Douglas A/B-26 Invader

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Foreign Service quick reference guide

 
  • Brazil: Third largest user of the A-26. Purchased 36, some of which were modified to B-26K standard by Hamilton Aircraft Ltd, Tucson. Last one retired 1976.
  • Biafra: Purchased two during The Fight for Independence. S/No's 41-39531 and 41-34531.
  • Chile: Thirty four B-26C and four B-26B purchased. Last two as VIP transport. Retired 1976
  • China: An unknown number of B-26/RB-26 purchased. CIA backed Citizens of the Republic of China Provided manpower to fly low-altitude nocturnal reconnaissance missions over mainland China. Fin serial no's were 862, 888 and 844.
  • Colombia: Nineteen B-26B/C purchased 1954, of which eight modified to B-26K. Retired 1980.
  • Congolese Republic: During the fighting in the Belgian Congo in the early 1960’s a number of B-26K with C.I.A. crews were used to support the U.S. backed government. These formed No. 211 Sqdn. comprising of 9 aircraft.
  • Cuba: Eighteen B-26B/C and a TB-26C were purchased. When Fidel Castro came to power, the remaining Invaders were transferred to Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria.
  • Cuban Rebel Air Force: This unit, backed by the C.I.A., used seventeen B-26B/C’s.
  • Dominican Republic: Purchased nine A-26’s, upgraded to B-26K late 1960’s.
  • El Salvador: Delivered in 1969 they operated six B-26B's
  • France: Largest foreign user of the A-26. Purchased 85, last one retired 1968.
  • Guatemala: Purchased eight B-26B and one B- 26C in 1960. Retired early 1970’s.
  • Indonesia: Unknown number of B-26B. Last one retired 1976.
  • Laos: C.I.A.-sponsored operation using U.S.A.F. personnel.
  • Honduras: Purchased only one B-26B. In service for only a short time.
  • Mexico: Ten B-26’s were purchased in early 1960’s. Retired mid-1970’s.
  • Nicaragua: Had one B-26 in 1958, then purchased four B-26B’s. Retired 1979.
  • Peru: Sixteen B-26’s purchased in mid-1950. Replaced by Canberras. Retired late 1960’s.
  • Portugal: Twenty B-26 purchased 1966. Only seven received, the remainder were held by customs.
  • R.A.F.: Britain purchased three A-26 in 1944 and then placed an order for 140 more. However, they were allocated to U.S.A.A.F. squadrons, so only two were delivered. These and the evaluation aircraft were later returned to the U.S.A.
  • Saudi Arabia: Nine B-26B purchased in 1955. Lack of training and spare parts limited use.
  • Turkey: Twenty eight B-26B/C were purchased in 1948. Retired in 1959.
  • Vietnam: Unknown number purchased in the early 1960’s. They bore South Vietnamese markings and were originally flown by U.S.A.F. crews. A number of clandestine missions, backed by the C.I.A., were flown in the Caribbean (Haiti) and Asia.
By 1980 all foreign operators of the B-26’s finally
withdrew them from active service.

Biafra

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Also see, Biafran Invaders - By Michael Robson, Historian

Biafra acquired and used (at least) two provisionally armed A-26s during Nigerian Civil War. Former French Air Force (of the CEV test centre) B-26R, USAAF serial 41-39531, put up for sale, 11 July 1966. Registered to Pan Eurasian Trading Company, Luxembourg, 2 August 1966 (N64Y?) as "an investment", never operated; "resold to a Mr Ernes A. Koenig - a German-American residing in Luxembourg. It seems very likely that Mr Koenig acted as an agent for Eastern Nigeria, and one source claims that the real buyer was a 'French company, which paid good money for the aircraft'. It has been claimed that the Biafrans (who had purchasing agents in France) ended up paying as much as $320,000 for it, which certainly made the aircraft a good investment for somebody. Although there is no direct evidence for contacts between Mr Koenig and the Eastern Nigerians at this stage, it should be mentioned that he was later also involved in the sale of ex-Luftwaffe C-47s to Biafra."

In late October, Koenig had the Invader placed on the US register as N12756, the airframe stored at Courtrai-Wevelgelhem in Belgium. Taken out of storage and prepped for delivery to Africa in early June 1967. Ferried to Lisbon by Belgian pilot in mid-June. Departed Lisbon 26 June, flown by former French CEV pilot and ex-Polish squadron co-pilot, arriving at Biafran capital Enugu on 29 June 1967. Known as "The Shark" with a crudely-applied shark's mouth and a single nose-mounted machine gun, it was abandoned at Enugu on 4 October 1967 in a damaged condition.

A second former French Invader, RB-26P, USAAF 44-34312, registered F-BMJR, one of five sold to aerial survey company Société Carta by the Armée de l'Air in 1966, and last seen at Creil near Paris in June 1967, was flown to Biafra in August 1967 by two American pilots. "It was sold to Biafra through the French arms dealer Pierre Laureys, who had also been involved in the sale of the first Invader." (Some reports claim that an Invader carrying the bogus registration N1888T was delivered to Biafra. There might be possibly some connection with this RB-26P.)

It was painted in a similar camouflage scheme to the first B-26, but with no shark's mouth. It commenced operations using locally produced ordinance until damaged in accident 2 December 1967 and grounded. Abandoned at Port Harcourt in damaged condition due to a lack of spares. Captured by Nigerian forces 18 May 1968, it was blown up or damaged sufficiently by BAF commandos on 19 May 1968 to prevent operation.

Neither Invader received a BAF serial.

 

Brazil

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The Forca Aerea Brasileira (FAB) was the largest Invader operator next to the United States and France. However, none of the FAB's Invaders ever fired a shot or dropped a bomb during actual combat.

Brazil declared war on the Axis powers on August 22, 1942. A Brazilian Expeditionary Force participated in combat in the Italian campaign in 1944-45. As an American ally in the war in Europe against Germany and Italy, Brazil had received a lot of US arms and equipment under Lend-Lease. In addition, Brazil had gotten lots of arms supplies from the USA in subsequent postwar American Republics Projects.

In the early 1950s, the bomber squadrons of the FAB were equipped with a mix of Douglas A-20K Havocs, Lockeed PV-1 Venturas and PV-2 Harpoons, Boeing B-17G Fortresses, plus a large number of North American B-25 Mitchells. As the last of the A-20s, Venturas, and Harpoons began to reach the end of their service lives, the FAB decided that it needed an interim attack aircraft that would fill in the gap until state-of-the-art jet attack aircraft could be acquired. The B-26 Invader seemed to be an ideal choice.

A batch of B-26Bs and B-26Cs was offered to Brazil by the United States in 1956. Selected aircraft were taken out of storage at Davis-Monthan AFB and were overhauled by the Fairchild facilities at St. Augustine, Florida and Hagerstown, Maryland. The first examples were delivered to Brazil in September of 1957, the last arriving in February of 1958.

14 B-26Cs and 14 B-26Bs were initially delivered, and were assigned FAB serials between 5145 and 5172. The B-26s were issued to the 5o Grupo de Aviacao at Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, replacing that unit's B-25 Mitchells. The group had two operating units, the 1o/5o Gav and the 2o/5o Gav. The group's initial mission was primarily training. This training role lasted until 1963, when 1o/5o Gav centralized all the B-26s, becoming a dedicated attack unit, while 2o/5o re-equipped with Beech H18S trainers. 1o/5o moved to Recife in 1971, and operated there until it was disbanded in 1973. 1o Esquadrao do 10o Grupo de Aviacao (1o/10o Gav) flew nine B-26s from 1971 onward.

In 1966, wing spar cracks had started to show up in some of the FAB's Invaders. In an attempt to prolong their service lives, in 1968, several FAB Invaders were flown back to Tucson, Arizona for an upgrading by the Hamilton Aircraft Company. Most of the changes involved IRAN (Inspect and Repair as Necessary) of avionics, communications equipment, and weapons systems. 15 aircraft were refurbished. In addition, three new aircraft (FAB serials 5173/5175) were acquired by Hamilton from surplus stocks as attrition replacements. Unfortunately, one of the FAB B-26 was so badly corroded that it had to be struck off in Arizona and replaced by another.

In addition, a civilian B-26 was impounded by the Brazilian government in June of 1966 due to its involvement in illegal smuggling activities. It sat derelict at Brasilia until 1970, when the FAB finally took it on charge and used it as a transport aircraft under the FAB serial number of 5176.

In spite of the Hamilton rebuild program, wing spar cracks began to reappear in the wings of many FAB B-26s in 1972, which led to the decision to retire the B-26 from FAB service rather than to attempt to keep them in the air for much longer. The withdrawal took place in stages, beginning in 1973 and lasting until December of 1975. The aircraft were replaced by EMBRAER-built Macchi MB-326GB light attack aircraft. Most were scrapped, but a couple of FAB B-26s have been preserved in Brazilian museums, and one was sold back to the USA in 1984.

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Photo by Robbie Shaw via Tom Singfield

    • B-26B FAB 5145, 41-39246, taken on charge September 1957, refurbished 1968, withdrawn from use, stricken 1975.
    • B-26B FAB 5146, 43-22469, taken on charge September 1957, struck off charge 14 July 1967, crashed on T-O at Natal.
    • B-26B FAB 5147, 43-22496, taken on charge September 1957, refurbished 1968, withdrawn from use, struck off charge 1975.
    • B-26B FAB 5148, 43-22597, taken on charge September 1957, struck off charge 5 August 1965, written-off at Natal.
    • B-26B FAB 5149, B-26C FAB 5149, 44-34163, taken on charge 1957, refurbished 1968 into B-26C, withdrawn from use, struck off charge April 1974.
    • B-26B FAB 5150, 44-34196, taken on charge 1957, refurbished 1968, withdrawn from use, struck off charge 1975.
    • B-26B FAB 5151, 44-34207, taken on charge 1957, written off at Natal, struck off charge, 9 August 1965.
    • B-26B FAB 5152, 44-34208, taken on charge 1957, withdrawn from use and struck off charge January 1975.
    • B-26B FAB 5153, 44-35235, taken on charge 1957, refurbished 1968, withdrawn from use, struck off charge 1975.
    • B-26B FAB 5154, 44-35405, taken on charge 1957, written off 13 June 1958, São José de Mipibu, SP state.
    • B-26B FAB 5155, 44-35415, taken on charge 1957, written off 28 September 1965, Niquelândia, GO state.
    • B-26B FAB 5156, 44-35586, taken on charge 1957, refurbished 1968, withdrawn from use, struck off charge December 1975. Was displayed at FAB Academy in 1 o/ 10 o GAv markings. Transferred to Parnamirim in 1987.
    • B-26B FAB 5157, 44-35610, taken on charge 1957, refurbished 1968, withdrawn from use, struck off charge December 1973.
    • B-26B FAB 5158, 44-35713, taken on charge 1957, refurbished 1968, withdrawn from use, struck off charge August 1972.
    • B-26C FAB 5159, B-26B FAB 5159, 41-39288, taken on charge 1957, refurbished 1968 into B-26B. Withdrawn from use, now displayed at Museu Aerospacial near Rio de Janeiro.
    • B-26C FAB 5160, B-26B FAB 5160, 43-22271, taken on charge 1957, refurbished 1968 into B-26B. Withdrawn from use, struck off charge December 1975.
    • B-26C FAB 5161, 43-22415, taken on charge 1958, to have been refurbished 1968 but found to be too badly corroded. Withdrawn from use, struck off charge June 1968.
    • B-26C FAB 5162, 43-22456, taken on charge 1958, refurbished 1968, withdrawn from use, struck off charge 1975.
    • B-26C FAB 5163, 43-22457, taken on charge 1958, withdrawn from use, struck of charge October 1967.
    • B-26C FAB 5164, 43-22461, taken on charge 1958, withdrawn from use, struck off charge June 1968.
    • B-26C FAB 5165, 43-22472, taken on charge 1958, withdrawn from use, struck off charge October 1967.
    • B-26C FAB 5166, 43-22477, taken on charge 1958, withdrawn from use, struck off charge June 1968.
    • B-26C FAB 5167, 43-22605, taken on charge 1958, written off at Caravelas, BA state, 10 June1963.
    • B-26C FAB 5168, 44-34120, taken on charge 1958, withdrawn from use, struck off charge June 1968.
    • B-26C FAB 5169, 44-34329, taken on charge 1958, withdrawn from use, struck off charge June 1968.
    • B-26C FAB 5170, B-26B FAB 5170, 44-35264, taken on charge February 1958, refurbished 1969 into B-26B. Withdrawn from use, struck off charge December 1975.
    • B-26C FAB 5171, B-26B FAB 5171, 44-35790, taken on charge February 1958, refurbished 1968 still as B-26C, but later reconfigured into B-26B in Brazil. Withdrawn from use, struck off charge December 1975.
    • B-26C FAB 5172, 44-35902, taken on charge February 1958, refurbished 1968, withdrawn from use, struck off charge December 1975.
    • B-26C FAB 5173, 44-34615, N4817E, taken on charge June 1969, withdrawn from use between 1973 and 1975, struck off charge circa 1974.
    • B-26C FAB 5174, 44-34749, N4823E, taken on charge June 1969, withdrawn from use, struck off charge December 1975, originally preserved at ESPAer near Sâo Paulo but sold back to USA as N4823E circa 1984.
    • B-26C FAB 5175, 44-35969, N8628E, taken on charge June 1969, withdrawn from use, struck off charge December 1975.
    • CB-26 FAB 5176, later C-26 FAB 5176, 44-34134, N115RG, N4974N, civilian aircraft impounded 21 June 1966, taken on charge 1970, used as a transport, withdrawn from use, struck off charge January 1975, preserved with Museu de Armas e Veiculos Motorizidos Antigos, Bebedouro, SP state.

Chile

The Air Force of Chile, received from Member States, by means of the Pact of Attendance and Defensa Mutua (MDAP), an important game of airplanes Douglas A-26 Invader models B and C. All of them came from sobrestocks of Aerial Base McClellan. Nevertheless all had serial numbers of blocks A-26B, they were in fact B-26Cs of transparent nose, so all it was turned from B-26B to the standard B-26C before the delivery. The FACh gave serial numbers him 812 to 821. In Chile they received B-26 denomination. From 1954 it was come to replace obsolete the B-25 with the B-26, those that entered in good condition with Brown Hill the N°8 Group, Antofagasta. 38 were received altogether B-26, those that underwent the high accident rate.

Group 8 Beyond sallied several battle during the Military coup of the 11 of September of 1973 against the Rescuing President, but there is no evidence of which they used his armament in the opportunity. Last the B-26 Operational of the FACh was retired in 1979. Nevertheless, many Invaders is in Chile in the door of air bases and the National Museum of Aeronautics.

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As a signatory to the postwar US-inspired Mutual Defense Assistance Pact (MDAP), Chile became elegible for American military aid. As part of this military aid package, B-26 Invaders were acquired to replace the Fuerza Aerea del Chile's (FACh) fleet of aging B-25 Mitchells.

The first ten Invaders were handed over to Chile in November of 1954. They had all been drawn from surplus stocks stored at McClellan AFB. Although they all bore USAF serial numbers from A-26B production blocks, they were in fact transparent-nosed B-26Cs, since they had all were converted from B-26B to B-26C standards before delivery. They bore the FACh serials 812 to 821 and were assigned to Grupo 8 based at Antofagasta. These planes were especially welcome in Chile because the B-25s were by this time very much "tired iron" and were becoming severe maintenance and spares problems.

Twelve more B-26Cs plus a pair of B-26Bs were delivered to Chile between September 1956 and March 1957, followed by nine B-26Cs and three B-26Bs in March of 1958, bringing the total received by Chile to 36.

By 1962, attrition had reduced the FACh Invader fleet to 22 B-26Cs and 2 B-26Bs. By this time, the usual problems with wing spar failures had begun to manifest themselves, and several FACh Invaders went through a wing spar upgrading and refurbishment process at Albrook AFB in the US Panama Canal Zone.

Chile was supplied with two more B-26Bs in 1963, followed by four more in 1965. This brought the total number of Invaders delivered to Chile to 40. Perhaps three more were supplied as replacements after this date, although this cannot be confirmed.

During the 1960s, some of the FACh B-26Cs were locally converted to a semi-hard six and sometimes eight-gun nose configuration and locally designated B-26D.

In 1965, the FACh's B-26s flew some limited border patrol activities during a period of increased tension with neighboring Argentina over border disputes. Fortunately, this crisis passed without any military action actually taking place.

Fatigue and attrition gradually took their toll, and only 16 B-26s were still operational by the middle of 1968. Strength was down to only ten by the early 1970s. Grupo 8 may have flown some sorties during the September 11, 1973 military coup against President Salvador Allende, but there is no evidence that they actually delivered any ordnance.

The last operational FACh B-26 was scrapped in 1979. However, several Invaders survive in Chile as gate guards or in museums.

China - Black Bat Squadron

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In brief - In the 1950s, eager to gather intelligence about Communist China but not willing to engage U.S. personnel due to political sensitivity, the United States asked the ROCAF to provide manpower to fly low-altitude nocturnal reconnaissance missions over mainland China. In 1958, the 34th Squadron was formed operating on U.S. made aircraft, such as B-17, B-26, P2V, and C-46 etc. Soon the squadron won the nickname of “Black Bat” for its heroic daring actions behind enemy line at nights. Until its disbandment in 1974, the “Black Bat” flew a total of 838 reconnaissance missions acquiring tons of valuable information that helped greatly in defending our freedom and democracy. However, the price of freedom was never cheap. 15 aircraft were shot down and lost and 148 aircrews were listed either killed or missing in action. The 34th Squadron was the only unit in the ROCAF that had sustained such high combat loss during “peace time”.

Black Bats 34th Squadron was the name of a corps of CIA reconnaissance plane pilots and crew based in Taiwan during the Cold War. Citizens of the Republic of China, they flew missions over mainland China, or the People's Republic of China (PRC), to drop agents and gathered military signal intelligences around military sites. The 34th Squadron was formed in 1953 and flew its last operational mission in 1967. The squadron's emblem was a bat and seven stars and its formal name was the 34th Squadron of the ROC Air Force. Unit's aircraft included the Boeing B-17G, Douglas A-26C/B-26C Invader, 7 Lockheed RB-69A, Douglas C-54, 11 Fairchild C-123B/K Provider, Lockheed C-130E Hercules, and 3 "black" Lockheed P-3A Orion (149669, 149673, 149678). The P-3As and RB-69As were armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for self defense. 34th Squadron specialized in very low level air space penetration(100-200 meters altitude) to hug the ground in order to evade enemy radars and fighter interceptions. Later when operating P-3A, its main mission was flying in international water, 40 miles outside of Mainland China, to collect signal intelligences.

Overall, from 1953 to 1967, 34th Squadron flew 838 missions, 148 Black Bat crew members went down with 15 aircraft. A few were captured after being shot down and later released in Hong Kong.

Columbia

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The South American nation of Colombia has for a long time maintined a rivalry with its neighbor Venezuela, with border disputes, trade frictions, and territorial differences causing relations to be on occasion tense and acrimonious. In 1951, Colombia had signed a Military Assistance Agreement with the USA, making the country elegible for receipt of military aid. That same year, alarmed at the Venezuelan acquisition of surplus British and American warplanes, the government of Colombia requested that the US provide nine B-26s to re-equip the bomber force of the Fuerza Aerea Colombiana. However, the US government was reluctant to contribute to the development of yet another arms race in Latin America, and the Colombian request for B-26s was politely turned down.

However, in 1953 there was a change in policy and MDAP officials decided to equip all participating Latin American air forces with B-26s. However, deliveries of B-26s to Colombia still represented a special challenge, since the US government did not want to alarm Venezuela. Consequently it was agreed rather artificially that the mission of the FAC B-26 bomber force would be exclusively anti-submarine warfare and maritime reconnaissance rather than ground attack or bombing. Under this rather thin pretext, the delivery of B-26s to Colombia was approved.

The first B-26s were delivered to the FAC at its Villavicencio base in late 1954. The final aircraft were delivered in late November of 1957, bringing the total to nineteen. They were serialed FAC 2501 through 2519.

The B-26s were initially delivered with both turrets in place, but there was no provision for any training of aerial gunners, and most aircraft later had their ventral turrets removed.

Colombia was racked with chronic internal strife throughout most of the 1940s and 1950s. Beginning in 1948, there was a state of undeclared civil war known as la violencia. La violencia spread throughout the country, especially in the Andes and the llanos (plains), sparing only the southernmost portion of Nari? and parts of the Caribbean coastal area. By mid-1952 as much as one-third of of national territory was estimated to have been controlled by various forces opposed to the government. It was an extremely complex phenomenon, characterized by both partisan political rivalry and sheer rural banditry. La violencia claimed over 200,000 lives during the next eighteen years, with the bloodiest period occurring between 1948 and 1958.

FAC B-26s were heavily involved in counterinsurgency operations between 1955 and 1958, and several aircraft were lost during combat. Many aging FAC B-26s developed the usual wing spar cracks and went through the wing spar repair program at Albrook AFB in the Canal Zone in 1964-65. By this time, attrition had reduced the fleet to only eight.

In 1968, the FAC decided to deactivate its bomber force in favor of transports, and most FAC B-26s stood down in 1968. A couple were kept airworthy until 1972 as courier aircraft. A couple of FAC B-26s are preserved in museums.

 

Congo

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On June 30, 1960, the Congo became independent of Belgium, officially being renamed the Republic of the Congo. Since the Belgians had done very little to prepare the country for independence, utter chaos immediately broke out. Within a month after independence, tribal warfare had broken out, the army had mutinied, and the province of Katanga had declared its independence under the leadership of Moise Tshombe. It was followed in August by the secession of Kasai Province.

The government of the Congo appealed to the United Nations for help, and some peacekeeping troops soon began to arrive in the country. Unfortunately, both the United States and the Soviet Union made the Congo situation an extension of the Cold War, and a series of elaborate plottings and maneuverings took place.

The crisis was further complicated by a personal struggle between President Joseph Kasavubu and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. President Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba as premier on September 5, and Lumumba sought to block this action through parliamentary action. Because of the impasse, Lumumba's chief of staff Joseph-Desire Mobutu staged a military coup on September 14. On his own authority (but with United States backing), Mobutu installed an interim government which replaced the parliament for six months in 1960-61. Patrice Lumumba was captured and murdered by Katangan secessionists in January of 1961

The Katangese succession was finally defeated by January 1963, and Moise Tshombe went into exile. However, it was soon replaced by another even more serious rebellion which first began in the Kwilu province in January of 1964 but quickly spread elsewhere. The rebellion was initially sparked by Pierre Mulele, formerly Minister of Education and Fine Arts. Mulele had traveled widely in Eastern Europe, and had received training in guerilla warfare in China. The central figure behind the eastern rebellion was Gaston Soumialot, who, in January 1964, was sent to Burundi by the Conseil National de Liberation (CNL), a left-wing political movement based in the former French Congo, with the mission of organizing the rebellion. Soumialot was able to recruit thousands of dedicated supporters in eastern Kivu, along the border with Burundi. The rebellion was fueled by a general popular dissatisfaction with the brutality, corruption, and incompetence of the central Congolese government. Many of the rebels clung to ancient animist religious patterns, and many of them generally believed that "magic water" dispensed by witch doctors could make a warrior immune to government bullets, transforming the warrior into a "Simba" (Swahili for Lion). Consequently, the Congolese rebellion came to be known under the name of Simba.

The Simba rebellion quickly gained ground. In north Katanga, Baudoinville (later Virungu, now Moba) fell on July 19; Kindu, in Maniema, was taken on July 24; and in early August the Soumialot forces, now calling themselves the National Liberation Army (Arm? Nationale de Lib?ation--ANL), captured the Lumumbist stronghold of Stanleyville. Equipped with armaments left by the routed Congolese National Army units, the Simbas pushed on north and west of Stanleyville, eventually penetrating as far west as Lisala on the Congo River. By September 5, with the proclamation of a revolutionary government in Stanleyville, almost half of the Congo and seven local capitals out of twenty-one were in rebel hands. However, as the rebel movement spread, discipline became more difficult to maintain, and acts of violence and terror increased. Thousands of Congolese were massacred, including government officials, political leaders of opposition parties, provincial and local police, school teachers, and others believed to have been Westernized.

In its rivalry with the Soviet Union, the United States had committed itself to the support of the central Congolese government, and the CIA began to organize a small air force to support the Congolese ground forces in their war against the Simba rebellion. At first, a few T-6 trainers were obtained, armed with gun pods and rocket launchers. Since the Congolese government had no trained pilots to fly these planes, they were flown by ex-Cuban exiles who had been with the Bay of Pigs operation of 1961. The T-6s were soon replaced by more modern and more capable T-28s.

Despite the CIA assistance to the central government, the Simba rebellion rapidly spread further and further. In a move of desperation, in June of 1964 the Congolese government recalled Moise Tshombe from exile and made him Prime Minister (replacing Adoula) in an attempt to provide some sort of a unifying force. The US government agreed to help Tshombe raise a force of mercenaries to fight against the Simba rebellion, and decided to expand its air strike unit.

The B-26 was thought to be an ideal aircraft for this sort of operation, but by this time virtually all of the B-26Bs and Cs had been grounded due to fatigue problems. In addition, only one B-26K conversion had been completed by On Mark. As an interim measure, four Invaders previously having served in Vietnam with Farm Gate but now languishing in the boneyards at Clark Field were diverted to the CIA for Congo service.

The first three B-26Ks were diverted to the CIA, being delivered by On Mark to Florida on August 13, 1964 and left the next day for Africa. The Cuban exile pilots began to train on them immediately. The first combat mission was flown on August 21. The refurbished B-26Bs from Clark were sent shortly thereafter. However, it seems that only two of them actually ever got to the Congo, and both of these planes were deemed to be unsafe to fly by their Cuban crews. They stayed on the ground most of the time and were used as sources of spare parts for the B-26Ks.

In order to recruit and pay ground crews to service the B-26Ks, the CIA set up a front organization known as Anstalt Wigmo, based in Lichtenstein. The Wigmo organization also performed some major modifications on the B-26Ks, including the strengthing of the wing spars and the installation of extra-large carburetor air intakes over the engine nacelles to improve performance in the hot climate of the Congo. The B-26K aircraft (along with the T-28s) were officially part of the Congolese air force, but the Congolese had little or no influence on their use. All of the B-26Ks that went to the Congo remained officially on USAF charge, and their record cards listed them as having been in storage at Hill AFB all the time that they were in the Congo.

The missions were scheduled by CIA case officers under the guidance of the American embassy. During operational missions, no internal weapons load was carried by the B-26Ks, and a long-range fuel tank was permanently installed in the bomb bay. The B-26Ks were quite effective in their attacks, imposing heavy casualties among the Simba rebels. The Simbas had no antiaircraft guns or aircraft to oppose these attacks, and the effectiveness of the B-26Ks and the T-28s was aided by the general incompetence and indiscipline of the Simba forces

As he set about the task of quashing the rebellions, Tshombe could rely on the Katangan gendarmes, recalled from exile in Angola, and a few hundred battlehardened white mercenaries. The former were immediately integrated into the Congolese National Army, with the latter providing the much-needed leadership for the conduct of military operations against rebel forces. Supported by air strikes, these units spearheaded attacks against rebel strongholds. As the white mercenaries took the offensive and, with their technical superiority and discipline, began to recapture rebel strongholds, the fighting grew progressively more brutal, and numerous atrocities were committed by all of those involved. Mercenary elements played a decisive role in retaking Lisala on September 15, Boende on October 24, and Kindu on November 6. By then, the revolutionary government in Stanleyville had decided to hold local European residents hostage, in the hope of using them as bargaining chips in negotiations with the central authorities. Their action resulted in the joint Belgian-American parachute rescue operation (code-named Dragon Rouge, or Red Dragon) on Stanleyville, on November 24, scheduled to coincide with the arrival of Congolese National Army and mercenary units in the vicinity of the provincial capital. The capture of Stanleyville dealt a devastating blow to the eastern rebellion. The two key rebel leaders, Gbenye and Soumialot, went into exile in Cairo. Demoralization quickly set in among the Simbas, and by the end of the year, the eastern rebellion was reduced to isolated pockets of resistance.

Two more B-26Ks were delivered to the Congo in January of 1965. By the end of 1965, the Simba rebellion was essentially over, although some mopping-up actions continued for over a year afterward. The CIA withdrew all of its B-26Ks in late 1966 and early 1967. All of them were later to serve in Southeast Asia after being refitted at McClellan AFB. The B-26Bs that had made it to the Congo were scrapped at Leopoldville (by now renamed Kinshasa). There were no B-26s left in the Congo by the time of the mercenary revolt of July 5, 1967.

Despite his success in quelling the Simba revolt, Moise Tshombe did not last very long as prime minister. He got involved in a power struggle with President Joseph Kasavubu, which lead to a constitutional deadlock. Joseph-Desire Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko), a military officer who had seized power earlier in the 1960s and who had exericized control from the background, seized power once again in a coup on November 25, 1965, and became supreme head of state. The new regime received considerable initial approval from other African states and from the United States He has dominated the life of the nation ever since.

In October of 1971, the country was renamed the Republic of Zaire.

 

Cuba

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Since March of 1952, the Carribean island of Cuba had been under the control of Fulgencio Batista Zaldivar. Batista's influence over Cuba dated back to 1933. In an uprising known as the "Revolt of the Sergeants," on September 4, 1933 Batista and a group of followers took over the Cuban government. The coup overthrew the liberal government of Gerardo Machado, and marked the beginning of the army's influence as an organized force in the running of the government. On January 14, 1934, Batista forced provisional president Ram? Grau San Mart? to resign, and he appointed Carlos Mendieta to the presidency. Within five days, the U.S. recognized Cuba's new government.

For the next decade Batista ran the country from the background, pulling the strings of a succession of puppet presidents. On March 10, 1952, almost twenty years after the Revolt of the Sergeants, Batista took over the government once more, this time against elected Cuban president Carlos Pr? Socorras. The coup took place three months before the upcoming elections that he was sure to lose. Batista suspended the constitution and dissolved the congress. He held a sham election in 1954, with him as the only candidate, and was elected president of Cuba.

Once president, Batista entered into relationships with mobsters such as Meyer Lansky, which opened the way for large-scale gambling in Havana, and he reorganized the Cuban state so that he and his political appointees could harvest the nation's riches. Under Batista, Cuba became extremely profitable for American business and organized crime. Havana became the "Latin Las Vegas," a playground of choice for wealthy gamblers, and Batista's family and cronies regularly skimmed profits from the casinos. In exchange for bribes, Batista granted lucrative contracts to dozens of US corporations for massive construction projects. Opposition was swiftly and violently crushed.

In 1952, Cuba signed a military pact with the USA, which involved an extensive program of American assistance to the Cuban military. Under US Mutual Defense Assistance Program Grant Aid deliveries, the Fuerza Aerea del Ejercito de Cuba (FAEC) received 16 transparent-nosed B-26Cs in 1956, followed by two replacement aircraft in 1957. Two pilots came to the USA in 1956 to received B-26 advanced training so that they could act as instructors. The B-26s were stationed at Campo Columbia, located near Havana. They were serialed in the range between 901 to 935, with even numbers being skipped, perhaps to give people the impression that the FAEC had more Invaders than it really did.

The first B-26 accident took place on March 19, 1957, when Lt. Sardi?s lost an engine on takeoff and crashed. US-sponsored Mobile Training Teams were scheduled to come to Cuba and assist in training. However, revolts and insurrections inside the Cuban military repeatedly interrupted these plans. Nevertheless, the Mission did manage to complete a training program in August of 1957 for 23 pilots. On September 5, 1957, the FAEC took part in the suppression of a Cuban Navy revolt at Cayo Loco Naval Station in Cienfuegos, located on the southern coast of the island. Only two of the B-26s actually took part in the action, one flown by Capt Zuniga, the other by Capt Pinera. Capt Zuniga had one of his engines put out of action by ground fire. One of the B-26 pilots and some of the fighter pilots refused to take part in the attacks and were subsequently imprisoned.

Fidel Castro Ruz, a tall, bearded attorney in his thirties who had been in exile in Mexico following a failed attack on the Moncada Army Barracks in Santiago on July 26, 1953, landed in Oriente Province in Cuba on Christmas Day 1956 with a band of 81 fellow revolutionaries. Although most of them were quickly captured or killed, Castro and a few others evaded Batista's soldiers and set up headquarters in the jungled hills of the Sierra Maestra range. By 1958 his force had grown to about 2,000 guerrillas, for the most part young and middle-class. Castro's brother Raul, and Ernesto (Ch· Guevara, an Argentine physician, were his top lieutenants. Businessmen and landowners who opposed the Batista regime gave financial support to the rebels. The United States, meanwhile, cut off arms shipments to Batista's army. Growing criticism of the US role in supporting the corrupt and repressive Batista regime led to a suspension of further arms deliveries to Cuba in November of 1957.

The FAEC had lost two of its B-26s in accidents prior to the beginning of the Castro insurgency. Actual FAEC B-26 operations against the rebels began in early 1958, with most of the attacks being individual sorties carried out against targets of opportunity. Operational utilization was inhibited by the almost total lack of cooperation between Cuban army units on the ground and the air force, which made intelligence on the location of rebel positions and units so old as to be essentially useless by the time an air attack mission could be staged. The B-26 crews were unable to stop the rebel supply lines along the northern coast. The Cuban military was used more as a personal force loyal to President Batista rather than to the country as a whole, and Batista's political cronies often replaced professional officers in both the Army and the FAEC. Corruption and ineptitude spread rapidly through the ranks. As the situation got worse, the FAEC could not respond effectively because of the lack of spares and the shortage of ordnance. Contrary to some reports, the B-26 unit was never actually grounded and only one pilot defected to Miami--Lt. Crespo who flew his B-26 to Miami in December of 1958.

Following the Castro victory in January of 1959, the surviving FAEC aircraft were organized into the Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria (Revolutionary Air Force, or FAR). This included a motley collection of F-47Ds, Hawker Sea Furies, Lockheed T-33As, C-54s, C-46s, and C-47s, plus the surviving B-26s. Most of the former FAEC aircrews which had flown these planes had already fled the country, fearing reprisals from the victorious Castro forces. One of the first acts of the new government was to arrest and jail the B-26 unit's pilots who had remained in Cuba. They were placed on trial, but were found not guilty. Annoyed at their acquittal, the government ordered them retried and this time they were found guilty and sentenced to long prison terms. In order to fill in the gap, a few former FAEC transport pilots as well as some civilian airline pilots were hastily recruited to operate these planes, plus a few opportunists with more enthusiasm than useful experience. Usually only three or four B-26s could be made airworthy at any one time. One FAR B-26 crashed at Camaguey in 1959 when an inexperienced pilot lost control on takeoff.

It soon became obvious to Washington that the Cuban revolution was taking a definitely Communist turn, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began a series of clandestine operations designed to overthrow Castro's regime before it could consolidate its power. These culminated in the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961, carried out by a brigade of Cuban expatriates and supported by an air force made up of aircraft acquired in secret out of USAF surplus stocks.

At the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961, the FAR could muster only six airworthy B-26s. Five of them were based at San Antonio de los Banos airfield south of Havana. The other one was based at Santiago de Cuba, along with several grounded examples. Castro had the foresight very early in his rule to disperse his air force, more because he did not trust his air crews than for any strategic reason. During the initial rebel air strike on April 15, 1961, the B-26 based at Santiago was destroyed, and two FAR B-26s were disabled at San Antonio de los Banos. On April 17, a FAR B-26 attacked invasion support vessels and was shot down by anti-aircraft fire. On April 18, a FAR B-26 overflew some of Castro's own troops and was shot own by friendly fire. This last sortie was the last known instance of a FAR B-26 being flown.

There is a B-26 on display in an open-air museum at Playa Giron, painted as FAR 933. However, it is likely that this aircraft is actually a war prize returned to Cuba from Angola, and painted to commemorate the defeat of the Bay of Pigs invasion force.

Important observation by Gilles Hudicourt:

Here is the true story.  Jacques Lagas, a Chilian pilot who flew for the FAR during the Bay of the Pigs invasion, stated that on the Morning of the invasion, April 17 1961, there was only one B-26 that was airworthy: 937.  He further states that it only had six machine guns in the nose and could not carry rockets or bombs.  He explains that this airframe was derelict and had never flown in Cuba since it was imported.  It had been used as parts.  When the Cubans later realized that this particular B-26 was the lowest time airframe they had, they decided to make it airworthy.  It became 937.

The CIA did not know that Cuba had this single hard nosed B-26 for if they had, the B-26 that they sent to Miami on April 15th 1961 to pretend it was a Castro aircraft that had defected would not have been painted as 933, but as 937.  The journalists were quick to pick up on the fact that the defected aircraft was of a model of B-26 that Castro did not have and the scheme was quickly uncovered, which led Kennedy to cancel the other strikes on Cuban bases.

On the day of the invasion, 937 was the first strafe the beaches while the Sea Furies attacked the ships (because all 937 has as armament was the 6 .50 cal.)

On its second sortie, 937 had an air to air encounter with a CIA B-26, which was painted a FAR 915 and which crashed on the Giron airstrip.  That pilot, Matias Farias, survived the crash and is still alive.  HE claimed to the CIA that before crashing that he had shot down a FAR B-26.  Lagas claimed to have sprayed the 915 with bullets before his guns jammed and that a FAR T-33  later came to his rescue and gave the coup de grace.  915 crash landed at Giron airfield, the navigator already dead from a slug in the back of the neck.  The pilot was pulled out of the burning wreck by a man that I interviewed and who saw the whole spectacle.

I would like to positively identify this B-26 where it sits in Cuba.

Where is the serial number plate located so that I may have someone photograph it for me ?

I would like to know if 937 is of of the original B-26s sold to Cuba in 56 and 57, or if its another, purchased later, perhaps a civilian model, that ey bought for parts after the US has put an arms embargo on the Batista Government in his later years in power.  This would explain the lack of hard points for bombs and rockets.  Lagas also specified that 937 had better radios than the rest of the fleet.

The fact that 937 was originally a hard nose model with 6 .50cal in the nose is also confirmed by a 1961 article I found in a book called "reporting on Cuba"

Cuba: Used by the Escuadrón de Observación y Bombardeo.

Serial c/no. Prev. Identity Delivered Fate/Notes
901 6987 41-39274 11.1956 n/a, B-26C
903 7142 41-39429 11.1956 n/a, B-26C
905 18587 43-22440 11.1956 n/a, B-26C
907 18689 43-22542 11.1956 n/a, B-26C
909 27389 44-34110 11.1956 n/a, B-26C
911 27426 44-34147 11.1956 n/a
913 27550 44-34271 11.1956 n/a
915 27605 44-34326 11.1956 n/a
917 29011 44-35732 11.1956 Robins Air Force base
919 28970 44-35691 11.1956 n/a
921 28976 44-35697 11.1956 n/a
923 29042 44-36763 11.1956 n/a
925 29097 44-35818 11.1956 n/a
927 29209 44-35930 11.1956 n/a
929 29224 44-35944 11.1956 n/a
931 29267 44-35998 11.1956 n/a
933 18723 43-22576 12.1957 n/a, B-26B
935 18602 43-22455 12.1957 n/a, B-26B

 

Dominican Republic

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At least three and possibly all of the initial batch of B-26B's acquired by the Dominican Air Force were delivered in essentially, Korean War era 'intruder' black colours schemes. These were retained for some time before gaining light grey overall schemes, and sported a variation of the Escuadron de Caza-Bombardero (Fighter-Bomber Squadron) unit insignia oh the left side of the forward fuselage. When the aircraft lost their midnight black schemes, the unit insignia disappeared also. Note: close up view of the Escuadron de Caza-Bombardero unit insignia which graced the port nose of at least three of the FAD's B-26s. Over the years, a number of subtle variations have been noted in this unit insignia, and these are suspected of being linked somehow to the aircraft types bearing them in this huge unit.

The Caribbean nation of the Dominican Republic had since 1930 been under the control of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, who ruled the country like a medieval fiefdom. He was so vain that he actually had the capital of Santo Domingo named after himself. He maintained a highly effective secret police force that ruthlessly eliminated any political opponents. He relied on the military for his primary support, rewarding them with generous pay and perquisites. He controlled the officer corps through fear, patronage, and the frequent rotation of assignments.

During the 1950s, the Fuerza Aerea Dominicana (Dominican Air Force) of the Dominican Republic operated a large number of military aircraft. The Dominican Republic had, in fact, an air force far larger than any true defense need would require.

In 1958, the FAD requested permission from the US government to buy 12 B-26Bs. The US State Department was reluctant to fund the sale under the Military Assistance Sales program, but did agree to permit the Dominican Republic to approach civilian brokers who were at that time buying up lots of surplus USAF and ANG Invaders. In January 1959, Florida Aerocessories Inc of Miami, Florida applied for an export license to deliver 12 B-26B "demilitarized trainer" aircraft to the FAD. The next month, the request was increased to 14 or 16 aircraft. However, by that time US-Dominican relations had begun to deteriorate, and the State Department began to be suspicious about why the Dominican Republic needed so many former bombers as "trainers", and the deal ultimately fell through.

Undeterred, dictator Rafael Trujillo arranged for a deal with Manhattan Industries, Inc for five Invaders. Denied an export license yet again, the broker quickly arranged for the sale of these same aircraft to a Chilean aerial mapping firm. While supposedly being delivered to Chile, all five of the B-26s made "forced landings" in the Dominican Republic and were interned there as "undocumented warplanes". Under this subterfuge, the five planes were quickly added to the inventory of the FAD.

The former USAF serial numbers of these Dominican Republic B-26s are unknown, but all were solid-nosed B-26Bs. All had non-standard noses carrying a variety of 0.50-inch guns, depending on availability. None had turrets, and they did not have provisions for rocket rails or wing guns. FAD serials were 3202 through 3206.

In later years, the Trujillo government became increasingly isolated. Trujillo had an intense personal hatred of the Venezuelan president Romulo Betancourt, and had even financed an abortive assassination attempt against him. The backlash from the attempt on Betancourt's life was an Organization of American States (OAS) imposition of economic sanctions and the severing of dipolomatic relations. The United States government had long tolerated Trujillo as a bastion of staunch anti-Communism in the Caribbean, but public opinion in in the late 1950s in the US had begun to turn against the dictatorship. By August of 1960, relations had turned sufficiently sour that the US embassy in Ciudad Trujillo was downgraded to consular level. At about the same time, covert operations were initiated aimed at Trujillo's ouster. On May 30, 1961, Trujillo was assassinated, supposedly by a CIA-sponsored plot.

Utilization of the B-26 aircraft dropped dramatically following the assassination of President Trujillo and the fall of his regime. By January of 1963, only four FAD Invaders still survived, with three being operational and the fourth serving as a spares source. An additional B-26 was acquired from unknown sources between 1963 and 1965.

After a period of instability which lasted over a year, Juan Bosch Gavino was elected as president on December 20, 1962. However, the Bosch government and it program of land reform aroused opposition from conservative landholders and military officers. The Bosch government was overthrown by a military coup on September 25, 1963. The coup installed a civilian junta headed initially by Emilio de los Santos and later by Donald Reid Cabral. The junta was never able to convince a majority of the population that it was legitimate, and widespread dissatisfaction with Reid and his government and lingering loyalties to the Bosch government produced a revolution in April of 1965.

The revolution was spearheaded by former supporters of Bosch along with some junior military officers. The reformists (known as Constitutionalists, a reference to their support of Bosch's 1963 constitution) seized the National Palace and installed Rafael Molina Urena as provisional president. Conservative military forces, led by General Elias Wessin y Wessin struck back on April 25 and full civil war broke out.

On April 28, United States forces intervened in the Dominican civil war. President Lyndon Johnson had acted because he believed that the Constitutionalists were dominated by Communists. Nearly 20,000 US troops were landed to secure Santo Domingo. After a period of instability, new elections were held. In a fractious campaign between Bosch and former Trujillo associate Joaquin Balaguer, Balaguer was elected president on July 1, 1966. Balaguer remained president until 1978.

The B-26s were inactive during the civil war of 1965. With restructuring of the FAD in the mid- to late-1960s, the surviving Invaders were offered for sale beginning in 1967. However no takers were found, and the FAD Invaders were eventually scrapped.

 

Serial c/no. Prev. Identity Delivered Fate/Notes
3202 n/a n/a 1959 n/a
3203 n/a n/a 1959 n/a
3204 n/a n/a 1959 n/a
3205 n/a n/a 1959 n/a
3206 n/a n/a 1959 n/a

El Salvador

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Used by the Escuadrón de Reconocimiento.

Serial c/no. Prev. Identity Delivered Fate/Notes
600 n/a n/a 1969 sold to N62289
601 n/a n/a 1969 sold to N26VC
602 n/a n/a 1969 n/a
603 n/a n/a 1969 n/a
604 n/a n/a 1969 n/a
605 n/a n/a 1969 n/a

France

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Beginning in January of 1951, the French Armee de l'Air acquired Invaders from the USA to fight in its colonial wars, first in Indochina and then later in Algeria. Next to the US Armed Forces, France was the largest user of the Douglas Invader, operating at one time or another over 200 of these aircraft.

INDOCHINA:

In the 19th century, France established colonial domination over much of Indochina. Politically, the territory of Vietnam was administered by French nationals, with the assistance of Vietnamese locals at low-level, low-paying jobs. State monopolies on the production and sale of alcohol, opium, and salt were imposed. Huge tracts of land in southern Vietnam were turned over to French settlers and their Vietnamese collaborators. The resulting plantation system of agriculture transformed southern Vietnam into a rice exporting area.

In September of 1940, Japanese forces occupied much of Indochina, but allowed the French (France had surrendered to Germany in June of 1940 and the Vichy government in Paris was now a de-facto ally of Germany) to continue their colonial administration of the area. A coalition of Communist and nationalist groups was established in China to fight against Japanese occupation of Vietnam and IndoChina. The organization was officially known as Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi (League for the Independence of Vietnam), but usually known as Viet Minh. The leader of the Viet Minh was Nguyen Tat Thanh, who was better known as Ho Chi Minh. During the war, the Viet Minh provided the only significant organized resistance in Vietnam to the Japanese occupation. The Viet Minh worked with the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), a US intelligence agency, in helping to recover downed American aircrews. In addition, the OSS helped the Viet Minh to build up a small guerilla force.

In March 1945, Japan ousted the Vichy French and assumed direct rule over Vietnam. The Viet Minh duly stepped up their anti-Japanese activities. By the time Japan surrendered to the United States in August 1945, the Viet Minh represented the strongest political force in Vietnam. After the departure of the Japanese, the Viet Minh leader, Ho Chi Minh publically declared Vietnam independent on September 2, 1945. Ho attempted to negotiate the end of colonial rule but without success. Assisted by the British and the Nationalist Chinese, the French began to return to re-assume colonial control of Indochina. The French army shelled Haiphong harbor in November of 1946, and by December of 1946 open warfare was taking place between the French and the Viet Minh. On December 19, 1946, the War of Resistance against the French forces burst out. The French seized control of several cities, and the resistance forces had to withdraw from those key cities and conduct the guerrilla warfare against the French Expeditionary Army.

The French Armee de l'Air was in a rather weak state at that time, with the only combat aircraft available being a few Spitfires plus some transport aircraft that could be converted into makeshift bombers in an emergency. These were supplemented by some Bell P-63 Kingcobras delivered in 1949.

At first, the United States attempted to stay clear of the Indochina war, even expressing some sympathy for the Viet Minh cause because their anticolonialist stance. Ho's 1945 declaration of independence had, in fact, closely followed the format of America's 1776 Declaration of Independence. However, following the Communist takeover of China in 1949, President Truman's attitude toward the Indochina war changed. On May 8, 1950, it was anounced that the USA would provide aid to the French forces fighting in Indochina.

Initially, the French were to supposed to get F-51D Mustangs, but the outbreak of war in Korea forced the United States to substitute Grumman F6F Hellcats instead. However, what was really needed was a force of piston-engined medium bombers. Despite the pressing needs of the Korean War, the US government decided that it could spare a squadron of Invaders for use by the French in Indochina.

In November of 1950, French crews began training on Invaders belonging to USAF units stationed in France. The following month, they moved to Indo-China and were supplied with 17 B-26B and eight B-26C Invaders drawn from USAF surplus stocks and refurbished in Japan before delivery to Indochina.

The first combat sortie was flown on February 1, 1951. By October 1, 1951, the French Invaders had dropped 1767 tons of bombs and 218 napalm containers. One of the problems was that that many of the B-26Bs had as many as 18 machine guns and consumed ammunition at a prodigious rate. By early 1954, the French air units in Indochina were seriously overextended, and the war against the Viet Minh was nowhere close to being won. With the end of the Korean War, the US government decided to supply additional aircraft to support the French effort in Indochina. This brought the Armee de l'Air B-26 squadrons up to a strength of 25 aircraft each. These additional aircraft were not officially transferred to the Armee de l'Air but remained on USAF charge. In addition, USAF mechanics were sent to Indochina to help maintain the Invaders.

During the battle for Dien Bien Phu, which lasted from March to May of 1954, seven Invaders were lost in action. Four of them were shot down over the besieged garrison itself, with a fifth crashing in Laos due to damage received over Dien Bien Phu. Dien Bien Phu fell to the Viet Minh on May 8, and 14,000 French troops surrendered. The loss of Dien Bien Phu had a disastrous effect on French morale. Most of the air crews had to be grounded after the end of the battle due to fatigue. The decision was made to negotiate a settlement with the Viet Minh. The Geneva Accords were signed on July 21, 1954, followed by an armistice on August 1 which formally ended the war. France surrendered all claims in Indochina and relinquished control in Vietnam north of the 17th parallel to a new Communist government headed by Ho Chi Minh. The country was partitioned into two separate states of North and South Vietnam. According to the terms of the Geneva Accords, Vietnam would hold national elections in 1956 to reunify the country, and the boundary at the 17th parallel would vanish with the elections.

During the fighting, a total of 113 B-26Bs, B-26Cs, and RB-26Cs had been supplied to French forces in Indo-China, enough to equip three bomber groups (Groupe de Bombardement 1/19 *Gascogne*, GB 1/25 *Tunisie* and GB 1/91 *Bourgogne*, plus one reconnaissance flight (Escadrille de Reconnaissance Photographique ERP.2/19 *Armagnac*). The B-26 units had flown 33,000 hours in 15,000 missions, delivering 18,500 tons of ordnance. During the Indochina War, 25 Invaders were lost either in combat on in flying accidents. Armee de l'Air Invaders operating in Indochina were usually in natural metal finish (sometimes with black nacelles) or in overall black. The Armee de l'Air did not issue new serial numbers to the Invaders, and they continued to carry their USAF serials. They often also kept their USAF "buzz numbers" on the rear fuselage, consisting of the letters "BC" followed by the last three digits of the serial.

Before they left Indochina, the French B-26 units were disbanded and their aircraft were returned to the USA. Not a single one of these aircraft was purchased by the Armee de l'Air for use in France.

EUROPE AND NORTH AFRICA:

In the early 1950s, a total of seven surplus Invaders was purchased by the French government for use in various test and training programs. The first of these arrived in July of 1951. Seven more were acquired in 1953.

The North African nation of Algeria had been annexed by France in 1834. Shortly thereafter, France began to colonize Algeria in earnest, and European settlers poured into the country. To encourage settlement, the French confiscated or purchased lands at low prices from Muslim owners. Algeria became an overseas department of France, controlled for all practical purposes by the European minority, the colons (colonists). All colons shared a passionate belief in Alg?ie Fran?ise-a French Algeria. The Muslim population of Algeria remained a disadvantaged majority, subject to many restrictions. By French law they could not hold public meetings, carry firearms, or leave their homes or villages without permission. Legally, they were French subjects, but to become French citizens, with full rights, they had to renounce their faith.

Algerian nationalism began to surface immediately after the First World War. There were some attempts to set up an Algerian national assembly, but these were scuttled by stubborn resistance to reform on the part of the colons. After the Second World War, the Algerian Organic Statute (1947) set up Algeria's first parliamentary assembly, with an equal number of European and Muslim delegates, but this satisfied neither natives nor colons and proved ineffective.

In March of 1954, a revolutionary committee known as the Front de Liberation Nationale, or FLN was founded in Egypt. It had the goal of total independence for Algeria. In November of 1954, armed guerilla action began with coordinated attacks on public buildings, military and police posts, roads, bridges, and communications installations.

The initial uprising failed, and the French Army quickly pushed the rebels back. However, popular support for the FLN gradually grew. The uprising spread rapidly and soon forced the French to send in more troops. A series of bloody reprisals and counter-reprisals followed. Indiscriminate murders and kidnappings of Europeans and Muslims who did not actively support the FLN took place on a regular basis, and colon and French army units raided Muslim villages and numerous massacres of civilians took place.

It was decided that a couple of squadrons of B-26 Invaders were needed for the Algerian war, pending the availability of Vantour jet bombers then under development in France. In July 1956, an initial batch of 36 Invaders were allocated to MDAP project 6B541, followed by 12 more in August, and two more in September.

The Invaders were drawn from surplus stocks and overhauled in the USA before being ferried to France. The first Invader arrived at Oran in Algeria in August of 1956. Two bomber squadrons, Groupe de Bombardement 1/91 Gascogne and GB 2/91 Guyenne were set up at Oran to receive them. The two bomber squadrons became operational in early 1957. Most of the French B-26s retained their dorsal gun barbettes (which were fully armed), but only a few of the planes had the ventral barbette in place (without guns).

During the first year of combat in Algeria, the Invaders were used for level bombing as well as for dive bombing and strafing. When dive bombing or strafing, they usually operated under the direction of a forward air controller, which marked the target with white phosphorus. In addition, B-26s sometimes operated patrols over "free fire" zones, which were areas from which all civilians had previously been evacuated and where anything moving was assumed to be hostile.

By early 1958, the French armed forces had largely obtained the upper hand over the FLN. Collective punishment was meted out to entire villages suspected of harboring guerillas. Whole groups were deported to refugee camps. An electrified fence was installed along the Tunisian and Moroccan borders to cut off the FLN supply lines. However, despite their military successes the French were unable to achieve any sort of political settlement to the war. The armed suppression of the Algerian insurrection was increasingly being criticized internationally as a "dirty colonialist war", and France's NATO allies were worried its commitment of so many forces to an unpopular war.

In May of 1958, irritated at what they saw as vacillation, the colons and French army officers in Algeria conspired to overthrow the French government in Paris. The insurrection spread rapidly and threatened to bring civil war to France. A Committee of Public Safety was set up, which demanded the return to power of General Charles de Gaulle. The General was returned to power in June of 1958 to serve as premier, and the French National Assembly gave him the power to rule by decree for six months and to supervise the drafting of an new constitution. The Fifth Republic was approved by a referendum on September 28, 1958, and on December 21, 1958 General de Gaulle was elected as President. The General has as one of his important goals the defeat of the FLN and the maintenance of a French Algeria.

On July of 1959, the Armee de l'Air acquired an additional 26 Invaders from the USA. These planes had originally been authorized for reclamation at the Chateauroux Air Depot in central France. It is not clear whether the Invaders were provided under MAP. Since the war in Algeria was a politically-sensitive matter, it is probable that this transfer was actually done "off the record", with the French being told simply to walk into Chateauroux and help themselves to what ever they could find.

One of the more interesting missions of the Invader during the Algerian war was that of night fighter. In 1961, ECN.1/71 was equipped with eight Invaders that were specially modified as night fighters to intercept aircraft that were attempting to supply FLN guerillas from bases in Tunisia. These aircraft were B-26Cs with glass noses replaced by a British AI Mk. X radar taken from surplus Gloster Meteor NF.11s. They were armed with a twin 0.50-inch machine gun package underneath each wing. In addition, there were two Matra type 122 rocket pods, each containing nineteen SNEB air-to-air rockets. They were unofficially known as B-26N. However, by the time that the B-26Ns became operational, supply aircraft coming in from the Tunisian side of the border were increasingly rare, and only a few interceptions were made.

Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, the French forces were generally victorious in most of their battles with the FLN. President de Gaulle initially had the support and backing of the military, since he had given orders for the French armed forces to pursue the Algerian campaign to full victory. However, by 1959 President de Gaulle found himself looking at a seemingly endless conflict in Algeria that promised to consume a ever-increasing toll in lives and treasure, and was becoming increasingly willing to negotiate with the FLN for the creation of a semi-independent Algeria to bring the conflict to an end. He announced his intention to allow Algerians to choose between independence and continued association with France.

This made the military in Algeria extremely unhappy, and many officers who had initially backed de Gaulle's return to power now turned bitterly against him. An unsuccessful revolt against de Gaulle was staged in early 1960. Four generals carried out a coup in April of 1961 in Algeria and made plans to send a squadron of paratroopers to seize Paris and depose President de Gaulle. However, the Air Force and Navy remained loyal to de Gaulle, and all military operations by the B-26-equipped units were temporarily suspended. The coup collapsed within a few days, but some of the rebellious officers set up the Organisation Armee Secrete (OAS) to continue the struggle for a French Algeria. The OAS carried out a brutal campaign of terrorism against both the FLN and the French authorities in Algeria.

The operations of the B-26 combat units in Algeria were essentially halted by the military coup against President de Gaulle. A ceasefire was finally signed on March 18, 1962. The last operational use of the Invader in Algeria was actually against remnants of the OAS, being a flyover of the OAS stronghold at Bab el Oued in Algiers before it was stormed and taken by regular army units.

Algeria voted overwhelmingly for independence in July of 1962, the country officially being named the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria and the B-26-equipped units left for France shortly thereafter. Most of the French colons had left Algeria by the end of 1962.

The Armee de l'Air began to withdraw its B-26s from service in April of 1962, with some being scrapped and others being stored. Some ended up on the civilian market, and four were preserved in museums in France.

 

Great Britain

Below is A-26B 41-39158 when it flew for flight testing at Boscombe Down. It arrived on 30. June 1944 but retained its US designations. 

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Above, an "RAF" A-26 above the Tulsa plant in 1943

United Kingdom performed evaluation test of 2 aircraft only.

One of the very early Invaders (A-26B-15-DL 41-39158) that had been sent to Britain for service with the USAAF was tested by the Royal Air Force's Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down beginning in July of 1944. Following these tests, the Royal Air Force was allocated an initial batch of 140 A-26C-DTs. They were designated Invader I and were assigned RAF serials KL690/KL829. They were to go to the Mediterranean with 2 Group and would replace the Bostons of No 88 Squadron RAF as well as those of 342 Squadron of the Free French Air Force.

The RAF was anxious to try out the Invader as soon as possible, and two 8th Air Force A-26Cs were diverted to the RAF in December of 1944 for trials. The RAF serials TW222 and TW224 were allocated to the aircraft, but these numbers were not taken up and the numbers KL690 and KL691 were used instead.

The RAF test pilots found the double-slot flaps and quick-release engine cowlings most admirable but, oddly, armament was only briefly checked out and one of the things they did not like was the periscopic system for the twin turrets. Also of note, the aircraft's center of gravity was calculated by the British pilots on the basis of an aircraft fitted with a nose carrying either one 37mm cannon and one 75mm cannon or with a nose equipped with two 37mm weapons and two .50-caliber Brownings. The Invader's capability of carrying a heavy nose armament of machine guns was apparently not a RAF requirement. 

In August, the aircraft was sent to 2 Group for evaluation with the A&AEE comment of "being required elsewhere urgently." At this time 2 Group was part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force and flew a large number of Bostons, Mitchells, and Mosquitos. Air Vice Marshal Basil Embry was interested in the Invader as a possible replacement for these types and he had posted the request for loan. 

However, on 4 September the Invader was totally destroyed in an unfortunate accident. One of the turret covers had come adrift and impacted the fin, causing a partial loss of rudder effectiveness. Attempting to land at Swanton Morley, pilot Wing Commander Mitchell completely lost control as the airspeed decayed. The Invader swung into Nissen huts and Squadron Leader Wilson was killed. Needless to say, this accident damped 2 Group's enthusiasm for the Invader.

Oddly, the same day saw the completion of a summary of Lend-Lease/Mutual Aid requirements for American aircraft to be acquired from January 1945 through June 1946. Released by the Air Ministry, the document stated that American aid through 1945 would be at only 75 percent of the level received during 1944, this was still a staggering 5196 aircraft for the RAF - and 480 of those airframes would be Invaders.

The Air Ministry went on to state that, "These aircraft (the Invaders) can only be used as tactical light bombers in lieu of Mosquito bombers. The Air Staff prefer the latter, but the requirements are expected to be much reduced from previous estimates, and we may have considerable surplus capacity for the fighter-- bomber version of the Mosquito. So far as can be seen at present, there is no need to press for any allocation of Invaders."

By late September, the requirements had once again changed and the Air Ministry decided to request enough Invaders to equip three Royal New Zealand Air Force and four Royal Australian Air Force squadrons during the first half of 1945. This requirement stated that the RAAF would need 240 A-26 and the RNZAF 180 during that period. Further, 120 Invaders would be required for each air force during the second half of 1945 and a similar number for the first half of 1946. Since none of this was transacted, the idea must have been dropped soon after the initial request.

Once again considering requirements, the Air Ministry decided to request 140 Invaders for use in the Mediterranean where they would either replace or reinforce Marauders, Bostons, and Baltimore. General Henry "Hap" Arnold agreed, on 10 November 1944, to release 140 A-26Cs to Britain during the first half of 1945. Accordingly, the Air Ministry designed the type Invader B.I and assigned serials KL690 through KL829.

In another complete change, it was decided to supply the aircraft to 2 Group which would then supply the aircraft to No. 88 Squadron RAF and No. 342 Squadron Free French as replacements for their Bostons. Since it now appeared that the Invader was in their future, the RAF requested further examples for accelerated testing. As can be seen in the sidebar, the two aircraft were accordingly transferred to Boscombe Down and bomb testing soon took place even though the RAF found that the circuit wiring for the under wing bomb pylons had not been installed! Various level flight and dive bombing configurations were tried and it was found that type was acceptable for the mission even though the bomb bay could only hold six 500-lb bombs and the RAF requested that their aircraft be outfitted to handle two more. They also requested other minor changes like flame dampening equipment and repositioning of the bomb switch panel.

Back in the United States, Invader production for the RAF was stating up and the first example was completed at the Tulsa plant on 19 February 1945. It immediately went into storage at Tulsa, as did some of the others following it down the production line. 

Another change took place during April when the Air Ministry reported, "I suggest that in view of the changed war situation the air supremacy which we now enjoy, and the imminent collapse of Germany, there would be no objection to retaining the Mitchell and Boston in service until the end of the war if there are sufficient stocks available. I also suggest that it would be unwise to introduce a new type at this stage. I therefore recommend that if our stocks of Mitchells and Bostons are sufficient, we should seek release from our commitment to the Invader aircraft."

Just a few days later, the procurement of the Invader was cut to just a dozen examples that this was rapidly followed by a further cut to just two aircraft - the two already on hand at Boscombe Down! When news of the cancellation finally filtered down to Douglas, 33 Invader B.Is had been completed and were in storage pending the fitting of required RAF changes. The aircraft were withdrawn from storage and ferry pilots flew them to Sacramento, California, for further storage pending disposal.

The two RAF Invaders, KL690 and 691, were disassembled, crated and shipped back to the United States during February 1947 - thus ending the RAF's brief flirtation with the Invader.

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Guatemala

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The Central American nation of Guatemala had throughout most of the 19th century been ruled by a series of repressive dictatorships. In the 20th century, it has alternated between reform and reaction.

Entering a liberalization cycle, Guatemala had begun a series of major reforms in 1944. Under the presidency of Juan Jose Arevalo (1944-1951) and later Jacobo Arbenz Guzman (1951-1954), the government began to give more attention to the problems of middle- and lower-class Guatemalans, which had been largely neglected and even suppressed under previous administrations. A land reform process introduced in June of 1952 transferred large areas of unused agricultural land from large owners to landless peasants. However, this program had aroused the irritation of the United Fruit Company, which had owned huge banana plantations and which had powerful friends and allies in high places in the United States government. The Arbenz government began to be perceived by Washington as pro-Communist, and plans were set in motion against it.

In 1954, the government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was overthrown by a group of Guatemalan exiles armed and trained by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and led by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas. After the overthrow of Arbenz, Armas became president, and for the next 30 years thereafter military officers dominated Guatemala. Many of the reforms were reversed, much of the expropriated land was returned to the large property owners, labor groups, political parties, and rural organizations were banned or severely restricted. Marxist parties were outlawed altogether.

Because of the CIA-sponsored coup against Arbenz, there was a close relationship between the Guatemalan military and Washington. In March of 1958, the government of Guatemala requested B-26 Invaders to replace the fleet of aged Beech AT-11s serving with the Fuerza Aerea Guatemalteca (Guatemalan Air Force). Six B-26s were asked for in the initial request.

However, in February 1959 discussions with the US State Department over the B-26 order were suspended because of friction between Mexico and Guatemala over fishing rights, the US fearing that the sale of the planes to Guatemala might trigger an arms race in Central America.

That would ordinarily have been the end of the matter, but the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was at that time hatching a plan for a Cuban exile group to overthrow the new regime of Fidel Castro which had tilted sharply toward the Soviet Union. Since Guatemala was to play a key role in the invasion plan, all objections to the sale of B-26s to Guatemala were now suddenly brushed aside. In 1960, eight Invaders were withdrawn from storage, overhauled at Davis Monthan AFB and delivered to Guatemala.

Although the B-26s were marked in FAG insignia and were given FAG serials, at least six of these planes were actually sent to the remote airfield at Retalhuleu where they served as training aircraft for the Cuban exile elements of Brigada 2506, the CIA cover unit for the invasion and retaking of Cuba.

The Cubans trained on these aircraft until April of 1961, when the brigade's aircrews left for Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua to stage the attack. The B-26 aircraft at Retalhuleu remained behind and were then turned over to the FAG.

Like most long-serving B-26s, the FAG Invaders suffered from wing spar fatigue problems, and the surviving FAG aircraft went through the Project Wing Spar program in the Canal Zone in 1964-65. By December 1966 five were still operational. However, by December 1967, the FAG B-26s were only rarely being flown due to personnel problems and lack of funds. By September 1968, although still listed as being on strength, the FAG B-26s were actually completely inactive and had not been flown for a year and were more or less standing derelict. They had become redundant for all practical purposes by the end of 1968. They were finally replaced by Cessna T-37Cs. I don't know if any still survive today.

Used by the 4.Escuadrón de Ataque.

Serial c/no. Prev. Identity Delivered Fate/Notes
400 n/a n/a 7.1960 n/a
404 n/a n/a 7.1960 n/a
408 n/a n/a 7.1960 n/a
412 n/a n/a 7.1960 w/o 1963
416 18864 43-22717 7.1960 w/o 1964
420 27955 n/a 7.1960 n/a, B-26C
424 n/a n/a 7.1960 n/a
428 28585 n/a 7.1960 n/a
432 n/a n/a 7.1960 n/a
436 n/a n/a 7.1960 n/a
440 n/a n/a 7.1960 n/a

Honduras

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The last Latin American Invader to enter service, and the last to enter active service with any air force, FAH-510 had led a very nomadic existence prior to join FAH in 1969. Using the same deep blue paint for their Vought F4U Corsair fleet, the aircraft was initially adopted with this colouring overall, with a flerce shark's mouth added early in its service life. Later, the aircraft was camouflaged in Vietnam era MDAP colours.

The Bacardi bomber

THIS INVADER, THE LAST MILITARY EXAMPLE, LED A MOST INTERESTING LIFE

It was a warm and humid day out in the weeds at Toncontin Air Base, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. During December 1982, I had traveled south with a group of pilots to ferry out some former Honduran Air Force T-6s and a lone B-26. The Invader (A-2613 s/n 44-35918) looked just about like most of the others I had seen in Latin America - pushed out from the operational ramp and a bit dusty and faded. However, as we worked on the aircraft in preparation for its ferry flight north, I found this was an Invader with a most interesting history.

The failure of the Central Intelligence Agency, Brigada 2506, and the Ferza Aerea de Liberacion in the Bay of Pigs invasion had sparked a world of subterfuge and intrigue through Latin America and the southern portion of Florida to which many Cuban refugees had fled. In smoky bars and cafes, hundreds of plots were hatched on how to topple the hated Castro but few came to fruition.

However, one plot - and a strange one at that - did actually take on a form of substance and involved an Invader. The Bacardi rum empire had large holdings in Cuba which, of course, were confiscated by Castro. The family-held business had revenge on its mind and intended to inflict a lesson on Fidel that could also possibly topple the communist government.

In the United States, Beech Aircraft Corporation had just finished up testing a new aerial refueling rig with a leased Invader. Upon completion in April 1962, the Invader was returned to its original owner who, in the next month, was approached by a representative of an insurance company who was, in reality, acting on behalf of the Bacardi Corp. In Miami, two Cuban pilots who had flown Invaders in the Bay of Pigs fiasco were also approached and sounded out on their interest to fly a strike into Cuba.

The Invader, registered N7953C, was relatively stock and the bomb bay was mostly intact - a strong point for the prospective buyers. The aircraft was purchased by the Bennett & Bennett Insurance Co. for $14,000 and was flown to California. Obviously, with the political climate in southern Florida, the arrival of any Invader would immediately have made the authorities very suspicious.

In California, some surplus military equipment was installed in the Invader while most systems were quickly inspected and repaired where needed. After this work was done, the plane was flown to Texas. At this point, the registration had been altered to N79580 - a spurious number to apparently confuse American authorities. It must be remembered that, at this time, computer checking did not exist and numerous ex-military aircraft were smuggled out of the country in this manner. On 8 June, the aircraft was sold - probably just a paper transaction - to Panefom SA located in San Jose, Costa Rica. Pilots Gonzalo Herrera and Gustavo Ponzoa then flew the plane from Texas to El Coco Airport in San Jose.

In July 1962, the two pilots flew the Invader from El Coco to La Llorona and landed on a beach, which must have been quite interesting. The complex plan called for the arrival of a C-47 from Guatemala which would be carrying a half-dozen bombs. The bombs would be transferred into the bomb bay of the Invader and the aircraft would then takeoff to strike the Cuban oil refinery and then fly on to recover in Miami where facilities were set up for the pilots to hold a press conference, extolling their "freedom" raid against the communists.

The pilots sat by their Invader and waited for a promised crew of bomb loaders. They also waited for the C-47. Neither ever showed up. With tide rising, they decided to get airborne to save the airplane and flew back to El Coco. One can only imagine what the various parties had to say to each other once they were reunited.

Even though this attempt to bomb Cuba was almost farcical, the group pressed on with their plans and the Invader was flown to a sugar cane plantation near the border of Nicaragua but apparently suffered some minor damage on landing. By this time, an A-26 flying around Costa Rica started to draw attention and information was supplied to the US government. The two pilots were visited by representatives from the American government who informed them that the mission would not be allowed to proceed.

At this point, the Costa Ricans would not let the A-26 takeoff from the airport - citing a problem with the paperwork. The two pilots left the Invader and took an airline back to the United States. Reports indicate that the Invader was used on several clandestine smuggling flights while at El Coco but had received some further damage.

In 1963, the Costa Rican government put the airplane up for auction and it was purchased by Frank Marshall who applied the Costa Rican civil registration TI-1040L. From that point, little is known about the aircraft and its operations, if any, until it was sold to buyers in Honduras in 1970.

In 1969, Honduras and El Salvador had gone to war in an action that became known as the "Soccer War." Ostensibly, the conflict was set off by a contested soccer game between the two nations but, in reality, the war came about from years of tension between the two governments. It was the last battle of World War Two piston-engine fighters as Corsairs and Mustangs attempted to gain control of the airspace. Honduras did not have any bombers and, after the conflict concluded, there was an arms race between the countries to acquire new military equipment.

At this point, middlemen arrived on the scene and assured Honduran officials that the Invader was just the aircraft they needed. They stated it could easily be returned to full combat configuration while also failing to mention that it had received some damage during its anti-Fidel escapades. The plane had received Honduran civil registration of HR-276 but it is thought that this may have been fictitious.

Transferred to Toncontin Air Base, mechanics went to work on the Invader and attempted to get it into offensive condition. This involved a lot of work on the bomb bay plus an attempt to take rocket launchers from the Corsairs and mount them under the Invader's wings. Also, the Hondurans were very interested in restoring the nose guns to the A26 which would make the plane a very potent weapon in the eyes of the Salvadorians just across the border. This rearming was met with limited success and, at one time, black-painted broom sticks were mounted in the aircraft's nose!

Painted an overall dark blue, the Hondurans made it known in numerous public displays that the Invader could strike Salvador at night. The plane was also given full national markings and the military serial FAH 510. Problems plagued the aircraft and included an unsafe gear warning light which resulted in a landing at Toncontin in which the gear collapsed. The faithful FAH mechanics managed to rebuild the aircraft into flying shape and at this time a Vietnam War-style tactical camouflage was applied.

Soon after our arrival at Toncontin, Mike and Dick Wright (collectively known as the Wright brothers) were assigned to get the A-26 back into the air. FAH crewmen showed them various points on the aircraft and we were a bit surprised to see that the plane had flown just a bit over 70 hours in FAH service. It turned out that the aircraft was in fairly decent shape and a power cart was soon attached and the base reverberated with the sound of running P&W R-2800s.

After a day's work, the Wright brothers were taxiing past a row of FAH C-47s and heading for the active. After a thorough power run, they pointed the Invader down the runway and the bomber gracefully lifted into the air. FAH mechanics had painted out the national markings and removed the under wing gun pods prior to the flight. Mike and Dick set up a tight orbit of the airfield to test out the plane while I attempted an intercept in a Texan in order to get a few aerial photos. However, the A-26 rapidly started descending while Mike dumped the gear and flaps and headed for the runway. Once back on the ground, it was found that a major hydraulic leak had developed. The brothers and FAH mechanics went to work on the problem. The Invader attempted to fly a few more times that day, but some form of mechanical squawk stopped each flight.

Next morning, it was back to work at the field and the Invader eventually got airborne for an hour flight. Everything went well and it was decided to launch the four aircraft early next morning for the flight to America. Initially, a direct flight route had been planned that would have taken the four aging warriors over some hostile jungle but after FAB pilots showed us photos of jungle natives roasting some children from a contesting tribe over a large open fire, we decided to take the longer coastal route back home. According to the FAH pilots, the natives had a distinct taste for human flesh. The flight went well and the Texans went to a new owner in California. And what of the Invader? The A-26, which was the last Invader still in military service, had received the American civil registration N2871G and made it to Belize where the crew were guests of the small Royal Air Force Harrier unit then based in that country. It was then on to Kelly Air Force Base in Texas where the Invader was put on display in the field's air museum.

Serial c/no. Prev. Identity Delivered Fate/Notes
510 29197 44-35918, TI-1040P, HR-276, FAH276 1971 n/a
 

Indonesia

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The shark design carried by the Indonesian B-26s in the 1970s is certainly one of the most unusual decorations ever used on any Invaders in first-line service. When retired in December 1977, by which time an eight-gun nose had been fitted, M-265 was the last fully armed Invader in military service anywhere in the world.

During the Second World War, the former Dutch colony of the Netherlands East Indies was occupied by Japanese forces. Following the Japanese defeat, the Dutch attempeted to regain control of their former colony. However, after much fighting the independence of the East Indies was formally recognized on December 27, 1949, the country being renamed the Republic of the United States of Indonesia. The RUSI was made up of 16 entities: the Republic of Indonesia (Java and Sumatra) plus 15 states established by the Dutch. By May of 1950, all of the federal states had been absorbed into a single Republic of Indonesia, with Jakarta as the capital.

Achmad Sukarno (1901-1970) became the first president. He had been a leader of a radical nationalist movement founded in 1927 and had been jailed and exiled several times by the Dutch during the 1930s. During the war, Sukarno collaborated with the Japanese occupiers, while at the same time continuing to press for Indonesian independence.

Following Indonesian independence, the Military Aviation of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army (MK-KNIL) was disbanded and most of its installations and aircraft were handed over to the newly-formed Angkatan Udara Republik Indonesia (Air Force of the Republic of Indonesia, or AURI). The aircraft involved in the transfer included a batch of B-25C, D, and J Mitchells and F-51D and K Mustangs.

Relations between Indonesia and the United States were initially fairly good, and in 1951, the AURI expressed an interest in acquiring B-26 Invaders. This request was initially turned down since the Korean War was at that time in full swing and the USAF had no B-26s to spare. Nevertheless, some USAF instructors were allocated to help train AURI C-47 and B-25 crews.

Unfortunately, relations between the USA and Indonesian President Sukarno began to deteriorate soon thereafter, and most US Military Assistance and Advisory Groups had been expelled by 1954. By this time the surviving AURI Mitchells were suffering from corrosion and were often grounded for lack of spare parts.

Indonesia is an archipelago of many thousands of islands. There was little in the diverse cultures of Indonesia or their historical experience to prepare Indonesians for democracy, and the Dutch had done practically nothing to prepare the colony for self government. During the the Second World War, the Japanese occupation had imposed an authoritarian state, based on collectivist and ethnic nationalist ideas. Outside of a small number of urban areas, most people still lived in a cultural milieu that stressed status hierarchies, family connections, and obedience to authority. Powerful Islamic and leftist currents were also far from democratic. Conditions were exacerbated by economic disruption, the wartime and postwar devastation of vital industries, unabated population growth, and resultant food shortages. By the mid-1950s, the country's prospects for democratization were indeed grim.

Almost immediately after independence was established, the new government in Jakarta adopted a policy of putting the interests of Java ahead of those of other islands, and as a reaction various factions in some of the more remote areas began fighting against the central Indonesian government on Java. Another problem was within the Indonesian military itself. By 1952, Indonesia was in deep financial difficulty and had been forced to cut way back on armed forces spending. The lack of money often led to troops in the field being unpaid for long periods of time. In addition, many in the military felt that the central government was too soft on Communism and that it was not taking strong enough action against the rebel factions in remote areas.

Dissatisfaction within the ranks of the military reached a boiling point during the mid-1950s, and led to a series of coup attempts and revolts which rapidly spread out of control. In the eastern archipelago and Sumatra, military officers established their own satrapies, often reaping large profits from smuggling and other illegal operations. In an attempt to curtail these activities, Jakarta issued an order in 1955 transferring these officers out of their localities. The result was an attempted coup d'?at launched during October-November 1956. Although the coup failed, the instigators went underground, and military officers in some parts of Sumatra seized control of civilian governments in defiance of Jakarta. By 1956, the situation was so bad that some military commanders in some of the most remote areas on Sumatra and in the Celebes were completely free of central government control and had the status of virtual warlords.

On February 10, 1958, while Sukarno was out of the country on a tour of Asian nations, a group of Sumatran military officers, politicians, and others sent an ultimatum to Jakarta demanding Sukarno be downgraded to a figurehead role as president and the formation of an entirely new government. Five days later, the group proclaimed the Revolutionary Government of the Indonesian Republic (PRRI). On February 17, Permesta rebels in Sulawesi made common cause with them. At this time, some of the military rebels secretely contacted US officials with a request for assistance. By this time, the Sukarno regime was perceived by Washington as being essentially pro-Communist, and its overthrow was eagerly sought.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began a clandestine operation to aid the rebel forces, and a dozen or so B-26s were acquired for the effort. These aircraft were part of a batch of Invaders that had been struck off charge at Clark AFB in 1955 as being obsolete. Some of them had been returned by the French after they left Indochina. Air crews were recruited from the ranks of pilots who had formerly flown with the Civil Air Transport on Taiwan and from the ranks of Eastern European exiles. Training took place in secret at bases in the Philippines. The operation was supposedly given the code name Haik. Care was taken so that the fingerprints of the CIA would never be found on the operation.

The first three B-26s left Clark AB for Sulawesi on April 12, with several B-26s being held in reserve at Clark. Beginning in April of 1958, several attacks were carried out by rebel B-26s against government airfields and installations. None of these attacks were sufficiently effective to do any lasting damage to government forces, but they did help to raise rebel morale.

The operation's cover was blown on May 18, 1958, when Allen Pope, a CIA contractor, was shot down in his B-26 during an attack on shipping near Ambon in the southern Moluccas and captured by Indonesian forces. This caused considerable embarrassment to the US government, which had heretofore denied all involvement in the Indonesian military rebellion. Thus exposed, the Americans hurriedly dismantled the CIA operation and withdrew their personnel from Indonesia. The debacle prompted Sukarno to develop even closer relations with the Soviet Union and, especially, the People's Republic of China.

What exactly happened to the surviving Invaders is still uncertain even to this day. At least one of the Invaders was damaged on the ground and was left there to be captured by Indonesian ground forces. Some may have been returned to the Philippines, but others may have been destroyed on the ground by the CIA personnel before they evacuated.

By August of 1958, the United States had lifted the embargo on arms deliveries to the Indonesian government and resumed regular deliveries of weapons to the Indonesian government. The CIA's use of Invaders in the Indonesian uprisings had the somewhat unexpected side effect of inspiring the AURI to acquire some Invaders for itself, and by 1959 relations with Washington had improved to the extent that Indonesia was allowed to purchase six B-26s from USAF surplus stocks. These were refurbished by a civilian firm in the USA and were delivered to the AURI by mid-1960.

The AURI Invaders were all solid-nosed B-26Bs, and bore serial numbers M-262 and M264/268. They operated alongside the B-25Js already serving with No 1 Squadron. They were used for tactical air support, interdiction, and long-range reconnaissance. AURI B-26s were used operationally in the final stage of the war against the military rebels. By the autumn of 1961, most of the rebels had surrendered, but some fighting continued until 1964 in some areas. This marked an example of the use of B-26s by both sides in a conflict, although they were not used simultaneously.

In the meantime, Sukarno had dissolved the constituent assembly and had assumed full dictatorial powers in July of 1959. Once the rebellions on Sumatra had been suppressed, President Sukarno turned his attention to Netherlands New Guinea. Netherlands New Guinea (or Irian Jaya as the Indonesians called it) had remained a Dutch colony following Indonesian independence, but the Indonesians always claimed that it should have been turned over to them along with the rest of the Dutch East Indies. In 1960, Indonesia threatened military action to seize Netherlands New Guinea, which forced the Dutch to reinforce their forces in the area. Continued Dutch occupation of West New Guinea led to a break in diplomatic relations between Jakarta and The Hague in 1960. Undeterred, on January 15, 1962, Indonesian forces launched an amphibious landing and paratroop drop which were covered by B-25s and B-26s of Skadron 1 and the F-51s of Skadron 2. Negotiations were quickly entered into by the Dutch and it was agreed that West New Guinea would be first turned over to the UN and then be turned over to Indonesian administration. Dutch military units began evacuating in the autumn of 1962, and Indonesian authority was established in May of 1963.

That very same year, Sukarno proclaimed himself "president for life", and began to increase his ties with the People's Republic of China and began to admit increasing numbers of Communists and pro-Communists into his government. Relations with the USA steadily got worse and worse. In 1963, after shouting repeatedly "To hell with your aid" (1950-65 total: U.S. $1,000,000,000), Sukarno all but broke with the United States. President Lyndon Johnson took Sukarno at his word, and formally ended US aid in December of that year.

Having successfully swallowed up West Irian, President Sukarno then turned his attention to the proposed union of Malaya, Singapore, Brunei, and the British colonies of Sabah and Sarawak (the latter three all located on northern Borneo) that was to be known as the Federation of Malaysia. Indonesia opposed the creation of Malaysia, because it had ambitions of incorporating the same territories into an Indonesian-led federation. This led to a series of actions that came to be known as the Malaysian Confrontation.

In order to disrupt the proposed Malaysian union, in December of 1962, Indonesia began to provide covert aid and support to a liberation movement which attempted to overthrow the Sultanate of Brunei. This revolt was quickly quelled by British troops called in by the Sultan. Undeterred, Indonesia began to sponsor sporadic attacks against targets in Sarawak by Indonesian "volunteers" posing as homegrown rebel groups. Nevertheless, the formation of the Federation of Malaysia went forward and was formally proclaimed on September 16, 1963, Brunei having earlier withdrawn from the scheme.

Very rapidly, the Malaysian Confrontation involved Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the People's Republic of China. In desperation, Indonesia abandoned any pretext that local rebel units were responsible for the attacks in northern Borneo, and in early March of 1964, regular Indonesian forces entered the fighting. Although large military forces from both sides were committed to battle, most of the fighting was on a relatively small scale. Indonesian forces had little or no air support, and AURI B-25s and B-26s were generally restricted to attacking only isolated villages of relatively little military importance. None of the AURI bombers were intercepted by RAF jet fighters.

In December of 1964, Malaysia was formally admitted as a member of the Security Council of the UN in December 1964, forcing Sukarno to take Indonesia out of the UN.

All throughout this turbulent era, the Indonesian Communist party, known as the PKI, had been steadily growing in power as more and more of their members had been admitted to important government posts. The military was strongly split among factions supporting Sukarno and the PKI and those violently opposed. On September 30, 1965, a group of pro-Communist military officers attempted to seize power in Indonesia. Six top Army generals were murdered. General Mohamed Suharto was commander of the Jakarta garrison at the time, and he played a significant role in reversing the coup. Suharto was a veteran of the war for independence against the Dutch, and the next couple of years played out a contest for power between Suharto and Sukarno. A complex series of bloody battles began between pro- and anti-Communist elements. During the ensuing civil war, several hundred thousand people were killed. As a result of the war, the PKI was totally eliminated and the armed forces were completely purged of pro-Sukarno elements. Another effect of the bloody civil war was that Indonesia was forced to abandon its war against Malaysia, and on August 11, 1966, a peace treaty was signed, formally ending the Malaysian Confrontation. In September, Indonesia rejoined the United Nations.

On March 11, 1966, Sukarno was forced to delegate wide powers to Suharto. On March 12, 1967, Sukarno was stripped of all power and General Suharto was installed as acting president. He assumed key civilian cabinet offices in 1966, became acting president in 1967, and was elected president in 1968. Sukarno remained under house arrest until his death in 1970.

The Indonesian armed forces then turned to the suppression of the Communist rebels that had tried to overthrow the Sukarno government in 1965. AURI B-26s were active in the mopping up of pro-communist groups, first against guerrilla movements in western Borneo, and then again against insurgents in southern Blitar. The fighting continued until 1969 until the rebels were finally suppressed.

On October 5, 1971, the AURI was renamed Tentera Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Udara, or Indonesian National Armed Forces - Air Force. The last operational use of the Invader by the TNI-AU was in late 1975 and early 1976 during the Indonesian invasion of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. The B-26s were finally retired in 1977, and Skadron 1 was deactivated. One TNI-AU B-26 (serial number M-265) is now on display at the TNI-AU Museum at Yogyakarta.

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M-261 (former N3489G, not taken up, albeit seen in AURI markings in the USA)
- M-262 (cannibalized for spares and later scrapped)
- M-263 (not delivered; although one of AURI B-26Js was later marked as “M-263” for display purposes, the AURI never operated any Invader with this serial)
- M-264 (retired and scrapped in the 1970s)
- M-265 (preserved with the TNI-AU Museum, Yogyakarta)
- M-266 (lost in tropical strom over Buru Island, in August 1962; crew KIA)
- M-267 (retired and scrapped in 1977)
- M-268 (canniblized for parts and scrapped in 1974)

Laos

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"Laos is far from America, but the world is small . . .
the security of all Southeast Asia will be endangered
if Laos loses its neutral independence.
"
President John F. Kennedy
23 March 1961

Under the terms of the 1954 Geneva Accords, the Southeast Asian nation of Laos was supposed to remain neutral and all foreign forces were to leave the country. However, the country soon fell into chaos, with the Communist Pathet Lao, the Royalist forces of General Phoumi Nosavan, the neutralists under Prince Souvanna Phouma, and the Meo guerillas under Lieutenant Colonel Vang Pao all vying for control. The various factions soon became pawns of the Cold War superpowers--the Soviet Union providing aid to the Pathet Lao forces, and the United States supporting the Royalist and Meo forces. Large numbers of North Vietnamese troops had entered the country and were fighting on the Plain of Jars.

The United States government decided that there was a need to provide some sort of Laotian force to counter the Communists that did not have an obvious US connection, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was given the task of setting up an air unit that would carry out covert operations in Southeast Asia. This came to be known as Project Mill Pond. In late 1960 and early 1961, a batch of B-26s were acquired from the pool of ex-USAF aircraft that had been held in storage at Davis Monthan AFB. The aircraft were "sanitized" so that their identity could not easily be traced, and they carried neither national markings nor serial numbers. Their pilots were recruited primarily from the USAF, but some Air America pilots (a CIA front organization) were used as well. The crews and planes were stationed at Takhli airbase in Thailand, and the crews were given commissions in the Royal Thai Air Force as cover.

The first strike had been scheduled for mid-April, but was called off at the last minute on orders from Washington, probably because of the Bay of Pigs disaster which had given covert operations like this one a bad name. The first actual flights did not take place until early May, most of the missions being armed reconnaissance. Only a few Mill Pond missions had been flown by the time that President Kennedy and Premier Khruschev had reached an understanding that ended (at least for the moment) the crisis in Laos. A cease-fire was announced and an international conference was convened in Geneva, which eventually reaffirmed the independence of Laos and once again called for the removal of all foreign forces from Laos. A new coalition government headed by Souvanna Phouma took office in June of 1962.

The Mill Pond missions were discontinued, but the planes and crews remained on standby at Takhli, not leaving until the end of August.

In October, with the Geneva negotiations still going on but with the US government suspecting that the North Vietnamese were continuing to reinforce their positions in Laos, a couple of RB-26Cs returned to Takhli. This time, the Invaders were flown by Air America crews under a project known as Black Watch. They flew a few reconnaissance missions over suspected North Vietnamese concentrations in Laos, with one of the planes being damaged by flak on November 2. The reconnaissance mission over Laos was taken over by a group of USAF RF-101 Voodoos deployed to Don Muang airport in Thailand, but the RB-26s remained at Takhli until the spring of 1962, when they were redeployed to South Vietnam.

Mexico

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Fuerza Aerea Mexicana used 4 examples of A-26B Invader aircraft from 1949 until 1975

Mexico has the curious tradition of using civilian-owned aircraft to haul military and government officials, thus giving the aircraft a quasi-military identity. Knowing that B-26s were modified into fast executive aircraft which carried a certain prestige, officials felt that such a machine would enhance their importance. Accordingly, B-26B N65121 was purchased in Los Angeles and became XB-PEK with some form of passenger interior, although it is not known if this was done in the US or Mexico. Assigned to haul the president of Mexico, the plane also wore the Fuerza Aerea Mexicana serial 1300 but was never completely the property of the FAM. In the early 1950s, a wealthy businessman obtained another three Invaders and put them at the disposal of military and government officials - almost appearing to be some form of bribe. These three aircraft were El Fantasma Z001, El Indio Z002, and Jarocho Z003. By 1953, Z001 and Z002 had been sold in France. Oddly, it appears that the French utilized these non-standard serials and then added a few more in that sequence with other Invader purchases.

Serial #:  

Construction #:
Civil Registration:
N65121 /
XB-PEK
Model(s):
  A-26B
  B-26B
Name: None
Status:
Last info:

 

History: FAM 1300 was the only B-26 Actually owned by the Mexican Government and was last seen flying from Mexico City in 1971.

Last seen in a derelict condition at Mexico City circa 75 and assumed to be in open storage for display at Museo de Talleres de la Fuerza Aerea Mixicana

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Serial #: 44-34763
Construction #: 28042

Civil Registration:

Z001

N(L)65779
Model(s):
  A-26B,
B-26B 
Name: None
Status:
Last info: 2010

 

History: Sold on civilian market as N65779

To CEV in France in 1951 as Z001 from Mexican A.F. then 779.
Renumbered with USAF serial Mar 1959.  SOC c1968
 

Nicaragua

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The United States has an unhappy history of involvement in Nicaraguan internal affairs. In 1909, US Marines landed in Nicaragua to restore order after two American mercenaries had been killed by government forces, and the troops remained there more or less continuously until 1933, suppressing insurrections, training local military and National Guard forces, and propping up a succession of repressive regimes.

One of the people who became close to the American invervention forces was Anastasio Somosa Garcia. He had attended school in Philadelphia and been trained by United States marines. Somoza Garc?, who was fluent in English, had cultivated friends with military, economic, and political influence in the United States. Following the departure of the Marines in 1933, Somosa rapidly gained political influence, and he was elected president in 1936. He and his family ruled the country with an iron hand for the next 40 years. Members of the Somoza family either held the presidency directly, or ruled indirectly by having puppet presidents who could be trusted to do as they were told.

The Somoza regime derived its power from ownership and control of large parts of the Nicaraguan economy, from the military support of the National Guard, and from politcal and military support from the United States. Unfortunately, the Somoza regime was generally corrupt, incompetent, and abusive of the human rights of the Nicaraguan people. The Somoza family enriched themselves via large investments in land, agricultural exports, manufacturing, transport, and real estate. However, the regime was staunchly pro-US in its public stances and had allowed the CIA free rein to run its covert operations out of Nicaraguan facilities, first in 1954 against the government of Guatemala and then again in the Bay of Pigs operation of 1961. This cooperative attitude on the part of the Nicaraguan government often led the US government to look the other way whenever the excesses and brutalities of the Somoza regime became apparent.

The Nicaraguan air force, the Fuerza Aerea de Nicaragua, was originally formed as an arm of the Guardia Nacional and did not gain official permanent status until 1938. Throughout the late 1940s and 1950s, the FAN operated a collection of F-51D Mustangs, F-47N Thunderbolts, Douglas A-20 Havocs, P-38 Lightnings, and even a couple of B-24 Liberators. The FAN acquired its first Invaders in 1961 when it "inherited" four of the Bay of Pigs B-26Bs that were left behind in Nicaragua by the CIA after the Cuban invasion failed. They were incorporated into the FAN at Las Mercedes Airport at Managua. The planes were given the FAM serials of 400 through 403, but their original USAF serial numbers are unknown. In 1963, two more Invaders were purchased by Nicaragua from the MACO Corporation of Chicago. A third B-26 was delivered by MACO as a spare-parts source. It was upgraded to flying status after one of the Invaders crashed in March of 1967. During 1964-65, at least four of the Nicaraguan B-26s went through the Project Wing Spar upgrade program in Panama.

The Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN) was created in 1962 to oppose the Somoza dictatorship. The movement was named in honor of Augusto Cesar Sandino, who had led a guerilla band during the 1930s in a struggle against the Nicaraguan government and United States occupation forces. Due to the corruption and excesses of the Somoza regime, by the early 1970s the Sandinista movement had gained considerable popular support. The B-26s of the FAN flew numerous patrol missions and strikes against Sandinista targets, but these attacks were largely ineffective since the FAN found it extremely difficult to communicate with ground forces about exact target locations. By this time, the B-26s were beginning to show extensive signs of wear and tear and were becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate, and from 1974 onward most FAN combat missions were flown by T-28s, Cessna 337s, and T-33As.

By 1976, all the surviving FAN B-26s had been grounded. In 1977, the FAN decided to trade in its four B-26s for some Cessna 172 Skyhawks. This deal was brokered by David Tallichet of Kansas. However, one of the B-26s was found to be non-airworthy and was left behind in Managua.

On July 17, 1979, with fighting taking place in the streets of Managua itself, President Anastasio Somoza Debayle (son of Somoza Garcia) fled the country, and the Sandinista movement gained control of the nation. There is a report that at least one B-26 ended up in service with the Fuerza Aerea Sandinista. It was spotted in a junk heap at Managua in August of 1990.

Used by the Escuadrón de Combate. First serialled FAN400 to FAN422 and later reserialled FAN601 to FAN604.

Serial c/no. Prev. Identity Delivered Fate/Notes
400 n/a n/a 1958 n/a
401 n/a n/a 1962 n/a
402 n/a n/a 1962 n/a
403 n/a n/a 1962 n/a
404 n/a n/a 1962 n/a
420 27383 44-34104 1963 sold to N99429, later N99420
422 27485 44-34206 1964 crashed 3.1967
601 n/a n/a 1962 sold to N99425
602 18815 43-22668 1962 sold to N99422
603 n/a n/a 1962 n/a
604 27383 44-34104, FAN420 1963 sold to N99429, later N99420

 

Peru

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From 1930 to 1968, the South American nation of Peru was led by a series of military governments, closely allied with the oligarchy and vigorously opposed to any sort of reform. The latest military government was that of General Manuel A. Odria, which overthrew the liberal and reformist government of Jose Luis Bustamante y Rivero in 1948. Odira imposed a personal dictatorship on Peru and re-imposed free-market orthodoxy and vigorously suppressed any left-leaning movements. Nevertheless, greater political stability brough more investment and a period of strong growth set in.

However, Peruvians living between the Sierra and the coast did not benefit very much by this growth, and living standards stagnated and actually fell during this period. With economic disparity between the rich and the poor steadily increasing, the Sierra experienced a period of intense social mobilization during this period. A wave of strikes and land seizures swept over the Sierra during this period.

Peru was the first Latin American nation to receive a substantial number of Invaders, acquiring eight examples for the Fuerza Aerea de Peru in 1954-55. They were all transparent-nosed B-26Cs, and were initially assigned to the 21o Escuadron de Bombardero Ligero at Chiclayo, supplementing the unit's B-25Js and PV-2 Harpoons. The B-26Cs that were provided were equipped with fully-armed and functional dorsal and ventral turrets, but their guns were later taken out since there were no trained crews to man or maintain them. One of the Invaders was converted into a two-seat trainer, and had both of its turrets removed and the glass nose was replaced by a B-26B-style solid nose. Two more B-26Cs arrived in December 1956, four more in December 1957, and still four more in March of 1958. Two attrition replacements came in June 1960, for a total of 20 B-26s delivered to the FAP.

The Peruvian B-26s were initially serialed in the range FAP 570 to 587. In early 1960, all surviving B-26s, were re-serialed in the range FAP 214-230.

Wing spar cracking problems began to appear in February of 1961, with the crash of a B-26 at Quebrada de Tarnbillos. This accident resulted in severe flight limitations being placed on the FAP B-26 fleet. Fourteen FAP B-26s went through the wing re-sparring program at Albrook AFB in the Canal Zone between 1962 and 1965. Unfortunately, two more FAP B-26s were lost in accidents during this time. Because of the re-sparring program, the availability of the B-26s was at a very low level all throughout this period, and the FAP B-26s missed out on the fighting against the Frente de Izquierda Revolucionara (FIR) insurgent movement which broke out in the early 1960s.

The FAP realigned its operational structure during the early 1970s, and the operating squadron was renamed the 721o Escuadron de Bombardero Ligero. It was stationed at Piura, near the border with Ecuador.

There had been friction between Peru and Ecuador ever since 1941, and occasional clashes had taken place between the armed forces of the two countries. However, no overt incidents involving FAP B-26s and Ecuador ever took place, although frequent armed reconnaissance missions involving B-26s took place near the border. This tension between Peru and Ecuador continues in the present day.

Beginning in 1973, the FAP B-26s were withdrawn from service at Piura and replaced by Cessna A-37Bs. The last FAP B-26s had stood down by late 1974 or early 1975. Seven were still seen sitting derelict at Piura at the end of 1975.

Portugal

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During the latter part of the 19th century, the major powers of Europe went on a binge of colonialist expansion, and large regions of Africa and Asia were carved up into colonies, concessions, and zones of influence by England, Germany, France, Belgium, and Portugal. The colonization competition became so fierce that it became necessary to hold a conference in the 1880s in Berlin to partition Africa among the European powers. In the Berlin conference, Portugal was awarded Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea.

Armed resistance to the Portuguese colonial administration broke out in Angola in 1961 and had spread by 1964 to Mozambique and Guinea. By 1974 Portugal had committed approximately 140,000 troops, or 80 percent of its available military forces, to Africa.

At the time, Portugal was under the control of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, who had come to power as Prime Minister in 1932 and who had an authoritarian, antiliberal, anticommunist view of the world. He personally exercised both executive and legislative functions, controlled local administration, police, and patronage, and was leader of the National Union (Uni? Nacional--UN), an umbrella group for supporters of the regime and the only legal political organization. The new constitution of 1933 embodied the corporatist theory fashionable at the time in Fascist Italy, under which government was to be formed of economic entities organized according to their function, rather than by individual representation. In reality, however, Salazar headed an autocratic dictatorship with the help of an efficient secret police. Strict censorship was introduced, the politically suspect were monitored, and the regime's opponents were jailed, sent into exile, and occasionally killed. For nearly forty years, Salazar completely dominated Portuguese government and politics. He suffered an incapacitating stroke in June 1968 after a freak accident and died, still in a coma, more than a year later.

In 1964, the Portuguese government attempted to purchase 29 surplus B-26 Invaders from the civilian market in the United States for use by the Forca Aerea Portuguesa (FAP) in fighting Portugual's African wars. However, by this time a storm of international protests had been raised against the Portuguese military campaigns in Africa, which had resulted in a United Nations embargo against arms deliveries to Portuguese colonies. Consequently, the US State Department refused to approve an export license for the planes.

Undeterred, Portugal was able to acquire seven Invaders in 1965 by a complicated series of subterfuges before US Customs got suspicious and shut off any further deliveries. FAP serials were 7101 to 7107. Following delivery, there was some nose-swapping, resulting in a final mix of six B-26Bs and one B-26C. These aircraft were not initially used in combat and were based at BA 3 Tancos in Portugal, where they were used in weapons trials.

In 1971, six of the FAP Invaders were deployed to Angola for use in the civil war in that colony. Most of the missions flown by the FAP B-26s in Angola were armed reconnaissance flights, with only a few close support and general interdiction missions being carried out. Only once was an Invader actually hit by ground fire, and this did not damage any vital parts of the aircraft and the plane landed safely.

The Angolan civil war dragged on until January of 1975, when Portugal finally threw in the towel and agreed to Angolan independence. By that time, the Portuguese had lost over 11,000 soldiers in Africa. However, the three liberation movements (FNLA, UNITA, and MPLA) that were fighting against the Portuguese colonial forces were not able to agree on the formation of a new government, and within only a few months after the granting of Angolan independence general civil war was raging throughout the country. The Portuguese soon realized the futility of the situation and in November quickly withdrew all their forces from the country, abandoning their B-26s. The planes seem not to have been flown very much by the new government that took over in Angola and remained derelict at Luanda for many years. Some of them may still be there.

All throughout the Angolan war, FAP serial number 7104 had stayed behind in Portugal. It had been struck off charge there due to corrosion. 7104 was transferred in pieces to the Museu do Air in 1976 and is still in storage there.

A B-26B on display in Cuba is probably a former FAP machine, acquired by Cuban air force personnel while whey were based in Angola during the 1980s, fighting in the series of Angolan civil wars.

 
 
The way it entered the FAP inventory was to say the least, unorthodox, and its service was not only short but full of difficulties and incidents.
When in the mid-sixties the FAP realized the need to replace the bomber fleet being used in Africa, represented by the faithful but tired PV-2 and in some way by the F-84G Thunderjet, immediately arrived to the conclusion that the task would not be easy, mainly due to the United Nations arms embargo then in force against Portugal.

So it soon became apparent that  "special ways" would have to be used to obtain the necessary aircraft. As the choice fell on the B-26 Invader, contact was established in late 1964 or early 65 with an arms broker in order to try to obtain 20 B-26. The succession of events that finally led to the arrival in Portugal of 7 B-26 is well told in the books "The War Business" and "Foreign Invaders", (see Bibliography below), so we will only resume the story here.

Incidentally, it is a rather amusing fact that the writer (L.Tavares), although more or less aware of what was happening to the FAP in the sixties, only knew of the deal after reading (in the American Library in Lisbon), the report published in "The Saturday Evening Post" in the sixties

Reverting to the facts, the search for aircraft started by Luber SA in Geneva (the arms dealer) ended with an agreement with Aero Associates of Arizona to supply 20 aircraft that would be refurbished by Hamilton Aircraft. The first aircraft should be delivered by April 30, 1965 and the last one by January 1966. A lot of spare parts and accessories would also be included.

Until today is not very well known the way that was used to obtain export licenses but in May 1965 the first aircraft piloted by John Hawke ( who received 3,000 USD for each flight), was ferried from Tucson to Tancos in Portugal through Rochester, Torbay (Canada), and Santa Maria (Açores). As soon as he arrived in Tancos, the pilot was immediately transported to Lisbon Airport to take the first plane back to the USA.

John Hawke was a colorful type as he already had in his logbook of RAF pilot, a chase of an U-2 that had over flown Cyprus when he was based there... In 1968 he participated in the filming of the movie "The Battle of Britain" piloting the B-25 used as the camera ship, and finally some years later disappeared without trace when flying over the Mediterranean.

Some sources say that when he was delivering the second aircraft was forced to land in Washington, and almost arrested, but when mentioning the code name "Sparrow" was immediately released. By August 1965, When the seventh aircraft had already been delivered, the US Customs finally went into action and in September Hawke and other people involved were arrested in Florida.

At the same time  a C-46 loaded with spares to be flown to Portugal was also prevented to leave the USA.
So, in September 1965 the FAP was the proud owner of 7 complete B-26 with provisions for armament (at least the bombing and gun electrical circuits) but with few spares and without armament.

The serials 7101 to 7107 were issued to the B-26, repeating at least in part the serials attributed in 1952 to the SA-16 Albatross.

Due to the lack of spares, until 1970 was very difficult to put in service  all the seven , but at least it was possible to begin the operational testing with three aircraft : 7104 (with dual controls) was first flown after revision in September 26, 1967, 7106 in July 28, 1969 and 7107 in September 9, 1970. The spacing of the dates show very well the difficulties experienced in preparing the aircraft.

Anyway, in 1970 these first aircraft were sent to Guinea-Bissau as a detachment to be tested in a tropical climate (date from this testing the badge "O Diabos" shown in some aircraft).  On April 30 1971, aircraft 7107 had a small accident when landing at Sal Island in Cape Vert, fracturing the nose wheel leg and damaging the propellers.

Meanwhile the Air Force was always trying by all means available, to get   spare parts and armament. Many contacts and visits (including at least one to Brazil that was also operating B-26 by that time) were made. One of the first contacts for this effect had taken place in 1967, which resulted in a visit  to Chateaudun depot in France in September 1967 during which 13 ex- Armée de l'Air Invaders were offered for sale, including some interesting examples like Z-007, and 7 aircraft radar equipped. All had between 3000 and 8000 total hours. The offer was rejected probably due to the state of the aircraft.

Some expontaneous offers were also received,  one of the most interesting being  the one that proposed in January 1971, to sell to FAP 6 ex Guatemalan Air Force B-26 (listed below) by 950,000 USD  each FOB Miami !!

Serial F.A.Guatemala
Ex - USAF
Total time (hours) in January 1971
400
44-35931
5431:35
408
44-34676
4188:20
420
43-22707
3711:50
424
44-35306
2643:40
428
44-35602
3616:05

Accompanying the letter with the offer, were some photos in which were shown 420, 424 and 428 all painted gray and with 6 gun noses. Mention was also to the possibility of obtaining also ex- Nicaraguan B-26 and a photo showed 603 and 604 of
F.A.Nicaragua.

This offer was again not accepted, but finally a lot of spares was obtained from France which allowed the complete refurbishment of the aircraft that started in the beginning of 1971 at OGMA.
The aircraft were completely stripped down, the wing-spars reinforced (like the USAF had done some years earlier) and armament installed. Also during this work the rear windows were covered.

By November  1971 the aircraft had all been refurbished except 7104 that was scrapped due to heavy corrosion found when the stripping started, and 7102 that was due to be completed in January 1972. All had solid noses except 7102. The table below shows the first flight date in Portugal since delivery from USA, and total time since delivery:

Serial FAP Total time (hours) Ready / first flight Remarks
7104 205:17 26/9/67 Scrapped in 1971
7106 143:44 28/7/69
7107 95:34 9/9/70
7101 12:25 26/4/71
7105 -- September 1971 Not flown yet
7103 -- November 1971 Not flown yet
7102 -- To be finished in January 1972

After completion, many testing trips were made in 1972 to Açores, Madeira and Canarias. The author will never forget the sleek bird that he saw many times in 1971 departing for test flights, during his service as an young engineer at OGMA !

Finally in 1973 the remaining 6 aircraft were sent to Angola to replace the F-84G of Esquadra 93  (perhaps the first time propeller combat aircraft replaced jets  in an operational squadron)

They were used from until 1975, mainly for armed reconnaissance, and it seems that the pilots liked the aircraft with its long range and good performance. Perhaps the only odd detail was the way of entering  the aircraft : over the wing, entering in the cockpit from above, feet first.

All the six were left in Angola in 1975. The magazine FlyPast of July 1996 published a photo of one of them, seen together with other three 50 km to the south of Luanda. Our friend Leif Hellstrom (one of the authors of the book "Foreign Invaders"), lent to us some photos in which could be seen the remains of 7102, 7103, 7106 and 7105.

If one was taken to Cuba after 1975, as some sources say, could only have been 7101 or 7107.

List of aircraft received:

 

Type as built Serial FAP C/n S/n USAF D/d Retired Remarks
B-26B-60/61-DL 7101 27814 44-34535 5/1965 1975 Solid nose
B-26B-55/65-DL 7102 44-34328 1965 1975 Equipped with plexiglass nose
B-26C-40-DT 7103 44-35631 1965 1975 Solid nose
B-26B-66-DL 7104 44-34726A 1965 1973 Scrapped by decision of March 1973. Some parts preserved for Museu do Ar
B-26B-20-DT 7105 43-22427 1965 1975
B-26B-40-DL 7106 41-39517AF 1965 1975
B-26C-35-DT 7107 44-35363 1965 1975

 

For original article see http://www.oocities.org/tavaresl.geo

 

Saudi Arabia

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The government of Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, with a legitimacy based on a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law. The king is both head of state and head of government, and there is no written constitution or elected legislature. Royal family members head important ministries and agencies. Political parties, labor unions, and professional associations are banned

In the early 1930s, massive amounts of oil had been discovered in Saudi Arabia. British and United States companies competed for the rights to develop that oil. The firm, Standard Oil of California (Socal), won and struck small pockets of oil fairly quickly. By the end of the decade, Socal discovered enormous deposits that were close to the surface and thus inexpensive to extract Shortly after the end of the Second World War, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was beginning to obtain increased revenues from the expansion of its oil business and was well on its way to becoming the wealthy oil producer it is today.

By the early 1950s, Saudi Arabia was sufficiently wealthy that it began to think about building up the Al Quwwat Al Jawwiya Assa'Udiaya (Royal Saudi Air Force). The RSAF was established in 1950 during the reign of Abd al Aziz. Initially it had been under the control of the army, and was a fairly small unit made up of foreign (mainly British) advisers, plus a few Saudi pilots and maintenance personnel. This time, the Kingdom wanted to field an up-to-date air force staffed with indigenous personnel rather than by foreigners.

In 1953, Saudi Arabia requested 18 B-26s from the United States. However, the Korean War was still raging at that time, and the USAF had none to spare. When the Korean War ended, the USAF agreed to transfer some B-26Bs to the RSAF. A total of 9 were delivered, the RSAF receiving its first B-26B in February 1954, and the last being delivered in June of 1955.

The RSAF B-26Bs were based at Jeddah. They were assigned RSAF serials 301 through 309, which were not allocated in order of delivery. Unfortunately, the RSAF B-26Bs never became truly operational. The planes were not supported under MAP, and the RSAF initially had trouble in getting enough qualified pilots to operate their B-26Bs. Consequently, the RSAF B-26Bs ended up flying only very rarely if at all. In addition, the civilian contractors who did the maintenance at Jeddah were not well trained or equipped, and spare parts and general serviceability were severe problems from 1957 onward. The RSAF B-26Bs were effectively grounded after that time.

Shortly thereafter, Saudi Arabia acquired jet aircraft, and a new treaty was signed, greatly expanding the US Military Training Mission in Saudi Arabia. Since the B-26Bs were not MAP supported, they rapidly fell into disuse and ended up more-or-less derelict at Jeddah. Although some attempts were made to sell them to overseas buyers, no customers were ever found. One Invader, 43-22679, ended up as a gate guardian at the King Faisal Air Academy near Riyadh. The others were presumably scrapped.

South Vietnam

Under the Geneva Accord of 1954, Vietnam had been temporarily divided into northern and southern parts, pending the results of elections which were to be held in 1956 to reunify the country. The victorious Viet Minh controlled the north, whereas President No Dinh Diem controlled the south.

Unfortunately, the Vietnamese elections were never held, and a train of events was initiated which ultimately led to the American involvement in Southeast Asia.

The Diem regime in the South became increasingly dictatorial, corrupt, and inept, and a series of revolts against it broke out. Initially, these were strictly indigenous actions, with very little support from the North. Many of the rebels weren't even Communists, but were instead members of the Hoa Hao and Cao Dai religious sects. However, there were elements of the southern Communist-oriented Viet Minh who had stayed in the south after the Geneva accords and who had joined the rebellion. In May of 1959, the government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) decided to provide assistance, training, and troops to the growing rebellion in the South. In late 1960, the National Liberation Front was created, and its military arm became known as the Viet Cong. The term Viet Cong was supposedly an abbreviation of Viet Nam Cong San or Vietnamese Communists, a derogatory term used by No Dinh Diem for the groups of Communist Viet Minh rebels that had stayed in the South after the Geneva accords and which had been causing trouble for the government

By the time that President John F. Kennedy entered office in 1961, the Diem regime was in deep trouble. At that time, the only American presence in the country was a small Military Assistance Advisory Group which provided training and assistance to the South Vietnamese military. In the spring of 1961, anxious to prevent yet another nation in Southeast Asia from coming under Communist control, President Kennedy ordered that more US military advisors be sent to provide additional assistance and support to the regime in South Vietnam.

At that time, the South Vietnamese Air Force was equipped with Grumman F8F Bearcats that had been inherited from the French, plus some AD Skyraiders and T-28 Trojans provided by the US. The US government decided to provide some additional strike aircraft to South Vietnam, and 27 B-26 Invaders were taken out of storage at Davis Monthan AFB and reconditioned at Hill AFB. The 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron was to accompany the B-26s to South Vietnam to help train local crews.

The crews of the 4400th began deploying to Vietnam in early November of 1961, even before the B-26s were ready for delivery. The deployment was given the code name of Project Farm Gate. Their aircraft were initially four SC-47s and eight T-28s. In order to conceal the American involvement in the effort, the aircraft were painted in Vietnamese national insignia. Officially, the initial mission of the Farm Gate detachment was to provide training for the VNAF, and whether or not the US crews were to participate in actual combat was left ambiguous. In reality, it was expected from the start that American crews would be flying most of the actual combat missions, with Vietnamese often riding along.

The first Farm Gate combat action began with a few T-28 missions flown in support of VNAF Skyraider strikes, plus a few SC-47 and T-28 reconnaissance missions flown to monitor the junk traffic along the Vietnamese coast. The B-26s did not arrive until a few weeks later, the first examples being former Mill Pond aircraft that had been withdrawn from Laos. The B-26s were listed as "RB-26s" in official press releases, implying that they were reconnaissance aircraft and not true military aircraft the introduction into Vietnam of whch would be in violation of the Geneva Accords.

During the first quarter of 1962, the number of combat missions steadily increased. Most of the missions involved air strikes against Viet Cong positions throughout South Vietnam. In April of 1962, the 4400th CCTS was renamed the 1st Air Commando Group. By this time, there had been a number of press reports that US pilots were flying combat missions in Vietnam. The official cover story was that these missions were strictly training missions, with joint US/Vietnamese crews aboard the aircraft. In fact, very little training was actually carried out, and to satisfy the demand for a joint US/Vietnamese crew, a member of the VNAF would often ride along on missions in the jump seat behind the pilots.

Four more B-26s arrived in the summer of 1962, and ten more B-26s arrived in early 1963. Unlike the earlier B-26s (which had all come from other classified projects), these new ones had been through a complete IRAN at Hill AFB. Two of them were RB-26Ls which were equipped with nighttime reconnaissance capability. By April of 1963, Farm Gate strength stood at 12 B-26Bs and 13 T-28Bs. Four more B-26s were received in mid-1963. These were survivors of the abortive 1958 CIA operation in Indonesia.

By February of 1963, it was well known to almost everyone that Farm Gate was a purely American operation, and the classified nature of the program was officially dropped in the spring. On July 8 the unit was reformed as the 1st Air Commando Squadron (Composite) of the 34th Tactical Group. The national insignia were repainted to resemble official USAF markings, and perations continued as before.

By the end of 1963, the heavy underwing loads used by Farm Gate B-26s had imposed high forces on the wings, and the aircraft were beginning to show signs of fatigue. After a B-26 had lost a wing during a mission on August 16, 1963, strict limitations had to be imposed on the maneuvers allowed during combat missions. When a second B-26 was lost statesite while pulling out of a strafing run during a firepower demonstration at Eglin AFB in February of 1964, it was concluded that the B-26 was too old for any more active duty, and the decision was made to withdraw the B-26 from combat altogether. From that day on, the Farm Gate B-26s were effectively grounded.

The Farm Gate B-26s were flown to Clark Field in the Philippines in April of 1964. Most of them were scrapped there in late 1964 or early 1965, but four were to later to become involved in the Congo operation.

The last B-26Bs in USAF squadron hands had been flying with the 605th Air Commando Squadron at Howard AFB in the Canal Zone. They were retired to Davis Monthan AFB on October 12, 1964, ending the front-line service of the B-26B/C with the USAF. All Invaders serving with the USAF after that date were converted B-26Ks.

Turkey

Invaders designed and produced by the US firm Douglas Aircraft Co. made its first flight on July 10,1942. In order not to get confused with the B-26 Marauders they were designated as A-26 Invaders until the retirement of the former which were then named as B-26. They were designed as light bombers, ground attack aircraft and tankers and they are the only bombers which served in three wars (WWII, the Korean and the Vietnam Wars).

The start of the Cold War after the WWII and the Soviets demand of Kars-Ardahan and the control over the straits pushed Turkey towards the US and TuAF demanded B-26 bombers among other planes from the States. The US did not refuse Turkeys demand and supplied a total of 45 B-26s in three parties. The first party composed of 12 planes arrived on March 16, 1948 under General G. Palmers command and the second party of 15 planes came on March 26,1948. The remainder arrived within 1949. But after Turkeys joining NATO and the arrival of F-84Gs B-26s lost their importance and they were assigned mostly to target towing duties. They were finally dropped from active duty in 1958 eventhough they remained in service in the USAF until 1972.

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At the very beginning of the Cold War, the Soviet Union started putting pressure on Turkey for territorial concessions and for guaranteed control over the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles straits. In early 1947, Turkey turned towards the United States for help. At the same time, the civil war in Greece was of increasing concern to the US government, and on March 12, 1947, President Harry Truman proposed to the Congress that substantial military aid be given to both countries.

Among other aircraft, the Turk Hava Kuvvetleri (Turkish Air Forces) requested 30 A-26 Invaders from the United States. Half were to be A-26Bs, the other half A-26Cs. Deliveries took place in March of 1948. These planes were assigned the THK serials 7401 through 7430. A second batch of 15 Invaders were delivered to the THK during 1949. These were given the serials 7431 through 7445.

The B-26 (as the aircraft was now known) was never considered as being a first-line bomber with the THK, and it was never much more than just a complement to the Mosquitoes already in service with the THK. In 1952 (after Turkey had joined NATO), a British analysis concluded that the THK as it then existed was little more than a mediocre force equipped with obsolescent aircraft, one which would be quickly wiped out if a real conflict were to occur. It was proposed by NATO that a substantial modernization effort be carried out, and that the THK should convert over to jet-powered aircraft as soon as possible.

F-84G Thunderjets began to pour into Turkey beginning in March of 1952. The operational B-26 units were disbanded to make room for the jets, with the Invaders being transferred to training units and to other secondary roles such as target towing.

Attrition had taken its toll over the years, and at least 13 THK Invaders had been lost in accidents up to the end of 1952. From the summer of 1953 only 11-16 THK Invaders were active at any one time.

In 1957, all remaining B-26 aircraft were transferred to target towing duties, and by 1958 they were finally withdrawn from use. The last THK B-26 was struck off charge in August of 1958.

United States of America

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Operational units

Associated reading

 
 
 
 

 

Operational overview

 

World War II

 

Douglas A-26 B

The Douglas company began delivering the production model A-26B in August 1943. Invaders first saw action with the Fifth Air Force in the Southwest Pacific theater on 23 June 1944, when they bombed Japanese-held islands near Manokwari.

They began arriving in Europe in September 1944 for assignment to the Ninth Air Force, and entered combat two months later on 19 November.

Post War era

The USAF Strategic Air Command had the B-26 (RB-26) in service from 1949 through 1950. The US Navy also used a small number of these aircraft in their utility squadrons for target towing and general utility use. The Navy designation was JD-1 and JD-1D until 1962, when the JD-1 was redesignated UB-26J and the JD-1D was redesignated DB-26J.

Korean War

Invaders carried out the first USAF bombing mission of the Korean War on 29 June 1950 when they bombed an airfield outside of Pyongyang. Invaders were credited with the destruction of 38,500 vehicles, 406 locomotives, 3,700 railway trucks, and seven enemy aircraft on the ground. On 14 September 1951, Captain John S. Walmsley Jr attacked a supply train. When his guns jammed he illuminated the target with his searchlight to enable his wingmen to destroy the target. Walmsley was shot down and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Invaders carried out the last USAF bombing mission of the war 24 minutes before the cease fire was signed on 27 June 1953.

First Indochina War

In the 1950s, the French Airforce's Bombing Groups (Groupe de Bombardement) including GB 1/19 Gascogne and GB 1/25 Tunisia used USAF-lent B-26 during the First Indochina War.

Cat Bi (Haiphong) based Douglas B-26 Invaders operated over Dien Bien Phu in March and April 1954 during the siege of Dien Bien Phu. In this period a massive use of Philippines based USAF B-26s against the Viet Minh heavy artillery was planned by the U.S. and French Joint Chief of Staff as for Operation Vulture, but it was eventually cancelled by the respective governments.

The USAF in Southeast Asia

The first B-26s to arrive in Southeast Asia were deployed to Takhli RTAB, Thailand in December of 1960. These unmarked aircraft, operated under the auspices of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, were soon augmented by an additional 16 aircraft, 12 B-26Bs and Cs and four RB-26Cs under Operation Mill Pond. The mission of all of these aircraft was to assist the Royal Lao Government in fighting the Pathet Lao. The repercussions from the Bay of Pigs invasion meant that no combat missions are known to have been flown, though RB-26Cs operated over Laos until the end of 1961. The aircraft were subsequently operated in South Vietnam under Project Farm Gate. The only other deployment of B-26 aircraft to Laos prior to the introduction of the B-26K/A-26A, was the deployment of two RB-26C aircraft, specifically modified for night reconnaissance, deployed to Laos between May and July 1962 under Project Black Watch. These aircraft, initially drawn from Farm Gate stocks, were returned upon the end of these missions.

The aircraft from Laos participated in the early phase of the Vietnam War with the U.S. Air Force, but with Vietnamese markings as part of Project Farm Gate. Though Farm Gate operated B-26B, C, and actual RB-26C, many of these aircraft were in fact operated under the designation RB-26C, though they were used in a combat capacity. During 1963, two RB-26C were sent to Clark AB in the Philippines for modifications, though not with night systems as with those modified for Black Watch. The two aircraft returned from Black Watch to Farm gate were subsequently given the designation RB-26L to distinguish them from other modified RB-26C, and were assigned to Project Sweet Sue. Farm Gate's B-26s operated alongside the other primary strike aircraft of the time, the T-28 Trojan, before both aircraft types were replaced by the A-1 Skyraider.The B-26s were withdrawn from service in 1964 after two accidents related to wing spar fatigue.

In response to this, the On Mark Engineering Company of Van Nuys, California was selected by the Air Force to extensively upgrade the Invader for a counterinsurgency role. On Mark converted 40 Invaders to the new B-26K Counter Invader standard, which included upgraded engines, re-manufactured wings and wing tip fuel tanks for use by the 1st Air Commando Group. In May 1966, the B-26K was re-designated A-26A for political reasons and deployed in Thailand to help disrupt supplies moving along the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Two of these aircraft were further modified with a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR system) under project Lonesome Tiger, as a part of Operation Shed Light.

Bay of Pigs

Within only a few months after the success of the Castro-led revolution which overthrew the Batista government of Cuba in January of 1959, it became clear that his new regime was going to take on a definitely Communist flavor, with nationalization of private industries, one-party rule, suppression of dissent, and the export of leftist revolutions elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere all being promised. Not about to stand idly by and let a Communist regime take hold only 90 miles from American shores, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began a series of efforts to undermine the new Castro regime in Cuba.

By September of 1960, a decision was made in Washington by the Eisenhower administration to recruit a force of anti-Castro Cuban exiles and supply them with arms so that they could invade Cuba and overthrow the Castro regime before it could consolidate its power. A group of Cuban exiles plus some American "advisors" were assembled under CIA sponsorship at secret bases at Retalhuleu in Guatemala and at Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua. The governments of Guatemala and Nicaragua were more than willing to look the other way. Anxious that the upcoming invasion be perceived as an indigenous uprising of the Cuban people rather than as an American-sponsored attack, the CIA created a number of "front" organizations to disguise its role in the sponsorship of the affair--among these were Southern Air Transport, the Double-Check Corporation, Intermountain Aviation, and Zenith Technical Enterprises, Inc.

Since a number of the Cuban exile recruits already had some B-26 experience, the decision was made to acquire about twenty surplus B-26s out of USAF surplus stocks at Tucson, Arizona. These aircraft would be used to provide air support during the upcoming invasion. These Invaders were primarily solid-nosed B versions. These planes were "purchased" by the CIA front organization Intermountain Aviation and immediately sent to the launching sites in Guatemala and Nicaragua. Since Castro's air force was also equipped with Invaders, the exile Invaders were painted in FAR colors and were provided with fake FAR serial numbers in the hope that when the operation took place, it would be perceived as a strictly local uprising within Castro's own air force and not an American-led invasion. However, it seems that the CIA was unaware of the fact that most of Castro's Invaders were transparent-nosed B-26Cs rather than solid-nosed B-26Bs. At the same time, a group of B-26Bs had separately been provided to the air force of Guatemala, and these planes were used for training of the exile group.

The invasion began on the morning of April 15, with an attack by two exile B-26s on the Santiago de Cuba airfield. Other B-26s hit the Libertad airfield and the base at San Antonio de los Banos. One exile B-26 was shot down during the attack on Libertad, and two exile B-26s were damaged severely enough that they had to divert to emergency airfields at Key West, Florida and on Grand Cayman Island. As part of the deception campaign at the beginning of the attack, a Liberation Air Force B-26B painted as FAR serial number 933 and equipped with fake battle damage landed at Miami, claiming that it was a defecting Cuban aircraft which had strafed and bombed some of Castro's air force as it escaped.

Still other B-26s supported the Bay of Pigs invasion itself, which began on April 17. Unfortunately, there was no fighter cover provided during the invasion, and a group of FAR Sea Furies immediately attacked the landing fleet and sunk one of the ships. There was even a situation in which a FAR B-26 and an invasion B-26 briefly exchanged fire, marking one of the few occasions where Invaders actually fought against each other.

Actual invasion fleet B-26 losses were eight in all, one to AAA during the initial attack on Campo Columbia and the remainder destroyed by FAR fighters. Castro's force of T-33 jet trainers proved particularly effective during the fighting, shooting down no less than five of the attacking FAL B-26s. Two more were shot down by FAR Sea Furies. Deprived of air support that could have protected the attacking force from Castro's T-33s and Sea Furies, the invasion was quickly defeated and those troops unable to escape were forced to surrender. This was a humiliating defeat for the new Kennedy administration in Washington which had inherited the invasion plan from the previous administration but nevertheless had opted to go ahead with it.

After the failure of the Bay of Pigs operation and the withdrawal of the survivors, the remaining Liberation B-26s were left to languish at Puerto Cabezas. Many of these aircraft eventually joined the ranks of the Fuerza Aerea de Nicaragua, although some were apparently returned to Davis Monthan where they were put back into storage.

A single B-26B is on display in an open-air museum at Playa Giron to commemorate the Castro victory at the Bay of Pigs. It is pained as FAR serial number 933. However, this aircraft is probably a war prize returned to Cuba from Angola and painted to commemorate the events of 1961.

Africa in the 60's

CIA mercenary pilots that may have been the same Cuban exiles flew them against "Simba" rebels in the Congo Crisis who were supported by Cubans, the Communist Chinese and the Soviets.

The Portuguese Air Force acquired Invaders for use in Angola.

Biafra used two provisionally armed B-26s in combat during Nigerian Civil War in 1967, flown among others by Jan Zumbach.

(See Biafran Invaders In "features")

 

 

 
 
 
History and backgrounds written by Joe Baugher

A-26 Invader combat missions with the 9th AF began on 19 November 1944 and these aircraft dropped over 18,000 tons of bombs on European targets. A total of 1,355 A-26Bs were delivered, the last 535 having R-2800-79 engines boosted by water injection.
The A-26C, in service in January 1945, had a transparent nose, lead-ship navigational equipment and was often fitted with H2S panoramic radar. In 1948 the B-26 Marauder was retired from service and the Invaders were redesignated B-26. Over 450 were used in Korea, and in Vietnam these fine aircraft were one of the most favoured platforms for night attack on the Ho Chi MInh trail and in other interdiction areas.
Though top speed was depressed to about 350 mph, the A-26A (as the rebuilt B-26K was called) could carry up to 11,000 lb (4,990 kg) of armament, deliver it accurately and, with 2 hours over target, over a wide radius.
 
In 1976 eight air forces around the world still retained Invader squadrons, a fitting tribute to a truly remarkable aircraft.































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