Douglas A/B-26 Invader

Korea 1951

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Korean War

The B-26 came on line during the summer of 1944 and performed well but in a somewhat limited capacity. Its complete baptism of fire was to come in Korea. It was there she solidified her place in aviation history and earned the lasting respect and admiration of all who knew her.

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.