The War Years: 1939-1945

The Douglas Aircraft Co. ... Attack Bombers

Douglas engineer Ed Heinemann created the twin-engine DB-7 (Douglas Bomber, 7) in the Douglas El Segundo, Calif., plant. The DB-7/A-20 was most-produced attack bomber during World War II, with 7,087 of these aircraft built at Douglas and 380 at Boeing facilities. They earned a reputation for getting their crews home, even when both crew and aircraft suffered crippling blows.

The first 64 DB-7s saw a few weeks of service in France until the country fell to the Germans. Then the remainder of the 270 ordered were diverted to Britain's Royal Air Force and called "Bostons." Designated A-20 by the U.S. Army Air Forces, the American name for the DB-7s was the "Havoc."

The Douglas SBD/A-24 Dauntless bomber was just as tough. The Dauntless earned the distinction of having the lowest loss ratio of any U.S. carrier-based plane and is credited with sinking more tonnage in the Pacific Theater than any other aircraft type. The A-26/B-26 Invader was started in 1941 to take over for the DB-7/A-20 and flew missions in three wars: World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Douglas also established a top-secret aircraft maintenance facility in Ethiopia, called "Project 19," to serve Allied air commands in North Africa. There, Douglas employees did heavy repair and modification work, including building auxiliary fuel tanks. The desert factory was taken apart and shipped back to the United States in 1943, after the Germans were defeated in North Africa.

During the war, Douglas was among the first to start manufacturing missiles with ROC I, a guided air-to-surface rocket, first tested in 1941.

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