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B-26B Marauder #41-31909, Flat Rock, MI - 18 October, 1945

Example of a B-26B

The Crew: Pilot - Sgt. Maurice M. Bouhier, French Air Force
                Co-Pilot - Aspt. Anges B. Leca, French Air Force
                Bombardier/Navigator - Sgt. Jean R. Pietre, French Air Force
                Engineer/Gunner - Pvt. Francois Maniacci, French Air Force
                Armourer/Gunner – Cpl. Pierre Audonnet, French Air Force
                Radio/Gunner – Georges Voilemin, French Air Force

Jack Wyman was a fourth grader reciting a lesson in front of the class in the one room McKinsey School in Flat Rock, MI when a huge explosion rang out. The dozen or so students ran to the window as an airplane engine fell from the sky and landed in the back yard of the school. The students were released and young Jack ran as fast as he could across the field to the smoldering plane wreck on a nearby farm. Not far away, James Barry was pheasant hunting, he noticed the plane as it circled the area many times and he could hear the engines revving up and down. He heard a small explosion and looked up to see the plane, which had broken in two with pieces fluttering to the ground like feathers. Farmers closer to the crash were showered with rivets and other small pieces as they dropped to the ground. With the war going on and several air bases in the vicinity, the residents were accustomed to “little yellow” training planes landing in fields or answering a knock at the door to an English or French pilot asking to use the phone. But nobody had ever witnessed a large bomber fall from the sky.

Some time before 4 pm on that clear day, Sgt. Maurice Bouhier and the rest of his French Air Force crew took off in their B-26B Marauder from Selfridge Field in Mt. Clemens, MI.  They were on a routine instrument navigation training mission. Not long into the flight something went wrong; what, we will never know. Witnesses on the ground felt something was wrong as they had never seen a plane circle as many times as this one did over an empty field. Perhaps Sgt. Bouhier and the rest of the crew sensed this as well.

The plane was so severely damaged that investigators were unable to determine the cause of the tragic accident that took the lives of the six French aviators. Investigation of the wreckage determined that there was no mid-air explosion and the likely source of the sound described by witnesses was that of the plane breaking apart as it succumbed to some kind of structural failure.

Over the course of the war, as many as 3,000 French bomber crew members were stationed at Selfridge. The French Air Force had B-26 units into 1947, after which they were phased out. After the war was won, all French units at Selfridge returned home by February of 1946. Sadly, these six men were not able to join their comrades in a free France.

Crash site, 1945


The search for the crash site:

Crash site not yet located

B-26B Specifications:

  • Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-43 Double Wasp radials  with two-speed superchargers, each rated at 1920 hp for takeoff and 1490 hp at 14,300 feet.
  • Performance (at 37,000 pounds weight): Maximum speed 270 mph at sea level, 282 mph at 15,000 feet. Range 1150 miles at 214 mph with 3000 lbs of bombs and 962 gallons of fuel.
  • Weights: 24,000 lbs. empty, 37,000 lbs.combat.
  • Dimensions: Wingspan: 71 ft. 0 in., length 58 ft. 3 in., height 21 ft. 6 in
  • Armament: Eleven .50 cal machine guns, plus 8000 lbs. of bombs (maximum)