A twin-engined medium bomber built by the Glenn L. Martin Company from 1941 to 1945, the B-26 Marauder first flew on 25 November 1940 piloted by Martin test pilot William Kenneth Ebel, co-pilot Ed Fenimore and flight engineer Al Malewski.
The B-26 was first used in the Pacific Theater of World War II in early 1942. Also used in the Mediterranean Theater and in Western Europe, the aircraft quickly received the reputation of a “widowmaker” due to the early models’ high accident rates during takeoffs and landings. This was due to the fact that the Marauder had been designed as a high speed aircraft and had to be flown at exacting airspeeds, particularly during final runway approach or when one engine was out.
The unusually high 150mph airspeed on short final runway approaches were intimidating to many pilots who were used to much slower approach speeds. Whenever the pilots slowed down to airspeeds below what the manual called out, the aircraft would often stall and crash.
The B-26 became a safer aircraft once crews were re-trained, and after aerodynamics modifications (an increase of wingspan and wing angle-of-incidence to give better takeoff performance, and a larger vertical stabilizer and rudder). The Marauder ended World War II with the lowest loss rate of any USAAF bomber.
A total of 5,288 were produced between February 1941 and March 1945; 522 of these were flown by the Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force. By the time the United States Air Force was created in 1947 as an independent service separate from the US Army, all Martin B-26s had been retired from U.S. service. After the Marauders were retired, the unrelated Douglas A-26 Invader then assumed the “B-26” designation which led to confusion between the two aircraft.