Airborne Awesomosity, Military-Grade Awesome

Antiquity in the age of the atom – The A-26 Invader

Flip a COIN heads or tails about its mission

In a war with mach 2 bombers this was a leftover from another age

One of WWII’s great planes that would go on to see a long and varied career that would last thirty five years.

 

 

 

Photograph me like one of your French planes

One of the poster children of the end of WWII

 

The Douglas Company now has two entries in this series. They should earn a third as well shortly. They are the USAF equivalent of the Grumman Iron works.  The A-1 Skyraider didn’t quite make it into the second World War but had a long career with old technology. Where the Invader not only made it into the war but would also go on to serve through the hot parts of the Cold War. Which would earn it several redesignations.   It would be the A-26 then the B-26 and back to the A-26 at the end of its career.

Not only is this an aircraft with a great history. It’s powerplant is another one that manged to survive well past it’s expiration date. The Pratt & Whittney R-2800 Double Wasp would go on to power the C-82 Packet and two Martin airliners post war with the 202 and the 404.

 

Billy Idol named this one Monie long before knew it.

After WWII the Invaders would be brought back for Korea

 

The Invaders next stop was in Korea. Which saw only the bomber version of the Invader crews fly thirty five thousand sorties with the loss of eight six crew. As well as one of the crew earning a Medal of Honor. As anyone who follows aviation knows it is not easy for an airman to earn a Medal of Honor.  You have to be doing something selfless and not as part of the crew. Which is why the rest of the crew got Distinguished Flying Crosses. Below I will copy a description of his actions from Wikipedia.

On 14 September Walmsley’s aircraft, Skillful 13, launched from Kunsan alone on a mission to search for truck convoys in North Korea. The aircraft was crewed by Walmsley as well as bombardier/navigator Second Lieutenant William D. Mulkins, photomapper Captain Philip W. Browning, and air gunner Master Sergeant George Morar.[6] As the aircraft neared Yangdok, 100 miles (160 km) behind North Korean lines, it spotted an armed locomotive hauling supplies south in the middle of the night. Walmsley immediately had his crew attack the locomotive. They expended their complement of bombs in striking the locomotive, damaging it but not stopping it. Walmsley then called in another B-26 Invader from Kunsan, and upon its arrival volunteered to illuminate the locomotive with his aircraft’s arclight. Walmsley’s aircraft passed over the locomotive three times, illuminating it but, taking antiaircraft fire in the process from both the train itself and emplacements along the rail line, damaging the aircraft. Walmsley’s actions not only illuminated the train but also allowed his aircraft to absorb most of its fire, sparing the other aircraft from attack.[6] He did not take any evasive action against the North Korean anti-aircraft fire so as to keep the train illuminated for the other American aircraft.[5]

After the third pass, the train was destroyed by the combined firepower of the two bombers, together with its cargo.[5] However, Walmsley’s aircraft was severely damaged. Its wings began trailing fuel, which ignited. Walmsley’s aircraft caught fire, and proceeded about 2 miles (3.2 km), fighting to maintain altitude before finally crashing into the ground in a mountainous region, killing Walmsley, Mulkins, Browning, and severely injuring Morar. As the lone survivor of the crash, Morar was captured and spent the remainder of the war in a prison camp, though he survived.[6] Walmsley was declared missing in action after the mission, and his status was listed as “presumed dead” after the end of the war.[1]

 

I can already hear "Night train to Munde Fine"

Does it say piloted by Coleman Francis and John Carradine?

 

The next life of the Invader was with the CIA because of course it was. Here you see a B-26 Invader that was used for the Bay of Pigs invasion. This beginning of the CIA’s Counter Insurgency program. Which would get shortened to COIN. They would also go onto other countries to help their freedom fighters. It was the Cold War and that’s what we did. We would need to slow the flow of communism. They were doing the same against us.  The days of atomic powered toasters and duck and cover. Ah the nostalgia but I digress. It was also the Douglas Invader and it was really good at that job. Capable of taking a beating and armed to the teeth. Also good to loiter over station for far longer than any jet of the time period.

If you haven’t seen an A-26 in person take a moment to find one near at a museum check out the design. Like all of Ed Heinemann’s designs it is clean and everything has a purpose.  It looks like it is a design from a decade later. This can be seen in his A-4 Skyhawk work as well.

 

What does this red button do?

Why you kids today and your phones and tablets. Back in my day we had to read tens of thousands of pages of manuals and we liked it!

 

The strangeness of the Cold War and WWII surplus lead to some very odd air to air battles. The CIA was involved with Indonesia’s push to get away from Communism and the Invader was there.  Unfortunately for one of the Douglas’s in this case it got shot down by a P-51 Mustang. The Indonesian pilot shot down an American pilot in the B-26.  The best part of this is how the Indonesian military saw what the B-26 could do and bought six of them out of Davis Monthan graveyard.   That speaks volumes about the capabilities of the aircraft.

It's not a water ballon!

The Invader water bomber because we need to wear out all the pistons

It’s hard to keep a good plane down and the Douglas Invader is a great example of this. Unfortunately for Douglas they are a good example of a company that built aircraft so well that the customer didn’t have to replace them either. A simple design that just did its job well. The A/B-26 Invader lead many lives for many Air Forces for so long that Douglas’s own A-4 would end up replacing it. For the CIA it would be the Cessna OA-37 Dragonfly that would take over the COIN role after the airframes wore out.  Simply put in the age of turbines and turbofans the sound of the Invaders pistons could still be heard until 1980 in active service. A tribute to her designers and crew.

  • alex

    Thanks for the nice post.

    Wish you guys would post more frequently

    • Wayne Moyer

      Funny so do I and I’m one of the writers. Especially since I enjoy doing it and I have a bunch of series I want to write. Heck I have the bones of the next two of these started. I’d like to do more of the Cold War that never was. There were items I figured in stories I did back in 2012 like the Daniel Boone that would fit in in there well now. I also still want to do an opus series on flying boats post WWII through the cold war.
      If you’re bored you can catch on my older posts here like the series on Point Defense aircraft. http://atomictoasters.com/author/fodder/

      • Victor

        New Post ! New Post ! come on you know you want to !

        • Wayne Moyer

          Only because you asked. I’ll do one up tonight.

          • Victor

            Thank you .

          • Wayne Moyer

            Finally writing the darned thing. I have my old list for this but it feels incomplete.

  • Vairship

    Woohoo, Atomic Toaster radiates again!

    • Wayne Moyer

      Last week it was really busy at work and this weekend is a loss as well. I have so many stories I want to work on.

      • Vairship

        Don’t worry about it! For the price I’m paying ($0.00) I’ll take whatever you can provide whenever is convenient. We all realize you guys have real lives too 😉

  • Batshitbox

    You kids and your CAD/CAM and CNC! Back in my day we just got 35 guys and 3 girls together and built an airplane. Or a few thousand airplanes.
    http://www.3rdattackgroup.org/a-26-b-26-invader.php

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/98e95532752bc29f07e2e768d86690c70251d24cb1e3d220bab0c5f51a748eda.jpg

    • Wayne Moyer

      Towards the end of the war it might have been 35 girls and 3 guys.

  • Texlenin

    Whilst I fully understand the tagline of several of the last posts, I believe the over-arching theme
    amongst them all is K.I.S.S. The damn near vault- like toughness of these airframes was designed
    in from the start…manufacture, repair, rebuild all aspects in an austere field enviroment by high-school
    conscripts..kinda like Russian trucks.
    Gee-whiz and By-golly whiz bang jets, tanks:Hell, any piece of soldier equipment that has not been
    given to, played with, and broken by, boots just outta basic is not worth taxpayer monies.
    COIN has always been “low, slow, and back home we don’t go” for groundies. Getting all squeamish
    about MANPADS means doctrine is missing something important…or you need far more Ground Attack Aircraft….
    Ladies and Gentlemen, so of you may know me from all the way back to the “Redacted Revolution”
    I apologize for not being more active for quite some time, but me and a critter named cancer have been
    in discussions since 2016, but I believe i have him swung ’round to my way of thinking. I am glad to see
    a lot of my commentariat buddies are still here. If anybody hangs in or near the McKinney, Tx area,
    Come to the Lounge on Virgina and StoneBridge and make yourself known to me…..

    • Vairship

      Welcome back, hope you win the war!

-->