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by Barrett Tillman
Osprey Publishing  1999
96 pages
Photographs, profiles
ISBN: 1855327325
Cover Price: $22.95
Language: English

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Osprey Combat Aircraft 10
SBD Dauntless Units of WWII

The Douglas SBD Dauntless served from Pearl Harbor until the end of WWII. In its long and distinguished service, it is arguably one of the aircraft that changed the course of the Pacific war, and the missions it undertook, and the pilots who flew them are forever part of the annals of aviation history.

Barrett Tillman's book tells the story of SBD units during WWII, and tells the stories of its pilots and missions. At the time of its design, it was one of the world's most modern and advanced dive bomber designs, that filled the multiple roles of scout and dive bomber in the USN. His research covers Dauntless operations through the war, including unit strengths, losses, successes and even air-to-air victory totals. Also, the service of the SBD with other air forces, like the RNZAF in the Solomons, the RAF as the Banshee, and in the American invasion of North Africa.

The SBD's baptism in fire began at Pearl Harbor, with the first losses occurring from both Japanese fighters, and friendly fire losses. With this harrowing debut, the Dauntless would have its day soon enough, in the later battles to come. A small group of dive bomber pilots, using the SBD would use their plane to literally change the course of the Pacific war, ultimately in favor of the Allies.

As Dauntless went on the offensive, bringing the war to the Japanese begriming with the carrier strikes against Japanese airfields in the Central Pacific, followed soon afterwards by vital contributions in the battle of the Coral Sea. At Midway, the SBD changed the course of the war in the Pacific, dive bombing enemy aircraft carriers and delivering the fatal blows to the enemy fleet.

The book has a superb chapter on the SBD Dauntless dive bombers on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands flown by both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps during months of constant missions against the Japanese, generating some of the most outstanding Dauntless pilots and dive bombing 'aces', but also, a heavy price was paid in crews, to both the Japanese and terrible conditions at forward airfields due to conditions and enemy raids.

Another chapter deals with the relatively unknown service of SBD's in the Central Pacific, Marianas and Philippines later in the war, serving with both the USN and USMC, and the eventual phase out of the Dauntless, with the final example completed in July 1944. By the end of the war, only a half dozen Marines squadrons were flying the type in the Philippines.

The impact of the battles the Dauntless participated is hard to calculate, but author Tillman brings forth many interesting facts, in particular that the statistic that the few SBD crews that served in the Pacific at the start of the war, patrolling the largest geographical area of any air unit in the world. Arguably, they had the greatest impact on their theater of war, participating in so many turning point battles, and flying to victory. For anyone interested in the history of the Dauntless and its crews, this book will have much to offer, for first time readers, and seasoned historians alike.

Interview with author Barrett Tillman
Review by Justin Taylan  

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019

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