returns to Flight

“Lil Twister,” the third A-26 in the Commemorative Air Force, recorded only minor squawks.

The third Douglas A-26 Invader in the Commemorative Air Force fleet, Lil Twister, took its first two flights on November 1, 2020, at the Guthrie Municipal Airport in Oklahoma. Originally scheduled for October 23, the flights culminate the efforts of 21 years of restoration work by the airplane’s supporters in the Sierra Hotel A-26 Sponsor Group based in Guthrie. The first flight lasted 11 minutes and returned with a few minor squawks to resolve prior to the second flight, which clocked an hour. Commanding both flights was pilot Mark Novak.

The Commemorative Air Force posted videos from the two flights, and CAF marketing director Leah Block indicated that the organization is looking to bring all three Invaders together sometime—somewhere—in 2021. The Sierra Hotel group weathered setbacks during the long restoration process, including a tornado that hit the hangar in which the project was maintained.

The Douglas A-26 Invader entered service during the latter part of World War II, but it saw action in two later conflicts—the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Douglas Aircraft Company built 2,503 of the light bombers (A-26 and later B-26 designations), with a long list of modifications that kept the subsequent models relevant and on active duty.

Actually, Lil Twister is a temporary name, according to James Dudnelly, SH A-26 Support Group leader. “Our first flight on November 1 only had two squawks: the number one engine didn’t quite develop full takeoff power and the control wheels [were] deflected about 30 degrees to the right to maintain level flight,” Dudnelly told Flying. “We solved the power issue with a simple prop governor adjustment and are still working on the control wheel problem. Our test pilot did not consider the control wheel thing a grounding write up, so after a quick ground run to check the engine power, he opted for another…45-minute flight. We are planning on touring with the aircraft [and] doing airshows. However we can legally operate the aircraft to raise funding, [and] that’s what we’ll be doing. The aircraft was built at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Tulsa in late 1944, as Douglas serial number 28922. It was accepted by the US Army Air Corp in early 1945. It had an interesting and varied history—its service took it around the world and then back to Oklahoma again. Its last flight before being grounded was in August 1994, so it had not felt the air under its wings for more than 26 years.”

Douglas A-26 / B-26 Invader

The USAAF issued a requirement for an attack aircraft in 1940, before it had information on World War II combat operations in Europe. Consequently, three prototypes were ordered in differing configurations: the Douglas XA-26 attack bomber with a bomb-aimer's position the XA-26A heavily-armed night-fighter and the XA-26B attack aircraft with a 75mm cannon. After flight testing and careful examination of reports from Europe and the Pacific, the A-26B Invader was ordered into production, and initial deliveries of the 1,355 built were made in April 1944.

The A-26B had six 12.7mm machine-guns in the nose, remotely controlled dorsal and ventral turrets each with two 12.7mm guns, and up to 10 more 12.7mm guns in underwing and underfuselage packs. Heavily armoured, and able to carry up to 1814kg of bombs, the A-26B was potentially a formidable weapon. Moreover, its two, 1491kW Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines conferred a maximum speed of 571km/h, making the A-26 the fastest US bomber of World War II. Invaders'remained in USAF service until well into the 1970s.

Missions with the 9th Air Force in Europe began in November 1944, and at the same time the type became operational in the Pacific. The A-26C with a bomb-aimer's position and only two guns in the nose entered service in 1945, but saw only limited use before World War II ended. A-26C production totalled 1,091. With little employment ahead of them, so far as anyone could see, one A-26B and one A-26C were converted to XJD-1 configuration, this pair being followed by 150 A-26Cs converted as target tugs for the US Navy with the designation JD-1 some were converted later to launch and control missile test vehicles and drones, under the designation JD-1D. These designations became UB-26J and DB-26J in 1962.

USAF A-26B and A-26C aircraft became B-26B and B-26C in 1948, and retained this designation until 1962. Both versions saw extensive service in the Korean War, and were again used in a counter-insurgency role in Vietnam. A special COIN version with very heavy armament and extra power was developed by On Mark Engineering in 1963, a prototype being designated YB-26K and named Counter Invader. Subsequently about 70 B-26s were converted to B-26K standard, 40 later being redesignated A-26A. Some were deployed in Vietnam, and others were supplied to friendly nations under the Military Assistance Program. B-26s were used also for training (TB-26B and TB-26C), transport (CB-26B freighter and VB-26B staff transport), RPV control (DB-26C), night reconnaissance. (FA-26C, from 1948 redesignated RB-26C) and missile guidance research (EB-26C). After the war, many A-26s were converted to executive, survey, photographic and even fire-fighting aircraft. Brief details of the two semi-production marks are given in the variants list.

At this plane, they use to called, " the widowmaker" i guess why?

I was a tow reel operator on B-26's during 1951 to 1953.
I was in the 4th tow target squadron based at Georgge AFB in Victorville
Califotnia and also flew at our remote base,Larson AFB, in Moses Lake
Washington. We towed both banner and sleeve targets for the sixth army
On the west coast.it was always an exciting aircraft and very versatile.
Great memories!

I crewed the B26 then A26s at England AFB supporting the training of what would become the Nimrods in Thailand. I truly regret not getting to go to Thailand with a great plane and a great bunch of guys. Tail #641 is in Tucson at the Pima Air Museum and I crewed that aircraft.

I was an instructor navigator in the A-26A flying out of England AFB, LA, '68-69 for aircrews heading for NKP, Thailand. It was the best and most challenging job a nav could have. As a right seater, you were actually a co-pilot controlling mixtures, armament switches, coordinating with the pilot on almost everything. Some navs with more time in the aircraft than I did actually did take-offs and landings. I did get lots of stick time in the air. One of our aircraft is on display at Hurlburt Field, FL. Every time I see it I get homesick.

I was a plane captain on a Invader with 800 hrs flying in one from 52-55. It was for towing for the navy at Gitmo VU-10. Navy bought 150 from the AF for this type mission. The A-26c was renamed navy JD-1. A good airplane, would always take you and bring you back.

Hi Folks , Trying to find A-26 pictures during the fifties at Newark Airport New jersey Air National Guard. Thanks

stationed in NKP Non Khom Phanom Thiland 1965-66 saw some at work there. Sweet.

Stumbled onto the site and what great stories. I currently crew on an Invader on the airshow circuit repping the 13th B /S during the Korean War and have done so for 10 years. To those of you who have either flown or turned wrenches on these beautiful birds, we also honor your experiences and efforts. To be around an Invader is to be smitten, something we all share whether it be 'then' or now.

Always enjoy hearing from Invader folks. Regards.


Our squadron had 2 B-26's which had been modified to towtarget aircraft. I was a tow target operator for 3596 Training Squadron(Combat Crew) which was formed at the beginning of the Korean War, June 1950, at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
We towed 6x9 flag(banner) targets for aerial gunnery at 12000, or 20000 ft. We started with F-51's, converted to F-80's, and then to F-86's. We even tried to tow a series of canard winged gliders, with not much success. Hundreds of hours in the B-26, both in aerial gunnery missions, and also we flew cross country to retrieve any live ammunition from some of our aircraft which didn't make it back from cross-country trips. I was also an instructor at the Armament School at Lowry Field, Denver Co. Was sent TDY to Nellis for the USAF gunner meet in March-April 1950, and then was reassigned to Nellis at the start of the Korean War.


The first time I saw this aircraft, only the big square rudder and fin were sticking up above a hangar as I was a million miles away, marching in formation as an aviation cadet at Maxwell field Alabama.
Troop Carrier Command saw me in C-47's & later C-46's in England and France. After WW-2 it was Reserve flying in C-46's again, and later, navigating Douglas DC-4's with Alaska Airlines on the Anchorage-Tokyo run.

In January 1952 I saw the B-26 again at Kimpo airfield, Korea. I flew 41 missions as navigator in RB-26 aircrafts during Korean war-----12th Tactical Recon Squadron. Although I was not at all new to flying, but the more I flew in that Douglas creation the more I admired the Douglas aircraft designers. Rugged and reliable, you could depend upon it to get you out of a tight situation FAST, when you badly needed it. A truly impressive aircraft.
The only fault I had with it was it was a terrificly NOISY aircraft---every cylinder of those beautiful Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines, exhausting directly out into the atmosphere--and against the crew's eardrums.

But good 'Ol Uncle Sam has issued me excellent hearing aids, and at age 86 I'm still navigating a new pair of skis, and also bicycling and hiking. I'm not complaining at all, and what a splendid batch of memories I have!

My father, Carl Lindberg (a B-25 pilot from WWII), flew B-26s in 24 night intruder combat missions as a member of the 37th Bomb Squadron in Korea. He was awarded his second DFC and his fifth, sixth and seventh Air Medal for various actions during this inherently hazardous night flying during the period from 03DEC52 to 07NOV53. Dad was proud of his Korean War service, grew to like the B-26 almost as much as the B-25, but was unhappy that this war was forgotteen by many or just called a "Police Action".
Dad retired in 1969 as a LTC and died in February, 2005.

I was an aircraft electrician and had just got stationed at Itazuke AB,Japan and I got sent to Bien Hoa, Vietnam TDY to the 1st Air Commando outfit and when I walked on to the flight line it was like I went back in history as the front line bomber we had was the Douglas B-26. Let me tell you this little aircraft was a jewel in my eyes. We had two glass nose, then we had a mixture of 26's with 6 and 8 guns in the nose and all of them had the 3 in each wing. I was with them for 6 months and enjoyed every day. The only thing I regret is that I never got a flight in one.

I was an aircraft electrician and had just got stationed at Itazuke AB,Japan and I got sent to Bien Hoa, Vietnam TDY in January 1963to the 1st Air Commando outfit and when I walked on to the flight line it was like I went back in history as the front line bomber we had was the Douglas B-26. Let me tell you this little aircraft was a jewel in my eyes. We had two glass nose, then we had a mixture of 26's with 6 and 8 guns in the nose and all of them had the 3 in each wing. I was with them for 6 months and enjoyed every day. The only thing I regret is that I never got a flight in one.

I flew 156 combat missions during 1968 and 1969 in the A-26A (B-26K). A great airplane for he mission we had. 609th Special Operation Sq. In late 1969 Air Force retired the A-26's and replaced them with AC-130 gunships.

A follow up:
Hopefully this information helps.
34th Squadron, 17th Bomb Group.

I flew as a gunner on B-26's at K-8, Korea in 1952-53 for 50+ combat missions. I then returned to Langley AFB and flew B-26's there until the aircraft was replaced by B-57's in 1955. A great aircraft and a great experience.

One of the most responsive and fun to fly airplanes around. We had them in Korea and the 1st Tow Target Squadron, towing for the Army at Ft. Bliss, El Psao, Texas. It had power to spare and had excellent armorment.

My father was working at Douglas Long Beach during WW II when he first was assigned to the B-26B engineering department. He and his co-workers drew the full size drawings for production of the B-26B. He worked on all the drawings for the cockpit, oil cooler intakes, and wing guns. These guns originally had "visor" or "eyelid" movable covers over them but this approach was dropped before production. He took our family to the Douglas plant for an open-house where a test pilot flew a B-26B that took off from a runway next to the viewing stand after locking the brakes and getting up to max power before letting off the brakes. The nose came up immediately and it was several hundred feet off the ground when it passed in front of the crowd. What an airplane! It had a laminar flow wing section that had to be so smooth he had to wear soft leather "booties" when on the wing taking measurements.