“Flak-Bait” is a Martin B-26 Marauder, which is currently located within the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, an annex of the Udvar-Hazy Center, which is an annex of the National Air and Space Museum. The Martin B-26 is extremely rare today, with surviving examples likely numbering in the single digits. Over 5,000 B-26s were produced during the Second World War, but because its replacement, the Douglas A-26 Invader, was available by the end of the conflict, huge numbers of Marauders were scrapped in 1945.
Even in the rarified territory of preserved Marauders, Flak-Bait is quite exceptional, because Flak-Bait survived more than 200 combat missions during the war. It is the only American bomber of any type to achieve this feat. For comparison, the famous B-17 “Memphis Belle” was returned to the US for a war bond tour and became the subject of several major films after completing 25 combat missions.
Flak-Bait was named by its first combat pilot, Lieutenant James Farrell. Farrell grew up in Flushing, Queens. He was an extremely gifted student, earning enrollment at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, one of the most elite public prep schools in the world. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Farrell was studying at New York University and working part time in the American Airlines Maintenance Dispatch Office at La Guardia Airport. James immediately left school, volunteered for the Army, and was accepted into pilot training. After completing pilot training he was commissioned and deployed to England, where he was assigned to the 449th Bomb Squadron. His crew was allotted a brand-new B-26 Marauder, which Farrell named “Flak-Bait” after his family dog, “Flea-Bait.”
Farrell and his crew flew Flak-Bait on 33 of her 201 combat missions. Farrell was eventually transferred to Air Transport Command, flying missions in both the European and Pacific theaters. After the war, Farrell flew with American Airlines and later for General Electric. He married a flight attendant and had three children; he was an avid golfer. James Farrell died in 1997 and is buried in Greenwich, Connecticut.
For more on 1Lt. Farrell and Flak-Bait, pre-order a copy of B-26 "Flak-Bait": The Only American Aircraft to Survive 200 Bombing Missions during the Second World War by Alan Crouchman. The book should be shipping in late summer 2022.