Quick Facts

Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless

Slow but Deadly


On loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation

Location: Flight Innovation Center - East Wing

The SBD (Scout Bomber Douglas) Dauntless was designed by John Northrop and Ed Heinemann. It was one of the premier attack aircraft of World War II and was flown not only by Navy and Marine pilots, but also by Army Air Force pilots as the A-24 Banshee. It proved to be the Navy’s most potent offensive weapon of WW II, accounting for the destruction of more Japanese naval tonnage than all other Navy assets combined. 
Aircraft Development

Twenty-one different tail and rudder configurations and 12 different aileron profiles were tested with the Dauntless in order to find a satisfactory combination.

The aircraft did not have folding wings and therefore was built as small as possible. When viewed from above, the plane had a particularly broad but short wing, which was helpful in air-to-air combat. It was very rugged and could take a lot of punishment from both overloading and enemy action.
Handling Capabilities

The SBD was slow, but it was very stable in a dive and maneuverable enough to shoot down enemy fighter planes. On a dive bombing mission, the pilot would generally attack at about 70 degrees, the lower flap depressed 42 degrees and the upper rose to 37.5 degrees. Bombs were released at 1,500-2,000 feet, giving the Dauntless enough remaining room to pull out of the dive.
Combat Tactics

Whenever possible, SBDs worked in teams. The targets were usually enemy ships and it was difficult to place a bomb on target if the attacks were individually made. The planes would try to coordinate the attack so the ship could be caught going in one direction or another.

On a traditional bombing mission, the planes would fly in two divisions of six each, three and three. (Attacking in threes gave more machine gun fire power.)

The Air Zoo’s SBD

One of three combat veteran aircraft on display at the Air Zoo, the Douglas SBD-3 (bureau number 06624), was piloted by Lieutenant John M. DeVane, Jr. in November 1942 and participated in the Mediterranean during Operation Torch. 

How We Found It

On September 19, 1943 while serving as a training aircraft based at Glenview Naval Air Station, Illinois, bureau number 06624 was lost while trying to land on the training carrier USS Wolverine. It was recovered from the bottom of Lake Michigan in 1993, brought to the Air Zoo, and restored by Air Zoo staff and volunteers. 

Virtual Cockpit