A-26 Counter Invader

The Douglas XA-26 prototype first flew July 10, 1942, and the company began delivering the production model A-26B in August 1943. Douglas Invaders began arriving in England in September 1944 for assignment to the 9th Air Force and entered combat two months later on Nov. 19. Invaders appeared in the Pacific Theater in January 1945 and proved to be highly effective during the remaining months of the war. It proved to be one of the finest aircraft developed in World War II.

The A-26B met the need for a fast attack aircraft with an initial top speed of 355 mph. Its offensive armament consisted of six nose guns, four blister mounted guns on the fuselage sides and eight guns in four optional, underwing pods. Armament totaled 22 guns and 6,000 round of ammunition plus an internal bomb load of 4,000 pounds. On missions up to 1,100 miles, an additional 2,000 pounds of bombs could be carried on hardpoints under the wings. Another option consisted of eight rockets and 165-gallon drop tanks to extend the range by 300 miles or eight more rockets in lieu of the drop tanks on short missions. The three-man crew consisted of a pilot and navigator/radioman in the cockpit and a gunner in the top turret. The A-26C medium bomber variant had a glassed-in nose and only six guns - two in the nose and two in each turret. Top speed increased to 370 mph and a co-pilot/bombardier became the fourth crewman.

In 1962, President Kennedy ordered the Air Force to assist the South Vietnamese in resisting North Vietnamese aggression. A detachment of air commandos from Hurlburt Field, code name FARMGATE, deployed in November to Bien Hoa to train Vietnamese Air Force personnel in offensive air operations. The aircraft selected for this mission were four RB-26s, four SC-47s and eight T-28s. The B-26 formerly A-26, and the C-46, C-47 and P-51 were to participate in their third war.

Because a suitable replacement wasn't expect for three to five years, the Air Force, in 1963, modified the B-26. Included were anti-skid brakes, new engines with water injection, new reversing propellers, modified wing flaps, wing tip tanks, external pylons for 4,000 pounds of stores on each wing, stringer wings, a larger rudder and interchangeable glass or eight gun noses. Three years later, in 1966, the Air Force redesignated the B-26K as the A-26A, which is the model in the Air Park. This aircraft, the last A-26 in the Air Force inventory, came to Hurlburt Field, when it returned from Southeast Asia. United States Congressman Robert Sikes participated in the July 4, 1970 dedication to all who flew and serviced A-26s.

The B-26/A-26 utilized by air commandos in their counterinsurgency operations came to Hurlburt Field as part of the reactivation of the force in 1961. Hurlburt's last two B-26s flew to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 2, 1964 to the Air Force storage facility known as the Boneyard. However, other B-26s soon replaced them at Hurlburt when the 1st Air Commando Wing reorganized Oct. 1, 1964. After five more years of service, they flew into final retirement at the Boneyard Oct. 23, 1969 - 25 years after they first entered combat in World War II.

Because serial numbers were changed after aircraft were removed from the "boneyard," we have no record of the previous history. Special Operation Forces from 1965 to 1968 in Southeast Asia utilized this aircraft until replaced by newer aircraft. The 56th Special Operations Wing, Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, flew it until returning to the US. It was the first aircraft installed and dedicated in the Hurlburt Field Airpark on July 4, 1970. 

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