SBD Dauntless

A-24 Banshee

A U.S. Navy Douglas SBD Dauntless releasing a bomb. Note the extended trailing edge dive brakes.
Role Dive bomber
National origin United States
Manufacturer Douglas
Designer Ed Heinemann
First flight 1 May 1940
Introduction 1940
Retired 1959 (Mexico)
Primary users United States Navy

United States Marine Corps United States Army Air Forces Free French Air Force

Produced 1940–1944
Number built 5,936
Developed from Northrop BT

The Douglas SBD Dauntless was a naval dive bomber made by Douglas during World War II. The SBD (short for Scout Bomber Douglas) was the United States Navy's main dive bomber from mid-1940 until late 1943, when it was largely replaced by the SB2C Helldiver. The aircraft was also operated by the United States Army as the A-24 Banshee.

Although relatively slow and outmoded when it began its combat career, it was rugged and dependable and sank more Japanese shipping than any other aircraft during World War II.[1]


[hide] *1 Design and development

[edit] Design and developmentEdit

The Northrop BT-1 provided the basis for the SBD, which began manufacture in 1940. Ed Heinemann led a team of designers who considered a development with a 1,000 hp (750 kW) Wright Cyclone powerplant. A year earlier, both the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps had placed orders for the new dive bombers, designated the SBD-1 and SBD-2 (the latter had increased fuel capacity and different armament). The SBD-1 went to the Marine Corps in late 1940, and the SBD-2 went to the Navy in early 1941.

The next version, designated SBD-3, began manufacture in early 1941. It provided increased armor, self-sealing fuel tanks, and four machine guns. The SBD-4 provided a 12 volt (from 6) electrical system, and a few were converted into SBD-4P reconnaissance platforms. [2][3]Comparison of the XBT-1 and XBT-2 (SBD).The next (and most produced) variant, the SBD-5, was primarily produced at the Douglas plant at Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was equipped with a 1,200 hp (890 kW) engine and increased ammunition. Over 2,400 were built, and a few were shipped to the Royal Navy for evaluation. In addition to American service, the type saw combat against the Japanese with No. 25 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, which soon replaced them with F4U Corsairs, and against the Germans with the Free French Air Force. A few were also sent to Mexico. The final version, the SBD-6, provided more improvements but production ended in summer 1944.

The U.S. Army had its own version of the SBD, known as the A-24 Banshee, which lacked the tail hook used for carrier landings, and a pneumatic tire replaced the solid tail wheel. First assigned to the 27th Bombardment Group (Light) at Hunter Field, Ga., A-24s participated in the Louisiana maneuvers during September 1941. There were three versions of the Banshee (A-24, the A-24A and A-24B) used by the Army in the early stages of the war.[2] The USAAF used 948 of the 5,937 Dauntlesses built.

[edit] Operational historyEdit

[edit] United States Army Air ForcesEdit

[4][5]A-24B taxiing at Makin Island.The United States Army Air Forces sent 52 A-24 Banshees in crates to the Philippine Islands in fall 1941 to equip the 27th Bombardment Group, whose personnel arrived separately. However with the early December attack on Pearl Harbor, these aircraft were diverted to Australia and the 27th BG fought on Bataan as infantry. While in Australia, these aircraft were reassembled for flight to the Philippines, but missing parts including solenoids, trigger motors, and gun mounts delayed shipment. Plagued with mechanical problems the A-24s were diverted to the 91st Bombardment Squadron and designated for assignment to Java instead. Referring to themselves as "Blue Rock Clay Pigeons", the 91st attacked the enemy harbor and airbase at Bali and damaged or sank numerous ships around Java[citation needed]. After the Japanese shot down two A-24s and damaged three so badly they could no longer fly, the 91st received orders to evacuate Java in early March, ending a brief but valiant effort.

The Banshees left in Australia were assigned to the 8th Bombardment Squadron of 3d Bombardment Group, to defend New Guinea. On 26 July 1942, seven A-24s attacked a convoy off Buna, but only one survived: the Japanese shot down five of them and damaged the sixth so badly that it did not make it back to base. Regarded by many pilots as too slow, too short-ranged and too poorly armed, the remaining A-24s were relegated to non-combat missions. In the U.S., the A-24s became training aircraft or towed targets for aerial gunnery training. The more powerful A-24B was used later against the Japanese forces in the Gilbert Islands.[2]

[edit] U.S. Navy and Marine CorpsEdit

U.S. Navy and Marine Corps SBDs saw their first action at Pearl Harbor. A total of 18 SBDs from the carrier USS Enterprise arrived over Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack, and Scouting Squadron Six (VS-6) lost six aircraft, while Bombing Squadron Six (VB-6) lost one. Most Marine SBDs of Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 232 (VMSB-232) were destroyed on the ground at Ewa Mooring Mast Field. On 10 December 1941, Enterprise SBDs sank the Japanese submarine I-70. In February-March 1942, SBDs from the carriers USS Lexington, Yorktown and Enterprise took part in various strikes on Japanese installations in the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, New Guinea, at Rabaul, on Wake and on Marcus Island. Later, SBDs painted to resemble Japanese aircraft appeared in the John Ford film December 7th (1943). [6][7]Damaged VB-6 SBD-3 on Yorktown after the attack on Kaga at Midway.The type's first major use was in the Battle of the Coral Sea, when SBDs and TBDs sank the Japanese carrier Shōhō. SBDs were also used as anti-torpedo combat air patrol (CAP) and scored several times against Japanese aircraft trying to attack Lexington and Yorktown.

Their relatively heavy gun armament—two forward firing .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns and either one or two rear flexible-mount .30 in (7.62 mm) AN/M2 machine guns—was effective against the lightly built Japanese fighters, and many pilot-gunner combinations took an aggressive attitude to fighters which attacked them. One pilot—Stanley "Swede" Vejtasa—was attacked by three Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighters but managed to shoot two of them down and cut off the wing of the third in a head-on pass with his wing tip.[3] [N 1]

However, the SBD's most important contribution to the American war effort probably came during the Battle of Midway in early June 1942, when SBD dive bomber attacks sank or fatally damaged all four of the Japanese aircraft carriers, three of them in the space of just six minutes (Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, and later in the day Hiryū) as well as heavily damaging two Japanese cruisers (including Mikuma).

At Midway, Marine SBDs were not as effective. One squadron, VMSB-241, operating from Midway Island, was not trained in the "Helldiving" technique; instead, the new pilots resorted to the slower but easier glide bombing technique, which led to heavy losses. The carrier-borne squadrons, on the other hand, were much more effective, combined with their F4F Wildcat fighter escorts. The success of dive bombing was due to two important circumstances: firstly, and most importantly, the Japanese carriers were at their most vulnerable, readying bombers for battle, with full fuel hoses and armed ordnance strewn across their hangar decks. Secondly, the valiant but doomed assault of the TBD squadrons from the American carriers had drawn the Japanese fighter cover away from the dive bombers, thereby allowing the SBDs to attack unhindered. [8][9]A VB-5 SBD from Yorktown over Wake, early October 1943.Next, SBDs participated in the Guadalcanal campaign, both from American carriers and Henderson Field on Guadalcanal Island. Dauntlesses contributed to the heavy loss of Japanese shipping during the campaign, including the carrier Ryūjō near the Solomon Islands on 24 August, damaging three others during the six-month campaign. SBDs proceeded to sink one cruiser and nine transports during the decisive Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

During the decisive period of the Pacific Campaign, the SBD's strengths and weaknesses became evident. While the American strength was dive bombing, the Japanese stressed their Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" torpedo bombers, which had caused the bulk of the damage at Pearl Harbor.

In the Atlantic Ocean, the SBD saw action during Operation Torch, the Allied landings in North Africa, in November 1942. The Dauntlesses operated from USS Ranger and two escort carriers. Eleven months later, in Operation Leader, the SBDs saw their European debut when aircraft from Ranger attacked German shipping around Bodø, Norway.[4]

The SBD was used until 1944, when the Dauntless undertook its last major action during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. [10][11]A VB-4 SBD-3 near Bodø, Norway, 4 October 1943.However, some Marine squadrons in the Pacific used Dauntlesses until the end of the war. It had already been replaced by the SB2C Helldiver in the U.S. Navy, much to the dismay of the pilots, many of whom believed the "Slow But Deadly" Dauntless was a better aircraft than the Helldiver, which gained the nicknames "Son of a Bitch 2nd Class" and "The Beast". The Dauntless was one of the most important aircraft in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, sinking more enemy shipping in the Pacific war than any other Allied aircraft. In addition, Barrett Tillman, in his book on the Dauntless, claims that the Dauntless has a "plus" score against enemy aircraft, considered a rare event for a nominal "bomber".[5]

A total of 5,936 SBDs were produced in World War II. When the last SBD rolled off the assembly lines at Douglas Aircraft Company's El Segundo plant on 21 July 1944, it marked the final dive bomber which the Navy was to buy. The Navy placed emphasis on the heavier, faster and longer-range SB2C. From Pearl Harbor until April 1944, SBDs had flown 1,189,473 operational hours, with 25 percent of all operational hours flown off aircraft carriers being in Dauntless aircraft. Its battle record shows that in addition to six Japanese carriers, 14 enemy cruisers had been sunk, along with six destroyers, fifteen transports or cargo ships and scores of various lesser craft.[6]

A handful of A-24 Banshees survived in the USAAF's inventory long enough to be taken over by the United States Air Force when that service became independent of the U.S. Army in 1947. The USAF instituted a new designation system for its aircraft, eliminating the "A-for-Attack" category, until 1962. Twin-engined "A" types were redesignated as bombers (another Douglas product, the A-26 Invader becoming the B-26) while single-engined "A" aircraft were identified as fighters. As a result, the Banshee became known as the F-24, although the type was retired shortly thereafter in 1950.[7]

[edit] French Air Force and Naval Aviation (Aeronavale)Edit

The first production Dauntless sent into action was the "SBD-3", which was produced for the French Naval Aviation. A total of 174 Dauntlesses were ordered by the French Navy, but with the fall of France in the spring of 1940 that production batch was diverted to the US Navy, which ordered 410 more. Ironically, USN Dauntless bombers bombed French bases in North Africa in 1942.

The Free French received about 80 SBD-5s and A-24Bs from US stocks in 1944. They were used as trainers and close-support aircraft.

  • Free French squadrons received 40 to 50 A-24Bs in Morocco and Algeria during 1943.
  • French Naval Aviation (Aeronautique Navale) received in late 1944 32 SBD-5s for Flotilles 3FB and 4FB (16 SBD-5 for each).

Squadron I/17 Picardie used a few A-24Bs for coastal patrol. The most combat-experienced of the Banshee units was GC 1/18 Vendee, which flew A-24Bs in support of Allied forces in the south of France and also experienced how deadly German flak was, losing several aircraft in 1944. The squadron flew from North Africa to recently liberated Toulouse to support Allied and French resistance troops. Later, the unit was assigned to support attacks on cities occupied by the Germans on the French Atlantic coast. In April 1945 each SBD-5 averaged three missions a day in the European theater. In 1946 the French Air Force based its A-24Bs in Morocco as trainers.

French Navy Dauntlesses were based in Cognac at the end of 1944. The French Navy Dauntlesses would be the last of the type to see combat, operating during the Indochina War off the carrier Arromanches (former Royal Navy aircraft carrier Colossus). In late 1947 during one operation in the Indochina War, Flotille 4F flew 200 missions and dropped 65 tons of bombs. By 1949, the French Navy removed the Dauntless from combat status although the type was still operated in the training role until 1953.

[edit] Royal New Zealand Air ForceEdit

The Royal New Zealand Air Force received 18 SBD-3s and 23 SDB-4s, and RNZAF 25 Squadron did use them successfully in combat in the South Pacific.

Under the original plan, four Squadrons (25, 26, 27 and 28 Sqn) of the RNZAF were going to be equipped with the Dauntless, but only 25 Sqn used the type operationally. The RNZAF soon replaced them with F4U Corsairs.

[edit] VariantsEdit

[12][13]U.S. Marine Corps SBD-1, 1940.[14][15]SBD-5 production at El Segundo, 1943.[16][17]FFARs mounted on a SBD for testing, 1944.;XBT-2

prototype, airframe was a production Northrop BT-1 heavily modified and redesignated as the XBT-2. Further modified by Douglas as the XSBD-1.
Marine Corps version without self-sealing fuel tanks; 57 built.
reconnaissance platforms, converted from SBD-1s.
Navy version with increased fuel capacity and different armament but without self-sealing fuel tanks, starting in early 1941; 87 built.
reconnaissance platforms, converted from SBD-2s.
began manufacture in early 1941. It provided increased protection, self-sealing fuel tanks, and four machine guns; 584 built.
provided a 12-volt (from 6) electrical system; 780 built.
reconnaissance platforms, converted from SBD-4s.
The most produced variant, primarily produced at the Douglas plant at Tulsa, Oklahoma. Equipped with a 1,200 hp engine and increased ammunition. 2,965 were built, and a few were shipped to the Royal Navy for evaluation. In addition to American service, the type saw combat against the Japanese with No. 25 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force which soon replaced them with F4U Corsairs, and against the Germans with the Free French Air Force. A few were also sent to Mexico.
as A-24B, for USAAF but delivered to USMC; 60 built.
The final version, providing more improvements, including a 1,350 hp (1,010 kW) engine, but production ended in summer 1944; 450 built.
A-24 Banshee (SBD-3A)
USAAF equivalent of the SBD-3 without arrester hook; 168 built.[8]
A-24A Banshee (SBD-4A)
USAAF equivalent of the SBD-4; 170 built.
A-24B Banshee (SBD-5A)
USAAF equivalent of the SBD-5; 615 built.

[edit] OperatorsEdit

[18][19]A No. 25 Squadron RNZAF SBD-4 on Espiritu Santo, 1944.[20][21]One of nine SBD-5s supplied to the Royal Navy.;Chile

  • Moroccan Desert Police[13]
New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States

[edit] SurvivorsEdit

[22][23]A-24 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force[24][25]Battle of Midway veteran recovered from Lake Michigan, 1994.===[edit] New Zealand===

On display

[edit] United StatesEdit

On display
Under restoration

[edit] Specifications (SBD-5)Edit


Data from McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920[34]

General characteristics



  • Guns:
  • 2 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) forward-firing synchronized Browning M2 machine guns in engine cowling
  • 2 × 0.30 in (7.62 mm) flexible-mounted Browning machine gun in rear
  • Bombs: 2,250 lb (1,020 kg) of bombs

[edit] See alsoEdit

[27][28]An SBD gunner aims his twin .30 caliber machine guns aboard USS Independence.

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists

[edit] ReferencesEdit

[edit] NotesEdit

  1. ^ Vejtasa's skill thus having been clearly demonstrated, he was transferred to fighters; in October 1942, he shot down seven enemy aircraft in one day.[3]

[edit] CitationsEdit

  1. ^ Wheeler 1992, p. 59.
  2. ^ a b "Fact Sheet: Douglas A-24." National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 23 August 2010.
  3. ^ a b "USAF UA Vejtasa bio." Retrieved: 23 August 2010.
  4. ^ Smith 2007, p. 186.
  5. ^ Tillman, Barrett The Dauntless Dive Bomber of World War Two. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1976. ISBN 1-59114-867-7.
  6. ^ "Navy's Final SBD Is Built: Type to be Supplanted by SB2C's." Naval Aviation News, 15 September 1944, p. 11.
  7. ^ Yenne 1985, p. 46.
  8. ^ Mondey 1996, p. 127.
  9. ^ a b Smith 1997, p. 150.
  10. ^ Pęczkowski 2007, pp. 41–43.
  11. ^ a b Smith 1997, pp. 151–155.
  12. ^ Pęczkowski 2007, pp. 35–40.
  13. ^ Tillman 1998, p. 85.
  14. ^ Smith 1997, pp. 115–121.
  15. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 06853." Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum. Retrieved: 13 April 2012.
  16. ^ "Douglas A-24 Banshee/42-54532." FAA Registry. Retrieved: 17 May 2011.
  17. ^ "Douglas A-24 Banshee/42-54682." FAA Registry. Retrieved: 17 May 2011.
  18. ^ "Douglas A-24 Banshee/42-60817." FAA Registry. Retrieved: 17 May 2011.
  19. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 28536." FAA Registry. Retrieved: 17 May 2011.
  20. ^ "Douglas A-24 Banshee/42-54582." National Museum of the USAF. Retrieved: 12 April 2012.
  21. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 02106." National Museum of Naval Aviation. Retrieved: 12 April 2012.
  22. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 06624." Air Zoo. Retrieved: 12 April 2012.
  23. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 06833." National Museum of Naval Aviation. Retrieved: 12 April 2012.
  24. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 06900." San Diego Air & Space Museum. Retrieved: 12 April 2012.
  25. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 10575." Midway Airport Battle of Midway Exhibit. Retrieved: 12 April 2012.
  26. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 10518." Yanks Air Museum. Retrieved: 12 April 2012.
  27. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 36173." Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. Retrieved: 12 April 2012.
  28. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 36175." Palm Springs Air Museum. Retrieved: 12 April 2012.
  29. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 28536." National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved: 12 April 2012.
  30. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 01612." Midway Museum. Retrieved: 12 April 2012.
  31. ^ "Doublas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 06583" National Museum of the Marine Corps. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  32. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 06694." USS Lexington Museum. Retrieved: 12 April 2012.
  33. ^ "Douglas SBD Dauntless/Bu. 10694." FAA Registry. Retrieved: 17 May 2011.
  34. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 276.

[edit] BibliographyEdit

  • Bowers, Peter M. United States Navy Aircraft since 1911. Annapolis, Maryland, USA: Naval Institute Press, 1990. ISBN 0-87021-792-5.
  • Brazelton, David. The Douglas SBD Dauntless, Aircraft in Profile 196. Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1967. No ISBN.
  • Brown, Eric, CBE, DCS, AFC, RN, William Green and Gordon Swanborough. "Douglas Dauntless". Wings of the Navy, Flying Allied Carrier Aircraft of World War Two. London: Jane's Publishing Company, 1980, pp. 52–60. ISBN 0-7106-0002-X.
  • Buell, Harold L. Dauntless Helldivers: A Dive Bomber Pilot's Epic Story of the Carrier Battles. New York: Crown, 1991. ISBN 0-517-57794-1.
  • Dann, Richard, S. SBD Dauntless Walk Around, Walk Around Number 33. Carrollton, Texas, USA: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 2004. ISBN 0-89747-468-6.
  • Drendel, Lou. U.S. Navy Carrier Bombers of World War II. Carrollton, Texas, USA: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1987. ISBN 0-89747-195-4.
  • Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.
  • Gunston, Bill. The Illustrated History of McDonnell Douglas Aircraft: From Cloudster to Boeing. London: Osprey Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-85532-924-7.
  • Hernandez, Daniel V. with Lt. CDR Richard H. Best, USN Ret. SBD-3 Dauntless and the Battle of Midway. Valencia, Spain: Aeronaval Publishing, 2004. ISBN 84-932963-0-9.
  • Howard, John Jr. A Marine Dive-Bomber Pilot at Guadalcanal. Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA: University of Alabama Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8173-0330-8.
  • Janowicz, Krzysztof and Andre R. Zbiegniewski. Douglas SBD Dauntless (Bilingual Polish/English). Lublin, Poland: Kagero, 2007.
  • Jenks, Cliff F.L. with Malcolm Laird and Phil Listemann. Allied Wings No.5: The Dauntless in RNZAF Service. France:, 2008. ISBN 2-9526381-9-5.
  • Kinzey, Bert. SBD Dauntless in Detail & Scale, D&S Vol.48. Carrollton, Texas, USA: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1996. ISBN 1-888974-01-X.
  • Mondey, David, The Concise Guide to American Aircraft of World War II. London: Chancellor, 1996. ISBN 1-85152-706-0.
  • Pęczkowski, Robert. Douglas SBD Dauntless. Sandomierz, Poland/Redbourn, UK: Mushroom Model Publications, 2007. ISBN 83-89450-39-5.
  • Smith, Peter C. Douglas SBD Dauntless. Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire, UK: The Crowood Press Ltd., 1997. ISBN 1-86126-096-2.
  • Smith, Peter C. The History of Dive-Bombing. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Aviation, 2007. ISBN 978-1-84415-592-7.
  • Stern, Robert. SBD Dauntless in Action, Aircraft Number 64. Carrollton, Texas, USA: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-89747-153-9.
  • Tillman, Barrett. The Dauntless Dive Bomber of World War II. Annapolis, Maryland, USA: Naval Institute Press, 1976 (softcover 2006). ISBN 0-87021-569-8.
  • Tillman, Barrett. SBD Dauntless Units of World War 2. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1-85532-732-5.
  • Tillman, Barrett and Robert L. Lawson. U.S. Navy Dive and Torpedo Bombers of World War II. St. Paul, Minnesota, USA: Motor Books Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-7603-0959-0.
  • White, Alexander S. Dauntless Marine: Joseph Sailer, Jr., Dive-Bombing Ace of Guadalcanal. Santa Rosa, California, USA: Pacifica Press, 1997. ISBN 0-935553-21-5.
  • Wildenberg, Thomas. Destined for Glory: Dive Bombing, Midway, and the Evolution of Carrier Airpower. Annapolis, Maryland, USA: Naval Institute Press, 1998. ISBN 1-55750-947-6.
  • Yenne, Bill. McDonnell Douglas: A Tale of Two Giants. New York: Crescent Books, 1985. ISBN 978-0-517-44287-6.
  • Wheeler, Barry C. The Hamlyn Guide to Military Aircraft Markings. London: Chancellor Press, 1992. ISBN 1-85152-582-3.


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