SBD Dauntless
A-24 Banshee
SBD5 Yorktown
United States Navy SBD-5 Dauntless
Role Dive bomber
National origin United States
Manufacturer Douglas
First flight 1 May 1940
Introduced 1940
Retired 1959 (Mexico)
Primary users United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
United States Army Air Force
Free French Air Force
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 was the United States Navy's main dive bomber from mid-1940 until late 1943, when it was supplanted, although not entirely replaced, by the SB2C Helldiver.

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 (746 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 protection, self-sealing fuel tanks, and four machine guns. The SBD-4 provided a 12 volt (from 6) electrical system, and a few were converted onto SBD-4P reconnaissance platforms.

Side View of U.S. Army A-24 Banshee, National Museum of the USAF

U.S. Army Air Corps A-24 Banshee saw limited combat in the early days of the Southwest Pacific in 1942.

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 (895 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.[1] The USAAF used 948 of the 5,937 Dauntlesses built.

Operational historyEdit

File:SBD gunner CVL22.jpg

The SBD was involved in combat from the first day of the Pacific War, as Dauntlesses arriving at Hawaii from USS Enterprise were caught in the Pearl Harbor attack.

The U.S. Army 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 attack of 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. On 17 February 1942, only seven of the original 52 A-24s were combat ready. The A-24s had worn-out engines, no armor plating, and no self sealing fuel tanks. Referring to themselves as "Blue Rock Clay Pigeons", the 91st attacked the enemy harbor and airbase at Bali and damaged or sunk numerous ships around Java. 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, 3rd 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 United States, 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.[1]


The type's first major use was in the Battle of the Coral Sea, when SBDs and TBDs sank the Shōhō. SBDs were also used as anti-torpedo combat air patrol and scored several times against Japanese aircraft trying to attack USS Lexington and USS Yorktown.

Their relatively heavy gun armament (two forward firing .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns, one to two rear flexible-mount .30 in (7.62 mm) 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 A6M Zero fighters and managed to down all three.[2] (His skill clearly demonstrated, he was transferred to fly a fighter; in October 1942, he downed seven enemy planes in one day.)

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 (the Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, and later in the day the Hiryū) as well as heavily damaging two Japanese cruisers (including the 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. It should also be mentioned the success of dive bombing was due to two important circumstances: First and foremost, the Japanese carriers were at their most vulnerable, readying bombers for battle, with full fuel hoses and armed ordnance strewn across their hangar decks. Second, the valiant but doomed assault of the TBD Devastator squadrons from the American carriers had drawn the Japanese fighter cover away from the dive bombers, thereby allowing the SBDs to attack unhindered.

Douglas SBD Dauntless flies over USS Ranger (CV-4), circa in June 1942 (80-G-K-741)

SBD Dauntless goes around for another landing attempt, after being "waved off" by the Landing Signal Officer on USS Ranger, circa June 1942

A-24B 531FS Makin13Dec43

A-24B taxiing at Makin Island.

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. Interestingly, while the American strength was dive bombing, the Japanese stressed their Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bombers, which had caused the bulk of the damage at Pearl Harbor.

Although it was already reaching obsolescence by 1941, the SBD was used until 1944, when the Dauntless undertook its last major action during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

A Douglas SBD Dive Bomber over Wake Island, 1943

A SBD from the USS Yorktown (CV-10) over Wake Island piloted by Lieutenant Ridge Radney of bombing squadron VB-5, 5 October or 6 October, 1943. Photographed by Lt. Charles Kerlee of the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit commanded by LCDR Edward Steichen

However, some Marine squadrons utilized 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 nickname "Son of a Bitch 2nd Class". 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, a rare event for a nominal "bomber" indeed.

A total of 5,936 SBDs were produced in World War II.


  • SBD-1 Marine Corps version developed in late 1940.
  • SBD-2 Navy version with increased fuel capacity and different armament, starting in early 1941.
  • SBD-3 began manufacture in early 1941. It provided increased protection, self-sealing fuel tanks, and four machine guns.
  • SBD-4 provided a 12-volt (from 6) electrical system.
  • SBD-4P reconnaissance platforms, converted from SBD-4s.
  • SBD-5 The most produced variant, primarily produced at the Douglas plant at Tulsa, Oklahoma. Equipped with a 1,200 hp (895 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.
  • SBD-6, The final version, providing more improvements, including a 1,350 hp (1,007 kW) engine, but production ended in summer 1944.
  • A-24 Banshee - The USAAF equivalent of the SBD-3.[3]
  • A-24A Banshee - The USAAF equivalent of the SBD-4.
  • A-24B Banshee - The USAAF equivalent of the SBD-5.


SBD Ranger

SBD Dauntless landing aboard USS Ranger

Flag of Chile Chile
Flag of France France
Flag of Mexico Mexico
Flag of Morocco Morocco
  • Moroccan Desert Police[8]
Flag of New Zealand New Zealand
Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom
  • Fleet Air Arm received nine aircraft for test purposes.
  • Royal Air Force received four aircraft for test purposes (from the nine originally tested by the Fleet Air Arm.[4]
Flag of the United States United States


Douglas A-24 USAF

A-24 of the USAF museum

  • One A-24 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.[1]
  • The Yanks Air Museum in Chino California has a SBD-4 BuShips 10518. [10]
  • The Commemorative Air Force also operates the SBD Dauntless in its fleet of 140+ aircraft
  • Patriot's Point Naval & Maritime Museum near Charleston, SC has a Douglas SBD Dauntless on display in the hangar bay of the USS Yorktown (CV-10) [11]
  • The National Air and Space Museum has a SBD-6 on display.
  • The Palm Springs California Aviation Museum has one that was retrieved from Lake Michigan.
  • An A-24 is operated as a USN SBD by the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston, Texas.
  • The U.S.S. Hornet Museum is currently restoring an SBD onboard the U.S.S. Hornet
  • A training Dauntless salvaged from Lake Michigan is on public display in Midway International Airport.
  • The San Diego Air and Space Museum has a SBD-4 on display. [12]
  • A SBD is owned by the US Navy Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola Florida. It is a Battle of Midway survivor and was restored after being found on the bottom of Lake Michigan. This aircraft is currently on display at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
  • A SBD-3 is on display at the Air Zoo Museum in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
  • Another SBD training aircraft was recently recovered from Lake Michigan, and will be restored and sent to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans to replace the USNMNA aircraft on loan there.
  • An SBD-4 painted as an aircraft operating in the PTO in 1942-1943 is in operating condition at the Tillamook Naval Air Staion Museum.

Specifications (Douglas SBD Dauntless)Edit

SBD-5 BuAer 3 view drawing

Data from[citation needed]

General characteristics
  • Crew: Two
  • 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)
  • Empty weight: 6,404 lb (2,905 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 10,676 lb (4,843 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 10,700 lb (4,853 kg)
  • Powerplant:Wright R-1820-60 radial engine, 1,200 hp (895 kW)



  • Guns:
    • 2 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) forward-firing Browning M2 machine guns in engine cowling
    • 1 × 0.30 in (7.62 mm) flexible-mounted Browning machine guns in rear (later versions fitted with 2 × machine guns of the same caliber)
  • Bombs: 2,250 lb (1,020 kg) of bombs

See alsoEdit



Douglas SBD 5 tricolor with bomb



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Fact Sheet
  2. USAF UA Vejtasa bio[1]
  3. Mondey 1996, p. 127.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Smith 1997, p. 150.
  5. Pęczkowski 2007, pp. 41–43.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Smith 1997, pp. 151–155.
  7. Pęczkowski 2007, pp. 35–40.
  8. Tillman 1998, p. 85.
  9. Smith 1997, pp. 115–121.
  10. Yanks Air Museum
  11. Patriot's Point Naval & Maritime Museum
  12. San Diego Air and Space Museum


  • Bowers, Peter M. United States Navy Aircraft since 1911. Annapolis, MD: 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, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 2004. ISBN 0-89747-468-6.
  • Drendel, Lou. U.S. Navy Carrier Bombers of World War II. Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1987. ISBN 0-89747-195-4.
  • 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, AL: 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, TX: 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.
  • Stern, Robert. SBD Dauntless in Action, Aircraft Number 64. Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-89747-153-9.
  • Tillman, Barrett. The Dauntless Dive Bomber of World War II. Annapolis, MD: 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, MN: Motor Books Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-7603-0959-0.
  • White, Alexander S. Dauntless Marine: Joseph Sailer, Jr., Dive-Bombing Ace of Guadalcanal. Santa Rosa, CA: Pacifica Press, 1997. ISBN 0-935553-21-5.
  • Wildenberg, Thomas. Destined for Glory: Dive Bombing, Midway, and the Evolution of Carrier Airpower. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1998. ISBN 1-55750-947-6.

SBD Dauntless being salvaged from Lake Michigan

External linksEdit

Template:Douglas aircraft Template:USAF attack aircraft Template:USN scout aircraft

cs:Douglas SBD Dauntless

da:Douglas SBD Dauntless de:Douglas SBD es:Douglas SBD Dauntless fr:Douglas SBD Dauntless it:Douglas SBD Dauntless nl:Douglas SBD Dauntless ja:SBD (航空機) no:Douglas SBD Dauntless pl:Douglas SBD Dauntless ru:Douglas SBD Dauntless simple:SBD Dauntless sk:Douglas SBD Dauntless sr:Даглас СБД fi:SBD Dauntless sv:SBD Dauntless vi:SBD Dauntless zh:SBD無畏式俯衝轟炸機