Invaders for Colombia

Last revised August 26, 2000


The South American nation of Colombia has for a long time maintained a rivalry with its neighbor Venezuela, with border disputes, trade frictions, and territorial differences causing relations to be on occasion tense and acrimonious. In 1951, Colombia had signed a Military Assistance Agreement with the USA, making the country eligible for receipt of military aid. That same year, alarmed at the Venezuelan acquisition of surplus British and American warplanes, the government of Colombia requested that the US provide nine B-26s to re-equip the bomber force of the Fuerza Aerea Colombiana. However, the US government was reluctant to contribute to the development of yet another arms race in Latin America, and the Colombian request for B-26s was politely turned down.

However, in 1953 there was a change in policy and MDAP officials decided to equip all participating Latin American air forces with B-26s. However, deliveries of B-26s to Colombia still represented a special challenge, since the US government did not want to alarm Venezuela. Consequently it was agreed rather artificially that the mission of the FAC B-26 bomber force would be exclusively anti-submarine warfare and maritime reconnaissance rather than ground attack or bombing. Under this rather thin pretext, the delivery of B-26s to Colombia was approved.

The first B-26s were delivered to the FAC at its Villavicencio base in late 1954. The final aircraft were delivered in late November of 1957, bringing the total to nineteen. They were serialed FAC 2501 through 2519.

The B-26s were initially delivered with both turrets in place, but there was no provision for any training of aerial gunners, and most aircraft later had their ventral turrets removed.

Colombia was racked with chronic internal strife throughout most of the 1940s and 1950s. Beginning in 1948, there was a state of undeclared civil war known as la violencia. La violencia spread throughout the country, especially in the Andes and the llanos (plains), sparing only the southernmost portion of Nariņo and parts of the Caribbean coastal area. By mid-1952 as much as one-third of of national territory was estimated to have been controlled by various forces opposed to the government. It was an extremely complex phenomenon, characterized by both partisan political rivalry and sheer rural banditry. La violencia claimed over 200,000 lives during the next eighteen years, with the bloodiest period occurring between 1948 and 1958.

FAC B-26s were heavily involved in counterinsurgency operations between 1955 and 1958, and several aircraft were lost during combat. Many aging FAC B-26s developed the usual wing spar cracks and went through the wing spar repair program at Albrook AFB in the Canal Zone in 1964-65. By this time, attrition had reduced the fleet to only eight.

In 1968, the FAC decided to deactivate its bomber force in favor of transports, and most FAC B-26s stood down in 1968. A couple were kept airworthy until 1972 as courier aircraft. A couple of FAC B-26s are preserved in museums.

Sources:


  1. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.

  2. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920: Volume I, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1988.

  3. American Combat Planes, Third Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

  4. Foreign Invaders--The Douglas Invader in Foreign Military and US Clandestine Service, Dan Hagendorn and Leif Hellstrom, Midland Publishing, 1994.

  5. US Library of Congress Country Study--Colombia