B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group


Return to Florence
by Benjamin C. McCartney, 443rd Bomb Squadron


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Orders to Bomb Florence2


But today the blue line struck far north, and I walked closer to see what the target was. The blue line ended at Florence and then turned back out toward the coast for the course home to Sardinia.

Florence! We were to bomb Florence! Florence had never been bombed by any other group, had been left untouched in the long, snarling war in Italy.

Another bombardier was standing beside me:

"We go to Florence. We're going to have to be good today."

"You said it." I was looking at the course in. Florence would be easy to pick up.

"I didn't think they'd let us bomb Florence. It's supposed to be a famous city. Must've decided they've got to do it."

Back of that decision was the whole history of the German effort in Italy on the one side, and the whole history of the development of a superb technique of precision bombing on the other. This was not just another raid in a long series of raids on targets in Italy and Europe. This was the culmination of all bombing everywhere.

Only a few groups of bombers in the world were capable of doing that bombing. The airplane was the B-26 Martin Marauder medium twin-engine bomber. The B-26 Marauder had come a long way to perform this special mission.

The Marauder had been designed for low-altitude bombing and for attack. It had been used in this way in the South Pacific over Rabaul and Lae and other targets in New Guinea. It had flown over targets at low altitudes and at speeds often exceeding 300 miles an hour. It had flown in small formations of three ships. Because of its dangerous landing and take-off characteristics, it had remained almost an experimental airplane during the first part of the war.

With the Allied invasion of North Africa, in November of 1942, a group of B-26's had been activated for operational flying in the Mediterranean. But so great were the losses in low-altitude flying that it was necessary to withdraw the group from operations, re-form it, and develop new techniques in order to return the plane to combat status.

The same story had been true of the first groups to operate out of England over the Netherlands and northern France. The Marauder had seemed completely abandoned as a combat aircraft.

Meanwhile, a second group of B-26's had arrived in North Africa. It was the group with which Captain Ackerman and I eventually were to fly. This group, in experimenting with various methods of bombing and various bombing altitudes, found that fine results could be obtained in bombing at certain heights. The Norden bombsight was installed, and the plane was found to be stable enough to make a high degree of accuracy possible.

New and larger bomber formations were developed while another group of B-26's arrived in North Africa. This group, together with others which had been re-formed and returned to operational status, made up a wing which was to become, through the months of flying and fighting ahead, the finest wing of medium bombardment in the world. The wing was under Brig. Gen. Robert M. Webster. (Continued)

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