SBD-5 N93RW, owned and operated by the Lone Star
Flight Museum, Galveston, Texas, USA, and flown by Tom "Gumby" Gregory. Rear
gunner: T.C Jones. Photo courtesy Dave Zavoina.
History: In the spring of
1938, a Northrop dive-bomber designated the BT-1 entered service with the US Navy. Its
influence was felt over at the Douglas Company, where a new naval dive-bomber was designed
and produced based on the Northrop design. Initially designated the XBT-2,
the new design was later called the SBD when Northrop was bought
out by the Douglas Company. Production began in 1940, and although the SBD had a general
likeness to its Northrop predecessor, it was a completely different airplane. Testing of
the prototype (with a 1,000-hp Wright Cyclone engine) revealed an exceptionally capable
In April 1939, the US Marine Corps and US
Navy placed orders for the SBD-1 and SBD-2,
respectively, the latter having increased fuel capacity and revised armament. The first
SBD-1s entered service with the Marines' VMB-2 Squadron in late 1940, and the first SBD-2s
joined the Navy in early 1941. The next variant to appear, the SBD-3,
entered service in March 1941, and incorporated self-sealing and larger fuel tanks, armor
protection, a bullet-proof windshield, and four machine guns. The SBD-4
followed with an upgraded 24-volt electrical system, and a few of these were converted to SBD-4P
The next, and most produced, variant was the SBD-5,
which was built at Douglas's new Tulsa, Oklahoma plant. It had a 1,200-hp R-1820-60 engine
and increased ammunition capacity. Over 2,400 SBD-5s were built, and a few were shipped to
the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, under the designation Dauntless DB.Mk I,
but these were never used operationally. Mexico also took delivery of a small number of
SBD-5s. The SBD-6, the final variant, had an even more powerful
engine and greater fuel capacity.
Meanwhile, the US Army, realizing that it did
not have a dive bomber equal in capability to Germany's Ju 87 Stuka, ordered the SBD-3 in
1941, under the designation A-24. This aircraft was identical to
the Navy airplanes except it did not have an arresting hook, and its tailwheel had an
inflated tire instead of a solid rubber one. The A-24 was never found to be of great use
during WWII, as its range and performance were inadequate for service in the South
Pacific, and the dive-bombing mission was of little use elsewhere. Nevertheless, the A-24
(and later the A-24A, equivalent of the SBD-4; and A-24B,
equivalent of the SBD-5) remained in service with the US Army Air Corps for several years
after the war.
Clunk; Speedy-D; Speedy-3; Slow But Deadly; Banshee
Engine: One 1,350-hp Wright R-1820-66
Cyclone 9-cylinder radial piston engine
Weight: Empty 6,535 lbs., Max
Takeoff 9,519 lbs.
Wing Span: 41ft. 6in.
Length: 33ft. 0in.
Height: 12ft. 11in.
Range: 773 miles
firing 12.7-mm (0.5-inch) machine guns;
(0.3-inch) machine guns on flexible mounts;
mountings for up to 1,600 pounds of bombs;
for up to 650 pounds of bombs.
Number Built: 5,936
Number Still Airworthy:
SBD Pilot Report
J.B. Stokely ]
SBD Pilot Report 2 by Dave Hirschman ]
Aviation History On-Line
Museum -- SBD Page
Combat Aircraft of the Pacific
War: SBD Dauntless
Dixie Wing of the CAF:
SBD-5 Dauntless Page
A-24 Dauntless History
Light and Medium Bombers of WWII --
Discussion groups, research information, etc.
Image Archive: SBD Photos
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