Among aircraft credited with changing the tactics of naval warfare, the Douglas SBD Dauntless is perhaps the most significant. In the pivotal Naval Battle of Midway in June of 1942, the Douglas SBD Dauntless turned the tide of the Pacific War in favor of the United States, and in the process helped to complete a paradigm shift in naval warfare tactics, effectively replacing battleships with carrier based air power as the primary attack force of U.S. Naval fleets. SBD-3 Dauntless squadrons destroyed four Japanese carriers at Midway, Kaga, Akagi, Soryu and Hiryu, compared to the loss of only one carrier for the U.S. Navy. The SBD would continue to play a major role the Pacific War, sinking a total of 18 Japanese ships.
Designed by the esteemed Ed Heinemann, the Douglas SBD was intended to be both a scout aircraft and a dive bomber. Its dual mission reflected a continuing debate in the 1930s within the Navy, whether the primary tactical uses of aircraft, and aircraft carriers, should be for reconnaissance or attack. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor showed the awesome effectiveness of the latter, in the most nightmarish way, and the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway drove the fact home. For the rest of the war, carriers were the frontline attack force in the Pacific, and battle ships were primarily used for heavy bombardment of shorelines prior to amphibious landings.
SBD-3s first arrived in the fleet in 1940. The SBD-4, virtually identical to the SBD-3, except for a change in the voltage of the electrical system, began to arrive in 1942. The Museum’s SBD-4 (06900), one of 780 SBD-4s built by Douglas, was attached to the U.S.S. Sable for carrier training, when it sank to the bottom of Lake Michigan as a result of engine failure on June 26, 1943. It sat there for half a century until it was recovered by the National Museum of Naval Aviation in 1993. It was loaned to the San Diego Aerospace Museum in 1994, and went under an extensive volunteer restoration process that took four years. It is painted in the markings of VB 16, when the bomber squadron was attached to the U.S.S. Lexington in 1943.
SBD-4 Dauntless 06900 Specifications Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company, El Segundo California Type: Scout Dive Bomber, carrier and land based
Dimensions Length: 33 ft 1 in (10.08 m) Wingspan: 41 ft 6 in (12.65 m) Height: 13 ft 7 in (4.14 m) Wing area: 325 ft² (30.19 m²)
Weights Empty: 6,404 lb (2904.81 kg) Loaded: 10,676 lb (4842.55 kg) Maximum takeoff: 10,700 lb (4,853.44 kg)
Powerplant Engine: Wright R-1820-60 radial Power: 1,200 hp (894.84 kW)
Performance Maximum speed: 255 mph (410.38 km/h) Combat range: 773 miles (1243.8 km) Service ceiling: 25,530 ft (7,781.54 m) Rate of climb: 1,700 ft/min (518.16 m/min)
Armament Guns: 2 × 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machineguns, forward firing through propeller, with synchronizer gear; 2 × 0.3 in (7.62 mm) flexible-mounted machineguns Service ceiling: 25,530 ft (7,781.54 m) Bombs: 1,600 lb (under fuselage) (725.75 kg), 650 lb (wing) (295 kg)