HISTORIAN'S CORNER - October, 2004
Lee Bogerna recently gave me an interesting 3-ring binder oi material containingthe instructions for assembling the Martin B-1 0 bomber from the 1930's.Lee, who retired from Martin Denver in 1988 acquired the material in 1978from Bucky Merrill, then president of the Baltimore Division, when Lee wasChief Engineer at Baltimore.
The binder contains assembly drawings, procedures, descriptions of the necessarytools and handling equipment, photographs and specifications collected byH. McAlister, an Orlando retiree, who worked on the B-1 0 at Baltimore andsigned many of the drawings dated from 1934 to 1937. The first paragraphin the binder gives the feeling for the relative intormality of the processesduring that era: "All Model 139-WT airplanes (the Martin designation forthe export version of the B-1 0) are completely assembled and flight testedat the factory. Immediately after the flight tests, these airplanes are carefullydisassembled, the loose parts are wrapped and packed, and the entire airplaneis carefully crated in 10 large boxes for export. These airplanes shouldbe received in perfect knock-down conditions, and that by strict adherenceto the following instructions no difficulty should be experienced in reassemblyof the airplane."
The general configuration of the B-1 0 is shown in the picture on the followingpage. I decided to learn a little more about the history of the B- 10 andfound two informative web sites that I used for the rest of the story. Thefirst is the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum site (www. marylandaviationmuseum.org),which has an extensive wtite-upon the B-10 and other Martin aircraft. Thesecond is the USAF Museum site at Wright Patterson AFB (www.wpafb.af mil./mu-seum.org),which in addition to write-ups on past aircraft also has an overview of themilitary aviation situation at the time of the B- 10.
The B-1 0 was the first "modem" bomber acquired by the Army Air Corps inthe 1930's. The Air Corp issued a design directive in 1929 (like an RFP)and Fokker, Key-stone, Douglas, Ford and Boeing all submitted designs andprototypes before Martin. After incorporation of a series of improvementssuggested by the Army's Material Division, the final XB-907A Martin designwon out over the Boeing and Douglas designs in 1932 and the Air Corps awardedMartin a contract for 48 airplanes costing $2.5M. The Air Corps eventuallypurchased a total of 151 aircraft between 1933 and 19M, and Martin receivedorders for 189 more planes from other countries. The all-metal monoplanehad - enclosed cockpits, streamlined monocoque fuselage, two radial engineswith variable-pitch propellers, cantilevered wings with lift-enhancing flaps,integral fuel tanks, internal bomb storage, and retractable landing gear.With a top speed of 230 mph, the B-1 0 matched or exceeded the speed of theUS pursuit aircraft of the time. Glenn L. Martin was awarded the CollierTrophy for the B- 10 in I 9W.
In 1934 the Air Corp needed a show of air power, and ten B-10's under commandof Lt. Col. Henry"Hap" Arnold left Boiling Field near Washington DC on July19 for Alaska. Flying by the way of Winnipeg and Edmonton, they arrived safetyin Fairbanks, Alaska, on July 24. For the next month, they flew numerousexploratory flights over Alaska, including aerial photography of 23,000 squaremiles of territory in only three days. The planes left Fairbanks on August16 and returned to Washington, DC by way of Seattle and Omaha. They landedat Bolling Field on August 20, completing the round trip of more than 7,000miles, much of it over uncharted wilderness. For commanding this flight,Hap Arnold won the 1-934 Mackay Trophy. All ten of the aircraft made it back,including one that made a forced landing in Cook's Inlet in Anchotage andwas dried out!
After 1936, the Air Corps lost interest in the B-10 when it was decided alonger-range bomber capable of daylight precision bombing was needed. Thiseventually led to the B-17 and B-29, although 119 of the 151 of the B-10spurchased by the Air Corps were still in service in the spring of 1940. Thelast remaining B-10 is displayed in the Air Force Museum at Wright PattersonAFB. Ina letter to George Bunker, General McConnell (then Executive Directorof the Air Force Museum Foundation at WPAFB), called the B-10 . one oi themost significant airplanes in the history of world-wide military aviation"'.