Early American Bomber: Martin MB-2

The Martin MB-2 is essentially a Martin MB-1 except for an increase in wing size and the engines have been moved to the lower wing.  The Martin MB-2 shown in these pictures is a reproduction as no Martin MB-2 bombers have survived.  The plane could carry three thousand pounds of bombs, had a crew of three or four, carried five 30 caliber machine guns and cruised at just under 100 miles per hour at about eight thousand feet.


World War I started with a rudimentary understanding of air power.  At the end of World War I aircraft design and tactics had changed from an observational role to both offensive and defensive planes and tactics.  Fighter aircraft design developed to stop enemy planes from observing over friendly lines, then other fighter designs developed to stop the fighters.  Aircraft had also been developed to take the war to the enemy with bombers. 


World War I bombers initially were fighter or observation aircraft pilots dropped small hand-held bombs from.  As the war progressed production of large aircraft designs made it possible to carry heavier and heavier bomb loads.  By the end of World War I planes carrying two thousand pounds of bombs and more had developed. 


The MB-2 plane design is most famous for sinking the German dreadnaught Ostfriesland after World War I.  Germany had been forced to give up its navy at the end of the war.  Maverick General William “Billy” Mitchell had argued for the importance of bombers in the military of the future.  He argued that the power of a strong air force would be more important to future warfare than any other weapon of the time.  To prove his point he used Martin MB-2 bombers to sink surrendered German ships during demonstration bombings after World War I.  He successfully completed the demonstration and an argument began within the American military as to how air power would be used in the future, eventually leading to Billy Mitchell’s court-martial because of his criticism of military leadership.

For more information about this plane: http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=2415

For more information about Billy Mitchell: http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2008/June%202008/0608mitchell.aspx

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July 2008

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