Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part IX – 323 Bomb Group

The 323 Bomb Group had the distinction of being the first Marauder group to see action in the European Theater, flying their first combat mission from Earls Colne, Essex on 16 July 1943. The Group was known as the “White Tails” due to the white stripe on the vertical fin. 41-34955 was named “Mission Belle”.
A close-up of “Mission Belle’s” nose art, showing 95 mission markers.
“Rock Hill Special” was a B-26C assigned to the 323rd BG, 454th Bomb Squadron. Here Serial Number was 41-3485. Most sources include “Lucky Graki” as part of this Marauder’s name, but I have to wonder if that wasn’t the nickname of the bombardier.
Another view of 41-34854 which shows additional details of her nose art.
A series of four photos of the 454 Bomb Squadron’s “Flaming Mamie”, serial number 41-34997. A close examination of the nose camouflage reveals several variations of the tone of the Olive Drab paint.
Canopy details of “Flaming Mamie”. The side panels could be opened for ventilation while to overhead panels hinged to the side to facilitate a quick exit.
Sgt. John Daily poses atop Mamie’s starboard engine. The outboard engine panel has been replaced with an uncamouflaged example. The nacelle and leading edge of the wing offer a good example of paint chipping for modelers wishing to duplicate the effect. 41-31961 in the background was shot down by flak over Caen, France on 06JUN44.
The starboard side of “Flaming Mamie” shows more chipping and her pin-up nose art.
“Little Lulu” shows an impressive tally of 61 mission markers. She was assigned to the 323 BG / 454 BS.
B-26C serial number 41-34969 of the 456 BS being towed by a wrecker, diorama material. Note that the ground crew is well-supplied with sheepskin “bomber jackets.”
Marauder 41-31951 of the 454 Bomb Group carried “Thunderbird” on the port side of her nose and “USO” to starboard.
Officers pose by the nose of “Bingo Buster”, serial number 41-34863. Most modelers, myself included, depict bombs with a fresh coat of paint, and sometimes even the prescribed markings. Many photos show the condition of bombs to be much different, with worn paint due to storage outside in all weather conditions.
The 455 Bomb Squadron’s “Bat-outa-hell” displays 56 bomb and 3 decoy mission markers, along with crew names by each station.

Part I here:

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part VIII – 397th Bomb Group

A posed photograph of the nose of a 397th Bomb Group, 599th Bomb Squadron Marauder which shows off the squadron’s shark mouth markings and details of the nose compartment.
Another shark mouth B-26G of the 599th Squadron, this is 44-6791 “Linda II” seen at Mount Farm, England.
Even the sharkmouth marking could be embellished. Wearing one of the more colorful B-26 examples of nose art, “The Big Harry Bird” is seen taking off from Peronne in January, 1945. The diagonal tail stripe was a 397 Bomb Group marking, shared with all four squadrons.
A fine study of a formation of 597 Bomb Squadron aircraft in flight. 43-34401 “Helen Highwater” was written off in February 1945, “Kreihl’s Cradle” 42-95828 is behind her.
The same two Marauders as seen in the previous photograph after having separated from the larger formation which is still faintly visible in the background. Both aircraft still carry remnants of invasion stripes under the fuselage, note the differences in squadron markings and camouflage demarcation.
Invasion stripes were intended to be a temporary marking, and many faded away or were removed in the weeks after D-Day.  This is ably illustrated by “Dee Feater” seen in this August 1944 photograph.
Another shot of “Dee Feater”, 42-96142.
A snowy scene at Perrone, France as 42-96153 “The Joker” warms up her engines prior to take-off. Peronne was a former Luftwaffe airfield used by the 397th Bomb Group.
42-96191 was named “The Milk Run Special” by her crew. Assigned to the 597th Bomb Squadron, she survived the war.
Four Marauders from the 596th Bomb Squadron taxi into position for take-off at Peronne.
Two more B-26’s parked in the grass at Peronne. These Marauders are attributed to the 599th Bomb Squadron but lack the distinctive sharkmouths.

Part IX here:

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part VII – Pre-War Photos

First of the many! There was not a prototype Marauder, an exception to the rule. This is the first production B-26, 40-1361 outside the Martin factory at Middle River in Baltimore, Maryland. The first flight was on 25NOV40. Note the natural metal finish and pre-war USAAC tail markings. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
40-1361 again, this time with two other Martin designs in the background, a Maryland export bomber and U.S. Navy PBM Mariner flying boat. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
This profile view shows off the Marauder’s sleek lines. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
Marauders on the ramp outside the Glenn L. Martin factory, Baltimore Maryland. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
A look inside the Middle River factory with fitters busy at work. Modelers note the top-opening cockpit hatches and details of the wing and engine construction. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
An atmospheric nighttime view of the Martin factory floor. Unique among the major combatants during the Second World War, the U.S. enjoyed secure production and training areas free from enemy bombing. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
The early B-model Marauders carried twin .50-calibre machine guns in this tail position. This was changed in the B-26B-25-MA series and later. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
Another view of the “business end” of the tail position. Note the fold-down panel under the guns and lack of metal framing at the end of the transparency. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
Initial nose armament was a single hand-held .30-calibre. This was soon changed to a .50-calibre, and most Marauders were fitted with an additional four .50-calibres in cheek blisters plus an additional fixed gun in the nose all of which were fired by the pilot. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
A view of the nose position from below. The oval-shaped panel is a flat cut-out intended to give a distortion-free view for the Norton bomb sight. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
New production Marauders on the ramp at Middle River. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
41-17839 seen with a security guard after completion. She was later assigned to the 17th Bomb Group’s 95th Bomb Squadron and named “Air Corpse” by her crew. She crash-landed behind enemy lines following a mid-air collision over Sardinia, her crew was captured. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)

Part VIII here:

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part VI – 387th Bomb Group

“Mississippi Mudcat” was assigned to the 387th Bomb Group, 559th Bomb Squadron. She had a long career, completing 149 missions but was shot down by Bf 109s on 23DEC44. Serial number 41-31657, code TQW.
This is “Heavenly Body”, a B-26B assigned to the 387th Bomb Group, 558th Bomb Squadron. She was shot down by flak over Grimbosq, France on 08JUN44. Serial number 41-31664, code KXA. Modelers note the contrasting chipped areas – rivet heads, gun fairings, and nose wheel door and that the nose shows signs of repainting.
41-31677 was assigned to the 556 Bomb Squadron and named “Jisther” by her crew. The name was carried in the same script on both sides of the nose. The starboard side also carried the wolf’s head artwork seen here …
… while the port side carried Stork artwork and an impressive scoreboard. “Jisther” completed 95 missions. On 06AUG44 she was involved in a take-off incident when a flare was accidently discharged into the cockpit, hitting the pilot 1st. Lt. James H. Brantley. Brantley exited the aircraft but was struck and killed by the propeller. “Jisther” continued taxiing and crashed into a hanger and was written off.
Seen at her home field of Chipping Ongar in 1944, “Hangover Hut” displays an impressive scoreboard. She completed a total of 152 missions, and was one of the few Marauders who flew on the 556th Bomb Squadron’s first mission on 31JUL43 and survived to fly on the last on 17APR45. Serial number 41-31694, code FWF.
Serial Number 41-31696 was named “Roughernacob” by her crew. On her 111th mission on 12AUG44, she was hit by flak and lost fuel. Unable to return to England, she crash landed near an airfield in France. Her crew survived the crash but the aircraft was written off.
This is Serial Number 41-31900, coded FWT of the 556th Bomb Squadron. Proving there is no name too unusual for a USAAF crew, they have named her “Short Snorter”.
“Lucky Lady” flew her first mission for the 387th Bomb Group’s 556th Squadron on 21APR44. Her serial number was 41-35062, side codes FWN.
“Lucky Lady” did not live up to her name. On 21MAY44, only a month after her first mission, she experienced a total instrument failure upon take-off. Immediately returning to Chipping Ongar, she clipped another Marauder and ran off the end of the runway. Ultimately, she was written off. The 387th Bomb Group’s distinctive “tiger stripes” are visible on the tail.
“The Big Hairy Bird” is well-known for her outlandish nose art and is a favorite of modelers. Not so well known is that she was originally assigned to the 397th Bomb Group (with diagonal tail stripe), and later transferred to the 387th Bomb Group (tiger stripes) as seen here. Her serial number was 42-96165, while with the 387th she wore side codes KXT.
The 556th Squadron’s “Top Sarge II” wore fuselage code FWJ. She completed an even 100 missions, and flew on the Squadron’s last sortie on 26APR45. The mission was aborted three minutes into the flight when it was reported that the target area had been overrun by U.S. troops as the German resistance collapsed.
Seen at St. Simon – Clastres, France in 1945 is 43-34119 “Off Limits” of the 558th Bomb Squadron. She was written off shortly after the war after crashing on 20MAY45 in Jumet, Belgium.

Part VII here:

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part V – 344th Bomb Group Continued

A fine example of nose art with an impressive mission tally is “Yo-Yo Champ”, a B-26B of the 497BS.
Ground crew pose with the 497BS Marauder “Lethal Lady”, 42-95986. The bicycle was ubiquitous around air bases in England.
“Six Hits and a Miss” is a reference to the six-man crew of the B-26. She served with the 495BS. Modelers note the highly-polished surface of the oleo strut on the nose gear and dual alignment scissors.
The panel below the cockpit of “Mary Ann” has received a fresh coat of Neutral Gray prior to the artist beginning his work. This is 42-10754 of the 494BS.
Major John Caitlin poses with flak damage. “Flak” is an abbreviation of the German word Flugabwehrkanone which translates as anti-aircraft gun in English.
“Shopworn Angel” of the 495BS would make an interesting diorama subject. Her serial number is 42-95917, side codes Y5-J. She appears little damaged except for her prop blades and the open roof hatches would allow cockpit details to be easily seen.
“Smilin’ Joy” of the 497BS. Note the bombs and equipment stacked casually in the background, a common feature of operational airfields.
The artwork of “Piccadilly Willy” is applied to the camouflaged armor panels while much of the remaining paint has been stripped.
Another example of camouflaged armor panels on a stripped aircraft is “You Can’t Miss It!” of the 494BS.
“Rum Buggy” was serial number 42-95924 of the 495BS.
“Maffrey’s Mottled Marauder” lacks the crew names which adorned most of the aircraft of the 344BG. ATC refers to the Air Transport Command.
“Tom’s Tantalizer” exhibits an uncommonly clean appearance, the result of being completely uncamouflaged with the exception of the paint serving as to reduce glare on the nose forward of the cockpit.

Part VI here:

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part IV – 344th Bomb Group

The 344th bomb Group was composed of four squadrons, the 494th, 495th, 496th, and 497th Bomb Squadrons.  They operated from Stansted Mountfitchet, England from February through September 1944, where the majority of these color photographs were taken.  After the invasion they relocated to Cormeilles-en-Vexin which was just outside Paris until April 1945, finishing the war in Florennes Belguim.  The Group was assigned to the Ninth Air Force and operated the Martin B-26 B/C.  Most mission assignments were tactical targets in support of ground operations, the Group was very active during the invasion of Normandy and the ensuing breakout.  These photographs display a selection of nose art applied to the Marauders.

Most USAAF aircrew applied names to their aircraft, and many featured accompanying artwork as well. “Valkyrie” of the 497BS features particularly professional examples of both.
This Marauder was 42-95875 assigned to the 495BS. Her port side carries her mission markers along with the name “Bunny’s Honey” …
… while the starboard side of 42-95875 carries the name “The Buzzard”. One has to wonder how many aircraft carried nose art or inscriptions on both sides, the markings on the unphotographed side which could now be lost to history.
The work of a talented artist, this is 42-95952 of the 497BS “You’ve ‘Ad It”. Airmen were conscripted from all walks of life, resulting in professions and trades from every part of society being represented in the ranks.
Often the aircraft carried humorous nicknames, this is “Facsimile” of the 496BG, which advertises “All the Comforts of an Airplane”. Many of the 344th’s aircraft featured very professionally applied lettering.
“Johnny Come Lately” shows off an impressive mission tally but no artwork. She was serial number 42-95896 assigned to the 497BS.
The 344th must have possessed a professional signmaker in their ranks, as evidenced by the quality layout of the logo on “Rosie O’Brady”.
Two ships from the 495th ready for take-off, “Rosie O’Brady” (Y5-P) in the background and “Lak-a-Nookie” (Y5-O) in the foreground.
A series of shots showing the “Terre Haute Tornado” 42-95906 of the 497Bs over time. Here she is after completing four missions.
The “Terre Haute Tornado” again, showing Lt. Jack Havener in April 1944 with his finger in a shell splinter hole. While the Marauder enjoyed to lowest combat loss rate of any USAAF bomber type, they were not invulnerable to enemy fire.
The “Tornado” again, showing an impressive mission tally and painted-out invasion markings on her wing.
Another spectacular example of nose art, this is 42-95903 “Hard To Get” of the 497BS.

Part V here:

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part III – 322nd Bomb Group Continued

Easily the most well-known Marauder is B-26B-25-MA “Flak Bait” of the 449 Bombardment Squadron. She holds the distinction of having survived more combat missions than any other American aircraft of the Second World War, with 206 missions completed. Flak Bait was preserved after the war, and is currently undergoing restoration at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
Flying low over the English countryside is the 450th BS “Bag of Bolts”. At the end of the war, the Marauder boasted the lowest combat loss rate of any USAAF bomber type.
A typical scene as Marauders of the 450th BS taxi into position for take-off at Bury St. Edmonds, England.
“Bluebeard II” begins her take-off run. The B & C subtypes were essentially the same, the B models were manufactured at Baltimore, Maryland, the C’s were built in Omaha, Nebraska.
“Clark’s Little Pill” at the head of a line of 451st BS Marauders awaiting their turns to take off. A total of 5,288 Marauders were produced.
Diorama bait! Engine maintenance in progress in the open. Note the paint wear and fading on the cowling in the foreground.
Bombardier Clayton Allen displaying his flight gear and details of the flexible .50 caliber nose gun. Crews often painted their flight jackets with mission tallies, nose art, and squadron insignia.
Squadron formations were the norm, and often all four of the Group’s squadrons would be assigned. Note the use of Neutral Gray to make the national markings and side codes less conspicuous.
The mission’s payload is being delivered. The stabilizing tail fin assemblies were separate from the bomb itself, and weren’t necessarily finished in the same color. Many bombs show signs of rough handling and outdoor storage such as dirt and corrosion.
Another airborne shot of “Bag of Bolts”. The US Olive Drab paint faded to a variety of shades, often reflecting the differing paint mixes used by various sub-contractors. No aircraft component was ever rejected for deviating from the color standard for Olive Drab paint.
The “Renegade” returns from a mission. The landing gear legs appear longer in this view because the oleos are fully extended without the weight of the aircraft to compress them. This is where the Marauder gained her reputation as a “widowmaker” – the required landing speed was much higher than other types, and inexperienced pilots who slowed below the recommended 150 mph (241 Km/h) speed stalled.
The crew chief directs his Marauder into the proper spot on the parking apron. With the mission complete, the crew can de-brief and get some rest, but the maintenance work was just beginning.

Part IV here:

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part II – 322nd Bomb Group

The 322nd Bombardment Group (Medium) was composed of the 449th, 450th, 451st, and 452nd 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:

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part I – 320th Bomb Group

A formation photograph of Marauders from the 320th Bomb Group’s 441st Squadron. Modelers note the variety of camouflage and markings, remaining paint where the cheek gun packs have been removed, and the extensive oil staining under the nacelles.
A beautiful study of B-26F 42-96322 of the 441st Squadron.
Although not the highest quality photo, it is comparatively rare to have photographs of both sides of an aircraft – let alone in color.
A 441st Squadron formation banks away while their target burns in the background.
Another 441st Squadron ship, this is 41-34891 “Missouri Mule”, a B-26C. The red cowling faces and propeller hubs are a Group marking.
Thumper II is another 441st Squadron ship. She is B-26C 42-10778.
Here is a close-up of Thumper II’s nose art, note the mission markers extend to cover the landing gear door.
“Bell Ringer” was B-26C 42-107534. One of the cheek gun fairings remains in place on her port side but does not carry a gun.
A close-up of “Belle Ringer” nose art and scoreboard, which also extends to the landing gear cover.
A 442nd Squadron B-26G seen from above, showing fading and wear to her olive drab uppersurfaces.
Most of the 320th Bomb Group’s 444th Squadron carried shark’s mouths in addition to nose art applied by the crews. This is B-26C 42-107733 “My Darling”. Her formation number was 99.
Another 444th Squadron Marauder with the shark mouth is 42-10782 “Ol’ Folks”, which carried formation number 98.

Part II here: