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Sun, Mar 07, 2021

Military Aviation Museum Welcomes Douglas SBD Dauntless

This Particular Dauntless, BuNo 36175, Was Recovered From The Bottom Of Lake Michigan

The Military Aviation Museum has announced that the most recent addition to the collection in Virginia Beach is a Douglas SBD Dauntless.

This particular Dauntless, BuNo 36175, was recovered from the bottom of Lake Michigan where it was lost during a training exercise in 1944. The exhibit is expected to be on display until 5pm on March 31st at 1341 Princess Anne Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23457 and is included with regular Museum admission.

The aircraft, which was located in 177 feet of water by A and T Recovery, is a time capsule that tells the story of the Naval Aviators training on the Great Lakes, as well as connecting us with the broader story of World War II in the Pacific.

"We are particularly excited to welcome an SBD Dauntless into the collection, it is one of the most famous US Navy aircraft of WWII, and it is a type that our visitors often ask about," says Military Museum Director Keegan Chetwynd. “Our Dauntless is being placed on display for a limited time largely as it was recovered from the Lake, to provide people the opportunity to see an important artifact in its pre-restoration condition. Aircraft restorations are extensive, multi-year projects but this exhibit provides the public a rare opportunity to see the “Before” state for themselves, alongside a number of our other WWII US Navy aircraft that have been fully restored.”

Introduced in 1940, the Dauntless was developed as a scout bomber, hence its SBD designation (Scout Bomber – Douglas). Flown by squadrons of US Navy and US Marine Corps pilots from land bases as well as aircraft carriers, the Dauntless was the principal American dive bomber through much of the war, being replaced by the SB2C Helldiver in mid-1944. During the Battle of Midway in June 1942, Dauntlesses would deliver fatal blows to all four Japanese fleet carriers that were present. The Akagi, Kaga and Soryu were hit and disabled within the span of just 6 minutes. The Hiryu would be disabled later in the same day.

The MAM SBD-5 was Bureau Number (BuNo) 36175 and was accepted for Navy service on October 4, 1943. 36175 was transferred quickly into a training role to support new pilots receiving their initial carrier qualifications.

On January 20th, 1944 the aircraft met with the mishap that would see it preserved for 50 years on the bottom of Lake Michigan. Lieutenant Charles L. Ford III was attempting a landing on the training carrier USS Wolverine. He was too slow on his approach and was given “come on” signals by the Landing Signals Officer; when he was issued a subsequent “wave-off” command, the pilot banked away from the carrier with too little power, leading to a crash. According to the Navy accident report, the airplane hit the water at a near vertical angle on its back. The pilot was lucky to survive with just a few deep cuts to his forehead.



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