The 322nd Bombardment Group (Medium) was composed of the 449
th, 450 th, 451 st, and 452 nd Bomb Squadrons. Their initial combat operations were as part of the Eighth Air Force operating from Bury St. Edmonds, England. They operated Martin B-26 B & C Marauders during the spring and summer of 1943, when photographers from LIFE Magazine took these color photographs.
A group shot in flight gear in front of a B-26B of the 450th BS, Pappy’s Pram. This photo shows the USAAF B3 sheepskin jacket to good advantage, along with other details of equipment and gear. Given that all these men are posing with cameras and show no insignia or markings on their gear they may well be the LIFE photographers who took this series of photos.
Marauders of the 322ndBG taxiing into take-off position. The red surround to the national insignia was authorized only during the summer of 1943. Note that the side codes and insignia are painted in the same Neutral Gray color as the undersurfaces to subdue the markings.
Nose art of 41-18022 “El Diablo”, ER-U, assigned to the 450th BS. Modelers note the hard demarcation between the upper and lower surface colors as well as the chipping on the nose wheel door.
Details of the defensive armament are visible as this B-26B taxies by. There were three gunners located in the aft section of the B-26 – a tail gunner, a dorsal turret gunner, and a gunner operating single hand-held .50 caliber guns in the lower fuselage to defend the beams.
A fine study of Lil Joe II of the 452nd BS in the air. The Olive Drab paint used on the upper surfaces was notorious for fading to a number of different shades, this was particularly apparent when component manufacturers used different paint mixtures. This B-26B shows significant wear and chipping to her finish, as well as evidence of touch-ups around the cockpit and ventral turret areas.
“Colonel Rebel” of the 449th BS in the air.
A clearer shot of “Colonel Rebel” taxiing on the ground. She was a B-26B, serial number 41-18289.
Some Marauders were fitted with additional forward-firing .50 caliber machine guns, aimed by the pilot and serviced by the bombardier. This is reportedly the starboard side nose art of 41-31744 of the 449th BS, which carried the name “Hank’s Yanks” and mission tally on the port side.
A formation of 449th BS Marauders with 41-31757 “We Dood It” in the foreground. Three-ship groups formed larger squadron and group sized formations to concentrate their defensive firepower for mutual support.
Nose art of the 450th BS “Fightin’ Cock”, showing twenty mission markings as well as two decoy runs.
Nose art of the 449th BS B-26B 41-31767 “Ginger” showing nineteen mission markers and six decoy runs. Another study in uniforms and flight gear, the pilot is seen wearing a “flak jacket” and apron, designed to protect against shrapnel but an obvious liability in the event of a water landing.
Ginger’s pilot and co-pilot pose in the cockpit for the photographer, showing details of the glazing. One might be tempted to think of the upper surface color as a uniform Olive Drab, but study of close-up shots such as this one reveals several different tonal variations to the paint as well as areas which have been re-painted.
Part III here: