The Martin B-26 Marauder was the most advanced medium bomber in the world when it was introduced. The earliest model, the B-26A, entered service in February 1941. Its wing design optimized cruising speed, but made landing difficult, especially for inexperienced pilots. As a result, the aircraft acquired the reputation of being a “widow maker.”
A revised United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) training program was implemented to train pilots to better handle the plane. B-26As were posted to Australia immediately following Pearl Harbor. Later, B-26Bs, modified for long-range operations, saw extensive action in the Southwest Pacific Theater. The B-26B was a five to seven man medium bomber with a maximum speed of 310 mph, a ceiling of 23,000 feet, and a bomb load of 2,000 pounds.
Starting in May 1943, the Marauder became the main medium bomber of the United States 9th Air Force in southern Europe, where it had the lowest loss rate of any American bomber. Production continued until March 1945. In total, 5,157 Marauders were constructed throughout the war, including approximately 500 used in Italy by the Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force. In addition, the United States Navy operated several dozen reconnaissance and utility models.*
* Information adapted from Elizabeth-Anne Wheal and Stephen Pope, The Macmillan Dictionary of the Second World War, Second edition (Oxford: Macmillan Publishing, Ltd., 1997)