Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless
Wartime colour photograph of a Dauntless SBD-1 USN in flight


The Douglas SBD Dauntless, nicknamed "Barge", "Clunk" or "Slow but Deadly." was the standard carrier-borne dive-bomber of the US Navy from mid-1940 until November 1943, when it was replaced by the Curtiss Helldiver. The SBD was gradually phased out during 1944, and the 20 June 1944 strike against the Japanese Mobile Fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea was its last major action as a carrier-borne aircraft.

The SBD Dauntless was derived directly from the Northrup BT-1. When Northrup was taken over by Douglas, the aircraft took on the Douglas designation. The first orders for the SBD-1 and SBD-2 were placed by the US Marine Corps and the US Navy respectively in April, 1938, and went into service at the very end of 1940. In March 1941, the SBD-3 (USAAC designation A-24) army version named A-24 Banshee appeared with a more powerful engine (Wright R1820-52), and by December 1941, was the standard dive bomber in the US Navy Fleet. Additional versions were constructed until production ceased in July 1944. In total, 5,936 SBD aircraft were manufactured.

With FAA, US Navy, US Army, USAAF, USAF,  USMC, Mexico, RNFAA

        SBD-1 : first production version
        SBD-2 : increased fuel capacity
        SBD-3 : self sealing tanks, increased fuel capacity, armor protection, bullet-proof windscreen,
                         upgraded engine
        SBD-4 : 24-volt electrical system
        SBD-4P : reconnaissance version
        SBD-5 : upgraded engines, increased ammunition capacity, illuminated gunsights
        SBD-6 : upgraded engines, increased fuel capacity
        SBD-1P : reconnaissance version of SBD-6
        SBD-2 : reconnaissance version of SBD-6
        SBD-3 : reconnaissance version of SBD-6
        Dauntless DB.Mk1 : FAA version
        A-24 : US Army's version

A total of nine Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless Mk 1 were received by the Fleet Air Arm under  contract No. a(S)269. The first Dauntless, JS997, was delivered from Speke to the IAD Flight of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) in November 1943, where it carried out handling and dive bomb sight tests (JS997). The Dauntless was subsequently equipped at Wittering by 787 and 700 squadrons from July 1944 till Februar 1946.

          Fleet Air Arm history
Total FAA 1939-1945:           9
First delivered to RN:            1943
First squadron 1939-1945:      787 by 7.1944
Operational squadrons:           None
Last served with RN              1946
Nine aircraft under USA contract No. a(S)269, Requisition No. N-1004

First deld RN    Speke to IAD Flt RAE 11 1943 (JS997)
First sqdn:        To 787 sqdn at Wittering in 7.1944 (JS999), 700 12.1944 (JT927)
Last in FAA:    JT 927 at 700 sqdn 2,1946

Douglas Dauntless in US markings

Aircraft Type:
Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless
Primary Role:
Dive bomber
First Flight: 
July 1938
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
January 1945 but never used operationally
Douglas Aircraft Company 
One 1,200-hp Wright R-1820-52 Cyclone 9-cylinder air-cooled radial
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Wingspan: 12.65 m
Length: 9.80 m
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
Weight: 4717 kg



Max. speed: 402 km/h 
Ceiling : 8300 m
Range: 2160 km
One 1000lb or 500lb bomb under fuselage 
Two 250lb or 100 lb bombs under wings 
Two fixed forward-firing 0.5-inch Browning machine-guns  in nose
Twin manually-aimed 0.3-inch Browning machine-guns in rear cockpit
700, 787
Battle honours:
None with the FAA
Additional references and notes:

Battle Honours and Operational History

The Dauntless only served with second line Fleet Air Arm squadrons in WWII and saw no action action.
Preserved Dauntless in US markings
The SBD Dauntless served with distinction in with the USMC and USN during WW2.  It was in the great carrier battles of the Coral Sea and Midway that the SBD became a legend when it was credited with helping to sink the Japanese carrier Shoho, and severely damaging one carrier, and subsequently sinking the Japanese aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, and Hiryu during the battle of Midway on 4 June, 1942 in what many consider to be the turning point in the battle against the Japanese naval carrier force, but also represented the turning point of the Pacific campaign.

Operational feats by the SBDs throughout the war included the claims of shooting down 138 planes and sinking 300,000 tons of enemy shipping while losing less than 100 to enemy fire (one of the lowest loss rates of any aircraft of the entire war).

Surviving aircraft and relics
Less than ten Douglas Dantless dive bombers survive in the world, all but one being preserved in USA. The majority are found at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, USA, and a single wrecked example on display in New Zealand.

National Naval Aviation Museum (USA): Following WW II combat operations from Guadalcanal, the Museum's SBD-3 aircraft on display (BuNo 06583) was returned to the United States and subsequently lost in Lake Michigan while conducting carrier qualifications for new pilots. Located many years later, the aircraft was recently recovered and restored to its present condition. A second "Dauntless", an SBD-4 (BuNo 06833), was also recovered from Lake Michigan and is on display in the exact condition in which it was found. A third "Dauntless", an SBD-3 (BuNo 06508) is on display and a fourth "Dauntless" (BuNo 2106), an SBD-2 and veteran of the Battle of Midway, is undergoing restoration at the Museum.

Dauntless SBD-3 Serial 06583 preserved at the NNAM (USA)
The Lone Star Flying Museum (USA) acquired its Douglas Dauntless aircraft from the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredricksberg, Texas where it  was displayed in non-flying condition. This aircraft was an in-house restoration project. It is now airworthy.
SBD Dauntless retrieved from Lake Michigan about to be restored to static condition - Kalamazoo Air Zoo Flight Restoration Center for the MAPS AIR MUSEUM NORTH CANTON, OH (USA).

SBD-5 on display in the Smithsonian Institute.

NZ5062 (c/n 2883 Bu28536) SBD-5 survived the war and was returned to the US. Having spent time as a film prop, it was restored and is airworthy with the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, Ca.(USA).

Three former RNZAF SBD aircraft survive, at least in part (see Kiwi Aircraft Image for details): NZ5021 (c/n 2468 bu10508) SBD-3 components were recovered from the Pacific, formerly stored as a possible restoration with R.Jowett, Ardmore, NZ have now been exported to the United States.

Taken at the RNZAF museum, Christchurch. 7 April, 1998. The wreckage of '37' is displayed 'as found'.
NZ5037 (c/n 1858 bu06953) SBD-4 was lost with its crew on 11 February, 1944. Located in 1984, the aircraft remains were recovered by 3 SQN in 1988. The aircraft is displayed by the RNZAF Museum as found.

Douglas Dauntless divebomber

The remains of a Douglas Dauntless divebomber off the island of Munda, in the New Georgia group, Solomon Islands. US aircraft nightly attacked the destroyer convoys by which the Japanese tried to maintain their bridgehead on Guadalcanal. Ref:  War wrecks of the Solomon Islands

Associations and reunions
No information
Combat Aircraft of the Pacific War Details of Douglas SBD Dauntless in the Pacific War
Aviation History Online Museum and the Dauntless  Details, history and photos.
Olivier warbirds, Le site sur l'aviation de la Seconde guerre mondiale Dauntless in detail [in french]
Peter Mossong's RNZAF Pacific WWII website For an excellent summary of service activity and colour/marking information
Warbird Alley Warbird Alley, an online reference source for information about privately-owned, ex-military aircraft. Includes details and specs and a summary total of airworthy aircraft including the Dauntless
Sturtivant, R. & Burrow, M (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945'  Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1995 ISBN: 085130 232 7 
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000


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