Douglas SBD Dauntless
Guideline Publications Guideline Publications is the UK's leading publisher of modelling and hobby-related magazines. With a world-class portfolio of titles and an international Social Media presence, Guideline Publications has a dedicated readership that is constantly expanding into new areas.
Kev Darling is an aviation historian, writer, and publisher based in South Wales. He served in the Royal Air Force as an aircraft engineer for nearly 30 years, from June 1973 to March 2003. He has written at least 30 books since 1987, working in the RAF Illustrated series, Crowood Aviation series, Crowood Combat Legend series, Specialty Press' WarbirdTech series, as well as Guideline's Warpaint series.
Warpaint's latest is their standard A4 format softbound publication that is 100 pages, not including the covers. Sam Pearson contributes 42 color side-profiles along with upper plan views and scrap views. Sam Pearson also provides two pages of 1/72 line drawings profiles, details, and cross-sections. I counted 212 clear black and white photographs and 18 color pictures.
The front cover features a Sam Pearson color side profile of a yellow wing Douglas SBD-2, 2123, as she flew with VB-6 off of USS Enterprise (CV-6) in 1941. This aircraft was later lost at the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. The color photograph depicts a stack of nine USMC SBD-5 Dauntless dive bombers of VMS-3 [Devilbirds] that were based at St Thomas in the Virgin Islands in a non-standard Atlantic camouflage scheme. The lead Dauntless, S-1, is wearing the name ‘Barbra Jean’ on her cowling. At least three other aircraft are also carrying names on their cowling. Since these aircraft are slick, or not carrying any ordnance or drop tanks, this is either a training flight or a photographic flight. VMS-3 was based at MCAS Bourne Field for their entire existence from 1934 to 1944 and was the only Marine Squadron to operate east of the United States. The rear cover features three color photographs. The upper picture depicts a trio of SBD-3 based on the USS Yorktown (CV-5) assigned to VB-5. The aircraft are still carrying the national insignia with a red center and are bearing the codes 5-S-2, 5-S-3, and 5-S-14. The center photograph shows a USMC SBD-1 after ditching the yellow wings. The bottom picture shows a pair of VB-5 SBD-5 dive bombers returning to the USS Yorktown on October 5, 1943.
Kev Darling opens with a short biography of Donald Willis Douglas, Sr., the founder of Douglas aircraft, beginning with his birth in 1892. A witness to the Wright Brothers first flight on December 17, 1903, Douglas went to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1911 where he spent much of his time building glider models. Realizing his passion was in aviation, Douglas dropped out of the Academy and went to MIT to study engineering. Moving to California with his wife, Douglas started his first company in 1920 with funding from a millionaire sportsman. Douglas produced top notch aircraft and nutured top talent that included Jack Northrop, Dutch Kindelberger (North American Aviation), and Ed Heinemann. The Dauntless predecessor had its’s start in a Douglas subsidiary, the Northrop Corporation, with the BT-1. The US Navy ordered 54 BT-1 dive bombers, but the aircraft was not a success due in part to poor handling when taking off and landing. Jack Northrop began work on the XBT-2 to solve these issues and it first flew on April 25, 1938. Jack Northrop left before completion of testing and the Northrop subsidiary was rolled back into to Douglas proper. This resulted in a new designation for the XBT-2 of SBD-1 in 1939. Page 11 shows off some early Dauntless dive bombers in different paint schemes The SBDs at the top of the page still have red and white stripes on the rudder along with a big red center to the national insignia. The SBD-2 in the middle is showing off an overall light grey paintjob on a training flight from USS Enterprise with VB-6 (the training flight tattle is the lack of bombs under the wing). The bottom SB-3 on a pre-delivery flight shows off the new paint along with the lack of the red center to the national insignia.
The Douglas SBD-1 would enter service with the US Marines due to its limited range. Additional range was added and the SBD-2 was delivered to the US Navy. The US Marine SBD-1s were based at Ewa Air Base in Hawaii where the majority were destroyed by the Japanese in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Page 30 shows off a rare color photograph of the USS Saratoga (CV-2) with aircraft on its rear deck. Her normal air group at this point included Grumman F4F Wildcats, Grumman TBF Avengers, and Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers. The center picture shows off a SBD-3 preparing to launch from USS Enterprise with a full bomb load. Notice that this aircraft still has the red center on the national insignia and red and white rudder stripes. The bottom picture is a still from a film showing two SBDs hunting for the damaged Japanese cruisers Mikuma and Mogami.
Kev Darling covers the operational service of the Dauntless with the US Navy, the US Marines, the US Army Air Force, as well as foreign countries that included Britain, New Zealand, France, Chile, and Mexico. Page 74 depicts A-24B Banshees that served with the Free French Air Force in the Middle East. The top picture shows off A-24B with the code 169 that displays 30 mission markings below the cockpit. The middle photographs shows a lineup of three A-24B Banshees that were used as trainers in Morocco. These Banshees served in that role until 1953 when they were retired. The bottom photograph shows of an A-24B Banshee sporting the Cross of Lorraine next to its national roundel. A standard feature for Guideline’s Warpaint series is the In Detail section as seen on Page 90. Photographs 1, 3, and 4 show off the twin Browning 30-caliber machine guns that replaced the single 30-caliber machine gun in Photograph 2. This was necessary as the 30-caliber just did not have enough punch to deter enemy fighters. Photograph 6 shows off the combat recording camera that was mounted on the front of the starboard bomb pylon. Page 96 shows the second page of Sam Pearson’s 1/72 scale line drawings with a top, bottom, and side view. Page 96 provides an example of the color profiles by Sam Pearson. The Chapters include:
- Setting Down Roots – Donald Douglas and Jack Northrop
- Dive Bombers for the Navy
- Dauntless – A Tortuous Birth [Page 11]
- The Slow But Deadly Enters Service
- The Battle of Coral Sea
- The Tide Turns – The Battle of Midway [Page 30]
- Aftermath and Significance
- The Final Carrier Confrontations – On to the Battle of the Philippine Sea and After
- Carrier Table [Table]
- Atlantic Operations and Operation Torch
- The Dauntless Marines
- A USAAF Interlude – The Douglas A-24 Banshee
- A-24 3rd Bomb Group [Table]
- Dauntless and Banshees Overseas
- Royal Navy
- Royal New Zealand Air Force
- RNZAF Table [Table]
- Free French Air Force
- Minor French Air Force Units [Page 74]
- Chilean Air Force
- Chilean AF A-24 [Table]
- Mexican Air Force
- Mexican AF-24 [Table]
- Technical Details
- Tech Bomb Type 01 [Table]
- Tech Bomb Type 02 [Table]
- Douglas SBD Dauntless Serial Numbers [Table]
- Douglas SBD Dauntless / A-24 Banshee Technical Details [Table]
- Douglas SBD Dauntless In Detail [Page 90]
- Douglas SBD Dauntless Drawings by Sam Pearson [1/72] [Page 95]
- Douglas SBD Dauntless Color Profiles by Sam Pearson [Page 98]
I was able to read Kev Darling’s monograph over four days. The text is well supplemented with very clear photographs with good captions. Sam Pearson provides well executed color side profiles and the 1/72 line drawings. This is a nice reference on the Douglas SBD Dauntless and would be a handy addition to your reference library. If you are building any of the standard scale model kits, I would consider this edition essential as an aide to your build. There are also no shortage of decals, photo-etch, and resin bits to detail your kit.
Depending on your budget, you can start in plastic with the 1/18 scale Merit SBD-3/4 kit that has also been released by I Love Kit. Hobby Boss has promised a SBD-1/-2 but the plastic has yet to be seen. Trumpeter has released several kits in 1/32 covering the SBD-1/-2/-3/-4/-5 and A-24A/B that probably replaces the 1977 release of a SBD-5 by Matchbox / AMT / Revell. In 1/48thscale, the Accurate Miniatures SBD series initially released in 1997 has been re-released by Italeri, Academy, Eduard, and Revell. This SBD series allows you to build any variant you might care to build. Older releases by Monogram / Revell and Hasegawa are also available in 1/48. The Dauntless in 1/72 has many options, but the best 1/72 kit now is the SBD-2 or SBD-3 kits from FlyHawk Model. There are plenty more in 1/72 but I would consider them to be nostalgia builds. If you own any of the previous releases in the Warpaint series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.
My thanks to Guideline Publications and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great monograph.