Douglas SBD Dauntless

3 Dauntless SBDs

Dauntless SBD

Douglas SBD Dauntless

Douglas SBD Dauntless

USN, USMC and USAAF Dive Bomber

By , Dec. 2009. Updated January 26, 2012.

The SBD was a solid, unexciting aircraft that performed its job faithfully. It was stable and forgiving to fly with fairly responsive controls. Early versions could not extend the dive brakes at its
maximum speed. This meant that in combat the Dauntless pilots had to throttle back to begin an attack dive. The plane was well constructed and could handle sustained dives of up to seventy degrees.

Being fairly maneuverable, the SBD was occasionally pressed into service as an anti-torpedo bomber interceptor. It played this role well at Coral Sea.
The SBD was the Navy's most successful dive bomber, and was preferred by pilots over its successor, the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver.

Type: Dive bomber
Introduced: June 1940
Nickname: Slow But Deadly, Speedy D

Length: 32.7 ft.
Wingspan: 41.5 ft.
Crew: 2
Weight Empty: 6,345 lbs.
Weight Loaded: 10,400 lbs.

Power Plant: One 1,000 hp. Wright-Cyclone R-1820-52 Radial
Armament: Two .50-caliber machine guns in the nose and two .30-caliber in the rear seat.
Ordnance: Up to 1,000 pounds of bombs

Top Speed: 250 mph
Range: 1,580 miles
Ceiling: 27,000 ft.
Climb Rate: 1,200 ft./min.
Maneuverability: Fair
Firepower: Poor
Durability: Good

Army Version A-24

In 1940, after the amazing success of the German Stuka dive bombers in Poland, the U.S. Army Air Corps ordered 78 of the U.S. Navy's Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber, designating it as the A-24. Fifty-four went to Australia, where in 1942 they had a less-than-glorious combat record flying against Japanese targets in Java and New Guinea. The A-24s were regarded as "too slow, too short-ranged, and too poorly armed." They were relegated to non-combat missions after five of seven airplanes were lost and one was badly damaged on a mission over Buna, New Guinea.

In 1942 the U.S. Army Air Force received 90 more A-24s diverted from a Navy SBD-3 contract. These aircraft were essentially the same as the initial A-24s but received the SBD-3A designation during production.

SBD Wreck Recovered from Lake Michigan

On June 19th, 2007 fittingly the 65th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the last great carrier battle of World War II in which the SBD Dauntless participated, another example of the venerable dive bomber emerged from Lake Michigan. This aircraft, destined for the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, is the second Dauntless recovered from the lake in recent months as part of the reinstitution of the National Museum of Naval Aviation’s underwater aircraft recovery program. An SBD-5, which is planned for display at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, was pulled from Lake Michigan in April.

This SBD-2 (BuNo 2173) boasts a most interesting history with a few twists and turns. The aircraft’s history card notes its acceptance by the Navy in 1941, and assignment to Scouting Squadron (VS) 6 in USS Enterprise (CV 6). During its tour with this squadron, 2173 experienced its first mishap when its main gear collapsed during a landing, damaging the wings.

Assigned to the Aircraft, Battle Force aircraft pool at San Diego in August 1941, 2173 was in California on 7 December 1941, but the following month found it assigned to the aircraft pool at Pearl Harbor. It is here that the record- keeping goes astray.

While one page of the aircraft history card indicates assignment to Scouting Squadron (VS) 5 in March 1942, the section that details “Trouble Reports” related to the plane’s service bears the entry “Strike. Crashed at sea. Plane sank immediately.” The station noted for this mishap is USS Hornet (CV 8), and a look at the ship’s war diary and aircraft accident reports from the era reveal that on 21 April 1942, an SBD made a hard water landing in the Pacific, the force of the crash causing the plane to sink quickly with the loss of its crew, Lieutenant Gardner D. Randall and Radioman Second Class Thomas A. Gallagher. Though the war diary indicated that the aircraft was an SBD-3, the aircraft accident report identifies the aircraft lost as SBD-2 (BuNo 2173).

Source: Defunct Geocities website, Air War Over the Pacific