The Douglas built SBD (Scout Bomber Douglas) also called the “Dauntless”, was a World War II United States Navy (USN) Dive Bomber and Scout plane. The SBD was the USN main aircraft carrier bomber from 1940 through 1944.
It is remembered as the plane that devastated four Japanese aircraft carriers at the Battle of Midway in June 1942. The SBD also had a nickname of “Slow But Deadly” which was well deserved as it possessed long range, good handling characteristics , maneuverability, potent bomb load, excellent diving characteristics, good defensive armament and ruggedness.
The SBD was also used by the United States Marine Corp (USMC) on land bases and Marine squadrons were also assigned on aircraft carriers.
One SBD variant, without the arrestor hook , was built for the United States Army Force (USAAF) as the A-24 Banshee. The primary users of the SBD Dauntless/A-24 Banshee were The USN, The USAAF, Free French Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force. The SBD/Banshee were built between 1940-1944 and 5,936 of all variants were built.
The Douglas A-26 Invader is a twin-engined light bomber, with tricycle landing gear wich was built by the Douglas Aircraft corp in Long Beach California during the Second World War It was a fast aircraft capable of carrying a large bomb load.
It had an ample of various of armament to make a formidable ground attack aircraft. It had 6 to 8 50 cal browning machine guns in the nose and 8 .50 Cal Browning M2 machine guns in the wing. Low flight and strafing ground targets was it’s speciality.
The primary users of the A-26 (in 1948 the designation was changed to B-26) was the United states Army Air Force, United States Navy and French Air Force. The B-26 was retired military service in 1980 by the last user, Colombian Air Force.
The XA-26 prototype
Design and Development
The A-26 was the successor to the Douglas A-20 Havoc also know as the Douglas Boston. The A-20 was one of the most successful and widely used aircraft by the Allies of World War II.
Chief aerodynamicist A.M.O. Smith was the head of the project to design the XA-26 that was ready for flight in July 1942 from Mines Field in El Segundo, California (future home of LAX).
The test flight conducted by Benny Howard, proved to be highly successful. The aircraft handled well but engine overheat problem needed correction thru modifying the engine cowl flaps.
The nose wheel assembly need to be reinforced as during the testing, it collapsed several times. The A-26 was built with two different configurations. The A-26B had gun nose that could house .50 cal machine guns or 37mm auto cannon or even a pack howitzer (which was never used operationally).
The A-26C had a glass nose to house the Norden bombsight for precision bombing. The firs models had two M-2 machine guns in the nose, but later upgrades of the A-26C had underwing gun packs or internal guns in the wing.
Other modifications and refinement are : The A-26B could house up to 14 .50 cal machine guns in forward fixed mounts. The A-26B nose could be replaced on the A-26C and vice versa in a matter of a few hours.
In some of the final versions , both A-26B and A-26C “flat top”canopies were replaced by a clamshell style which greatly improved visibility.
The interior of the A-26 cockpit
Along side of the pilot on the A-26B a crew member sat as the Navigator and Gun Loader . In the A-26C the crew member serviced as the Navigator and Bombardier .
Like the RAF bombers Lancaster, Blenheim/Beaufort and Wellington, most of the time the A-26 had only one set of controls for the pilot only. A small number of aircraft did have dual controls mainly for training purposes.
The first A-26B was delivered to United States Army Air Force in August 1943. The Fifth Air Force had to train the crews then they were deployed to the Southwest Pacific for combat evaluation with attacks on Manokwari a Japanese island in the South Pacific.
The repot back was not good, the evaluating pilots found the cockpit view to be restricted because of the location of the engines. This they said prevented low-level attack.
General George Kenney Commander of the Far EAst Air Force said “We do not want the A-26 under any circumstances to be a replacement for anything”.
The A-26 was used only sparingly in the Pacific for the remainder of the War. However things looked better for the A-26 and Douglas Aircraft when A-26s stared arriving in Europe in late September 1944 for their assignment to the Ninth Air Force.
There were 8 “test missions” that the A-26 was sent on. This time the type of mission was more suitable, as a bomber which was the original mission for the A-26 Invader.
Soon the Ninth Air Force announced that they would replace all of their A-20 Havoc and B-26 Marauder aircraft with the Douglas A-26 Invader.
Besides bombing and strafing, tactical recon and night interdiction missions were all undertaken successfully . In a contrast to the Pacific based crews, the European crews received the A-26 with a very positive attitude.
In the European Theater the Invader flen 11,567 sorties, dropped 18,054 tons of bombs and recorded 7 victories (remember this was a bomber) while losing 67 aircraft.
With the establishment of the United States Air Force in 1947, the A-26 was redesignated the B-26 and used as an recon aircraft by USAF The USN obtained the Invader from the USAF for target towing and other utility functions.
During the Korean conflict the B-26 Invaders were among the first USAF aircraft to sent on missions in North and South Korea. On 29 June 1950, a squadron of Invaders bombed the first target in North Korea which was an airfield.
The B-26 continued to fly missions through-out the Korean War, mostly night -time missions.
But land target was it’s speciality as it destroyed 38,500 vehicles, 406 locomotives and 3,700 railway cars. The B-26 units received two unit citations and the Presidential Citation. The Invader carried out the last USAF mission of the Korean War before the Armistice Agreement was signed.
During the Southeast Asian conflict a few years later, the B-26 Invader was used to fight the Pathet Lao invaders that were invading Laos. The B-26 were used in the Southeast Asian theater for number of years for ground attack purposes.
They were replaced by the Douglas A-1 Skyraider. In later years the CIA used B-26s for clandestine operations in Central and South America.
Other countries that used the B-26 Invader were France, Indonesia, Portugal and Biafra.
Where you can see the Douglas A-26 Invader
436874 Military Aviation Museum, Virginia Beach, Virginia
446928 National Naval Aviation Museum Pensacola, Florida
Lady Liberty Commemorative Air Force Enid, Oklahoma
City of Santa Rosa Pacific Coast Air Museum Santa Rose, California
322494 Pima Air and Space Museum Tucson, Arizona
This is Just a Partial List of the Douglas A-26 Invader, Check With Your Local Air Museum for More Information
TheBritish Avro Lancaster was a 4-engined heavy bomber of World War II. The “Lanc” was powered by 4 Rolls Royce Merlin piston engines and a 13 foot de Havilland Hydromatic propeller.
The Lancaster could carry up to 12,000 lbs of various types of bombs. It first saw service with the RAF (Royal Air Force) Bomber Command in 1942 as part of the Allied Strategic Bombing offensive.
It was used primarily for night time bombing campaigns over Europe and became one of the more famous and successful night-time bombers during World War II.
It delivered 608,612 tons of bombs to the enemy flying 156,000 sorites (missions). Modified Lancasters could carry the giant 22,000 lb Grand Slam earthquake bomb the largest of any conventional bomb in World War II.
Avro produced 7,377 “Lancs” for the RAF, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), and Royal Australian Air Force. It’s first flight was 09 January 1941 and was retired by the last user theRCAF in 1965.
The British Supermarine Spitfire was a single seat fighter during World War II. The primary user of the “Spit” was the Royal Air Force (RAF) along with many of their allies. The Spitfire was designed to be a short-ranged interceptor aircraft that was designed by R.J. Mitchell.
The public perceived that the Spitfire to be the the primary defender of Britain, however the Hawker Hurricane had the higher number of sorties and more victories than the Spitfire. The Spitfire had a lower attrition rate and a lower kill-to-loss rate.
After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire became the backbone of the RAF Fighter command. The Spitfire saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and Southeast Asian theatres of war.
This aircraft was much loved by it’s pilots serving in roles of intercepter, photo-recon, fighter-bomber, and training aircraft. It served in these roles until the 1950s. There were over 20,300 of the built of all models and variants.
The British Hawker Hurricane is a single seat, fighter aircraft that was a dominant force in the early days of World War II.This aircraft became renowned for it’s role in the Battle of Britain. In spite of it’s more famous brother the Supermarine Spitfire, the Hurricane led all British aircraft with 55% of the victories during the Battle of Britain.
There were 14,487 Hurricanes built by the Hawker Aircraft company.. The Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force were the primary users of the fighter. The Hurricane was relied upon to defend England for the advances of the German Luftwaffe wich sent various aircraft in it’s attempt to conquer by destroying England’s military.
The legendary dogfights between the Hurricane and the German Messerschmitt Bf-109 could fill volumes of military history books.
The Grumman F6f Hellcat was a carrier based fighter aircraft of World War II. Built in the United States by the Grumman Corporation for the United States Navy to replace the aging F4F Wildcat. There was an competition within the aircraft industry that the USN (United States Navy) had to sort out.
The Vought F4U Corsair was the main competitor with the Hellcat and won out to be the primary carrier-based fighter for the USN. Then a problem arose with the Corsair in that the pilots had major troubles landing on aircraft carriers due to visibility issues on final approach.
This problem was due to the long nose of the aircraft and large 4 bladed propeller. The issue was temporarily solved as the Corsair became a land based with the USMC (United States Marine Corp) which used it to great effect against the Japanese.
The F6F had an Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine which produced 2,000 hp. This engine was also used for the Vought F4U Corsair and the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. While the F6F Hellcat resembled the older F4F Wildcat and was kiddingly called the “Wildcat’s older brother” it was a tough, rugged and well designed carrier fighter that was superior to the Japanese Zero.
This helped the USN have air superiority in the Pacific. There were 12,275 F4F Hellcats produced from 1943-45. The Hellcat had over 5,222 victories over enemy aircraft by USN, USMC and the British RAF pilots.
The Curtiss P-36 Hawk was an American built fighter aircraft that was used in the 1930s and 40s.It was a new generation of combat aircraft. A sleek monoplane design using metal with aluminum body and powered by a radial engine.
The P-36 Hawk was the forerunner of the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk – (used by the Flying Tigers in China,which were were made up of American volunteer pilots before America’s engagement in World War II). However once the hostilities started in December of 1941, the Hawk say little action with USAAC
However other Allied countries did order the Hawk. This would include (Free) French, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of China, India, and but not least, England.
When France and Norway fell to Germany, many P-36s were captured by the Germans who turned them into good use against the Soviets.
During the Franco-Thai war of 1940-41, Hawks were used by both sides. The South African Air Force saw combat with P-36s against the Italians in east Africa. The British RAF fought in the air over Burma with the Mohawk as they were called by RAF.
There 215 P-36s built by Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company along with 900 variant “model 75” or Mohawk sold to foreign countries.
Design and Development
In the beginning of the life of the Hawk, it was called Model 75 as a private venture and the firs prototype was built 1934. It was all metal fuselage and wings with fabric control surfaces (rudder, ailerons and trim tabs)
It was powered by a Wright XR-1670-5 radial engine producing 900hp. The common armament of the day was one .30 cal machine gun and one .50 cal machine firing through through the propeller. Also common was no cockpit armor and no self-sealing fuel tanks.
The prototype flew 06 May 1935 for the first time reaching a speed of 281 mph at 10,000 ft. The Model 75 prototype then flew to Wright Field in Ohio to participate in a “fly-off”, but another prototype of another company went down, enroute to Ohio . The competition “fly-off” was postponed to a later date.
The delay, allowing the competitor to submit another aircraft, allowed Curtiss to replace the engine on the Model 75 with a Wright XR- 1820-39 Cyclone engine producing 950 hp.
Some other fuselage work was done to be done and to replace the rear window for improved visibility. The new prototype was now called Model 75D with the changes from the delayed “fly-off”
In April of 1936, the long delayed “fly-off ” took place, but the new engine failed to perform as required, with a top speed of 285 mph.
The competing Seversky P-35 also failed to produce the required speed. Because of its performance, the Seversky P-35 was declared the winner of the “fly-off” and awarded a contract by the United States Army Air Corp (USAAC) for 77 aircraft.
Because of the political unrest in Europe in 1936, the USAAC wanted a backup aircraft as Seversky had limited manufacturing experience. The “back-up” aircraft, still a Curtiss Model 75, was revamped with a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-13 Twin Wasp engine, a refined rear window.
It was now called P-36A. It had an excellent rate of climb (ROC), tremendous roll rate and a high power to weight ratio. While there were deficiencies such as a poor supercharger which caused poor high altitude performance, nonetheless, USAAC ordered 210 of the P-36A.
Then in 1937, USAAC requested that Curtiss modify the Model 75 for an Allison V 1710 supercharged, liquid cooled, inline engine. This newly remodeled Model 75 was called XP-37.
The cockpit was move way back in the fuselage as it had a new supercharger system with bulky side doors for the engine and supercharger. It was test flown in April 1937 reaching 340 mph at 20,000ft.
After much testing, Curtiss found the Supercharger was very unreliable and visibility from the cockpit was almost non-existence for take-off and landings.
Thus the project was cancelled un favor of anther prototype called the XP-40. Before the Xp-40 was produced, one more attempt was mad to use Model 75.
The new prototype was called the XP-42. It had a long slek nose giving it the impression of having an liquid cooled in-line engine. Instead it had a radial engine which had unresolvable cooling problems.
This project was cancelled. Thus the P-36 Hawk became the standard for combat operations of the Model 75 platform.
The first production P-36As were delivered to USAAC in 1938. But due to “teething” problems it took a long time to correct these problems. By then the USAAC considered the P-36A to be obsolete.
However in February 1941, 39 P-36As were loaded on to the USS Enterprise in California and when the aircraft carrier got near the coast of Hawaii, the non-carriered built P-36As flew off the Enterprise to Wheeler Field in Oahu.
This was the first take-offs from an aircraft carrier by a non-carrier type aircraft. We know later, of the famous Jimmy Doolittle raid of B-25s over Tokyo in 1942 that took off from the USS Hornet. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 07 December 1941, only 5 of the 39 of the P-36A got airborne.
The 5 Hawks did a fine job as they downed two Japanese Zeros with a loss of one P-36. This was the only action the P-36A Hawk saw in World War II for the USAAC.
Most of the USAAC P-36As were relegated to advance trainers for the great influx of new pilots coming in the military.
Argentina 30 Curtiss P-750s were sold the Argentinians and a license to construct 20 more locally.
British-RAF The Mohawk was tested and compared against the Famous Spitfire. It did have a few features that were better than the “Spit” but in over-all analysis the RAF did not order any.
However due to the changing tides of war, the RAF inherited 229 Mohawks from the fleeing French pilots during the fall of France to the Germans. Most of these were sento the Royal Indian Air Force in India.
China The Hawk 75H which was a simplified version with fixed landing gear were sold to the Chinese Nationalists.
Finland After the Germans had taken France, they sold 45 Curtiss Hawks of various models to the Finns in their war against Russia. The Hawk was well liked by the Finn pilots, scoring 190 victories over the Soviets.
Other countries to use the P-36 of various models were; Norway, Peru Portugal and Thailand.
Where you can see the Curtiss P-36 Hawk
38-001 P-36A is on static display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio
Check With Your Local Air Museum for More Information on the Curtiss P-36 Hawk
Wingspan: 37 ft 4 in
Length: 28 ft 6 in
Height: 8 ft 5 in
Weight: 4,567 lbs (empty)
Max Speed: 313 mph
Cruise Speed: 270 mph
Ceiling: 32,700 ft
Range: 625mi (combat)
Engine: 1/Pratt & Whitney R-1830-17 Twin Wasp Air-cooled radial engine rated at 1,050 hp.
The Brewster F2A Buffalo a United States Navy and Marine Corp fighter used in the early days of World War II. Built by the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation it was on of the first monoplanes to have an arresting hook and able to be used on aircraft carriers.
In 1939, the Buffalo won the competition withe the Grumman Corporation F4F Wildcat to be the USN’s first monoplane fighter aircraft. Several countries; Finland, Belgium, Britain and Netherlands ordered the Buffalo.
Finland was very successful in in repelling many Soviet aircraft that were a part of USSR’s invasion of Finland. From 1941-1944 the de-navalized B-239 had an amazing 32:1 victory over most Soviet aircraft during that time.
In December 1941, the British and Dutch used Buffalo B-339D/Es in combat with the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zeros and Japanese Army Nakajima Ki-43 Oscars and were totally overwhelmed by the faster and more agile Japanese fighters in the Far East Asia theater. The Allies aircraft were lightened by cutting back on fuel and ammunition but that didn’t help much.
The Buffalo was built in 3 variations the F2A-1, F2A-2 and F2A-3 for the USN. Foreign sales were designed as B-239, B-339 and B-339-23. These were land based aircraft and could not land on aircraft carriers
The F2A-3 saw action with the USMC (United State Marine Corp) squadrons at the Battle of Midway. The Buffalo F2A-3 was decidedly obsolete and no match for the Zero. The term “flying coffin” was adopted by the pilots at Midway.
There were 509 F2As of all variants built between 1938-1941 and the Finland retired the last military owned Buffalo in 1948
Design and Development
In 1935 the USN put out a request to the American aviation manufacturing community for a carrier based monoplane fighter to replace the aging bi-wing Grumman F3F. The Brewster Aeronautical of Long Island New York initially lost the bid to Seversky P-35. The P-35 was eliminated when it failed to reach the required maximum speed of 270 mph.
The new F2A-1 had a modern look with all -metal fuselage and wings although the control surfaces were fabric which was the practice at the time. It was powered by a Wright R-1820-22 single row Cyclone radial engine that could push the Buffalo at a 2,600 climb rate per minute with a top speed of 277.
The aircraft was taken Langley Research Center for wind tunnel test. Modifications made from the results added nearly 27 mph to it’s speed, now a 304 mph. The armament consisted one .50 cal M2 Browning machine gun and one .30 cal AN Browning machine gun, both mounted in the nose.
In 1938, the USN awarded the Brewster Aeronautical Corp a contract to build 54 of the F2A-1. But do to production delays only 11 of the Brewster F2A-1 went to the USN.
When things did get rolling in New York, the remainder of the Buffalos were modified to the B-239 verison and sent to Finland. A newer version came out from Brewster called the F2A-2 with a more powerful engine, Wright R-1820-40 single row radial , which produced top speeds 323 mph, not too bad at the time. A new propeller was used, better landing gear, but still no cockpit armor and self-sealing fuel tanks.
However both the F2A-1 and The F2A-2 were liked by Navy and Marine pilots. Pappy (Baa-Baa Black Sheep) Boyington recalls “…the early models, before they weighed it all down with cockpit armor, radios and other equipment, were real sweet machines,. Not too fast, but the little aircraft could turn and roll in a phone booth.”
In January 1941 108 aircraft were ordered this being the last F2A-3 delivered to USN and USMC. The F2A-3 now had a new, self-sealing fuel tanks, armor around the cockpit and increased ammunition storage in the aircraft. The new innovations added weight thus causing a decrease in rate of climb , speed and maneuverability.
The off-set was the bigger engine had s two speed Cyclone supercharger gave it higher altitude performance and was an excellent cruising engine.
The Saratoga and the Lexington used them in the early days of World War II. By then the USN considered the F2A Buffalo (all variants) to be obsolete.
Many of the newer more advanced fighters were still be built or being tested and the Buffalo had to weather the storm. When the replacements came the Buffalo was relegated to the training squadrons as an advanced training aircraft.
In early December, 1941 the USS Saratoga was sailing toward Wake Island with a 20 Brewster F2A-3 and 7 Grumman F4F Wildcats as part of a relief force, when USCINCPAC diverted the Task Force to Midway. Earlier in December the VMA-211 F4F Wildcat squadron had be dispatched from the USS Enterprise to Wake Island.
Then On December 8, 1941 The Japanese attacked Wake Island, but stubborn resistance from the ground USMC troops prevented the Japanese from taking Wake. The USS Saratoga was the rescue force , but the military leaders apparently didn’t want to engage the Japanese with such a rather lean Tak Force.
Because of the Pearl Harbor disaster , the Saratoga was sent to Midway Island. It wasn’t until May of 1942 that VMA- 221 using F2A-3 Buffalo, engaged the enemy on that fateful day.
There were 30-40 “Val” dive bombers heading for Midway with Major Floyd Parks led the Buffalos into the fray. The VMA-221 managed to down several Vals and then the Zeros come from on high and 13 of the 20 Buffalos were shot down. Major Parks was strafed by a Zero after bailing out of his buring Buffalo. He did not survive.
Lt. Charles Kunz recalled: “I was at an altitude of about 9,000 and shove over in a dive trying to shake the plane on my tail until I was about 20 feet from the water I was making radical turns hoping the pilot couldn’t get steadied on me. I glanced out of the rear and saw that it was a Zero fighter. I continued flying on a rapid turning course at full throttle when I was hit in the head bu a glancing bullet.
After he fired a few short bursts he left, as I had been in a general direction 205 degrees away from the island. My plane was badly shot up. In my opinion the Zero fighter has far been underestimated. I think it is probably one of finest fighters in the present war. As for the F2A-3 it should be in Miami as a training plane, rather than used as a first line fighter” .
After the Battle of Midway, marked the end of the use of the Brewster F2A (all variants) in front line combat for the United States. The new Grumman F4F Wildcat was vastly superior to the Buffalo in every way except range. The Brewster F2A Buffalo became a distant memory.
Where you can see the Brewster Buffalo
Finnish B239 serial BW-372 National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola Florida
A full scale replica of B339C was completed by Cradle of Aviation Museum Long Island New York
The Bell P-39 Airacobra was an early American fighter aircraft at the out break of World War II. In the “Lend-Lease” plan with eh Soviet Union, the P-39 was one of their favorite fighters as it had more victories than any other American aircraft that was sold to the USSR.
The British RAF and the Italian Air Force (after the fall of Fascist Italy) were also users of this aircraft. It was the first American Fighter to have tricycle landing gear. The unique feature was the engine was in the center of the fuselage behind the pilot.
Due to a lack of a turbo-supercharger, it was not a good high altitude aircraft. The Soviets liked it because they used it for medium to low altitude combat every effectively. It was a deadly ground attack fighter with a deadly nose cannon.
The Vought F4U Corsair fighter aircraft is best remembered for its service in World War II and Korean War. Although Vought Aircraft was the designer and developer, Goodyear Tire and Brewster Aircraft were licensed to build the Corsair.
During the production period from 1940 to 1953 (the French Air Force purchased the last one) 12,571 F4U were built between the 3 plants. The reason for the other two plants besides Vought was because once the War started, the demand for F4Us was overwhelming beyond, Vought’s capability.
The Corsair was used by the United States Navy (USN) and United States Marines (USMC) during World War II. It originally designed tso be a carrier-based fighter.
Because of carrier landing problems in the early days of its use, it was redirected to USMC as a land based fighter although it still had the carrier abilities. The Corsair entered the War in 1944 with USN , after the carrier landing difficulties were straighten out.