A rather terrible Secretary of Defense once said “you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want…”
While those words may have sounded callow and dickish amidst the Iraq war, they were certainly true for the United States in the first years of World War II. In the Pacific in particular, we found ourselves thrust into an epic war with a Depression-era military pretty much completely outclassed by the Japanese.
The military that would finish the war, the fleets brimming with Essex-class carriers and Iowa-class battleships, air arms of F6F Hellcats and F4U Corsairs, squadrons of B-29 Superfortresses and, oh yeah, atomic bombs, simply DID NOT EXIST in early 1942 and didn’t really come online until the tail end of 1943, by which point the writing was written on the wall with a really big sharpie.
The initial fighting in the Pacific was left to an aged fleet and men who had to get by on guts and ingenuity, rather than the better toys.
And yet, it was this aged fleet, battered by Pearl Harbor and the loss of Wake Island and the Phillipines, that turned the tide of the war and made our final victory possible.
If you want to truly appreciate the Douglas SBD Dauntless, you have to understand it in this context.
Even before the war began, the Dauntless was one of those planes that military leaders were itching to replace. And yet, at Coral Sea and Midway, it’s the aircraft that, more than any other, broke the back of the Japanese fleet with a series of devastating divebombing assaults on the enemy’s carriers. At Coral Sea, it was even pressed into fighter service, where it battled with Zeros and Japanese torpedo and divebombers in a desperate bid to defend the fleet.
Despite facing some of the hairiest situations of the war…dogfighting against one of the best fighters in the world, entering controlled dives into the teeth of the enemy’s fleets and the accompanying flak, AA fire and fighter screens, and divebombing land forces ahead of island landings, the Dauntless proved exceptionally rugged, and boasted the lowest loss ratio of any carrier-borne aircraft of the war.
Much like today’s A-10 Warthog and B-52 Stratofortress, the Dauntless stands a flying testament to the fact that the latest and greatest isn’t necessarily the greatest. Or even really necessary.
I’ve always wanted to build a Dauntless, and that was part of the reasoning for picking up the Revell kit when I was getting the work area all set up. Sadly, it was a terrible kit, and became the Fail Dauntless instead.
Now that I’ve got the P-51B under my belt, though, I’m going back to the Dauntless, this time to the insanely detailed Accurate Miniatures SBD-3 kit, which I managed to track down via eBay.
I’ve also picked up a few Eduard photoetch sets to add to the already impressive detail. One set covers the cockpit, while the other replaces the kit’s dive flaps (which are warped).
I’m not planning to do build reports as I did with the Mustang, but I may throw up the occasional post about some interesting or challenging aspects of the build. And I will be posting more once I put the wraps on the Dauntless.