The Dauntless played a pivotal role for the United States Navy during the early part of the war in the Pacific as its foremost dive bomber. The Douglas SBD Dauntless would also go on to
play a major role in both the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.
The roots of the SBD lay in another plane, the Northrop BT-1, which entered service with the United States Navy (USN) during Spring 1938. A production version of the BT-1 was to be used as a
prototype for a new dive bomber for naval use, which was designated XBT-2. However by the time this new plane entered production Northrop had been brought by the Douglas company and the
designation of the plane was changed to SBD.
Whilst this new plane looked on the surface similar to the XBT-2 underneath it was a different story. Powered by a 1,000-hp Wright XR-1820-32 engine and featuring retractable undercarriage,
dive brakes or 'Swiss cheese' flaps, featuring 3-inch holes punched into them and other numerous changes including watertight compartments.
Early testing of this new plane showed its supremacy over the BT-1 and its remarkable performance and flight characteristics showed it was a phenomenal aircraft at the time, yet just two
years later in 1941 it would be considered obsolete. As a result an order was placed for 144 aircraft, 57 of these would be SBD-1s and the rest SBD-2s which featured revisions to their
armament and expanded fuel capacity.
Towards the end of 1940 the SBD-1 started to enter service with the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Firstly equipping Marine Squadron VMB-2 with VMB-1 receiving their SBD's during the early
months of 1941. The newer SBD-2s were delivered to the USN with squadron VB-6 aboard the USS Enterprise and VB-2 based on the USS Lexington receiving the new aircraft towards the end of
1941. In fact 18 SBD's from the USS Enterprise arrived at Pearl Harbour whilst it was being attacked and lost seven planes.
Development of the Dauntless continued and the next version designated SBD-3 started to see service in March 1941, once again the fuel capacity was increased and self-sealing tanks were added, the Wright
R-1820-52 engine was used, although this still only produced 1,000-hp. The armament was also changed to what would become the standard configuration of two 0.50-in forward firing and two 0.30-in
rear firing machine guns, increased protection was also added in the shape of a bullet proof windscreen and armour plating. With its 12-volt electrical system upgraded to a 24-volt system
the SBD-4 appeared, and with a total production of the SBD-3 and 4 of 1,364 these in demand planes were able to supply more USN and USMC squadrons.
The next version of the Dauntless the SBD-5, featured illuminated gun sights and flexibly mounted rear firing machine-guns. And it was this version that would be built the most with just under 2,500
being produced. A number of these would be supplied to the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) during January 1945, designated Dauntless DB Mk 1, however they were never used by the FAA. Efforts now
turned to the SBD-6, which would be the final production Dauntless, featuring a more powerful 1,350-hp Wright R-1820-66 engine and increased further the fuel capacity.
A re-modelling of the SBD-3 saw the A-24 Banshee appear, they were the same as the naval version of the SBD-3 but lacked an arrestor hook, and these began equipping the United States Army in the Summer of
1941. This variant came about due to the success of the Junkers Ju 87 dive-bomber which was used to great effect by the Germans during the war in Europe in 1940 and the US Army was vary
aware of its lack of dive-bombers so an order was placed for 168 aircraft.
By the end of World War Two 5,936 SBDs had been produced and perhaps its finest hour was during the Battle of Midway when dive bombing attacks either fatally damaged or sank the four
Japanese aircraft carriers involved in the battle.