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U.S. Navy SBD Dauntless - Palm Springs
Palm Springs Air Museum visit November, 2008

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Douglas SBD Dauntless

Dauntless, Palm Springs Air Museum - California

The Dauntless dive bombers are well-known for the role they played during World War II in the Battle of Midway, where they sank or badly damaged four of the Japanese aircraft carriers, resulting in the loss of all four carriers and much of the highly trained Japanese naval aircrews.

This U.S. Navy SBD Dauntless-5 was recovered in 1996 from Lake Michigan and has been beautifully restored for viewing, however, it is not in flying condition. Photo of the SBD Dauntless is courtesy of the Palm Springs Air Museum.

During WW II, the US Navy decided to locate its carrier-landing training in the safety of Lake Michigan, away from the enemy threat on the East and West Coasts. This aircraft ended up at the bottom of Lake Michigan after a training accident while taking off from the USS Sable in 1944.


USS Sable carrier trainer

In order to be assigned to aircraft carrier duty, Navy pilot trainees needed to practice take off and landing skills on an actual aircraft carrier. Since the regular aircraft carriers were needed for the Pacific War, two paddle wheel passenger steamers were converted for training purposes. These two ships, renamed the USS Sable (IX 81) and the USS Wolverine (IX64), were fitted with 550 foot flight decks, as opposed to the almost 900 feet long decks on the real carriers. Only eight successful takeoffs and landings were needed to become a qualified pilot, however, this shorter landing deck could have been quite a challenge for the aviator trainees. The future President George H.W. Bush was one of the pilots who qualified on the USS Sable when he was 20 year old. US Navy photograph.


Also see on our website

Dauntless - Planes of Fame
SBD - USS Hornet Aircraft carrier
SBD Dauntless - American Aircraft

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