No other aircraft can lay claim to having single handedly changed the course of the war against the Japanese. On June 4, 1942 Douglas SBD Dauntlesses of the U.S. Navy sank 4 aircraft carriers of the force headed for Midway Island. The Imperial Japanese carriers Akagi, Kaga and Soryu were sent to the bottom of the Pacific within minutes of each other by the dive-bombing tactics of the US Navy. The Hiryu would join her sisters later in the day. Along with these carriers went 250 aircraft and many of Japan’s elite fighter pilots effectively ending Japan’s drive across the Pacific.

       The Navy SBD Dauntless or its Army counterpart the A-24 Banshee served throughout the entire span of World War II. SBDs were present and were destroyed on the ground at Pearl Harbor. On December 10, 1941 a Dauntless was the first American plane to sink a Japanese ship (Submarine I-70) during World War II. The SBD, nicknamed Slow But Deadly by its crews, is credited with sinking a total of 18 Japanese warships including 1 battleship and 6 carriers. Dauntless pilots or gunners are credited with shooting down 138 enemy aircraft. The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver replaced the SBD beginning in 1943 as the standard shipboard dive-bomber. The Battle of the Philippine Sea being the last major action that the Dauntless served as the main strike aircraft of the US Fleet. The Dauntless continued to serve from island bases, with Marine units and in the Atlantic until the end of the war. Mexico, New Zealand and France also used the Dauntless.

       The Dauntless, SBD (Scout Bomber Douglas) can trace its lineage back to a 1934 request by the US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) for a dive-bomber. Northrop Division, a subsidiary of Douglas Aircraft, of El Segundo, California, submitted their XBT-1 (Experimental Bomber Northrop, T being the Navy’s designator for Northrop). A production contract was awarded in September 1936 for 54 aircraft. The BT-1 was powered by an 825 HP Pratt & Whitney R-1535-94 Twin Wasp engine. Even though this was to be a carrier borne aircraft it was felt that the strength of a one-piece spar was more important than the benefits of having folding wings. It featured rearward retracting main landing gear and a fixed tail wheel along with split flaps for braking the aircraft during its dive. Due to buffeting problem the flaps were perforated with 3” holes. This “Swiss cheese” feature was maintained thru all aircraft of this series and was also present on the Northrop A-17, a dive-bomber design for the US Army (2 pictures below). This design also features a cradle to swing the bomb away from the propellor when the aircraft was diving on its target.

       The BT-1 suffered from being underpowered and was not easy to handle. Consequently, in 1937, the 54th production aircraft was modified with a series of aerodynamic refinements and inward retracting main landing gear and featured the more powerful 1,000 HP Wright XR-1820-32, it was redesignated the XBT-2. At this same time Jack Northrop left the Northrop Division to found the Northrop Corporation. The former Northrop Division then became the El Segundo Division of Douglas Aircraft Corporation and under the Navy’s designation system the BT-2 became the SBD-1.

       Production deliveries of the SBD-1 began in May of 1940 with the last of 5,936 Dauntlesses being produced in July of 1944. During this time revisions were made to increase engine horsepower, armament, armor plating, fuel capacity and electrical voltage. Starting in May of 1943, a second production line in Tulsa, Oklahoma began producing the definitive version of the Dauntless, the SBD-5. The SBD-5 featured the 1,200 Horsepower R-1820-60 engine, increased ammunition capacity, ASV (Air to Surface Vessel) radar, and twin .30 caliber machine gun mount for the observer as standard. The bomb carrying capacity was increased to 2,250 Lbs. with a 1,600 lb bomb on the centerline and a 325 Lb. bomb under each wing. 2,965 SBD-5s were built.

       This is my first experience with building an Accurate Miniatures kit. Kit # 3412 is of a SBD-5 Dauntless of Bombing Squadron 16 (VB-16) on board the USS Lexington at the time of Operation Galvanic - The Tarawa Landings – November 20-23, 1943.

       The kit comes with a booklet style instruction sheet with 15 steps. Each step has a exploded parts drawing showing part locations and painting instructions for each of the parts in that step.

       The first 5 steps are for constructing the highly detailed interior, no need for after market accessories with this kit. Step 2 states that part # J110 should be left for installation later, but I would recommend painting and assembling it at this stage. It is hard to place later on and ended up leaving it out of the completed model. The placement of parts # F34, wobble pump handles, in step 2 was a little difficult to figure out as they overlap. This overlap is hidden in later steps.

       In Step 5 the bottom wing, part # C52, is positioned and glued to the fuselage assembly. I could not find a way to position the wing that did not leave a mismatch and therefore I had to putty and sand to blend this area in. I also had to use some putty when assembling the engine cowling, part #s B4, B5 & B82.

       For ease of painting the closed canopy, part # J106, was glued on. Testor’s Model Master paints were used almost exclusively for this project. Once the three tone paint job was completed the model was given a coat of Future, decals were applied and an overcoat of Microscale Micro Flat.

       While we are on the subject of decals/markings for this aircraft I would like to say that I found the kit supplied National Insignia decals to be incorrect, being much to large in diameter, especially on the fuselage where the kit supplied decal stretched all the way from the very top of the fuselage to the fillet between the wing and fuselage. The Official Monogram US Navy & Marine Corps Color Guide that in effect at the time of Operation Galvanic state that diameter fuselage insignia were to be closest standard diameter, in 5” increments, to ¾ of the thickness of the fuselage at the point of insignia location. Wing insignia were to cover, also in standard increments, ¾ of the distance between the wing leading edge and the aileron. A picture of SBD #45 from VB-16 on board CV-16 The USS Lexington can be found on page 36 of Squadron/Signal Aircraft # 64 “SBD Dauntless in action”. The picture also shows the red surround to the National Insignia, which the kit decals do not have. I used decals from Expert’s Choice sheet # 48-41 “U.S National Insignia (white & blue with red surround) 1943 only”.

       One other minor problem with the decals is that they state they are for two different SBD-5 but there is only one U S Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial number provided 28469 for both aircraft # 41 & # 45.

       This is an excellent kit. I have 3 more Accurate Miniatures kits in my stockpile, the Doolittle Raiders B-25, the Curtiss SB2C-1C Helldiver and the Grumman TBM-3D Avenger after my experience with Accurate Miniatures Kit # 3412 SBD-5 Dauntless I am really looking forward to putting them together.

Bibliography:

       Squadron/Signal Publications, Aircraft Number 64, SBD Dauntless In Action, By Rob Stern, Illustrated By Don Greer, Line Drawings By Kevin Wornkey

       Combat Aircraft of the World, Edited and Compiled by John W.R. Taylor, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, SBN 425-03633-2

       Cyber Modeler Accurate Miniatures 1/48 SBD-5 Dauntless B y Kelly Jamison

       Boeing History SBD Dauntless

       Dixie Wing Commemorative Air Force

       JRLucariny DOUGLAS SBD-5 DAUNTLESS Model

       Hyperscale Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless by Randy Lutz

       AviationHistory.com Douglas SBD (A-24) Dauntless

       Battlestations Fansite Douglas SBD Dauntless

       Angelfire.com Combat aircraft of the Pacific War – Douglas SBD Dauntless

       Wikipedia Douglas SBD Dauntless

       Howstuffworks.com

       Vectorsite.net

       Warbird Alley Douglas SBD Dauntless

       Planes of Fame SBD Dauntless page

       National Museum of the Naval Aviation - Douglas SBD-2 Dauntless

       National Museum of the Naval Aviation - Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless

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