Douglas SBD Dauntless Color Photographs Part 1

A beautiful selection of color photographs of SBD Dauntless dive bombers shot “somewhere in the Pacific” for LIFE magazine.  Many of these aircraft show signs of camouflage and markings being painted out and updated.  Modelers should take particular note of the patterns of paint wear and weathering which are visible on several of these aircraft.  A particularly stunning set of pictures!























Part II here:

18 thoughts on “Douglas SBD Dauntless Color Photographs Part 1

  1. The last series of photos are from the Ferry flight of Marine SBD-2s (Ex VB-2, survivors from Coral Sea Battle) to reinforce Midway Island. You can see the Chrome Yellow showing thru the re-paints of Blue Gray. Somewhere in there is plane BuNo2106 which is in NMNA at Pensacola. Photos were taken from a PBY-5, their Navagaion escort from Pearl Harbor.

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    1. Mark – does that mean this flight is from VMSB-241? If so, that is even more interesting (and historic). There is a shot of the PBY in the same series, I have added it to the post. The pictures were taken from the rear seat of an SBD, you can see the wing and dive brakes in some of the photos (including the PBY picture). From the position of the sections in the photographs, it appears to be the lead SBD.


  2. I don’t know how to put his Jeff…
    Look at your title. Do you see a typo?
    I had to check to be sure.

    Your loyal reader,


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      1. Not busy… I thought I had that word all wrong, so I checked it, and then I just had to tell you. I knew then it was a typo because you had another post about a Douglas plane without the “ss”. I am a retired teacher so this comes naturally.

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  3. I have looked over these pictures as I am an avid Battle of Midway reader. IF these planes are from VMSB-241, then these pictures were taken in the week or so before the actual battle. These aircraft did not fly to Midway, but were actually transported by the aircraft ferry U.S.S. Kittyhawk on or about 5-26-42. The planes that flew to the island were the SB2U-3 Vindicators that flew from Pearl Harbor to Midway after the raid on Pearl Harbor. They had the range to do that. Now as stated in other posts, these planes came from the aircraft pool at Pearl. They were collected from fleet units as they were replaced by the SBD-3 models. The could have come from any of the carriers operating in the pacific a the time, including the Lexington as surviving SBD’s from that carrier would have come back on the Yorktown after Coral Sea. All have had their previous unit markings scrubbed and replaced by BLACK numbers. VMSB-241 had 19 SBD-2 aircraft delivered before the battle. Some were not operable on the day of battle (Numbers 12, 14, 18). If you look at photo 5, you will see aircraft #6. This may be the plane on display at NAS Pensacola (SN# 2106). There is a discrepancy on the markings however. Google plane 2106 and look at the number. It is painted white on all pictures of it after it returned to Midway , but in this photo is is painted black. All the SB2U-3 Vindicators had white numbers, but MAG VMF-221 had black. Could they have been repainted in white, certainly, or it could have been renumbered from another plane that was out of service.. The photo with the plane named Lone Star Express is piloted by Tech. Sgt. (NAP) Clyde H. Stamps, USMC. He was in the Midway battle. Plane #1 Should be Major Henderson’s and Plane #2 (with the old Bombing 8 insignia) is Captain Fleming’s. Plane 2 was damaged and out of action after the attack on Hiryu, so for the next two flights, Fleming flew Vindicator #2 in which he was eventually KIA during the attack on the IJN Cruiser Mikuma. EXCELLENT PHOTOS

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    1. Thanks for this information! I am conflicted concerning the identity of these SBDs, the photographs of VMSB-241 SBDs on Midway after the battle all show white numbers. I honestly haven’t looked into the discrepancy in enough detail. There are two additional photos of this formation which I missed and posted in part II. Also, I have posted an analysis of the VMSB-241 Vindicators and would be interested in any additional information you could provide.


      1. I wish I had more to add. I read from another source that most of the SBD’s came from the U.S.S. Enterprise when they updated to the -3 model. By looking at the planes in the picture, there can be a possibility that some are survivors of the Midway battle. Look at Photo 5 again, those planes clearly have the red “meatball” over sprayed as well as the red/white rudder stripes painted out. There are picks of the Kittyhawk aircraft ferry at pearl loading up the F2A-3 fighters that all have the pre-Midway markings. I have personally seen/touched Plane 6 and saw the patched over bullet and flak holes. All records of it never show a Black 6 (You can get a PDF of it by googling SD-2 2106 Recovery). The more I look at this series of photos, the more I believe they are the survivors of the battle renumbered and supplemented by leftovers from the carriers sometime afterwards. You have to remember, Saratoga arrived at Midway just after the battle ended with a deckload of replacement planes which included SBD, TBD, TBF and F4F fighters. There are pics of it leaving Pearl with the planes on deck. They were intended to replenish the air group losses from the battle, and I bet a few made their way to the Marines which would explain the black markings and the mix of planes with the painted out meatballs/rudder stripes and those without. Remember, 19 SBD’s were delivered pre battle, and 8 were lost. That left 11 on the island afterwards, with #6 (2106) being shipped out for repair and shipment to the Great lakes as a trainer where it was lost in an accident and recovered in the 90’s. That leaves 10 to be supplemented. It appears these are renumbered 1-19 like the original group, but in black. Go and look at the Lexington wreck photos of the TBD’s, With the exception of type, and pre-Midway markings, they are painted like the Marine aircraft most likely looked (since most were painted to the same specs). As stated above, Plane #2 looks to have a Bombing 8 marking on the side of the cockpit and painted out rudder stripes, could it be a parts plane, as Hornets air groups had their prewar markings painted over prior to battle also. This plane may have been donated to the Marines as war weary as the squadron took on the new planes from Saratoga………………Just a thought! Keep up the work!.

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  4. Thanks for your like of my comment to the Pacific Paratrooper; you are very kind. I really like your blog. My father and I, both, were stationed in the Pacific area. He, in World War II, in the Philippines and New Guinea. I was, during the Vietnam War, in the Philippines and Thailand. I appreciate the work of the Paratrooper, of of you. Please keep up your good work.

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  5. The new Midway movie is coming out in November. The trailer is already out. DId they not research the markings at all. It is not hard to go and look at the footage of the Doolittle Raiders on the deck of the Hornet. The NATIONAL INSIGNIA is WRONG. The one portrayed on the upper wings of the B-25’s never existed and was never used by ANY branch of our military. It has the early star and meatball with the white late war “bars” displayed on the visible planes. I just hope they fix this before the release (its all digital) to make it right. I also noticed the TBD’s making their runs did not have the meatballs (rudder stripes would be hard to see in this view) as this portrays the early WW2 Island raids carried out by our carriers. Only at Midway did nearly all the TBD’s have the meatball/stripes painted out. I wish there was a way to contact the production company so they can get this right. RESEARCH RESEARCH, its not that hard, there are plenty on photos of the planes from each battle to help get it right!

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    1. Agreed. If you think the trailer was bad you should see the posters. Japanese P-51s in Tuskegee markings flying from 27C Essex conversions to intercept SBDs with four-bladed props. I think I’ll be skipping this movie.


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