B-26B 42-96191,9F-N, ‘Milk Run Express,’ 598th BS. 397th BG. This particularly attractive machine is in overall natural metal with invasion stripes, and an Olive Drab patch left around the codes when the paint was stripped off. This aircraft appeared in 1/48 originally on Aeromaster sheet 48-414, but is currently available on sheet 48-626
The first and most crucial thing we need to remind ourselves, before becoming embroiled in the type, is to differentiate between the two B-26s. After 1948, B-26 was the designation given to the former A-26 Invader, the waspish tail-heavy aggressor, associated with speed, power, and post-war dash. Our interest here is in the tubby barrel-fuselage Marauder, the busy twin unjustly remembered by many as the ‘Widowmaker,’ on account of the high rate of accidents experienced by early variants on take-off. That the aircraft’s latter service saw it achieve an enviably low rate of loss has been overlooked, and it is one of those unmourned medium bombers whose name we may be expected to recall, but whose work may not be of sufficient interest to warrant the attention of the great majority.
Our B-26, then, was an American World War II twin-engine medium bomber built by the Glenn L. Martin Company. Well over 5,000 entered service between 1941 and 1945, of which some 500 were flown by the RAF and South African Air Force.
Glenn Martin was awarded the contract in 1939. No prototypes had flown prior to this acceptance and when the first aircraft came off the production line in late 1940 testing commenced immediately. Deliveries to the Army began in 1941 with the second aircraft built.
Initial problems with the type centred on take-off and landing, due to the small wing area and subsequent high landing speed, and some early aircraft suffered undercarriage failure resulting in a temporary grounding of the Marauder while the problems were investigated. Further difficulties arose from the Curtiss electric pitch change mechanism in the propellers, which required a very high degree of maintenance. Failures in this area could lead to the prop disintegrating, or a loss of power in one of the engines during take-off, and a number of machines were lost as a result, a situation exacerbated by the need to accelerate crew training once the US entered the war, and the resulting need to put the machine in the hands of inexperienced pilots.
A B-26B bomber in flight somewhere over the United Kingdom
Pilot training continued, and the situation seemed to worsen, and in 1942, a Senate special committee investigating defence contract abuses looked into the matter. Senator Harry Truman and others, arriving at the Avon Park Army Air Field were greeted by the still-burning wreckage of two crashed B-26s, and Truman’s subsequent criticism of both the aircraft and Glenn Martin was unequivocal. The aircraft, still unproven despite some initial success with the 22nd BG, earned a variety of colourful nicknames including the ‘Flying Coffin,’ the Martin Murderer,’ and, one particularly pleasing sobriquet, ‘Flying Prostitute,’ as it was suggested that it had no visible means of support – a
reference to its small wings.
Time and experience improved matters. The addition of the dorsal turret also solved some of the stability problems caused by weight distribution, and the aircraft went on to see extensive service in the Pacific, Mediteranean, and European theatres. The first overseas deployment saw the 22nd BG fly their aircraft from Hawaii to Australia, where they were based on Townsville in Queensland, flying missions initially against Rabaul and other targets, with refuelling stops in Port Moresby, while subsequent operations saw them used in action at both the Battle of the Coral Sea and Midway.
Most later marks of the aircraft saw service in Europe and the Mediterranean, with the 320th Bombardment Group entering combat with the aircraft in April 1943 in north Africa. The aircraft saw service up until May 1945 with both US and British forces, and saw action against the D-Day beaches during the Normandy invasion.
A mass of increasingly significant changes were made to the airframe throughout production, and a precise examination of all the many sub-variants would require far more space than this brief introduction allows. Chief marks included the B-26A, which was the initial design, incorporating production line changes including upgrading of armament. This was operated by the RAF as the Marauder Mk I. The B-26B saw a number of further changes to armament and powerplant, until the B-26B-10, and subsequent blocks, which saw significant changes made to the airframe, including an increased wing area, outboard flaps, and a heightened vertical stabiliser. The armament was increased from six to twelve.50 calibre (12.7 mm) machine
guns in the forward section to equip the aircraft for strafing missions. The tail gun was upgraded from manual to power operated and armour was added to protect the pilot and co-pilot.
The CB-26B was a transport conversion, 12 of which were operated by the Marines, while the B-26C was the designation assigned to those B-26Bs built in Omaha, instead of Baltimore. These received the same modifications as the B-26B, and saw service with the RAF as the Marauder Mk II. Further aircraft received designations as training and testbed machines, but the next significant change saw the B-26F appear in February 1944, with the wing angle of incidence increased by 3.5°; and further modifications to armour and armament. This variant was used by the RAF as the
A close-up view of a Martin B-26C in flight showing the formidable forward armament
Marauder Mk III. Finally, the B-26G appeared as a B-26F with standardised interior equipment, and a small number were also converted into Navy photo-reconnaissance aircraft as the JM-1R The B-26 is a classic example of a weapon at war. Conceived and designed in the last moments of an unstable peace, rushed into service relatively untested, it was tweaked and adjusted throughout its production until its abrupt dismissal towards the war’s end. Despite its early misfortunes it seems to have been honed into an effective and useful weapon, and while lacking the glamour of many of its contemporaries, its buxom curves have an appeal of their own to the modeller. It has been well covered in the smaller scale, but it is to be hoped that someone somewhere will view kindly its rounded form and tool up in 1/32 to give us a real canvas for some of that astonishing nose art in which the American Bomb Groups seem to have
B-26G Marauder at the National Museum of the United States Air Force – one of the few remaining B-26’s in the World
taken such delight. Mosquitoes and Flying Pencils may appeal to some, but if you like a little more meat on the bone, the B-26 has enough character for two, and a combat record that is both workmanlike and worthy of respect.
Presentation can speak volumes, in most cases, on the quality of the product. Hasegawa’s presentation of their kits oozes quality and the contents of the box do not let the exterior artwork down. Eleven sprues of immaculately moulded plastic, a full self-explanatory instruction booklet and a superbly printed decal sheet greet the modeller upon removal of the tasty box lid. The grey sprues contain a mass of parts that have recessed panel lines and exquisite detail, the clear sprues are crystal clear and unusually have the tailplane parts moulded on them.
The Eduard set provided for this review truly complements the kit, and although there is already a high level of detail in the plastic the two etched metal sheets will top it all off, especially as one of these is pre-painted and, best of all, self adhesive.
The cockpit is the starting point. There is a decent amount of moulded detail to the kit parts, some of which needs to be removed to allow the etched parts to be fitted. The seats do not have moulded seat belts but these are catered for in the etched set and are comprehensive assemblies in their own right that need to be built up prior to fitting, being part of the pre-painted sheet, and also self-adhesive in part so there is not a lot of work involved in their assembly. The kit instrument panel is replaced by a two-part etched, pre-painted, self adhesive assembly. The self-adhesive parts mean that no glue is needed, which then means that glue does not fill the instrument dial holes or fog the parts – excellent!
Other etched parts replace the side wall panels, rudder pedals, rear bulkhead panels and parts, crew access hatch, seat frames and the throttle quadrant panels and levers. The kit parts for the throttle quadrant have some very nicely moulded levers on them, so some of these were left in place while others were replaced from the etched sheet – compromise is the key word here.
The raised panel detail was removed on the throttle quadrant and replaced with the self-adhesive, pre-painted etched parts.
Painting the cockpit proved to be quite a challenge due to the references I had found regarding the interior colours of the aircraft. It appears that the Martin Aircraft Company did not use the zinc chromate primer on all interior surfaces of the B-26, but only crew stations were painted as such, and even then it varied from aircraft to aircraft – some had natural metal side walls with random Zinc Chromate frames and others were Zinc Chromate throughout as the kit instructions depict. I had decided at the beginning to model the B-26B Flak Bait and my research was based on this.
The forward fuselage of Flak Bait is preserved at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and IPMS Stockholm have an excellent article on their website on the interior colour schemes of US Aircraft during WWII. The painting of the model relied heavily on this article and images of Flak Bait at the NASM, therefore the side walls below the lower canopy edge were painted with Humbrol 226 Interior Green with Matt Black above the lower canopy edge, the floor, throttle quadrant, rear bulkhead, pilot and co-pilot seat backs and frames, and control columns were also matt black.
With the addition of the etched parts the detail is very impressive, though unfortunately will largely be unseen when the canopy is in place.
The bomb bay is the next subassembly to be tackled, and the kit parts have very nice raised detail that will benefit from careful painting, although again the colour of this area is open to interpretation as it appears to have varied from aircraft to aircraft. Reference images showed this area to be in natural metal on some machines, including Flak Bait, so that is how the model was painted.
The.50 caliber nose, dorsal, waist and tail machine guns have plenty of etched parts to upgrade them along with etched ammunition belts to attach as well, and when finished they do look very authentic and greatly improve the standard kit parts, although again a lot of this extra detailing is almost invisible after the model is completed.
With all sub-assemblies completed it was time to insert them into the fuselage halves. The bomb bay incorporates spars for the wings, which slot through each fuselage side, and this method provides both a positive location for the bomb bay and each wing. It was now starting to come together very nicely and once all parts were inserted into one of the fuselage halves the level of detail was amazing and well worth the time and effort taken to get to this point.
Supplied with the kit on the clear sprue is a little assembly that fits below
the tail after the model is finished to stop it from being a tail sitter. This was never likely to be used as behind the cockpit bulkhead is a large void where the navigator/radio operator would sit, and there are no kit parts or detail in this area so it constitutes a prime location to add weight to prevent tail-sitting.
The wings are simple two-piece assemblies, whilst the tail and tailplanes are made up from two vertical and three horizontal tailplane parts. The three horizontal tailplane parts are moulded in clear plastic, which I assume is due to the two small windows on the upper one-piece tailplane part, which are shown quite clearly on the plans and require masking at this stage.
The engine/main landing gear pods are up next. Each pod has a three-part Pratt and Whitney Radial engine incorporating raised detail that shows up nicely after a dark wash and a spot of dry brushing. Once the cowls are in place only the front of the engines are visible so any additional detail would be lost.
There is plenty of detail in the wheel wells, and once again the colour that this area was painted – or not – appears to vary, so I opted for the natural metal finish whereas the instructions state interior green/Zinc Chromate. The wings slot onto the tabs from the bomb bay very neatly with no filler needed along the joints with the fuselage. The tailplane assembly slots onto the upper rear fuselage, but take care here to ensure that the fin assembly is glued into place vertically, as there is room for error.
The engine pods are a nice tight fit on their respective wing mountings and again no filler was needed.
After masking the canopies, the model was ready for spraying. All open orifices were plugged and an overall coat of primer was applied. A few sink marks and gaps were filled then a coat of Humbrol Polished Aluminium 27002 was sprayed over the entire model and left to fully dry for at least 24 hours.
When the silver paint had fully cured a coat of Neutral Grey (Humbrol 126) was applied to the lower fuselage and under surfaces of the wings and tailplanes and at the same time both sides of each of the undercarriage bay doors, as I had read this practice was common on this aircraft.
The wavy demarcation line was masked off and a coat of Humbrol 155 Olive Drab was sprayed onto all upper surfaces, then when dry another coat that had been lightened with matt white was applied to all upper fuselage and wing surfaces that were likely to have been affected by sunlight, as Flak Bait was a heavily weathered aircraft by the time she had had completed her tours of duty. When these had fully cured paint was chipped off certain areas such as leading edges and engine cowls revealing the silver paint below. Tamiya smoke was then lightly sprayed onto the under surfaces of the engines and wing/tail surfaces and the upper wing surfaces alongside each engine. After the decals were applied Tamiya smoke was again lightly sprayed over them to dirty them up a bit as they stood out as too clean against a grubby well worn aircraft.
I used Micro Kristal Klear on all of the small window openings as I did not want adhesive ruining the paint scheme. This dries beautifully clear and it can be guaranteed to lie flush with the fuselage and not protrude as some clear plastic parts can.
Construction was nearly finished. The landing gear was fixed into position, the crew access ladder was glued in the deployed position, then finally the 4 x 1,0001b bombs were fitted into the bomb bay and the job was done.
Three decal options are supplied with the kit:
• B-26B-25MA, 499th BS 332nd BG Belgium 1945 (Flak Bait), Neutral grey under surfaces, Olive Drab upper surfaces.
• B-26B-50MA, 441st BS 320th BG Italy 1944 (Miss Manchester) Neutral grey under surfaces, Olive Drab upper surfaces.
• B-26C-45M0, 495th BS 344th BG France 1944 (Barracuda), Silver (Natural Metal) all over.
The kit was an absolute joy to build and very easy to get carried away with. The major problem I had was finding the correct colour schemes for the interior as there were conflicting references wherever I looked, but I am sure that there must a publication somewhere that details this specifically.
I have tried to replicate the colours the best I can but I am in no doubt that there will be errors and offer apologies for any inaccuracies.
The kit itself is a wonderful piece of model engineering, enhanced to no small degree by the Eduard etched set, and the combination of the two create a very intricate, well detailed model of the B-26 Marauder.
I have probably expended a great deal more time on this kit than any other for quite a while, partly due to the myriad of etched parts to be cut, bent, then fixed into position, but the time was very well spent and effort was spared by the quality of the Hasegawa plastic parts. The fact that virtually no filler was needed bears testament to this.
It is a pity that the great majority of the extra detail cannot be seen once the fuselage has been joined together, and even knowing that this would be the case, it still does not stop us modellers spending countless hours detailing the innermost parts of an aircraft. What a strange breed we are.
B-26B 41-31773. PN-O, Flak Bait; 449th BS. 332nd BG. Olive Drab uppers over Neutral Gray undersurlaces. This aircraft is featured in Hasegawa s 1/72 Kit. while in 1/48 Aeromaster’s sheet 48-626 also depicts the aircraft – both at a later point in its long career, with a considerable tally of mission markings
Marauder Mk. la FK375. Dominion Revenge/ D. of 14 Squadron. RAF. Fayed. Egypt 1942. Mid Stone and Dark Earth over Azure Blue. This aircraft has been kitted by Airfix in 1/72 and is also the subject of Valom’s recent release in the same scale
B-26C 41-31819. DR-X Mild and Bitter.’ 452nd BS. 327th BG, Great Sailing, Essex. 1944. Olive Drab uppers over Neutral Gray undersurlaces. This aircraft is covered in 1/72 by Airfix kit 04015. providing a fitting subject for the superb boxart
B-26B 42-96132. X2-A, Beef Eater,’ 599th BS. 397th BG. Rivenhall. Essex. Natural metal all over, with olive drab antiglare panel and invasion stripes
When Frog released their B-26 Marauder kit in the early 1960s, I built it straight from the box. I found (with some effort) some star-and-bar transfers to replace the RAF markings supplied, but had to hand-paint the codes, serials and tiger-striped tail band. I considered myself well satisfied at the time.
By 1976, though, my standards had improved, and so had the quality of information available; so when one of the foremen walked into the drawing office with a brand-new Frog B-26B which he wanted me to build for his nephew, I offered him a straight swap. A win-win deal – or so I thought!
By that time I had the Duval & Lloyd drawings, courtesy of Scale Models, and shortly thereafter I also got access to the firm’s new scaleable Xerox, to convert same to 1/72. Laying the kit on the drawings was a huge disappointment, however. I have since found that Frog kits of that vintage were based on the scale drawings published by Model Aircraft Magazine, which were drawn largely ‘by eye’ and really fit only for flying models. My new aquisition had a wing, fin and tailplane about half-way in size between those of the early and late B-26s, a fuselage which was too long and too fat, tiny blisters where the engine air intakes should be, an undersize nosewheel well, and many other dud details. Oh well -1 was brought up to waste absolutely nothing!
Another look at the wing showed that I could produce the original 65ft. span version by shortening the outer panels and adjusting the taper – which was kinked like a Ju 88’s anyway. I could keep the tips, and with a bit of cut-and-fill also save the ailerons. The rear turret was poor too, so why not do an early B-26B with the long tailcone and hand-held guns? Indeed, why not a B-26A, or better still a ‘just plain’ B-26, which had small engine intakes? (All these versions were infamous for suffering from ‘Starfighter Syndrome’ long before the malady got its modem name!) By the time lunchtime -which was for modelling in those days – was over, I was convinced.
By the end of the month I was well on the way. The wings were largely complete, the engine air intakes had proper holes in the front (courtesy of a spare torpedo) and the fin had had a diagonal slice removed so I could reduce the height without losing either the root chord or the rudder hinges. I’d beefed up the flimsy main U/C legs and taken chunks out of the tailplane roots…. and then it all stopped dead. I got another job, packed it all up and left. The ‘just plain’ B-26 stayed in its box for several years.
Eventually it resurfaced, though only for short intervals between other projects and as a talking-point on my SIG stand at the IPMS Nationals. About 1995 I took my courage (and a big saw) in both hands, and started hacking the fuselage. It needed to lose about 10mm in length, plus some girth from amidships; so, after careful checks of my drawings, I removed one slice from just ahead of the wing and another from just ahead of the trailing edge. The central fuselage section was then trimmed along the top and bottom joint lines, with lots of grinding against sheets of sandpaper, plus bending, adding robust bulkheads, and rebuilding the root trailing edges. Then came filling, sanding, and priming – several times.- you all know the drill! The tailcone started life as an Islander nosecone, and the rear glazing was plunge-moulded over a balsa master. I found an article about Marauder interiors, and scratch-built floors and bulkheads, incorporated spares-box seats, and replaced all the little windows. By now it was past 2004:1 can tell, because that’s when I got the camera.
I’d built lots of P-47s, using replacement engines with fighter-style magnetos, so the Hasegawa spares went into the Frog cowlings. I realised that the gaping holes in the nacelles were not past improvement, even at this late stage. The undersized wheels were replaced with modified items from Airfix’s B-25 and Hellcat, guns came from Revell’s strafer B-25 and Aeroclub and Jean Desprez”s resin propellers and Airfix Mk IX Spitfire spinners joined the party. The original main transparencies were retained; once cleaned up, and with a bit of scratch-built detail in the turret, they turned out surprisingly well.
The ’26 is of course a determined tail-sitter. I started to make the nose bulkheads etc. out of sheet lead, but there wasn’t going to be enough of it, and anyway the main gear lower legs remain very weedy. Rather than replacing them with wire, I took advantage of the variant’s centre-line hatch to use a near-authentic ladder as a prop. So far the U/C has survived, though the trip to the last
York & District meeting left me with a propeller blade to replace!
The nose art - Sourpuss - and serial were constructed by computer, yellow on modified brown to match OD paint, and printed on white decal film. The name was laid down in a nearly-suitable font; each letter was then scaled and positioned individually, and modified as necessary by adding extra twiddly bits from scratch. The serial, of a size I’ve never seen on commercial decal sheets, was also made up from scratch – useful thing, TurboCad! It has to be said that the results, once applied, were too fuzzy (ifs only a 300dpi printer after all) and the OD didn’t match. But it was still worth the effort, because overpainting was a darn sight easier than painting freehand!
The end result is one of 22 BG’s originals, or at least very early
replacements, as operated from Australia and Port Moresby. (They were going as far as Rabaul, doing a B-17’s job because there were not enough B-17s.) At this time the only modification was the extra 0.50″ gun in the nose; bigger waist windows came later. Sourpuss went on to a long, much-modified, and eventually frustrating career: see Squadron/Signal In Action No. 50, and Roger Freeman’s B-26 at War, relying on the photos rather than the artwork of course.
Naturally, now I’ve finished this thirty-plus year saga, Valom have announced a set of early B-26s. As to the fit and design of the kits, I am not yet in a position to comment, but I have my model, I’ll vouch for it, and at least I have the satisfaction of saying I did it my way…
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