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Edward H. Heinemann

Edward Henry Heinemann


Edward Henry Heinemann was born in Saginaw, Michigan on March 14, 1908. Known as "Mr. Attack Aircraft," he is a legend among designers, for he developed a most remarkable and successful collection of aircraft.

Heinemann first became interested in aviation after taking a joy ride around Catalina Island. After completing several aeronautical design courses, he was hired as a draftsman at the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1926. He joined International Aircraft in 1927 as chief draftsman where he designed the landing gear for their bi-plane. Then as chief engineer of Moreland Aircraft Company he designed his first plane- the Moreland Military Trainer. After joining the Northrup Aircraft Company (later Douglas- El Segundo) in 1932 he designed the dive breaks for their BT-1 Dive Bomber. He became chief engineer of the El Segundo Division of Douglas in 1936. As the U.S. entered World War II, his SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber served as the backbone of the U.S. carrier fleet, eventually receiving credit for sinking more combatant tonnage than any other weapon during WWII. He also designed the DB-7 Boston Bomber, the A-20 Havoc, the BDT Destroyer, the AD-1 Skyraider, and the A-26 Invader, which eventually saw action in three wars.

After the war ended, he set to work exploring transonic flight, and in 1949 his D558-2 Skyraider became the first plane to achieve MACH 2. Later he designed the F3D Skynight, the first jet to down another in night combat, in addition to the turboprop powered A2D Skyshark, and the FD4 Skyray, carrier fighter, for which he received the 1953 Collier Trophy.

In 1958 Heinemann became vice president of military aircraft; however in 1960, after 31 years, he resigned from Douglas and joined Guidance Technology Inc. He then joined General Dynamics in October of 1962, becoming vice president of special products. Upon retiring in 1973, he became an aeronautical consultant.

Heinemann was enshrined on October 13, 1989 for his creation of an innovative and ingenious series of aircraft that served the nation both at war and peace.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program