Airmen from the 117th Maintenance Group traveled to the Museum of Aviation to disassemble and relocate an A-26 Invader. This mission served two purposes. The Invader will be restored and put on display at Sumpter Smith National Guard Base. This also constituted the annual Crash Damage or Disabled Aircraft Recovery training for the Maintainers.
The Invader is tied into Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base history. The 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Group flew them from 1946 until the arrival of the RF-84F Thunderstreak in 1957. In 1961 the CIA recruited airmen from the 117th to support the Bay of Pigs Invasion. They were chosen for their experience with the Invader (at the time redesignated as the B-26), as the 117th had among the last Wings to operate the aircraft. Their mission was to travel to Nicaragua where they would provide training, maintenance and other support for Cuban exiles, who flew Invaders in an attempt to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro.
In the last day of the attack eight Americans volunteered to fly in order to relieve the exhausted Cuban pilots. Four of those airmen died: Pete Ray, Riley Shamburger, Wade Gray, and Leo Baker. American involvement in the invasion was classified until 1998. The tail number on this A-26 matches that of one of the aircraft used in the invasion. The airplane was delivered to the USAAF on 6 August 1945. It served at various air bases to include Turner AFB, GA and arrived for conversion to a TA-26B at Warner Robins Air Material Center, Robins AFB, GA in November 1946. It then served with various Air National Guard units until being transferred to Headquarters Air National Guard, Andrews AFB, MD as a VB-26B and flew with HQ ANG until October 1972. As the last B-26 in USAF service, it was retired and transferred to the National Air & Space Museum for preservation. In May 2017 it was transferred to the Museum of Aviation for display.
(U.S. Air National Guard story by: Tech. Sgt. Jim Bentley)