“Building a Bomber” was produced by the Office for Emergency Management during 1941. Featuring Martin’s early production of their B-26 Marauder medium bomber, the film shows the manufacturing processes and some very revealing looks at methods used to build military aircraft at the time. Martin began producing B-26s during February of 1941. By the time production of the Marauder shut down in March of 1945, 5,288 of them had been built. At that point the Douglas A-26 Invader took over the B-26 designation. We’ll be doing in-depth stories about both the B-26 and A-26 in the future, but this film is a fascinating look at aircraft production in general and the B-26 in particular.
The B-26 earned a reputation for being a “hot ship” and even a “widowmaker” that had as much to do with its advanced low-drag design and higher performance than any perceived problems with the aircraft itself. Higher approach speeds were required and single engine operation was problematic. Some issues, such as nose gear collapses and issues with propeller pitch mechanisms, were resolved before widespread service of the Marauder. The low wing area and attendant high wing loading in early production aircraft were somewhat resolved in models after the B-26B-10, which received both a 6 foot longer wingspan and uprated engines but additional weight in armor and defensive weaponry. Larger vertical and horizontal stabilizers were also added to the B-10 and later models.
Reputations aside, Marauders went on to perform exceptionally in the European Theatre with the Eighth Air Force and later the Ninth Air Force, and in the Mediterranean Theatre with the Twelfth Air Force. But it was in the Pacific Theatre where the B-26 saw its first combat of the war. There B-26s launched torpedo attacks against Japanese shipping during the Battle of Midway and participated in other combat missions in the Southwest Pacific. The United States Navy operated B-26s designated as JM-1s and JM-2s. Turkey, France, South Africa, and the United Kingdom also operated B-26s.