Douglas A/B-26 Invader

The B-26 in Korea

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The A-26 was changed to the B-26 and was used in the Korean War with 60,096 sorties flown. There were 1,054 B-26s still available. Damage inflicted on the enemy was 38,500 vehicles, 3,700 railway cars, 406 train engines, and seven planes.

The outbreak of the Korean War caught the USAF by surprise, and in the middle of converted from piston engined aircraft to jets. As a result a number of Second World War era aircraft had to be rushed back into front line service, including the Douglas B-26 Invader (designated as the A-26 until 1947). 

At the start of the Korean War the American Far East Asian Air Force only had 26 B-26s, all based in Japan with the 3rd Bombardment Group of the Fifth Air Force. Their first involvement in the war came on 28 June, only three days after North Korea invaded the south, and was an attack on marshalling yards that had been captured in the invasion. On the following day they took part in the first attack north of the border, against the North Korean base at Pyong Yang.

By then end of 1950 the two squadrons of the 3rd Bombardment Group had been joined by four squadrons from the 452nd Bombardment Group, a reserve unit that had been activated in August. 1951 saw the arrival of the 67th (Tactical) Reconnaissance Group, and 1952 the 452nd became the 17th Bomb Group.

The B-26 was soon forced to operate as a night bomber, after the North Koreans and their Chinese allies began to move their supply convoys under cover of darkness. The B-26 was the only American aircraft suitable for this role – the radar equipped F-82 Twin Mustangs had been retained in Japan; the F-80s were too fast to effectively locate their targets at night and muzzle flash from the guns of the F-51 Mustang damaged their pilot's night vision.

For the first year of the war the B-26 groups were forced to operate from Japan, which greatly reduced the amount of time they could spend over their targets, but in the spring and summer of 1951 the 3rd BG moved to Kunsan and the 452nd BG to Pusan. Night attacks on convoys remained their main task throughout the war, and a number of different tactics had to be developed in an attempt to find their targets in the dark – some aircraft carried searchlights, others operated alongside C-47 'Firefly' flare dropping aircraft, and others operated in pairs as a 'hunter-killer' team – the first aircraft would find the target and fly overhead. When it had disappeared the truck driver would turn his lights back on, just in time for the second aircraft to appear and attack it. 


B-26 (Invader) Operations in Korea



I flew 50 combat missions in Korea with the 37th Bomb Squadron, 17th Bomb Wing (L/NI) as a Navigator-Bombardier in B-26 Aircraft from January 1953 through July 1953. I entered Korea as a 2Lt. and left as a 1 Lt. The intent here is to describe conditions and equipment as I knew them and to provide a brief summary of some pertinent air war facts.


There were generally three different configurations of aircraft: early, intermediate and late. The early aircraft were characterized by a "flattop" in which only the right half of the canopy hinged up from the front for entry into the cockpit. These were not used in combat in my period since escape under emergency conditions was difficult, if not impossible. The only flattop that I ever flew was in the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron at Langley AFB during training. The later or "clamshell" A/C had a left and right canopy which hinged at the bottom and opened from the center. A jettison mechanism was incorporated so that the shells could be jettisoned in an emergency.


  • Guns
    • B-26B Hardnose
      • 6 Staggered 50 Cals (early)
      • 8 inline (vertical)
    • B-26C - Glass nose
      • Two in the lower right side of the N/B compartment (rare in 37th) These guns were generally removed because firing them would sometimes cause the N/B enclosure to fracture
  • Wing
    • 8 in two gun packages - 1 or 2 packages per wing (hand charged)
    • 6 in 3 gun clusters in each wing (remote charged)
    • Rear
      • 2 guns per turret - 2 turrets, 1 upper/1 lower (some A/C had only an upper turret) 500 rounds per gun
    These A/C could be found in any configuration, i.e., a B-26B with either of the two hard noses and any combination of wing guns. The glass nosed, B-26C, may or may not have a lower turret and may or may not have the two guns in the bombardier's compartment. Early usage and evaluation of the A/B-26 by the 3rd Bomb Group during WWII in the Pacific Area resulted in the deletion of the ventral (lower) turret. During the Korean War, it was found that having a lower turret resulted in a change in CG and a smaller bomb load. Since removal and replacement of the ventral turret was a field operation, many of them were removed.

    Bomb Racks

    • 3 - each side internal
    • 4 - 2 per wing external
    • 2 - 1 per wing photoflash
    • All A/C were equipped with rocket launch stations but were not used during my tour
    Bomb Damage Assessment A/C were equipped with auto trigger K-14 camera. A photocell detected the illumination by the flare and automatically took a picture.

    B-26 Aircraft Characteristics

    • Davis Wing
    • 2 R-2800-71 engines (water injection disabled)
    • No heaters
    • No relief tubes -(at least not for the N/B)
    • Bomb bay & Landing light problems (Bomb bay light could not be turned off in flight. Landing light could not be retracted without illumination)
    • No deicing capability
    • SHORAN equipped A/C - no rear turrets, no entrance to Bomb Bay



Phase 1 - 27 June 1950

NK army invaded South Korea and overwhelmed SK troops. Pushed back to Pusan perimeter. USAF air power played a major part in stopping NK and holding Pusan Perimeter

USAF Strength

  • B-26s - 26 in 2 under strength Squadrons, the 8th and 13th, of the 3rd Bomb Group (mostly hardnose A/C)
  • B-29 - 22
  • F-80- 365 (short range, no rough air field capability, no bomb capability)
  • F-51 -Longer range, bomb capability, rough airfield capability

During this period, the NK air Force was destroyed and played no further part in War

Phase 2- 15 September 1950

  • Inchon Invasion
  • 452 BombWing activated(CA Reserve - 4 Sqdns of B-26)
    • 728
    • 729
    • 730
    • 731
    • First combat 10/27/50
    • (731 transferred to 3rd became 90th BS)
  • The UN Forces destroyed NK army and pushed to 38th parallel
  • McArthur pushed to Yalu.
  • ROK to Yalu, U. S Troops stood back so as not to constitute a threat to the Chinese

Phase 3- 27 Nov 1950 to Mid 1951

  • Chinese Communist Force intervention. Pushed UN forces below 38th parallel
  • Air Power destroyed supply lines and roads and inflicted heavy troop casualties on Chinese and NK forces
  • Lack of FLAK or air support caused ChiComs to lose offensive initiative
  • First MIGs appeared - B-29s attacked by MIGS
  • F-80 and F-84 proved to be no match for MIGs
  • Request by 5th AF for more B-26 Night Intruders

Phase 4 - June 1951 to Dec 1952

  • Call for peace established a static front - No major offensives
  • UN Forces force way to 38th parallel
  • Build up in Europe continued because it was feared that the USSR would start WWIII
  • Not enough to win-Enough not to lose was the philosophy that developed while the forces in Europe were built up T
  • Threat (implied) of atomic weapons if Chinese used A/C from Manchuria (upset other UN countries)
  • Peace talks continued at Panmunjon
  • Stalemated 1951- USAF losses to date 246 A/C (33 Bombers)
  • 452nd Bomb Wing moved to K-9 May 51 (deactivated May 52-converted to 17th bomb Wing)
  • 3rd Bomb Wing moved to to K-8 August 51
  • Chicoms build up an air force of 1050 A/C in China and Manchuria with 690 A/C in Manchuria
  • October 51 B-29s restricted to Night attack - due to vulnerability to MIGs
  • Chicoms resupply moved to night to avoid air attacks.
  • All B-26s assigned Night Intruder duty
  • As front stagnated FLAK build up so that targets were heavily defended
  • According to Intelligence Data there were 788 Heavies (85mm) 1672 Automatics
  • Due to increased FLAK F/B and B-26s losses increase dramatically
  • Due to lack of replacment A/C B-26's were restricted to no less than 3000 Ft except 37th Bm Sq (17th Wg) and 13th Bm Sq (3rd Bomb Wing)

Phase 5 (My era) Jan 1953 through July 1953

  • 5th AF called for more B-26s- to build B-26 wings to war strength (26 A/C per squadron)
  • USAF unable to supply required A/C. decision
    • 17th Bomb Wing - was assigned 16 A/C per squadron
    • 3rd Bomb Wing - 26 A/C per squadron
    • USAF sent a group of obsolete A/C to Korea including some Flattops.
      • Flattops were not usable in combat.
      • Very few A/C were SHORAN equipped.
      • These were the A/C that the European Groups did not want.



    • Weather unpredictable, but unusually bad.

      • Spring /summer 1953- heavy monsoon season.
      • Heavy clouds made night operations extremely difficult. Good GCA coverage allowed B-26s to operate in adverse weather conditions.
      • SHORAN had been improved and was used extensively to compensate for inability to fly visual missions


    • East Very mountainous
    • West Low-lying rice fields

    Tactical Situation

    • March
      • In March all B-26 SHORAN operations were shifted to the 17th Bomb Wing with the subsequent transfer of all SHORAN equipped 3rd Bomb Wing A/C to the 17th Bomb Wing. An intensive training program was established in the 17th Bomb Wing in preparation for an intensive SHORAN campaign against NK airfields and supply points. From this time on approximately 30% of all 17th Bomb Wing missions were SHORAN.
    • June/July
      • Chicoms re-supply for offensive (large supply dumps)
      • Airfield buildup (In preparation for moving A/C in just prior to cease fire)
      • Rebuild roads, RRs and transportation system
      • After Little Switch (the exchange of sick and wounded POWs), the Chicoms launched a series of offensives in June and July to establish commanding positions along the front line. Particularly heavy attacks were launched against the ROKs at the Iron Triangle (Pyonggang area).

    An armistice was negotiated andd became effective 27 July, 1953

    U.S. Air Force strength at close of hostilities (1953)

    • B-26 128A/C 85 sorties/night
    • F-84 218 A/C 1281 sorties/day
    • F-86 F/B 132 N/A
    • F-86 I 165 143 sorties/day
    • B-29 99 12-14 sorties/night
    • TOTAL 742

    Chicom Strength (Located in Manchuria)

    • Jet Fighters (probably MIG-15s) 950
    • Prop Fighters (probably YAK-9s) 160
    • Jet Light Bombers (IL-28s) ` 100
    • Prop bombers 65
    • Ground Attack (IL-2s) 115
    • Transports 90
    • TOTAL 1480