Douglas VB-26B-61-DL Invader

Early in World War II, United States Army Air Corps planners intended to replace the Douglas A-20 Havoc, North American B-25 Mitchell, and the Martin B-26 Marauder bombers (see NASM collection for the Mitchell and Marauder) with the Douglas A-26 Invader. Maintaining three different medium bomber types was logistically difficult and inefficient for the Air Corps. Design and production delays made the Invader a relatively minor participant in the air war but it flew with much success during the Korean War and the war in Viet Nam. This airplane also served in dozens of foreign air forces, and with many civil operators.

Transferred from the Air National Guard.

Physical Description:
Low-drag, laminar-flow wing mounted mid-way up the side of the fuselage, two remote-controlled turrets each housing two .50 cal. machine guns.

Country of Origin
United States of America

Manufacturer
Douglas Aircraft Company

Date
1942

Type
CRAFT-Aircraft

Dimensions
Overall: 560 x 1540cm, 10143kg, 2130cm (18ft 4 1/2in. x 50ft 6 5/16in., 22361.3lb., 69ft 10 9/16in.)

Early in World War II, United States Army Air Corps planners intended to replace the Douglas A-20 Havoc, North American B-25 Mitchell, and the Martin B-26 Marauder bombers (see NASM collection for the Mitchell and Marauder) with the Douglas A-26 Invader. Maintaining three different medium bomber types was logistically difficult and inefficient for the Air Corps. Design and production delays made the Invader a relatively minor participant in the air war but it flew with much success during the Korean War and the war in Viet Nam. This airplane also served in dozens of foreign air forces, and with many civil operators.

Ed Heinemann headed the Invader design team. He also designed the A-4 Skyhawk (see NASM collection) and other successful Douglas airplanes. At the end of January 1941, Douglas Aircraft submitted a proposal to the Air Corps for an airplane that could be quickly modified to fulfill several roles. The company proposed two prototypes: (1) the XA-26 3-man attack bomber with a bombardier-navigator seated in a transparent nose, the pilot seated just forward of the wing, and a gunner stationed just behind the wing; and (2) the XA-26A night fighter manned by a pilot and copilot/gunner and equipped with forward-firing gun package. In June, the Army awarded the company a contract amended a short time later to include a third prototype for a solid-nose XA-26B version mounting a 75 mm cannon or other heavy armament.

Heinemann and his designers refined the A-26 design with several special features. The aircraft used a low-drag, laminar-flow wing mounted mid-way up the side of the fuselage. The A-26 also had a large bomb bay that could accommodate up to 1,814 kg (4,000 lb) of bombs or two aerial torpedoes. The gunner operated two remote-controlled turrets each housing two .50 cal. machine guns. Both turrets were placed aft of the wing, one atop the fuselage and the other beneath it.

From the start of the project, there were many delays. The Army refused to commit to a particular armament and equipment configuration. This forced Heinemann's team to redesign major parts of the design over and over. Government-furnished parts such as propellers, engines, and turrets were late getting to assembly lines. Even after the A-26 flew on July 10, 1942, it required more than another year to finally sort out the trouble and start production in September 1943.

By that time, the U. S. Army Air Forces (AAF) had designated the glass-nose bomber version the A-26C. The A-26A night-fighter version, with performance comparable to the Northrop P-61 Black Widow (see NASM collection) was dropped in favor of the P-61. Douglas built all of the solid-nose A-26B gunships with six or eight .50 cal. machine guns firing from the nose. To simplify logistics, the plan to combine 75 mm and 37 mm cannon with .50 cal. machine guns was dropped. In later versions, when 6 more machine guns were added to the wings and the gunner turned the upper turret to fire forward, the A-26B gunship could bring to bear up to sixteen .50 cal. machine guns on enemy ground targets!

The Invader went to war in New Guinea in the spring of 1944. Combat reports spoke of difficulty seeing from the cockpit and weak strafing armament. In September, the airplane was introduced into combat in Europe. A-26 crews spoke highly of the airplane from the beginning and the AAF converted a number of medium bomber groups in the Ninth Air Force to the A-26. By war's end, units in the Twelfth Air Force in Europe and the Seventh Air Force in the Pacific had converted as well, and the AAF rated the Invader its best twin-engine bomber.

The A-26 became standard equipment for all light bomber and night reconnaissance squadrons. When the Air Force dropped the "A" (attack bomber) designation in June 1948, all Martin B-26 Marauders were out of service and the Douglas A-26 became the B-26. Twenty-six B-26 Invaders were assigned to the 3rd Bomb Group in Japan when war broke out in Korea in June 1950. Invaders eventually racked up 55,000 combat sorties over Korea and were credited with destroying more than 38,000 vehicles, 3,700 railway cars, 406 locomotives, and 7 aircraft. They dropped the last bombs of the war, 24 minutes before UN forces declared the cease-fire in July 1953.

But the Invader was yet ready for retirement. Although newer, jet-propelled bombers replaced the B-26 in front-line squadrons, Invaders were needed to fight a new kind of conflict called counterinsurgency warfare. The U. S. Air Force awarded a contract to On Mark Engineering Co. in 1962 to develop a prototype YB-26K Counter Invader. The Air Force ordered 40 by October 1963. A number of B-26Ks (sometimes called the A-26A) flew from bases in Thailand to bomb, rocket, and strafe vehicles, soldiers, and supplies moving down the Ho Chi Minh Trail at night. Counter Invader crews flew the last mission to interdict supplies on the Trail in November 1969.

Other Invaders served foreign air forces during guerrilla wars in South America and Southeast Asia. Civil operators bought a number of surplus aircraft and converted them into executive transports, fire-retardant bombers, and geological survey and photographic airplanes. Douglas manufactured 1,355 A-26B models and 1,091 A-26C models and these exceptional aircraft performed many roles very well for more than thirty years.

The NASM VB-26B ('V' for VIP transport) began flying in the AAF in 1944 with the designation A-26B-61-DL, military serial number 44-34610. The Smithsonian knows nothing of its early service history but in 1951, the Air Force assigned it to the Maryland Air National Guard based at Andrews Air Force Base. In 1972, it was flying to support the Chief of the National Guard Bureau when the Air Force retired the airplane and donated it to the museum on September 17. It had logged over 9,300 flying hours, an unusually high number for a military type.

Early in World War II, United States Army Air Corps planners intended to replace the Douglas A-20 Havoc, North American B-25 Mitchell, and the Martin B-26 Marauder bombers (see NASM collection for the Mitchell and Marauder) with the Douglas A-26 Invader. Maintaining three different medium bomber types was logistically difficult and inefficient for the Air Corps. Design and production delays made the Invader a relatively minor participant in the air war but it flew with much success during the Korean War and the war in Viet Nam. This airplane also served in dozens of foreign air forces, and with many civil operators.

Transferred from the Air National Guard.

Physical Description:
Low-drag, laminar-flow wing mounted mid-way up the side of the fuselage, two remote-controlled turrets each housing two .50 cal. machine guns.

Country of Origin
United States of America

Manufacturer
Douglas Aircraft Company

Date
1942

Type
CRAFT-Aircraft

Dimensions
Overall: 560 x 1540cm, 10143kg, 2130cm (18ft 4 1/2in. x 50ft 6 5/16in., 22361.3lb., 69ft 10 9/16in.)

Early in World War II, United States Army Air Corps planners intended to replace the Douglas A-20 Havoc, North American B-25 Mitchell, and the Martin B-26 Marauder bombers (see NASM collection for the Mitchell and Marauder) with the Douglas A-26 Invader. Maintaining three different medium bomber types was logistically difficult and inefficient for the Air Corps. Design and production delays made the Invader a relatively minor participant in the air war but it flew with much success during the Korean War and the war in Viet Nam. This airplane also served in dozens of foreign air forces, and with many civil operators.

Ed Heinemann headed the Invader design team. He also designed the A-4 Skyhawk (see NASM collection) and other successful Douglas airplanes. At the end of January 1941, Douglas Aircraft submitted a proposal to the Air Corps for an airplane that could be quickly modified to fulfill several roles. The company proposed two prototypes: (1) the XA-26 3-man attack bomber with a bombardier-navigator seated in a transparent nose, the pilot seated just forward of the wing, and a gunner stationed just behind the wing; and (2) the XA-26A night fighter manned by a pilot and copilot/gunner and equipped with forward-firing gun package. In June, the Army awarded the company a contract amended a short time later to include a third prototype for a solid-nose XA-26B version mounting a 75 mm cannon or other heavy armament.

Heinemann and his designers refined the A-26 design with several special features. The aircraft used a low-drag, laminar-flow wing mounted mid-way up the side of the fuselage. The A-26 also had a large bomb bay that could accommodate up to 1,814 kg (4,000 lb) of bombs or two aerial torpedoes. The gunner operated two remote-controlled turrets each housing two .50 cal. machine guns. Both turrets were placed aft of the wing, one atop the fuselage and the other beneath it.

From the start of the project, there were many delays. The Army refused to commit to a particular armament and equipment configuration. This forced Heinemann's team to redesign major parts of the design over and over. Government-furnished parts such as propellers, engines, and turrets were late getting to assembly lines. Even after the A-26 flew on July 10, 1942, it required more than another year to finally sort out the trouble and start production in September 1943.

By that time, the U. S. Army Air Forces (AAF) had designated the glass-nose bomber version the A-26C. The A-26A night-fighter version, with performance comparable to the Northrop P-61 Black Widow (see NASM collection) was dropped in favor of the P-61. Douglas built all of the solid-nose A-26B gunships with six or eight .50 cal. machine guns firing from the nose. To simplify logistics, the plan to combine 75 mm and 37 mm cannon with .50 cal. machine guns was dropped. In later versions, when 6 more machine guns were added to the wings and the gunner turned the upper turret to fire forward, the A-26B gunship could bring to bear up to sixteen .50 cal. machine guns on enemy ground targets!

The Invader went to war in New Guinea in the spring of 1944. Combat reports spoke of difficulty seeing from the cockpit and weak strafing armament. In September, the airplane was introduced into combat in Europe. A-26 crews spoke highly of the airplane from the beginning and the AAF converted a number of medium bomber groups in the Ninth Air Force to the A-26. By war's end, units in the Twelfth Air Force in Europe and the Seventh Air Force in the Pacific had converted as well, and the AAF rated the Invader its best twin-engine bomber.

The A-26 became standard equipment for all light bomber and night reconnaissance squadrons. When the Air Force dropped the "A" (attack bomber) designation in June 1948, all Martin B-26 Marauders were out of service and the Douglas A-26 became the B-26. Twenty-six B-26 Invaders were assigned to the 3rd Bomb Group in Japan when war broke out in Korea in June 1950. Invaders eventually racked up 55,000 combat sorties over Korea and were credited with destroying more than 38,000 vehicles, 3,700 railway cars, 406 locomotives, and 7 aircraft. They dropped the last bombs of the war, 24 minutes before UN forces declared the cease-fire in July 1953.

But the Invader was yet ready for retirement. Although newer, jet-propelled bombers replaced the B-26 in front-line squadrons, Invaders were needed to fight a new kind of conflict called counterinsurgency warfare. The U. S. Air Force awarded a contract to On Mark Engineering Co. in 1962 to develop a prototype YB-26K Counter Invader. The Air Force ordered 40 by October 1963. A number of B-26Ks (sometimes called the A-26A) flew from bases in Thailand to bomb, rocket, and strafe vehicles, soldiers, and supplies moving down the Ho Chi Minh Trail at night. Counter Invader crews flew the last mission to interdict supplies on the Trail in November 1969.

Other Invaders served foreign air forces during guerrilla wars in South America and Southeast Asia. Civil operators bought a number of surplus aircraft and converted them into executive transports, fire-retardant bombers, and geological survey and photographic airplanes. Douglas manufactured 1,355 A-26B models and 1,091 A-26C models and these exceptional aircraft performed many roles very well for more than thirty years.

The NASM VB-26B ('V' for VIP transport) began flying in the AAF in 1944 with the designation A-26B-61-DL, military serial number 44-34610. The Smithsonian knows nothing of its early service history but in 1951, the Air Force assigned it to the Maryland Air National Guard based at Andrews Air Force Base. In 1972, it was flying to support the Chief of the National Guard Bureau when the Air Force retired the airplane and donated it to the museum on September 17. It had logged over 9,300 flying hours, an unusually high number for a military type.

ID: A19730751000