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Medium Bombers

Medium bombers during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Medium bombers during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A B-26 drops bombs on a German installation in France. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A B-26 drops bombs on a German installation in France. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. Gen. Francis S. Brady, Commanding Officer of the B-26 unit that lost all 10 planes on the May 17, 1943, mission, "explains" to Maj. Gen. Ira C. Eaker why none returned to England. They are looking at the same model of the target as the crews in the next photograph. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. Gen. Francis S. Brady, Commanding Officer of the B-26 unit that lost all 10 planes on the May 17, 1943, mission, "explains" to Maj. Gen. Ira C. Eaker why none returned to England. They are looking at the same model of the target as the crews in the next photograph. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Col. Stillman briefs the combat crews for an earlier B-26 mission flown May 14, 1943. They are studying a model of the target, the power plant at Ijmuiden, Holland. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Col. Stillman briefs the combat crews for an earlier B-26 mission flown May 14, 1943. They are studying a model of the target, the power plant at Ijmuiden, Holland. (U.S. Air Force photo)

AAF B-26 medium bombers in England became operational in the spring of 1943. Not having the long range of the B-17 and B-24, B-26s were used almost exclusively for missions to Holland, Belgium and northwestern France where they bombed airfields, transportation and lines of communication. Originally, it was planned for B-26s to operate at minimum altitude but a mission against targets in Holland on May 17 resulted in a change of tactics.

Eleven planes took off on the mission, one of which turned back. The remaining 10 continued to their target and were shot down -- not one returned to base. From that time, B-26s bombed from medium altitudes of 10,000-15,000 feet, where they suffered relatively light losses from antiaircraft fire compared to heavy bombers. With German fighter forces concentrating on the heavy bombers, AAF medium bombers seldom met appreciable aerial opposition.

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