By TSgt James Bentley, 117th Air Refueling Wing Public Affiars
/ Published July 24, 2020
Members of the 117th Maintenance Group disassemble an A-26 Invader at the Museum of Aviation, Warner Robins, Ga., June 22, 2020. This aircraft will be relocated to Sumpter Smith Joint National Guard Base, Birmingham, Ala. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by: Tech. Sgt. Jim Bentley)
Airmen from the 117th Maintenance Group traveled to the Museum of Aviation, Warner Robins, Ga. to disassemble and relocate an A-26 Invader.
This mission served two purposes. The Invader will be restored and put on display at Sumpter Smith Joint National Guard Base. This move also constituted the annual Crash Damage or Disabled Aircraft Recovery training for the Maintainers.
The A-26 Invader is tied to Sumpter Smith JNGB history. The 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Group flew these aircraft from 1946 until the arrival of the RF-84F Thunderstreak in 1957.
In 1961 the CIA recruited airmen from the 117th to support the Bay of Pigs Invasion. They were chosen for their experience with the Invader (at the time redesignated as the B-26), as the 117th had among the last Wings to operate the aircraft. Their mission was to travel to Nicaragua where they would provide training, maintenance and other support for Cuban exiles, who flew Invaders in an attempt to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro.
In the last day of the attack eight Americans volunteered to fly in order to relieve the exhausted Cuban pilots. Four of those airmen died: Pete Ray, Riley Shamburger, Wade Gray, and Leo Baker. American involvement in the invasion was classified until 1998.
The tail number on this A-26 matches that of one of the aircraft used in the invasion.