"Sugar Baby"                
Historical Summary
Sugar Baby
Summary of the history of "Sugar Baby"


Introduction

"Sugar Baby" was the Douglas A-26B Invader that my father, Lou Prucha, flew for 16 of his 37 combat missions during WWII. While Dad flew several other aircraft, I recall he often talked fondly of "Sugar Baby" and called her "my plane" and "my ship".

During her 12 year career with the U.S. Army Air Force and U.S. Air Force, "Sugar Baby" participated in 59 WWII combat missions, was placed in storage at various times, supported the Korean War effort, assisted the NY Air National Guard, and was finally sold to Cuba as part of the Mutual Defense Assistance Program shortly before the Fidel Castro era.

The A-26B-15 Aircraft Type designation of "A-" indicates an "Attack-bomber", sometimes called "Fighter-bombers". These planes were designed to fly typical formation bombing missions, but were fast, agile and heavily armed enough to also be used to strafe targets, using their forward nose and wing mounted machine guns. "26" is the Model Number for the Invader aircraft and the "B" Series of the A-26 was manufactured with a "solid" nose (officially termed "all-purpose nose") typically containing six .50 caliber machine guns. "Sugar Baby" was manufactured in Block Number "-15", each Block Number identified a group of aircraft with the same modifications and interchangeable parts.

Based on my review and interpretation of the Aircraft Record Cards (ARC), along with additional historical information from published and Internet sources, the Air Force Historical Research Agency and official World War II records from the 416th Bombardment Group (L), I have attempted to describe the history of "Sugar Baby" below.


Preparation for Overseas WWII Duty (19-Sep-1944 to 25-Oct-1944)

Douglas A-26B-15 Invader A.A.F. Serial Number: 41-39274, Contract Number: AC-21393, was Completed by Douglas Aircraft Company at their Long Beach, CA plant and Available for delivery on 19-Sep-1944; Delivered to and Accepted by the U.S. Army Air Force on 21-Sep-1944. A "SCR-695" model radio, designed to only respond for Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) purposes was installed, as normally carried in wartime aircraft. One Long Range Tank (1LRT) with a capacity of 675 gallons was also installed for the ferry flight across the Atlantic, although the winterizing process was incomplete prior to departing Douglas Aircraft.

She was ferried from Long Beach, CA to Air Force Staging Area, Hunter Field, GA by the Air Transport Command 4th Ferrying Group; with stops at Coolidge Air Field, AZ (21 to 22-Sep-1944) and Memphis Army Airfield (AAF), TN (22 to 23-Sep-1944).

"Sugar Baby" was held at Hunter Field, GA from 23-Sep-1944 through 2-Oct-1944; then departed Hunter Field on 2-Oct-1944 and ferried to Morrison Field, FL. On 5-Oct-1944, she was transferred from the 1103rd Army Air Force (AAF) Base Unit (Foreign Service Station) Morrison Field, FL, Assigned to the 9th Air Force and Departed the United States for the European Theatre of Operations (ETO). The 9th Air Force Received her on 25-Oct-1944.


WWII ETO Duty (25-Oct-1944 to 18-Aug-1945)

For security reasons, aircraft records did not list the overseas unit assignments during WWII. However from other historical records, "Sugar Baby's" WWII assignment and missions are described below.

While in the ETO, "Sugar Baby" was Assigned to the 668th Bombardment Group (Light), 416th Bombardment Group (L) and was identified by Tail Number 139274, Fuselage Code 5H-S. She flew 59 combat missions between 2-Feb-1945 and 1-May-1945.

The 416th Bombardment Group (L) was the First A-20 Havoc Group in the ETO, flew the First A-20 mission ever to bomb Germany, the First Group in the world to completely convert to the new A-26 Invader and the First 9th Air Force Bomb Group to fly missions in Czechoslovakia as well as Austria.

The first combat flight that "Sugar Baby" participated in was against the Euskirchen, Germany Supply Center on 416th BG Mission #197 (Feb 2, 1945). She was piloted by Lt L J Prucha, and her gunner was T/S G C Wilson (this was Lou's 10th combat mission). Jim Roeder describes this mission in his book A-26 Invader Units of World War 2 as follows:
"The next day's mission was an attack on the communications centre at Euskirchen, which was also being used as a supply depot as well as providing accommodation for German troops being sent to the frontline. The group encountered heavy and accurate flak over the target, and two A-26s were shot down. One was hit in the wing, which broke away from the fuselage, and the aircraft was last seen in an uncontrollable spin at 5000 ft. No parachutes were observed leaving the doomed bomber. The other A-26 was hit hard by flak, but its crew was able to bail out safely.
Weather over the target was clear and the group bombed from 12,500 ft, with results being observed and reported as excellent. Strike photography confirmed that the results for four of the six flights were indeed excellent. Due to extreme evasive action necessary to avoid flak, the other two flights were unable to take strike photographs. Each of the surviving A-26s sustained flak damage, but they were able to return to Melun and land safely. A solitary 'window' A-20 was also badly shot up, with one gunner being killed and the other bailing out over Germany. The pilot managed to crash-land the Havoc in friendly territory."

"Sugar Baby" flew her last WWII combat mission on May 1, 1945 on the next-to-last Group Mission #284 against the Ammunition Plant at Stod, Czechoslovakia; her crew was Lt L R Zeimet (pilot) and Sgt R K Ray (gunner). This mission is summarized in Attack Bombers, We Need You! A History of the 416th Bomb Group by Ralph Conte:
"Mission #284 - 1 May - Stod, Czechoslovakia Airdrome. Bad weather prevented bombing. When the formation crossed the bomb line they were forced to abandon the attack after flying just two minutes. No flak or enemy fighters were seen. Box leaders were Captain Evans with Lts McCartney and Myrold, BNs and Captain Stanley with F/O Blount BN. Captain Pair and Lt. Corum BN led a flight."

Roeder's book notes that "...the medium bomb groups did not encounter fighters on every mission.
That is not to say, however, that these missions were 'milk runs' because they were unopposed by fighters. The Wehrmacht still had plenty of anti-aircraft guns (Flugzeug-Abwehr-Kannonen or flak guns) and shells for them to oppose Allied bombers, no matter what their size. What the Germans lacked was sufficient fuel for their aircraft and vehicles.
The 416th BG would see more combat in the A-26 than any other unit in the USAAF in World War 2..."

"Sugar Baby" received considerable damage from Flak on several missions, and my Dad praised her Crew Chief and Ground Crew for keeping her ready for action.

Click to view a list of 416th Bomb Group (L) missions flown by "Sugar Baby"

The 416th Bomb Group (L) remained in France for several months after Germany's May 7th, 1945 surrender. Lt. James Potter "Jim" Phillips was one of the pilots that ferried a group of A-26's, which included "Sugar Baby", back to the United States in August, 1945. Jim recalled in a 2003 email:
"After the war was over, we were scheduled to re-locate to the Pacific Theater against the Japanese. We flew a number of boring practice missions and then went to Liege, Belgium, where huge gas tanks were installed in our bomb bays. This enabled us to fly home via Marseilles [France], Marrakech [Morocco], Dakar [Senegal] and then across the South Atlantic (10 hrs) to Fortaleza, Brazil. From there we flew to Georgetown [Guyana] and then up the West Indies to Puerto Rico. The day we landed in Savannah, Georgia, the Japanese quit, which lead up to the formal surrender several days later."


Back in the U.S. - Storage and Training (18-Aug-1945 to 1-Apr-1952)

The Aircraft Record Cards show that on 18-Aug-1945 "Sugar Baby" Returned to the United States and was Assigned to 487th Army Air Force Base Unit, Hunter Field, near Savannah GA. Between August 21 and 22, 1945, Air Transport Command Ferried her to the 4255th AAF Base Unit (Air Technical Service Command (ATS)), Grenada Army Airfield, MS for storage.

About October, 1945, "command of the Hobbs Army Airfield (HAAF) was transferred from Western Training Flying Command to the Central Flying Command out of Randolph Field, San Antonio, Texas, resulting in the HAAF changing its AAF designation from the 3017th AAF Base Unit to the 4160th. The change of command resulted in a change in mission from pilot training to the temporary storage of A-26 Invaders and P-51 Mustangs." (Dodge, 2008)

"Sugar Baby" remained in storage for about seven months with the 4255th AAF Base Unit (ATS), Grenada Army Airfield, MS until 24-Mar-1946, when she was Ferried (between 24-Mar-1946 and 22-Apr-1946) via Air Transport Command (ATC) to 4160th AAF Base Unit (Air Materiel Command (AMC)), Hobbs Army Airfield, NM for storage. On 30-Apr-1946 she was designated as Administrative Aircraft.

Hobbs Army Airfield, NM was officially decommissioned on May 5, 1948. In preparation for this decommissioning, "In the fall of 1946, base personnel began to ferry surplus aircraft to National Guard Units located throughout the country (U.S. Army 1946). In April of 1947, 1,600 men from the 59th Air Depot stationed at Kelly Field, San Antonio, were transferred to HAAF to oversee the aircraft storage and to continue ferrying planes off the base." (Dodge, 2008) After just over a year at Hobbs, "Sugar Baby" was Transferred to the 4135th AAF Base Unit (AMC), Hill Field, UT between July 29 and 31, 1947 and was assigned to Ground Instructional Training.

With the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947, the United States Air Force became a separate military service on September 18, 1947; a direct result of which was a number of name, classification and status changes over the next several months. While at the 4135th AAF Base Unit (AMC), Hill Field, UT, "Sugar Baby" was assigned to a new project number on 14-Sep-1947. The 4135th AAF Base Unit was redesignated 4135th Air Force (AF) Base Unit September 26, 1947. On 1-Jan-1948, the Status for "Sugar Baby" changed to "Storage - Noncocooned: in storage, other than cocooned or excess". On 5 February 1948, following an Air Force-wide policy of renaming fields as bases, Hill Field became Hill Air Force Base (AFB). In June 1948, the attack category ("A-") for aircraft mission designation was officially abandoned by the U.S. Air Force, thus the designation of the Douglas A-26 was changed to B-26. The Martin B-26 Marauder was withdrawn from service concurrent with this change. (AFHSO, 2011) The Aircraft Record Cards (ARC) for "Sugar Baby" dates her Redesignated to B-26B on 1-Jul-1948; she remained stationed at Hill AFB for over four more years.


Return to Laon - Korean War support (1-Apr-1952 to 15-Aug-1953)

"With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea in June 1950, hundreds of B-26 [i.e. redisignated A-26's] and B-29 aircraft, long stored at Hill AFB, were rapidly returned to combat readiness for deployment to the Far East." (75 ABW/HO, 2013) On 1-Apr-1952, in preparation for deployment overseas, "Sugar Baby" was Transferred to the Ogden Air Materiel Area (AMC), Hill AFB, UT, Status was changed to Depot Modification and Project Number changed to "FAF033" from "STO043". Between June 24 and 30, 1952, "Sugar Baby" was converted from B-26B to a B-26C Series and her Assignment/Status changed to "Project, Active". The nose for the "C" Series of an A/B-26 was clear Plexiglas, containing space for a Bombardier/Navigator.

After this modification, "Sugar Baby" returned once more to France near her WWII Station A-69 (Laon/Athies) base. July 10 to 28, 1952 saw her Transferred to the 126th Bombardment (Light) Wing (US Air Forces Europe (AFE)), Laon Couvron Air Base (AB), France. On 2-Sep-1952, Status changed from "en route" to "Tactical and Training: unit equipment for the accomplishment and support of the primary mission of organization". She was briefly transferred to Naples Air Base (AB), Italy on November 1, 1952 and back to Laon Couvron on November 14th; and then Transferred to the 38th Bombardment (Light) Wing, Laon Couvron Air Base (AB), France on 1-Jan-1953.

According to the "Abandoned, Forgotten & Little Known Airfields in Europe" Laon-Couvron webpage:
"The first USAF unit to use Laon-Couvron AB was the activated Air National Guard 126th Bombardment Wing, flying the World War II vintage Douglas B-26B/C Invader light bomber. The wing consisted of the 108th, 168th and 180th Bomb Squadrons (Light). Their aircraft were marked by various color bands on the vertical stabilizer and rudder: Black/Yellow/Blue for the 108th; Black/Yellow/Red for the 168th, and Black/Yellow/Green for the 180th. The 126th BW was called to active service on 1 April 1951 [to support the Korean Conflict] and was initially deployed to Bordeaux AB [France] in November 1951, but on 25 May 1952 the wing was relocated to Laon-Couvron [France], with Bordeaux becoming a support base. A total of 5 B-26Bs, 6 TB-26Bs, and 26 B-26Cs were transferred from Bordeaux, and an additional 48 B-26C's painted black and equipped for night missions were deployed from CONUS to Laon-Couvron. At Laon, the 126th BW used its B-26's for training and maneuvers at Laon.
...
Then on midnight of the 31st [31-Dec-1952], they [126th BW] were relieved from active duty and transferred, without personnel and equipment, back to the control of the Illinois Air National Guard on 1 January 1953. At the same time, the flying assets of the 126th Bomb Wing (Light) were transferred to the 38th Tactical Bombardment Wing (Light). The 38th's squadrons were designated the 71st, 405th, and 822nd Bomb Squadrons, which continued flying the B-26's until 1956." (Ronald, 2013)

On 24-Feb-1953, "Sugar Baby" was scheduled to be Transferred back to Hill AFB, UT; however, prior to returning to the U.S., she underwent Depot Maintenance at the 85th Air Defense Wing, Erding Air Base, Germany between 26-Feb-1953 and 3-Apr-1953.


New York Air National Guard (15-Aug-1953 to 18-Sep-1956)

"Sugar Baby" was overseas for just over a year (Jul 52 to Aug 53). The Korean War was ended by the Panmunjom Peace Treaty on July 27, 1953. On 15-Aug-1953, rather than returning to Hill AFB, she was Transferred to the Continental U.S. organization 106th Light Bombardment Group (Air National Guard (ANG)), Floyd Bennett Naval Air Station (NAS), NY. "The mission of the 106th Bomb Wing is to provide reserve units for the United States Air Force, properly trained, equipped, and capable of immediate mobilization for performance of Ground Support Missions." (Hausauer, 1954)

At New York ANG, "Sugar Baby" was Assigned to the 102nd Light Bombardment Squadron of the 106th Light Bombardment Wing (ANG), Floyd Bennett NAS, NY on 17-Nov-1953. While still with the 102nd Bomb Sq., she underwent Depot Maintenance starting 4-Mar-1955, returning to a status of "PRIMARY TACTICAL UNIT - Aircraft assigned as primary unit equipment for the direct accomplishment of tactical unit operations" on 28-May-1955. On August 1st, 1955, the 102nd Light Bombardment Squadron was redesignated as the 102nd Bombardment Squadron, Tactical, NY ANG.

Starting 13-Sep-1955 "Sugar Baby" was Transferred to Mobile Air Materiel Area, Birmingham Modification Center, AMC, Birmingham Air Port, AL, and her status changed to "AIR NATIONAL GUARD AIRCRAFT TEMPORARILY POSSESSED BY USAF OR AFR (FOR USE BY USAF OR AFT ACTIVITIES ONLY) - Aircraft assigned to Air National Guard activities which are temporarily possessed by USAF or AFR activities for any reason, for example: ANG aircraft undergoing transient maintenance in a USAF or AFR activity". She returned to "PRIMARY TACTICAL UNIT" status and the 102nd Light B.S. on 19-Oct-1955.

After two and a half years with the New York Air National Guard, "Sugar Baby" was Transferred to the 3040th Aircraft Storage Squadron (AMC), Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB), AZ for storage on February 12, 1956. The 3040th Aircraft Storage Squadron was redesignated Arizona Aircraft Storage Branch 1-Jun-1956.


Sale to Cuba (18-Sep-1956 to May, 1957)

Storage this time around lasted about seven months. On 18-Sep-1956, "Sugar Baby" was Transferred to Fairchild Aviation, Hagerstown, MD, and had her Status changed to "CONTRACT WORK - Aircraft on contract to a civilian repair facility (domestic or foreign) for the performance of all depot level maintenance, repair, modification, modernization, technical order compliance, reconditioning and IRAN". A few days later, on 22-Sep-1956, she was again Transferred, this time to the 3800th Air Base Wing, Air University (AU), Maxwell Air Force Base, AL (Status changed to "TRANSIENT MAINTENANCE - Aircraft in a unit for maintenance whose home station is a unit of a different major air command"). 10-Nov-1956 saw her Transferred back to Fairchild Aviation, Hagerstown, MD, Status of "CONTRACT WORK".

Her final Transfer, dated on the Aircraft Record Cards (ARC) as 30-Jan-1957, was to the Mutual Defense Assistance (MDA) Program when she was sold to Cuba prior to Fidel Castro's rise to power. The book Foreign Invaders: the Douglas Invader in foreign military and US clandestine service (Hagedorn, 1994), shows that aircraft S/N 41-39274 was sold to Cuba in November, 1956 and assigned Serial #901 in the Fuerza Aerea del Ejercito de Cuba (FAEC - Air Force of the Army of Cuba).

"Sugar Baby", Douglas A-26B-15 Invader Serial Number: 41-39274, was officially Dropped from U.S. Air Force inventory in May, 1957.





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