Douglas B-26, RB-26, WB-26 Invader

The Douglas B-26 Invader was a three-seat, twin-engine light bomber used by the US Air Force during the Korean War.  Development of the A-26, as it was initially designated, began in 1940.  Three prototypes were ordered and, after extensive testing, the design was finalized and production began.  The first A-26 Invaders were delivered to the USAAF in April 1944, and it began operations in Europe in November 1944.  A-26s also served during the invasion of Okinawa.  After World War Two all aircraft with “A” (attack) designations were changed to “B” (bomber) designations, and the A-26 became the B-26.  Fortunately, the B-26 Marauder had already been retired, or there would have been enormous confusion. 

The B-26 Invader could carry up to 4,000 lbs. of internal ordnance and 2,000 lbs. of external ordnance.  It was armed with ten 0.50-inch machine-guns – six in the nose, two dorsal, and two ventral.  It had two 2,000-hp engines giving it a maximum speed of 355 mph, which made it the fastest US bomber of World War Two.  A total of 2,450 were built.

When the Korean War began Far East Air Forces had 26 operational B-26s that equipped the two squadrons of the 3rd Bombardment Group.  They were quickly reinforced, and by November 1950 there were two groups of B-26s, each with three squadrons, operating with the US Fifth Air Force.  B-26s flew 55,000 sorties during the Korean War, including both the first and the last US bombing missions of the war.

WB-26s were used for weather reconnaissance, and RB-26s were used for night-time photo-reconnaissance.  The last US air mission of the Korean War was flown by an RB-26 just a few minutes before the ceasefire.

The B-26 continued in US service through the Vietnam War and was retired in the 1970s