Dauntless file photo [40]

SBD Dauntless

CountryUnited States
ManufacturerDouglas Aircraft Company
Primary RoleDive Bomber
Maiden Flight1 May 1940


ww2dbaseThe SBD Dauntless dive bombers were the main dive bombers of the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps from late 1940. A number of them, known as A-24 Banshee, were employed by the US Army as well; the Army versions had no arresting hooks and used different tires. In early 1941, the variant SBD-3 began production, which offered increased protection, self-sealing fuel tanks, and four machine guns. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, Dauntless dive bombers took part in the destruction of the Japanese carrier Shoho, and in Midway they were involved in all four sinkings of Japanese fleet carriers.

ww2dbaseA SBD Dauntless crew veteran recalled:

ww2dbaseThe Dauntless was a charm; rock steady in a vertical dive, completely responsive to the controls and ready to absorb punishment and still get you home. I was worked over by two Japanese Type 97 fighters over Maloelap on the afternoon of 1 February 1942, and came out of it unconcerned with fifty holes through the tail surfaces and left wing tip, a hole in the gas tank in the root of my right wing and one small calibre that broke apart when it hit the back of my armoured seat.

ww2dbaseOur greatest vulnerability was the inadequate armour protection for the rear seat gunner. At Midway, a good number of our torpedo plane losses must have come after the gunner was killed. At that point, the dive-bomber or torpedo plane is dead.... It was my observation that as long as the tail gunner was firing, the attacking fighter tended to break off the attack before getting in killing range.

ww2dbaseAfter Coral Sea and Midway battles, the US Navy developed a highly efficient tactic with the SBD Dauntless dive bombers; they attacked at a steep grade with the "helldiving" technique, while torpedo bombers attacked in conjunction to distract Japanese gunners with attack of a different method. Defensively, the heavy armament of four machine guns posed a serious threat for Japanese fighters, which generally lacked armor protection. After being key participants of the various battles near Guadalcanal and around the Solomon Islands area, which dealt serious blows to Japanese shipping in the region, they took their last major action during Battle of the Philippine Sea. After that, their successors, the SB2C Helldiver bombers, took over as in the main dive bomber role.

ww2dbaseDuring the design's production life, 5,936 SBD Dauntless aircraft were built. They sank more Japanese shipping in the Pacific War than any other Allied aircraft.

ww2dbaseSources: Midway Dauntless Victory, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Aug 2008


MachineryOne Wright R-1820-66 Cyclone 9-cyl radial engine rated at 1,350hp
Armament2x12.7mm machine guns, 2x7.62mm machine guns, optional 1,600lb of bombs under body, optional 650lb of bombers under wing
Span12.66 m
Length10.09 m
Height4.14 m
Wing Area30.19 m²
Weight, Empty2,905 kg
Weight, Loaded4,843 kg
Weight, Maximum4,853 kg
Speed, Maximum410 km/h
Rate of Climb8.60 m/s
Service Ceiling7,780 m
Range, Normal1,243 km


A-24 Banshee aircraft in a dive, 1941F4F-3 Wildcat (foreground), SBD-3 Dauntless (center forward and background), and TBD-1 Devastator (center rear) aircraft on the flight deck of USS Saratoga, fall 1941Flight deck crew pushing a SBD-2 Dauntless aircraft into position aboard USS Lexington, 1941The first Douglas A-24-DE Dauntless aircraft (serial number 41-15746) at rest at El Segundo, California, United States 1941, photo 1 of 3
See all 106 photographs of SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
15 Mar 2007 05:25:52 AM

There are several dauntlesses sunken in the Marshall Islands.
2. Commenter identity confirmed Hobilar says:
31 Aug 2007 02:51:36 AM

The first flight was actually in July 1935. By Pearl Harbor the Dauntless was already considered by many to be obsolete, but due to problems with the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver replacement, it had to soldier on in service until late 1943.
3. Peter C Smith says:
13 Aug 2008 11:56:44 AM

My book Douglas SBD Dauntless (Crowood Press, Ramsbury, UK) gives the full and complete story of this aircraft, not just the USN and USMC history, but the uses put by the the USAAF in World War 2, including eyewitness reports, the RNZAF use in the Solomons Campaign, the French Navy and Air Force use in France in 1944-45 and the French Navy use in French Indo China (Vietnam) post-war, as well as other users, all these not covered by other books at all.
4. Steve Y. says:
22 Sep 2008 11:00:52 PM

This was truly one of the most important of all aircraft during the second world war.It was as important as any other single airplane.Many of the "more advanced" planes, namely the P38,F6F,F4U,P47 & P51 all came later in the conflict(some quite late much later than most realize).It's what was potentially very real and possible that could well have occurred without the victories accomplished by this plane(SBD) that make it's contribution of extreme vital importance(to what would be the final outcome of that history-momentous time).The U.S. WWII air forces could have met success and victory without the introduction of many of the planes listed above, but nothing was in existence that could have, in the TIME-LINE, done what this machine, the SBD Dauntless, did. It's all about the TIME-LINE - the reality of it. Any review or critique of history has to be plausible, reasonable and grasping of the actual physical and technological realities of the time, month to month, during that terrible time in history. The SBD was there, early and ready. It went fully went into action in very large numbers during THE most critical and momentous year:1942. It continued on through the SECOND MOST important period of WWII:the first half of 1943.EVERYTHING was at stake during those key, critical months(the F4U, F6F and P51 not even fielded yet),with the allies having no true advantage and the possibility of a stalemate or even a disastrous, calamitous failure of the allied cause - particularly in the situation of the U.S. under the pressure of a "two-ocean" war.
5. turkey says:
8 Apr 2009 10:13:56 AM

these planes rock. iwish i could have seen them in person.
6. Steve S. says:
2 Apr 2010 06:41:24 PM

Steve Y. is right. But the slow speed in a dive and the control added by the dive brakes allowed it pinpoint accuracy not again seen until the smart-bomb days decades later.
7. Alan A. says:
16 Apr 2010 03:54:01 PM

turkey- You can not only see one, you can fly in one! Check out the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force in Atlanta. You can become and affiliate member (make a tax-deductible donation) and get a flight in this amazing hostorical aircraft!!!
8. Anonymous says:
7 Sep 2010 10:49:21 PM

Great article, I have stumbled across a picture of a Dauntless in flight with crew with the nunbers 5-S-14 love to find out alittle more about the picture. The plane is flying over some coast line.
9. Bishop O. Eads says:
18 Nov 2010 10:26:52 AM

I was a member of vmsb 333 3rd Marine Air wing during WW 2 the SBD was our Ist plane what a rugged plane it was , the SB2C was the 2nd & the F4U 1D was our last before decomission late in 1945 after the war ended
10. tazz says:
14 Aug 2012 07:35:06 AM

The dauntless flew till the end of the war and served in reserve units into the 50s the hell diver was a failure
11. Commenter identity confirmed David Stubblebine says:
29 Jan 2015 05:11:10 PM

Interestingly, the Dauntless was one of the few carrier aircraft designed without folding wings. Far from being an oversight, this allowed for wings with stronger internal structural support to hold up to the stresses on near vertical dives.
12. Raven88 says:
2 Mar 2017 05:59:14 PM

This video includes a good set of SBD flight time in combat:


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SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber Photo Gallery
A-24 Banshee aircraft in a dive, 1941
See all 106 photographs of SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber

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