Tag Archives: Douglas SBD Dauntless

Don’t hold your breath for more great wreck finds from R/V Petrel

In the past few years, the research vessel R/V Petrel has been combing the Pacific to find and document the most famous lost warships of WWII. This included the carriers USS Hornet, Wasp, and Lexington as well as the mighty USS Indianapolis and the first destroyer to fire a shot at Pearl Harbor, USS Ward. Added to this were the Japanese Asagumo, Fuso, Michishio, Yamagumo, and Yamashiro along with the doomed carriers Kaga and Akagi.

Well, that long series of discoveries is hitting the pause button, if not the full-stop.

From the vessel’s social media:

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis has changed the world for the long term in ways that we never could have imagined.

As a result of operational challenges from the pandemic, R/V Petrel will be placed into long-term moorage and she will not be deployed for the foreseeable future.

We were tasked with a monumental mission – discover, educate, and honor – and we’re hopeful we will eventually be back in service.

SBD of Morocco

Yes, a Navy dive bomber on a dirt road in North Africa. It happened.

Below we have a U.S. Navy SBD (Scout Bomber, Douglas) Dauntless dive bomber, likely of Carrier Air Group 4’s VS-41 “Tophatters,” using a road as a makeshift runway, near Safi, Morocco, in November 1942. The historic port, about 140 nautical miles south of Casablanca, had been captured just hours before by three WWI-era U.S. Navy destroyers carrying a raiding force of light infantry in the opening moves of Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa.

NHHC 208-N-6070

Note special insignia used during this operation, with a wide white circle around the regular star & circle emblem, predating the Invasion Stripes of D-Day.

Developed by the famous ‎Ed Heinemann (father of the A-20 Havoc, A-26 Invader, A-1 Skyraider, A-4 Skyhawk, et al), the SBD was perhaps the most iconic carrier-borne strike plane of the war, with four squadrons of them responsible for scratching all four Japanese flattops at Midway, disabling three of them in the span of just six minutes. They also proved their mettle at the Coral Sea and in the Guadalcanal campaign with many, as evidenced above, operated from shore.

The SBD was probably from USS Ranger (CV-4) who for the Torch Landings had 18 such aircraft in VS-41. Another 18 SBDs were carried, nine each, on *two escort carriers USS Sangamon (ACV-26) and USS Santee (ACV-29). SBDs from Ranger, besides proving their worth plastering land-based targets, had also socked the French battleship Jean Bart on 10 November 1942 in Casablanca harbor with a pair of 1,000-pound bombs, finishing what the battleship USS Massachusetts had started.

VS-41 lost three aviators in North Africa– ARM George E. Biggs, Ens Charles E. Duffy, and ARM Aubra T. Patterson– and had four others shot down and captured (briefly) by the French. Founded in 1919, VS-41’s lineage is today carried by VFA-14, flying F/A-18Es.

*Two other escort carriers took part in the Torch landings but did not carry SBDs: USS Suwanee (ACV-27) with 29 F4F Wildcats and nine TBFs, and USS Chenango (ACV-28) carrying a load of 76 Army P-40Fs on a one-way trip.

More on Torch’s naval actions here.

Lady Lex still has one of the most amazing airwings in the world

Paul Allen keeps doing it. This time, his research ship, Petrel, has located the final resting place of USS Lexington (CV-2), the nation’s first real fleet carrier.

“On March 5th 2018, the research vessel RV Petrel, led by billionaire Paul Allen, discovered the wreck of Lexington during an expedition to the Coral Sea. She lies at nearly 2 miles below the surface and 500 miles off the coast of Eastern Australia. An ROV confirmed the identity of the wreck by finding her nameplate on her stern. She lies in three sections. The main section lies upright. A mile to the west, the bow and stern sections lie across from each other, with the bridge lying by itself between the three sections. Further to the west, a concentration of aircraft consisting of seven Douglas TBD-1 Devastators, three Douglas SBD Dauntlesses, and a single Grumman F4F Wildcat was also located.”

Note the lifeboat panel behind the cockpit has popped free


The F4F-3 of Ens. Dale W. Peterson and later Lt Albert Butch Vorse. Fox-5 was a VF-2 ship, transferred in from VF-3, and the deck crews did not have time to over-paint Felix during the Battle of the Coral Sea..

More on the importance of this particular F4F from NHHC here.

TBD Tare-3 of Vt-2 flown by Ensign N. A. Sterrie USNR who claimed a hit on the carrier Shoho during second attack. Tare-4 flown by Lt. R. F. Farrington USN who claimed a hit during first attack. This is amazing as there are only four known TBDs in existance anywhere in the world– all crashed. Only 130 were made and 35 lost at Midway alone

TBD Tare-5. Dig the meatball.

Here are a list of the Aircraft that went down with Lexington:

TBD-1 271 VT-2
TBD-1 273 VT-2
TBD-1 275 VT-2
TBD-1 290 VT-2
TBD-1 291 VT-2
TBD-1 300 VT-2
TBD-1 313 VT-2
TBD-1 320 VT-2
TBD-1 339 VT-2
TBD-1 346 VT-2
TBD-1 1514 VT-2
TBD-1 1516 VT-2
SBD-2 2104 VB-2
SBD-2 2113 VB-2
SBD-2 2115 VB-2
SBD-2 2116 VB-2
SBD-2 2121 VB-2
SBD-2 2127 VB-2
SBD-2 2143 VB-2
SBD-2 2157 VB-2
SBD-2 2163 VB-2
SBD-2 2176 VB-2
SBD-2 2186 VB-2
SBD-2 2188 VB-2
F4F-3A 3964 VF-3
F4F-3 3976 VF-3
F4F-3 3978 VF-3
F4F-3 3979 VF-3
F4F-3 3981 VF-3
F4F-3 3982 VF-3
F4F-3 3986 VF-3
F4F-3 3987 VF-3
F4F-3 3993 VF-3
F4F-3 4003 VF-3
F4F-3 4005 VF-3
F4F-3 4016 VF-3
F4F-3 4021 VF-3
F4F-3 4035 VF-3
SBD-3 4534 VS-2
SBD-3 4537 VS-2
SBD-3 4557 VS-2
SBD-3 4623 VS-2
SBD-3 4631 VS-2
SBD-3 4632 VS-2
SBD-3 4633 VS-2
SBD-3 4638 VS-2
SBD-3 4641 VS-2
SBD-3 4655 VB-2

Update, four years later, by Mickeen Hogan (thanks, Mickeen!)

Dear LastStandZombieIsland,

I really like all you do for the military. However, I believe there are some errors in your post about the Lexington Aircraft. Here is the information I have:

  1. F-5 that was found near Lexington was not the plane Dale Peterson flew on Feb 20 1942. The Wildcat Peterson flew on Feb 20 1942 is BuNo. 4009 F-5 on Feb 20 1942, that was Onia “Burt” Stanley’s assigned aircraft (info via Stanley’s Logbook). On March 14, 1942 BuNo 4009 was “sold” to VF-42 on USS Yorktown. However, it had an engine failure and ditched on the way to Yorktown, pilot Walt Haas was ok. Burt Stanley thought the accident was caused by the plane being “offended” by the VF-42 pilot (source Capt. Stanley’s Diary).

The Wildcat labeled F-5 is Albert “Scoop” Vorse’s assigned plane, but has Noel Gayler’s name on it, it means this was formerly Gayler’s assigned plane, BuNo. 3986 side number “F-13” when VF-3 was aboard Lexington in Feb 1942 (it was flown by John Thach on Feb 20 1942). When VF-2 came back aboard Lexington in Mid-April VF-3 transferred 3986 to VF-2 and VF-2 renumbered it from F-13 to F-5, note the overpainted 13 is faintly visible. They didn’t have time to personalize it for Vorse or overpaint Felix. This info is in John Lundstrom’s First Team. A lot of people also incorrectly said its former number was F-1 because Gayler flew F-1, however F-1 was Thach’s assigned plane not Gayler’s, meaning F-1 would have Thach’s name on it. Since this plane has Gayler’s name on it, it would be the former F-13.

  1. Of the 8 VF-2 Wildcats that sank the deck of Lexington, the only known one is 3986 “F-5”. Of the 21 Wildcats, 1 was lost May 7 in aerial combat, another 5 were lost in aerial combat on May 8, and another one disappeared on May 8, all of these crews (Baker, Rinehart, Mason, Peterson, Clark, Rowell, and Bull) were KIA or MIA. Six of the Wildcats (one BuNo 4031 the aircraft Butch O’Hare flew on his Bomber a Minute Mission) landed on Yorktown and survived. It is unknown (aside from 3986) which BuNos sank with Lexington. All of the BuNos lost in the air are unknown. A better idea to arrange it would be to put F4F 3986 “F-5” as confirmed and put the rest as having possibly sank with Lexington.

A Yorktown Wildcat (BuNo 2531) also sank with Lexington.

TBD 0345, not 0346 is in VT-2 for Coral Sea. See history card for 0345 received by VT-2 October 3 1941.TBD 0273 “T10” ditched (see below in document). Its crew Thornhill, Heldoorn and Glover got into their raft but are still MIA. The TBD T4 is on is T9 not T3. It fooled me until I looked closely.

SBD-2 2188 “B-13” crashed overboard at 1133 hours, log from the Air Operation officer included below. Go to “Report Of Air Operations Officer Dated May 13 1942”.  https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ships/logs/CV/cv2-Coral.html#pageC1

For Scouting 2 I included a document I made below, the people who gave me this information used the actual Scouting 2 report. One error though does appear to be in the report, it says Ault and Butler disappeared in SBD-3 4531 “S-11”, the discovery of the Lexington showed SBD 4531 as sunk with Lexington.

Reason why a lot of the internet says things like SBD 2188 sank with Lexington is a book that used the Master’s USN Overseas Loss document, this document is full of errors and cannot be trusted. I have a Fold3 account and can pull some records if you want some.

All the best,