Of all the significant combat aircraft that the U.S. Army Air Forces operated from the onset of America’s involvement in WWII until its conclusion, the Martin B-26 Marauder is by far the rarest today, with just a handful of complete survivors extant. So it is all the more remarkable that a substantial project has become available for restoration. While it is not a complete aircraft, and comprises major components from three different examples, the B-26 currently for sale via Platinum Fighters offers the tantalizing prospect of seeing one on the air show circuit again one day. Currently, there are no flying examples of the Marauder, although Kermit Weeks’ long-dormant B-26 40-1464 at the Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, Florida could probably be coaxed back into life again with a little TLC.
The project is based around the fuselage and wing components of combat veteran B-26 Marauder 40-1370, with additional components from B-26 40-1381. An additional cockpit section, believed to come from B-26B 41-31748, is also included in the project. The latter survives only because it was once used as a movie prop!
This project is currently with Pat Rodgers, owner of Aircraft Restoration Services at French Valley Airport in Murrieta, California. Interestingly, the Marauder is currently sharing hangar space with the McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II which we reported on a few days ago HERE. Rodgers acquired the project from the Hill Aerospace Museum in Ogden, Utah. The museum had recovered the components of ‘1370 and ‘1381 from their wartime dump site in King Salmon, Alaskan back in 2000, and had planned to rebuild a whole B-26 from the components. After sitting on the project for sixteen years, they decided to part with it in 2016.
Interestingly, both of the Alaskan Marauders served with the 73rd BS of the 28th Composite Group, and were lost at the same location, on the same day. 40-1370 is known to have taken part in bombing missions over Dutch Harbor, during the Japanese invasion of the Aleutians in June, 1942. Ironically, given her current situation, this aircraft was apparently nicknamed “Basket Case”. Following her missions at Dutch Harbor, the Marauder continued to fly anti-shipping patrols up until her loss while landing in bad weather on August 16th, 1942 at Naknek Army Airfield near King Salmon, Alaska. The semi-prepared landing strips in some regions of Alaska were notoriously treacherous to operate from during the war years, and often resembled muddy lakes more than airfields when it rained. In fact, the regional flying conditions at the time were far more dangerous to Allied air crew than any threat that the Japanese presented.
Lt.Benjamin Franklin Schoenfeld, a 22-year old native of Knoxville, Tennessee was at the controls of Marauder ‘1370 on that fateful day at Naknek Army Airfield. Conditions were rough, and the aircraft skidded off the runway. Sadly, at least one crewman, believed to be S.Sgt. William W. Chapman, lost his life in the accident. ‘1381 also ran off the runway at Naknek on August 16th, 1942. Lt.Charles W. Hailes was piloting her at the time. Thankfully, all of his crew are believed to have survived the incident. Both aircraft were write-offs though. Army Air Force personnel hauled the hulks over to the airfield dump, removed a few salvageable parts, and then abandoned them on site. They lay forgotten and more or less untouched for the next five or so decades. Reportedly, they remained relatively unmolested until the 1990s, when an illegal scrapper had a go at them.
According to Platinum Fighters, the project consists of the following…
Status: Restoration work started in Dec 2016.
Center fuselage section (bomb bay section):
Status: Reassembly of cut up sections/components underway. Main box beam/wing attach points are in very good condition.
Aft fuselage section:
Status: Aft section was partially crushed on left side either during the war or during recovery.
Missing vertical and left horizontal stabilizer. Both elevators require repairs.
Status: Wings are badly cut up from the recovery, and will require mostly new structure.
Engine cowlings need repairs, as do engine mounts.
Landing gear requires overhaul.
While this project is going to require a significant commitment to see it through to fruition, the type is so rare that it may represent the only realistic opportunity to acquire a Martin Marauder for decades to come. Be sure to check with Platinum Fighters to learn more, or to check out their other premium warbirds currently on the market.