History Wars World War II

This is the most battle-hardened bomber of World War II

Logan Nye Avatar
world war ii bomber b-26
Flak-Bait at Andrews Field, England, 1944.

It was just one plane out of thousands of identical ones, all known for hydraulic problems and dangerous landings. The manufacturer called the B-26 the Marauder. But some crews called it the “Baltimore Whore,” because its wings provided little support. Ya know, like an undersized bra.

But despite its troublesome flight characteristics, the B-26 became legendary. It had the best survival rate of any aircraft in combat and could handle a bit like a fighter. The Army Air Force lost only 0.5% of its Marauders.

And a specific one–Flak-Bait, named after a dog known as Flea Bait–became the most battle-hardened bomber to survive the war.

Flak-bait the World War II bomber, from Baltimore to Berlin

Flak-Bait rolled off the line in April 1943 and immediately flew to England to fight in Europe. It first bombed Nazis on August 16 in an attack against It flew at least 201 bombing missions, and the Smithsonian Museum preserving it puts the number at 206. It dropped an estimated 375,000 pounds of bombs in over 725 hours of combat.

And Flak-Bait was true to its name, taking damage on nearly every mission. The aircraft has over 1,000 strikes on it. Some of the aircraft’s panels are more patches than panels, and none are undamaged.

In less than one year of combat, Flak-Bait flew 100 combat missions successfully, hitting the milestone on June 1, 1944. On June 6, it flew three missions in the D-Day landings, supporting troops coming ashore with low-level bombing runs. Flak-Bait boasted a new paint job for the mission: stripes across its belly to help friendly gunners identify the allied planes. Flak-Bait is the only American plane to still have its stripes.

As the mission number climbed, so did the damages to Flak-Bait. “It was hit plenty of times, hit all the time,” a crew member said in 1978. “I guess it was hit more than any other plane in the group.”

“Everybody was afraid of the damn thing,” said a radio operator, “but she always got back for us. We always had faith in her.”

On April 17, 1945, Flak-Bait led a bombing mission against Magdeburg. This mission put Flak-Bait over the top for the 200-mission milestone, according to the Air Force’s official count for the plane. Only one other World War II bomber cleared this milestone, but it later crashed during a war bond tour.

The plane is undergoing restoration scheduled for completion in 2025.