AidSpace Blog

Where is Flak-Bait?

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The Museum’s Martin B-26B-25-MA Marauder Flak-Bait and its crews survived 207 operational missions over Europe, more than any other American aircraft during World War II. Recognizing that significance, the U.S. Army Air Forces saved it from destruction after the war. The newly-created U.S. Air Force transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1949 and the B-26 joined the collection in 1960. Flak-Bait’s forward fuselage section went on display in Gallery 205-World War II Aviation when the Museum opened in July 1976. Museum specialists have transported it, along with the rest of the artifact that has been in storage at the Paul E. Garber Facility, to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

 

Flak Bait

Millions of visitors have been able to enjoy seeing the forward fuselage section of Flak-Bait during its thirty-eight years of display in Gallery 205-World War II Aviation. You can see where in earlier years visitor’s hands wore off the olive drab paint just past the Plexiglas nose.

 

Flak Bait Cockpit

This is the view of the radio (left) and navigator positions inside Flak-Bait’s forward fuselage section as you look toward the cockpit. [Photo by Eric Long, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM 2014-02562).]

Martin factory workers completed the B-26 in April 1943 and the Army Air Forces assigned it to the 449th Bombardment Squadron of the 322nd Bombardment Group. Lt. James J. Farrell gave the bomber its name by combining the word for German anti-aircraft artillery, “flak,” with his brother’s nickname for their family dog, “Flea Bait.” Between August 1943 and the end of the war, Flak-Bait and its crews accumulated 725 hours of combat time against Nazi Germany. Over the entire artifact, there are over 1,000 patched flak holes earned in missions that included sorties in support of Allied operations during the D-Day Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge.

Flak Bait on its 200th Mission

On April 17, 1945, Flak-Bait’s 200th mission was leading the entire 322nd Bombardment Group on a mission to bomb Magdeburg, Germany. [Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM A-42346)]

 

Flak-Bait’s Crew

Flak-Bait’s crew poses with the bomber after the April 17, 1945 mission. The celebratory 200 Missions “bomb” just under the pilot’s cockpit is not the one found on the artifact today. This one was either superimposed on the aircraft or the photograph. [Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM 77-2694)]

Few Marauders survive today out of the 5,266 produced by Martin. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, and a private collector in Florida retain complete Marauders in their collections. There are three others undergoing rebuilding and restoration at museums in the United States.

Flak-Bait’s history, provenance, rarity, and original condition make it an extraordinary World War II artifact. The Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory, and the vast space of the Boeing Aviation Hangar of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center make it possible to treat Flak-Bait and put it on display as a complete airplane. The overall treatment theme is to preserve the artifact’s structural, mechanical, and cosmetic features, but the project will require a combination of techniques ranging from conservation to, when warranted, restoration. The project’s completion will mark the first time Flak-Bait will be fully assembled since the end of World War II.

Jeremy Kinney is the curator for the Martin B-26B-25-MA Marauder Flak-Bait.

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9 thoughts on “Where is Flak-Bait?

  1. I would like an email address to send some information about an airplane that President Eisenhower flew in..

    It should be sent to the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hange and then to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

  2. I recently traveled from Indiana with my son to see Flak Bait. See my Great Uncle is James Farrell – and my father was named after his Uncle Jim. My son is 10 years old and is obsessed with history. It was going to be a wonderful moment for him. We arrived the week after it was moved. To say he was crushed would be an understatement. We hope to make it back when it is unveiled in it’s full glory, just sad we missed it. Thank you for taking such good care of it all these years, and fingers crossed we make it to the unveiling.

  3. I believe a past maintenance instructor of mine was assigned to Flak Bait as ground crew. Dave Rich was his name and I wonder if his name can still be found on the nose wheel left gear door. Does this door still exist? I’ve seen a picture of him next to the aircraft in a display case at Southern Illinois University Aviation Technology in Carbondale, Illinois. I never saw the gear door as it had been removed when the aircraft was displayed downtown at the NASM in DC. He was an excellent and experienced instructor who worked on this piece of military history.

  4. My father went to work for Martin as an engineer right out of college in 1940. He spent the war working on the B-26. The record low loss rate of the B-26 speaks volumes for the value of the work done by him and his colleagues at Martin. Thank you for finding a way to rebuild and display the complete Flak Bait. As with so many war tributes, I just wish the people most involved had lived to see it happen.

  5. Hi Mike, We are in the process of determining that now and hope to have an idea of what is required and how long it will take to preserve the artifact soon. We’ll certainly share more about Flak-Bait here on the blog and post updates via Facebook and Twitter as soon as we know more. (http://airandspace.si.edu/connect/)

  6. My father James Corlew of Tennessee was a gunner/engineer on Flak Bait. I live in northern Virginia and look forward to seeing it again. There was a plaque with the names of the men associated with this plane and I hope it will be with there too.

  7. My dad, Frank H. Merry was a radio operator, side gunner, with the 451st Squadron, 322 Bomb Group, flying out of England, France, then Begium. He flew 63 missions and was an alternate crew member flying in Flak Bait many times. We traveled to DC to see the Flak Bait at the Air and Space Museum in the 1980′s.
    Dad walked to the dislpay, looking at the radio operator’s seat, a seat which he once occupied, he quietly recited the serial number of the famous Maruder imprinted on the opposite side of the fuselage, to the wonder and amazement of the family, friends and strangers surrounding him. Dad passed in 2007.

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