The Douglas Dauntless & an Eye Witness Story

the first Douglas A-24, S/N#41-15746 (US Air Force photo)

the first Douglas A-24, S/N#41-15746
(US Air Force photo)

The SBD dive bombers were the main dive bombers of the US Navy and Marine Corps from late 1940.  Some of them, known as A-24 Banshees were employed by the US Army, but they had no arresting hooks and used different tires.  In early 1941, the variant SBD-3  went into production and offered increased protection, self-sealing fuel tanks and 4 machine-guns.  During the Battle of the Coral Sea, Dauntless bombers took part in the destruction of the Japanese carrier Shoho and in Midway they were involved in all 4 sinkings of Japanese fleet carriers.

Army A-24 Banshee

Army A-24 Banshee

A SBD Dauntless crew veteran recalled ______

The Dauntless was a charm; rock steady in a vertical dive, completely responsive to the controls and ready to absorb punishment and still get you home.  I was worked over by 2 Japanese Type 97 fighters over Maloelap on the afternoon of 1 February 1942 and came out of it unconcerned with 50 holes through the tail surfaces and left wing tip, a hole in the gas tank in the root of my right wing and one small calibre that broke apart when it hit the back of my armoured seal.
 
Our greatest vulnerability was the inadequate protection of the rear seat gunner.  At Midway, a good number of our torpedo plane losses must have come from after the gunner was killed.  At that point, the dive bomber or torpedo plane is dead…It was my observation that as long as the tail gunner was firing, the attacking fighter tended to break off the attack before getting into killing range.
 
USS Enterprise crewmen load a 500 lb bomb onto a SBD scout bomber

USS Enterprise crewmen load a 500 lb bomb onto a SBD scout bomber

 

The 2-man crew were powered by one Wright R-1820-66 Cyclone 9-cylinder radial engine rated at 1,350 horsepower and possessed an armament of two 12.7mm machine-guns, two 7.62mm machine-guns, an optional 1,600 pounds of bombs to be held under the body and an optional 650 pounds of bombs under their wings.

7 SBD Dauntless dive bombers flying in formation

7 SBD Dauntless dive bombers flying in formation

After the Coral Sea and Midway battles, the US Navy developed a highly efficient tactic with the SBD Dauntless; the ability to attack at a steep grade with the “helldiving” technique, while torpedo bombers attacked in conjunction to distract the Japanese gunners.  Defensively, the heavy armament of 4 machine-guns posed a serious threat for Japanese fighters, which generally lacked armor protection.  After being key participants of the various battles near Guadalcanal and around the Solomon Island area, they took their last major action during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.  Their successors, the SB2C Helldiver bombers took over the main role.

During the production life of the SBD Dauntless, 5,936 aircraft were built and they sank more Japanese shipping in the Pacific than any other Allied aircraft.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Humor –

Our NEW Air Force ?????

Our NEW Air Force ???

 

Our new Air Force

Our new Air Force

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Charles Bullock Sr. – Orlando & Delray, FL; US Army, WWII, 7th Combat Engineers

Clinton Crow – Oxnard, CA; US Army, WWII, ETO / US Navy, Korea (Ret.)thankyou

Ronald Ferrie – Victoria, CAN; RC Signal Corps, WWII, Major, ETO

Steven Haase – Olympia, WA; US Army, Iraq, pilot, Warrant Officer, (Ret.)

Philip Laino – Worchester, MA; US Army, Vietnam & Korea, Sgt. Major, (Ret. 41 years)

John McNutt – Tequesta, FL; US Navy, WWII, PTO & CBI

Sean P. Neal – Riverside, CA; USMC, ISIS Campaign

George Pokorny – Thornton, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, C-47 radio operator

Edmund Pollak – Des Moines, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HeadquartersCompany3/511th Regiment

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on October 27, 2014, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 59 Comments.

  1. The Dauntless deserves an in depth, detailed documentary episode of its own. Programs like “Great Planes” and Discovery Channel’s “Wings” have both ignored the SBD and the brave pilots/gunners who flew them.

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    • It would be great if someone like yourself did a post like that. Starting your own blog or website is easy, free and enjoyable – not to mention all the first-hand info you could relate. Turns out too many people have forgotten or never knew so much about this era.

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  2. This brought back a memory I had of Old Man Jack and his SBD… when he learned why everything “smelled like shit” on those islands. Interesting battle statistic regarding sinkings!

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    • It’s amazing how much we read and hear that remind us of Old Man Jack and Smitty – I suppose that generation will always be influencing us. (and I’m sure not complaining about that!)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You always share the most interesting information and great photos. Thanks.

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  4. The self-sealing gas tanks were good but they really needed bullet-proof covers for the rear gunners. Amazing what these men went through. Love your humor, especially the stealth bomber!

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  5. Just popping in to let you know Tom and I are on way to LR VA. Tom will be reading and leading discussions in an effort to get the vets to telling their own stories. We have a 12 hr day including meetings.with the powers that be. Tom hopes to record today with the vets he meets and works with.

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    • Outstanding, Sheri!! Please tell Tom how proud I am to at least be partially acquainted with him. I realize this must be an effort for him and I understand his sacrifice for his fellow veterans. God speed to both of you!!

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  6. Thought of you GP the other day when I was making my way down the Oregon Coast and came across a blimp hangar from WW II in Tilamook, which is now famous for its cheese. The hangar was immense and could house up to eight 250 feet blimps. The blimps were used for spotting Japanese submarines off the coast. –Curt

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    • Thanks for thinking of me Curt! Yes, those blimps were used for recon and scouting on both sides of the war – I don’t know why we don’t hear more about them. I saw the Goodyear blimp just yesterday looking like it was chugging down the next street over. He was fairly low in the sky and you CAN NOT miss the sound of their engines. We see them quite often here in So. Fla, especially during football season and they give tour rides out of the next county.

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  7. Fascinating facts regarding the rear gunners, I am always interested in war birds so this article quickly caught my attention.

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  8. These planes look so open to attack I am surprised many survived. Thanks for sharing your interesting stories.

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  9. Wonder if any adaptions were made to protect the rear seat gunner of the SBD.
    The crewmans observation that torpedo plane losses must have come from after the gunner was killed, could not have gone unnoticed by the hierachy.
    Great blog mate.
    Ian

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    • It did behoove them to make alterations before they were replaced, Ian, but nothing that would make much of a difference here in the pictures. I’m very happy you’re enjoying your visits here!! Do you celebrate Halloween in Australia?

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  10. There was something about the WWII aircraft both British and American, I remember seeing them flying overhead in formation heading east to pound the Jerry’s what a great sight and sound unforgettable, the aircraft all seemed to have a character about them a style just something that the modern aircraft lack,

    Mostly I recall the USAF and the Flying Fortresses when they came into the war, they did the daylight attacks and the RAF took over the night attacks , the poor old Jerry’s didn’t get much let up. Their own fault the silly sods shouldn’t have started the war in the first place.

    Today’s aircraft seem so clinical, perhaps it was the WWII planes were actually fighting the big war and the boys/men flying them were often just young men who in peaceful times may have been clerks or salesmen or even high school students, I know that some as young as 18 were flying the Spitfires and Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain.

    These days you need a college degree with maths before the airforces will look at you! Back then you needed the will and enthusiasm to fly.

    Great days when you think and look back on them.

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    • Like I try to impress on some people – we’re looking back with 2014 eyes (another reason I like to add first hand stories). The planes were unique back then because aeronautics was basically still in its infancy. Granted, that generation was forced to grow-up fast and it made them one of the strongest people we ever heard of, especially here in the US, so the idea of a young age fighting is an argument we could carry on forever.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I was unaware that the Dauntless was used by the army! Since blogging I have learnt so much about individual aircraft and battles. A fitting tribute to a less well known aircraft that actually played a major part in the Pacific Theatre. Thank you.

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  12. I never knew that the SBD Dauntless was so heavily armed – quite an unassuming craft that was. Oh! That flyboy looks like he’s got his mitts on Wonder Woman’s jet. *haha!* 😉

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  13. Interesting. I was surprised by its effectiveness in a vertical dive. Clever, that.

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  14. RM3C Jay William Jenkins, the brother of one of my uncles, was a rear gunner on an SBD Dauntless of VB-6 (Bombing Squadron Six) of the USS Enterprise (CV-6). He was among those dive bomber crews from the USS Enterprise who destroyed three Japanese aircraft carriers and disabled a fourth at the Battle of Midway. He was among the 176 United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, and United States Army Air Force aircrew killed at the Battle of Midway in achieving victory over the Japanese force.

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    • That is an outstanding addition to this post, Allen. I greatly appreciate you sharing this information with us. The fact that he did not come home is a loss for us all.

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      • The dive bomber boys — and they were but boys — as well as those flying the torpedo planes were incredibly brave from all accounts. They performed an outstanding service that day and helped shorten the war. We will never know their individual stories of heroism, but it was recognized. RM3C Jay Williams Jenkins received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service: http://projects.militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=308961. I am sure that this was of little compensation to his family for their loss of a son and brother. It did, though, insure that his bravery would never be forgotten.

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        • A spine-chilling story of Mr. Jenkins’ bravery to save his pilot, it’s a story I know I won’t forget. Thank you for sharing it. They still have him as MIA?

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  15. Another very interesting blog post. Was the Dauntless the aircraft flown in combat by President Bush Senior?

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  16. A good summary about a famous aircraft.

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  17. Brave were the pilots and gunners. Thanks for sharing the thoughts of a crew member

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  18. Reblogged this on A Conservative Christian Man.

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  19. Getting those 4 carriers was a real turning point.

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  20. Dauntless was a good name for them.

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  21. Sounds like an amazing fighter plane.

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  22. Nice tribute to the Dauntless

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