On Tuesday, April 17, 1945, Flak-Bait completed its historic 200th mission as it led the 322nd Bombardment Group in a raid on Magdeburg, Germany. That journey, which began in late July 1943, made it the American airplane that flew the most sorties, or individual flights, during World War II. Overall, this one Marauder would fly a total 725 hours while delivering 375 tons of bombs, covering 177,460 miles, and consuming 157,850 gallons of gasoline. In the process, Flak-Bait accumulated over 1,000 patched holes from combat damage while bearing the wear-and-tear, scratches, and dings of flying in the air war against Nazi Germany.

 B-26B-25-MA Marauder Flak-Bait (second from left) leading a formation of four Marauders of the 332nd Bombardment Group on a mission to bomb Magdeburg, Germany, April 17, 1945. This was the aircraft's 200th sortie, individual flights. 
Flak-Bait is second from the left as it leads the Marauders of the 322nd toward Magdeburg. Note the absence of the .50-caliber machine gun in the Plexiglas nose. (NASM-00068431)


Flak-Bait today bears the scars of its World War II combat service. Here it's seen in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar (March 2015). Photo: Dane Penland


Flak-Bait’s crew poses with the bomber after the April 17, 1945 200th mission. The celebratory 200 Missions “bomb” just under the pilot’s cockpit is not the one found on the artifact today. This one was either superimposed on the aircraft or the photograph.
The above photograph shows the Army Air Forces personnel who flew Flak-Bait during the Magdeburg mission. Front row, left to right: First Lieutenant William D. Brearly, bombardier; Technical Sergeant Cecil Fisher, radio-gunner; Technical Sergeant Kenneth Locke, engineer-gunner; and First Lieutenant Arthur D. Perkins (position unknown). Standing, left to right: Colonel John S. Samuel, co-pilot; Captain William G. “Bill” Fort, pilot; and Technical Sergeant William J. Hess, tail gunner.


Bill Fort’s son, Grady, shared with us a story about his father's April 17 flight as pilot of Flak-Bait. The co-pilot, Col. John S. Samuel, was the commanding officer of the 322nd Bombardment Group. He wanted to take part in that historic mission and selected Fort and his crew, usually assigned to another Marauder named Shorty, to accompany him. That was the only time any of them had flown in Flak-Bait. The crew listing for the day also mentions a “W/C O.C. Hutton,” which makes a total of eight people on board that day. We'd love to hear if any of our readers have a connection to that individual? Being able to recognize this important anniversary while Flak-Bait is undergoing preservation treatment in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar is important for the Museum. It allows us to share the artifact’s incredible story as we celebrate the people—the pilots, aircrew, mechanics, ground personnel, and the production workers—who made its flight, and the flights of so many other American aircraft, possible during World War II. 

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