World War II
The Douglas company began delivering the production model A-26B
in August 1943 with the new bomber first seeing action with the Fifth
Air Force in the Southwest Pacific theater on 23 June 1944, when
they bombed Japanese-held islands near Manokwari. The pilots in the
3rd Bomb Group's 13th Squadron, "The Grim Reapers", who
received the first four A-26s for evaluation, found the view from the
cockpit to be poor for low level attack. General George Kenney,
commander of the Far East Air Forces stated that, "We do not want
the A-26 under any circumstances as a replacement for anything."
Until changes could be made, the 3rd Bomb Group requested
additional A-20 Havocs, although both types were used in composite
flights.The 319th Bomb Group worked up on the A-26 in March
1945, joining the initial 3rd BG, with the 319th flying until 12 August
1945. The A-26 operations wound down in mid-August 1945 with
only a few dozen missions flown.
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. 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.
The USAF Strategic Air Command had the renamed B-26 (RB-26) in
service from 1949 through 1950, the Tactical Air Command through
the late 1960s, and the last examples in service with the Air National
Guard through 1972. The US Navy also used a small number of these
aircraft in their utility squadrons for target towing and general utility
use until superseded by the DC-130A variant of the C-130 Hercules.
The Navy designation was JD-1 and JD-1D until 1962, when the JD-
1 was redesignated UB-26J and the JD-1D was redesignated DB-26J.
B-26 Invaders of the 3d Bombardment Group, operating from bases
in Southern Japan, were some of the first USAF aircraft engaged in
the Korean War, carrying out missions over South Korea on 27 and
28 June, before carrying out the first USAF bombing mission on
North Korea on 29 June 1950 when they bombed an airfield outside
On 10 August 1950, the 452nd Reserve Bomb Wing was activated for
Korean Service. This was the first time that an entire air force unit
had ever been activated. It flew its first missions in November 1950
from Itazuke Japan doing daylight support with the 3rd Bomb Wing
flying night missions. Because of the Chinese intervention it was
forced to find another base and moved to Miho Air base on the west
coast of Honshū. In early 1951 it moved to East Pusan Air Base and
continued its daylight as well as night intruder missions. In June
1951, it joined the 3rd Bomb Wing in night activity only, dividing the
target areas with the 452nd taking the eastern half and the 3rd the
western. For its efforts in the Korean War, it was awarded 2 Unit
Citations and the Korean Presidential Citation. It also received credit
for eight Campaign Operations. In May 1952 it was
inactivated and all of its aircraft and equipment along with its regular
air force personnel were absorbed by the 17th Bomb Wing. During its
time as an active unit, the 452nd flew 15,000 sorties (7000 at night)
with a loss of 85 crewmen.
B-26s were credited with the destruction of 38,500 vehicles, 406
locomotives, 3,700 railway trucks, and seven enemy aircraft on the
ground. On 14 September 1951, Captain John S. Walmsley, Jr.
attacked a supply train. When his guns jammed, he illuminated the
target with his searchlight to enable his wingmen to destroy the train.
Walmsley was shot down and posthumously awarded the Medal of
Honor. Invaders carried out the last USAF bombing mission of the
war 24 minutes before the Armistice Agreement was signed on 27
In addition to the standard attack versions of the B-26 which flew
night interdiction missions, a small number of modified WB-26s and
RB-26s of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing flew critical
weather observation and reconnaissance missions in supporting roles.
First Indochina War
In the 1950s, the French Air Force's (Armée de l'air) Bombing
Groups (Groupe de bombardement) including GB 1/19 Gascogne and
GB 1/25 Tunisia used USAF-lent B-26 during the First Indochina War.
Cat Bi (Haiphong) based Douglas B-26 Invaders operated over Dien
Bien Phu in March and April 1954 during the siege of Dien Bien Phu.
In this period, a massive use of Philippines based USAF B-26s against
the Viet Minh heavy artillery was planned by the U.S. and French
Joint Chief of Staff as Operation Vulture, but was eventually
cancelled by the respective governments.
In 1958, the CIA started Operation Haik in Indonesia, concerned
about the Sukarno regime's communist leanings. At least a dozen B-
26 Invaders were committed in support of rebel forces. On 18 May
1958, American contract pilot Allen Pope's B-26 was initially hit by
anti-aircraft ground fire and then brought down by a North American
P-51 Mustang flown by Capt. Ignatius Dewanto (the only known air-
to-air kill in the history of the Indonesian Air Force). The capture and
trial of Lieutenant Pope brought a quick end to Operation Haik, but
the capabilities of the Invader were not lost on the Indonesian
government. In 1959, the government purchased six aircraft at Davis-
Monthan AFB and these were ferried to Indonesia in full military
markings during mid-1960. These aircraft would have a long career
and were utilized in a number of actions against rebels in various
areas. The last operational flights of the three survivors was in 1976
supporting the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. In 1977, the last
two flyers were retired.
Service with the USAF in Southeast Asia
The first B-26s to arrive in Southeast Asia were deployed to Takhli
RTAFB, Thailand in December 1960. These unmarked aircraft,
operated under the auspices of the U.S. CIA (Central Intelligence
Agency), were soon augmented by an additional 16 aircraft, 12
B-26Bs and B-26Cs plus four RB-26Cs under Operation Mill Pond.
The mission of all of these aircraft was to assist the Royal Lao
Government in fighting the Pathet Lao. The repercussions from the
Bay of Pigs invasion meant that no combat missions are known to
have been flown, although RB-26Cs operated over Laos until the end
of 1961. The aircraft were subsequently operated in South Vietnam
under Project "Farm Gate". The only other deployment of B-26
aircraft to Laos prior to the introduction of the B-26K/A-26A, was
the deployment of two RB-26C aircraft, specifically modified for
night reconnaissance, deployed to Laos between May and July 1962
under Project Black Watch. These aircraft, initially drawn from Farm
Gate stocks, were returned upon the end of these missions.
The aircraft from Laos participated in the early phase of the Vietnam
War with the USAF, but with Vietnamese markings as part of Project
Farm Gate. Though Farm Gate operated B-26Bs, B-26Cs, and
genuine RB-26Cs, many of these aircraft were operated under the
designation RB-26C, though they were used in a combat
capacity.During 1963, two RB-26C were sent to Clark AB in the
Philippines for modifications, though not with night systems as with
those modified for Black Watch. The two aircraft returned from
Black Watch to Farm Gate were subsequently given the designation
RB-26L to distinguish them from other modified RB-26C, and were
assigned to Project Sweet Sue. Farm Gate's B-26s operated alongside
the other primary strike aircraft of the time, the T-28 Trojan, before
both aircraft types were replaced by the Douglas A-1 Skyraider.
The B-26s were withdrawn from service in February 1964 after two
accidents related to wing spar fatigue, one during combat in
Southeast Asia in August 1963 and one during an airpower
demonstration at Eglin AFB, Florida in February 1964.
On 11 February 1964, two pilots from the 1st Air Commando Wing
stationed at Hurlburt Field, Fla., died in the crash of a B-26 on Range
52 at Eglin AFB when it lost a wing during pull-out from a strafing
pass. The aircraft was participating in a demonstration of the Special
Air Warfare Center's counter insurgency capabilities and had
completed a strafing run when the accident occurred. SAWC had
presented the demonstration on an average of twice each month for
the previous 21 months. B-26 aircraft used by USAF
Commandos in Vietnam were grounded 8 April 1964, following an
official investigation into the 11 February accident. B-26 aircraft in
use by the Vietnamese Air Force were also grounded in accordance
with the U.S. ruling.
In response to this, the On Mark Engineering Company of Van Nuys,
California was selected by the Air Force to extensively upgrade the
Invader for a counterinsurgency role. The first production flight of
the B-26K was on 30 May 1964 at the Van Nuys Airport. On Mark
converted 40 Invaders to the new B-26K Counter-Invader standard,
which included upgraded engines, propellers, and brakes,
re-manufactured wings, and wing tip fuel tanks, for use by the 609th
Special Operations Squadron. In May 1966, the B-26K was
re-designated A-26A/K for political reasons (Thailand did not allow
the U.S. to have bombers stationed in country, so the Invaders were
redesignated with an "A", for attack aircraft) and deployed in
Thailand to help disrupt supplies moving along the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Two of these aircraft were further modified with a Forward Looking
Infrared (FLIR system) under project Lonesome Tiger, as a part of
Operation Shed Light.
Bay of Pigs Invasion
In early 1961, about 20 B-26Bs, most converted from B-26C
configuration, were 'sanitized' at Duke Field (aka Auxiliary Field
Three at Eglin AFB). They had defensive armament removed, and
were fitted with the eight-gun nose, underwing drop tanks, and
rocket racks. They were flown to a CIA-run base in Guatemala
where training was underway of B-26, C-46 and C-54 Cuban exile air
crews by personnel from the Alabama ANG (Air National Guard).
After transfer to Nicaragua in early April 1961, they were painted in
the markings of the FAR (Fuerza Aérea Revolucionaria), the air force
of the Cuban government. On 15 April 1961, crewed by Cuban
exiles, eight B-26s of the FAL (Fuerza Aérea de Liberación) attacked
three Cuban airfields, in an attempt to destroy FAR combat aircraft
on the ground. On 17 April 1961, FAL B-26s supported the seaborne
Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba. The conflict ended on 19 April, after
the loss of nine FAL B-26s, 10 Cuban exiles and 4 American aircrew
in combat. The FAR flew B-26Cs in the conflict, one of which was
shot down by a CIA 'command ship' with the loss of 4 Cuban
Africa in the 1960s
CIA contracted pilots, some previously employed during the Bay of
Pigs Invasion, flew B-26Ks for ground attack against Simba rebels in
the Congo Crisis. New production B-26K Counter-Invaders were
delivered to the Congo via Hurlburt Field in 1964.
The Portuguese Air Force purchased Invaders covertly for use in
Portuguese Angola in 1965, during the Portuguese Colonial War.
Biafra used two provisionally armed B-26s in combat during Nigerian
Civil War in 1967, flown among others by Jan Zumbach.
|Specific History of A-26C #44-35708 c/28987
The Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum’s A-26C (44-35708) was completed at the Tulsa, OK manufacturing facility on May 25, 1945 and flown to a staging area in Salinas, CA in August of
that same year. With the end of WWII occurring just one month later in September of 1945, 44-35708 would spend the next two years in storage at various AAF bases in Mississippi, New
Mexico and California until being assigned to the 114th Bombardment (Light) Squadron, (Air National Guard) at Mitchell Field, New York in April of 1948. In August of 1950, the A-26C #
44-35708 was flown to Floyd Bennett Field, NY and was assigned to the 106th Composite Group (ANG). In March of 1951 she was moved to March Field, CA as part of the 106th
Bombardment (Light) Wing of the Strategic Air Command. Two months later the A-26C was moved to the Warner Robins Air Material Area at Robins AFB, GA and in January of 1952 it
was moved to the Sacramento Air Material Area at McClellan AFB, CA. In March of 1952 the A-C26C was dropped from the US inventory by transfer to the Military Assistance Plan.
On April 18, 1952 she arrived at Tan Son Nhut where it was assigned to the 1/25 Tunisie Bombing Group of the French Air Force. This bombing group participated in the battle of Dien Bien
Phu so it is likely that this aircraft saw combat at this time. She served with the French Air Force in Indochina until November of 1955 and was then returned to the USAF. The next three
years, 1955-1958 were spent in open storage at Clark AFB, Philippines.
In 1963, the A-C26C was acquired by On Mark Engineering Co. Of Van Nuys, CA and was converted into a civilian transport known as the On Mark “Marketeer” and gained the civilian
registration N5530V. This aircraft was purchased by the Raytheon Missile Division in 1969 and used as an executive transport until October 25th, 1976 when it was sold to Air Spray Ltd. of
Alberta Canada for $25,000.
Air Spray re-registered the aircraft as C-GXGY and designated it Tanker 10. The plane was converted into a fire bomber by Aero Union and it flew fire suppression missions in Canada and
the U.S. from 1976 until being retired from service in 2004. This was the last year Air Spray operated A-26’s and the entire fleet of some 14 aircraft was put into outdoor storage at their base
of operations in Red Deer, Alberta and put up for sale.
In May of 2006 representatives of the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum traveled to Red Deer, Alberta to inspect the A-26 fleet and came away with an agreement to purchase Tanker 10 and
Tanker 4. Tanker 10 was subsequently flown to the museum in Hillsboro, Oregon early in October 2006 where a thorough inspection was conducted. The aircraft was re-registered as N26PJ
and on February 6, 2008 it was granted an airworthiness certificate in the experimental exhibition category.
In 2010 N26PJ was repainted in the colors used by the Oregon Air National Guard when they used A-26’s as target tow aircraft following WWII (1946 – 1950). During this paint job, the
aircraft was converted from an A-26B to an A-26C by replacing the gun nose with the glass nose used by ‘C’ models. In 2011 the plane was repainted again and converted back to a “B”
Current Museum plans include maintaining the aircraft in an airworthy condition and making it available for both flying and static display at air shows.