Douglas A-26B Invader – USAAF Light Bomber

Douglas A26B Invader Brussels
An American Douglas A-26B Invader photographed in Brussels, Belgium

The Douglas A-26B Invader was a fast aircraft powered by the widely used Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp 18-cylinder, double-row radial engine, capable of carrying a large bomb load as well as a whole range of guns for ground attacks. A total of 2503 A-26 aircrafts were produced.

The A-26B Invader entered the war in September 1943 on the Pacific theater for the USAAF where it was at first rejected by the US Fifth Air Force because of it’s limited field of view, which would make it unsuitable for ground attack. Only after the light bomber entered the European Theater of War where it was issued to the Ninth Air Force from September 1944, the A-26B Invader earned its recognition. It was used in a wide combination of roles; bombing and strafing, tactical reconnaissance and night interdiction missions.

This Douglas A-26B Invader was photographed at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels, Belgium.

Douglas A-26B Invader USAAF light-bomber
Douglas A-26B Invader USAAF light-bomber seen with the GE W35 gun turret on top
Douglas A-26B Invader front
Douglas A-26B Invader seen from the front
Douglas A-26B Invader
Douglas A-26B Invader

Next to the pilot, a crew member served as navigator and gun loader for the pilot-operated nose guns. A gunner seated in the rear compartment could operate the remote-controlled dorsal and ventral gun turrets through a rather complex dual-ended periscope sight. Facing rearward the gunner controlled the guns with a pair of handles on the sides of the periscope column. Aimed above the centerline of the aircraft, the mirror in the center of the column ‘flipped’, showing the gunner a limited view similar to the view the upper periscope was seeing. The guns aimed in the same direction the periscope was aimed. While this was an ingenious system, the mechanism turned out to be difficult to maintain in the field.

Douglas A-26B Okinawa 1945
Eight gun nose A-26B at Machinato Airfield, Okinawa on August 20th 1945 – courtesy Wikipedia

Gun Nose

The aircraft’s B-designation means it has a configuration with a gun-nose. It could be equipped with a combination of armament, including .50 caliber machine guns, 20 or 37mm auto cannon, or an experimental 75mm pack howitzer (never used operationally). This Douglas A-26B Invader has an “eight gun nose” equipped with .50 caliber machine guns and was used for strafing and bombing targets.

Douglas A-26B Invader gun nose
Douglas A-26B Invader gun nose detail
Douglas A-26B Invader .50 cal machine guns
Close up of the Douglas A-26B Invader .50 caliber machine guns

The Douglas A-26 also has a C-designation glass “Bombardier nose” version. This contained a Norden bombsight for medium-altitude precision bombing with two fixed M-2 guns, but those were eliminated after underwing gun packs or internal guns in the wings proved more effective during colder weather.

General Electric W35 gun turret

The Douglas A-26B Invader had two General Electric W35 gun turrets, one on top and one on the bottom, which could be remotely controlled by the Gunner from a central position. Each turret was fitted with two M2 Browning machine guns. The top turret could be fixed in a forward position and controlled by the pilot. The bottom turret wasn’t for defense purposes but for use in ground attacks.

Gun Turret General-Electric W35
General Electric W35 Gun Turret – Royal Army Museum Brussels, Belgium

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