November 25, 1940: First Flight of Martin Marauder and deHavilland Mosquito

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A Brief History

On November 25, 1940, the feverish pace of developing improved warplanes during World War II culminated in the first flight of 2 of the most iconic twin engine medium bombers of the war, the British deHavilland Mosquito and the American Martin B-26 Marauder.

Digging Deeper

These 2 medium bombers had quite different roles in combat, with the B-26 operating as a conventional medium bomber, best employed from medium altitude.  The B-26 had impressive self defense armament of 12 X .50 caliber machine guns and could carry up to 4000 lbs of bombs.  The Mosquito was often fielded with no guns at all, using its speed to evade interceptors.  In the fighter role, the Mosquito was well armed with 4 X 20mm cannon and 4 X .303 caliber machine guns, while retaining the capability to carry up to 4 X 500 lb bombs for a fighter bomber role.  In bomber mode, the Mosquito could also carry 4000 lbs of bombs, including a single 4000 lb “cookie cutter bomb.”  Unlike the Marauder, the Mosquito was also quite effective at low altitude.

Other roles for the Mosquito not practiced by the B-26 were as an unarmed fast reconnaissance plane and as a radar equipped night fighter.  One of the most versatile planes of the war, Mosquitoes were also capable of service as torpedo bombers and a Sea Mosquito was built for use on aircraft carriers.  Capable of a top speed of over 400 mph (recon versions), the Mosquito was the fastest plane in the European theater when introduced in late 1941.  With a crew of only 2 men, the Mosquito was more economical on manpower than the Marauder which had a 7 man crew.  The B-26 was slow by comparison, with a max speed of 287 mph.

Only 5288 Marauders were built during the war, and they were retired for us by the US by 1947, although they saw continued use by other nations all the way until 1979, an extremely good service life for a World War II bomber.  The B-26 was known as a workhorse of the European theater.  The Mosquito only lasted until the mid-1950’s with British and allied forces, and had a production run of 7781, of which about 1000 were built after WWII.  Only a few were flown by the US, who originally snubbed the Mosquito in favor of the P-38 Lightning in the role of high speed reconnaissance, fighter, and light bomber.  The US made a mistake.

The B-26 had the edge in range, capable of flying 2850 miles unloaded, or a combat radius of 1150 miles, compared to a max range of 900 to 1500 miles for the Mosquito, depending on which model.

Despite an early reputation for crashing, the Marauder finished the war with the lowest loss rate of all US bombers.   The RAF and South African Air Force flew 522 of the B-26’s during the war.  The Mosquito saw extensive service after the war with various allied nations, as did the B-26.

The Mosquito was perhaps the most versatile and envied plane of World War II, a magnificent performer made largely of plywood, known as “The Wooden Wonder.”  The Marauder was built in smaller numbers, and had direct competition from the US B-25 Mitchell, of which 9816 were built.  The Mosquito and Marauder were different, but both effective planes that deserve a place in the pantheon of great aircraft.  Of the 2, the Mosquito is probably the most famous and revered.  Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Falconer, Jonathan and Brian Rivas.  De Havilland Mosquito: 1940 onwards (all marks) – An insight into developing, flying, servicing and restoring Britain’s legendary ‘Wooden Wonder’ fighter-bomber (Owners’ Workshop Manual).  Haynes Publishing UK, 2013.

Wolf, William.  Martin B-26 Marauder: The Ultimate Look: From Drawing Board to Widow Maker Vindicated (The Ultiimate Look).  Schiffer Military History, 2014.

The featured image in this article, a photograph of a Royal Air Force de Havilland Mosquito B.XVI (serial ML963) in flight, is in the public domain, because it is one of the following:

  1. It is a photograph taken prior to 1 June 1957; or
  2. It was published prior to 1971; or
  3. It is an artistic work other than a photograph or engraving (e.g. a painting) which was created prior to 1971.

HMSO has declared that the expiry of Crown Copyrights applies worldwide (ref: HMSO Email Reply)
More information.

See also Copyright and Crown copyright artistic works.

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About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.