The Boeing P-26 Peashooter
The P-26 started as the Boeing Model 248 in September 1931. The XP-936 made its first flight on March 20, 1932. The USAAC redesignated the aircraft the XP-26.[i] Boeing made 257 P-26s. They were obsolescent by the time the U.S. entered World War II. They remained in service in Panama and Guatemala into the 1950s.[ii] It was the last fighter designed and mass produced by Boeing.[iii]
For the 1930s it represented a mixture of old and new technology. It was an all-metal monoplane. It had external bracing wires. It was the last U.S. fighter plane to have these. It also had fixed landing gear and an open cockpit. It was designed with the concept that fighter planes should be small and maneuverable. The U.S. only lost 5 Peashooters to accidents during the 1930s. In 1940 and 41 the U.S. lost 15 Peashooters to accidents.
[i] Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide by Tony Holmes, © HarperCollins Publications 2005.
[ii] Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide by Tony Holmes, © HarperCollins Publications 2005.
[iii] After Boeing purchased McDonnell-Douglas in 1997 it became the prime contractor for the F-15 and the F/A-18. It was also a contractor for the Lockheed-Martin F-22.
China received 10 P-26 Model 281’s in 1936. On August 15, 1937 8 Peashooters were among the Chinese aircraft to intercept 20 Japanese G3M bombers. Captain Wong Sun-Shui shot down the first G3M bomber. P-26s shot down 3 other G3Ms and damaged 6 others. Chinese Hawk fighters joined in the combat. The Chinese Air Force claimed 14 G3Ms shot down without loss.[i]
The next day P-26 pilot John Wong shot down a G3M flown by Ensign Umebyashi. He damaged another G3M then shot down a G3M flown by Lieutenant Commander Nitta. All the crew members of the downed G3Ms perished.[ii]
Captain Wong Sun-Shui shot down an A4N fighter on August 23.[iii] None of the Chinese Peashooters were operational at the end of 1937.[iv]
A P-26 was in service with the Republican Air Force during the Spanish Civil War. It scored no air victories and the Nationalists shot it down.[v]
There were 28 P-26s in the Philippines on December 7, 1941. Japanese air attacks destroyed most of the Peashooters on the ground. On December 10 Philippine Air Force pilot Jesus Villamor shot down a G3M bomber.[vi] On December 12 Jesus Villamor led a flight of P-26s against a Japanese force of G3M bombers with an A6M2 Zero escort. Villamor shot down 2 Zeros.[vii] On December 24 the defenders destroyed the surviving P26’s so the wouldn’t fall into Japanese hands.
Peashooters served in the Panama Canal Zone performing patrol duties. In 1943 the U.S. sold the last 11 Peashooters to Panama. Panama sold them to Guatemala.
[i] Biplane Fighter Aces, China, Chinese biplane fighter aces - 'Buffalo' Wong Sun-Shui (dalnet.se), last acceded 12/12/20.
[ii] Biplane Fighter Aces, China, Chinese biplane fighter aces - 'Buffalo' Wong Sun-Shui (dalnet.se), last acceded 12/12/20.
[iii] Biplane Fighter Aces, China, Chinese biplane fighter aces - 'Buffalo' Wong Sun-Shui (dalnet.se), last acceded 12/12/20.
[iv] History.net, Boeing's Trailblazing P-26 Peashooter (historynet.com), last accessed 12/12/20.
[v] History and Headlines.com, The Worst U.S. Fighter Plane of World War II, the Peashooter, Managed to Shoot Down Japanese Zeros! - History and Headlines, last accessed 12/12/20.
[vi] Aviation History.com, Boeing P-26 Peashooter (aviation-history.com), last accessed 12/12/20.
[vii] History and Headlines.com, The Worst U.S. Fighter Plane of World War II, the Peashooter, Managed to Shoot Down Japanese Zeros! - History and Headlines, last accessed 12/12/20.
Peashooter vs Zero Stats
|Boeing P-26||Mitsubishi A6M Zero-Sen|
23' 10" (7.26m)
29' 11" (9.12m)
27" 11.5" (8.52m)
36' 1" (11m)
10' 5" (3.17m)
11' 6" (3.5m)
2,196 lbs. (996.1 kg)
4,136 lbs. (1,876 kg)
Max. T/O Weight
3,015 lbs. (1,367.6 kg)
6,025 lbs. (2,733 kg)
234 mph (376.6 kmh)
340 mph (548 km/h)
560 miles (901 km)
945 mi (1,520 km)
600 Hp (447.4 kW)
1,130 Hp (843 kW)
2x0.30 (7.62) caliber MGs
2x20 mm cannons, 3x 0.60 caliber (13mm) MGs
The Guatemalan Air Force flew the P-26 until the 1950s when they were replaced by the F-51 Mustangs.[i] There were some P-26 sorties in the 1954 coup d’état. Two Peashooters were flying with the Guatemalan Air Force in 1957.[ii] One of these Peashooters is at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles, Virginia. The other P-26 is at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California.
[i] Dailykos.com, Icons of Aviation History: Boeing P-26 Peashooter (dailykos.com), last accessed 12/12/20.
[ii] Aviation History.com, Boeing P-26 Peashooter (aviation-history.com), last accessed 12/12/20.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Robert Sacchi
Robert Sacchi (author) on December 15, 2020:
Thank you both for reading and commenting. Yes, Peashooter is a funny name, but it describes the P-26 well. It's apparently the nickname the pilots gave it rather than an official nickname. Pilots tend to come up with better names for their aircraft. WIth aircraft size has many disadvantages. The bigger aircraft is easier to see, not good. The bigger the plane the bigger the target, not good. Larger aircraft sometimes can take more punishment. The Zero was a relatively fragil aircraft. Larger aircraft tend to me less maneuverable. The Zeros had a distinct advantage over the P-26. Tactical position and pilot skill can, and in the cases in this article did, more than compensate for these advantages.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 15, 2020:
Peashooter does sound like a funny name for an aircraft. Thanks for educating us about the history of this airplane.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 14, 2020:
This is another interesting article about the history of an airplane, Robert. Peashooter is kind of a funny name, but the airplane served its purpose. The A6M2 Zero is quite a bit larger, which I think could be a bit intimadating to the peashooter.