"It was the first Allied bomber in the European Theater of Operations to complete 100 operational missions. This was accomplished by Mild and Bitter on an afternoon raid on a Nazi airfield at Evreux/Fauville, southwest of Rouen, France, on 9 May 1944. She was a B-26B-25, Serial Number 41-31819, of the 450th Squadron in the 322nd Bomb Group (M) of the 9th Air Force and had flown her first mission on 23 July 1943. She did all this on her original engines, amassing a total of 449 hours and 30 minutes on them, 310 hours and 40 minutes of that in combat! During this time she never aborted due to mechanical failure, and not one of her many crewmen was a casualty. She was taken off operations after her 100th mission and flown back to the States to conduct War Bond selling tours." ( source: Martin B-26 Marauder History. )
B26B-1-MA (41-17790), landed on the Island of Noord-Beveland in the Netherlands on Oct 3, 1942 .The Marauder was flown by the Germans from Noord-Beveland to Gilze-Rijen Air Base with German- built VDM three- blade propellers. It is said that the plane was evaluated with the Test and Experimental Center of The Luftwaffe during June 1943 at Rechlin and Larz Air bases.
Flying this captured B26: An account by in the book Hans Werner Lerche, Luftwaffe Test pilot, flying the captured allied aircraft of ww2 pg 43-44
Meanwhile, there was again something better on the agenda, a captured Martin
Marauder. The Martin B-26, powered by two Double Wasp R-2800 radial
engines, was a fast medium bomber with a maximum speed of about 310 mph at
13,000 feet altitude. A mid-wing monoplane with an aerodynamically faultless
fuselage, the aircraft had a fast and racy look about it even from the outside. Its
long range also made it suitable for direct ferry flights across the Atlantic. But the
B-26 also had its negative points. With its small wing area and a gross weight of
some 30,000 lb (later increased to over 38.000 Ih), the load per square foot of the
wing area was relatively high, and the high take-off and landing speeds caused so
many bad accidents that this aircraft at first had a poor reputation amongst the
crews and was known as the 'Widow Maker'. Its other nickname of the Tlying
Prostitute' was unknown to me when I became intimate with the Marauder for the
first time. Apart from other bad characteristics, malicious tongues also asserted
that the Marauder's landing speed was higher than its cruising speed. Yet all this
did not prevent experienced crews from appreciating the combat value of the B-26
on account of its high speed and strong armament, and using it accordingly. That
much was known to us - and it was to be expected that the small grass field at
Rechlin would not be abundant enough for this `hot' aircraft.
Our share of excitement with the Marauder was still to come. Perhaps the
adjustment of the propellers was not set correctly, or perhaps someone had already
tinkered about with them. But what I experienced on my first take-off in this
strange aircraft surpassed all expectations! Naturally, based on my experiences
with the Liberator (of which later) I had tried to determine the correct centre of
gravity for take-off; I could also expect that the nose-wheel would at least prevent
any unpleasant surprises, such as a sudden swing during the take-off. Of course,
before the Start the engines were carefully and briefly run up and then switched off
again, and the speed governors tested.
The direction for take-off was along one side of the Schropp'schen mountain -
although the description `mountain' was slightly exaggerated; it was a ridiculous
little rise topped by a radio station. I had placed the Marauder as far as possible
behind the air traffic control van in order to make full use of the available length of
the field. Then the usual procedure: full on the brakes, full throttle, and then
brakes off and away! At first the engines ran perfectly and the aircraft accelerated
well, pushing my back into the seat.
lt may have been that the automatic propeller regulator did not function
properly, letting the engines overspeed before reducing the revs, and then
unevenly. All at once the starboard engine began losing power and the Marauder
showed a strong tendency to swing despite the nosewheel undercarriage. By that
time it was already too late for me to cut the throttles as the aircraft was going too
fast to stop, but on the other hand not fast enough to become airborne.
Nevertheless, although the engines were running with far too few revs I managed
to lift the Marauder just off the ground shortly before reaching the airlfeld
boundary. As soon as I could feel that the aircraft was actually flying and had not
just been 'hauled up', I ordered the flight engineer to raise the undercarriage since
I wanted to avoid the risk of touching the ground with the wheels down. In this
manner we floated past the radio station on the right at a height of some 3-6 feet.
Since there was no immediate danger for our aircraft in the shape of trees or other
obstacles, I thought it would be better to stay dose to the ground and wait to see
whether the engines would pick up enough revs to allow us to climb, or whether I
had to cut the throttles and risk a crash landing. But for my colleagues observing
this take-off from the other side of the field everything looked much more hair raising.
They had heard the brief overspeeding of the engines, the subsequent
regulation of revs and the irregularities in the engine running, and then seen the
Marauder speeding towards the Schropp'schen mountain just skimming the
ground. In addition to that the B-26 raised a cloud of dust as it raced low over tilled
land, like the lift turbulent produced in a wind tunnel, until the spectators could
no longer see the aircraft. As a result, quite used to untoward happenings at
Rechlin, they awaited the seemingly inevitable crash and subsequent blast of
flames and mushrooming smoke.
However, the propeller speed control gradually began to function smoothly and
I succeeded in commencing a climb after raising the landing flaps. Perhaps the
lubricating oil had been too thick and prevented correct regulation of the
propellers. Be that as it may, I am sure that my decision to stay dose to the ground
at low speed had been correct; it was also best in case of a possible crash landing.
My colleagues later confirmed that they had not given much for my chances and
the aircraft at that moment!
After the engines, or rather their propeller adjustment, had been reminded of
their duty, I got to know the B-26 as a quite passable aircraft. But it was a piece of
equipment that had to be handled with great sensitivity. On a longer (light, I then
became good friends with the Marauder and the propeller pitch control now
functioned properly. This was one of the typical instances when a report on faults
could only be prepared when everything had gone well in the end. If the take-off
had gone completely wrong, no-one would have known that the cause was nothing
more serious than the hydraulic oil which had probably become too thick. Even
today, such difficulties still arise, despite radio-telephone communications, as in
moments of great danger the pilot has more important things to do than chatter.
This can only be overcome by the direct radio transmission not only of the data
indicated on the control instruments, bot also the critical values regarding, for
instance, strength and rigidity which cannot be reconstructed after a crash, as is
indeed usual practice during test flying today.
I can imagine that the high wing loading of the Marauder had caused difficulties
similar to those experienced at the beginning with our Ju 88, whose wing area also
had to be increased for single-engined flight. With raised flaps and undercarriage,
the Ju 88 was extremely pleasant to fly. However, with lowered flaps and
undercarriage, the pilot of the Marauder had to be careful when coming in to land
due to the high sinking rate, although as long as both engines were running the
landing approach with open throttles and the landing itself with the nose-wheel
undercarriage an a long run-way presented no problems. Anyway, after my
experiences during the first take-off in the Marauder, I preferred the long concrete
runway at Lärz, our second base, for the landing and further evaluation flights.
And there everything went smoothly.