The Douglas Aircraft Corp. SBD Dauntless dive bomber became a mainstay of the U.S. Navy’s World War II air fleet in the Pacific, with the lowest loss ratio of any U.S. carrier-based aircraft. Douglas delivered a total of 5,936 SBDs and U.S. Army Air Forces A-24s between 1940 and the end of production in July 1944.
The Dauntless was developed at the Douglas Northrop facility at El Segundo, Calif., and was based on the Northrop Model 8 attack bomber developed for both the Army and the export market. The SBD Dauntless featured “Swiss cheese” flaps—dive brakes punched with 3-inch holes—so that it could achieve pinpoint accuracy by diving to the target, dropping the bomb and then pulling out of the near-vertical dive.
In addition to the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Army Air Forces, the Dauntless served air forces in New Zealand and Mexico.
The first enemy ship sunk by the U.S. Navy in World II is credited to a Dauntless from the USS Enterprise. The diving Dauntless went on to destroy 18 enemy warships, including a battleship and six carriers.