SBD Dauntless air-to-air score

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tomo pauk

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Apr 3, 2008
In other words, how many Japanese aircraft were downed by SBD (both by pilot and the rear gunner), vs. how many were lost to the Japanese A/C?
 
As the Japanese found, a pair or SBD's could usually hold their own against a fighter attack using a variation on the Thatch Weave.
A frontal attack was hard, they had a pair of .50's that could happily chew you up and the A6M didn't have much of a performance advantage.
A stern or beam attack meant duking it out with the mutual defensive fire of the tail gunners while gaining relatively slowly.
 
As the Japanese found, a pair or SBD's could usually hold their own against a fighter attack using a variation on the Thatch Weave.
A frontal attack was hard, they had a pair of .50's that could happily chew you up and the A6M didn't have much of a performance advantage.
A stern or beam attack meant duking it out with the mutual defensive fire of the tail gunners while gaining relatively slowly.

Do you know the actual, verified score of SBD vs. A6M?
 
Do you know the actual, verified score of SBD vs. A6M?


I have an old US Naval Academy book somewhere that claims about parity - 47 : 45

IJN pilots quickly learned to treat them with circumspection, they were not easy prey, fairly fast, very well armed, and very tough.
IRC, an SBD pilot who showed promise and bit an enemy fighter were frequently transferred to a fighter Sqn, so that would distort the SBD's success record.
 
Hello Tomo
Donald Nijboer's SBD Vs A6M Osprey Duel 115 gives good basic info on the subject. Not time to look through it but in the end notes that based on Lundstrom, Sawruk and Frank the actual number of Zeros shot down by SBD crews was between 5 and 9 in the first year of the war.
 
Depends how you want to count . . .

Peruse Frank Olynyk's USN Credits for the Destruction of Enemy Aircraft In Air-To-Air Combat, World War 2 (1982) and using fingers and toes, you can come up with numbers for USN SBD pilots and radio gunners:
Pilots – 54.0 credit / 8.0 probable / 4.0 damaged
Gunners – 41.5 credit / 5.0 probable / 13.0 damaged
Total – 95.5 credits / 13.0 probable / 17.0 damaged
Remembering, of course, that these are only for the USN and does not include the USMC.

If you look at BuAer's Naval Aviation Combat Statistics – World War 2 (1947) you can get gross totals which, unfortunately, do not provide either separation of probables/damaged nor a pilot/gunner breakdown, BUT do include gross totals for the USMC.

The BuAer gross total for the USN comes to 116.0 credits, obviously somewhat more that what Olynyk reports as credits and IMO probably has something to do with juggling/counting probables and damaged in BuAer's 1947 accounting as opposed to Olynyk's more painstaking 1970's review of the reports.

BuAer's Naval Aviation Combat Statistics, as noted, also provides us with the gross credit total for USMC SBD's, reported as 22.

Other reader's results may vary.

BuAer reports the total SBD's lost to enemy aircraft as 79; that's 43 USN carrier based, 12 USN land based, and 24 USMC land based.

Lastly, to another question, using Olynky you can find that USN SBD pilots and gunners were credited with a total of 56 A6M series shootdowns. Pilots were credited with 25, radio/gunners with 31. Probables totaled 4, 2 each pilots and gunners and damaged totaled 14, 2 for pilots, 12 for gunners.

SBD's shot down by A6M's?? Not a clue, but I'd suspect for the 79 reported as shot down by Japanese aircraft, the A6M was probably the culprit for the majority.

R
 
From the same Osprey book, the final numbers differ a bit from R Leonard's above, it says 63 SBDs shot down by fighters, of which 39 CV based in 1941-1942, the other 24 being either at Guadalcanal, or at the Marianas battle in 1944. Compare this with the maximum of 9 A6Ms lost to SBDs in 1942.

Perhaps there might have been a few more SBDs lost in the Solomons in 1943 or at Rabaul to get closer to the numbers above. Conversely, a few more A6Ms might have been lost in 1943 or at the Marianas. Whichever way, i think it's reasonable to assume a roughly 6 to 1 ratio of kills for the A6M vs the SBDs.
 
As the Japanese found, a pair or SBD's could usually hold their own against a fighter attack using a variation on the Thatch Weave.
A frontal attack was hard, they had a pair of .50's that could happily chew you up and the A6M didn't have much of a performance advantage.
A stern or beam attack meant duking it out with the mutual defensive fire of the tail gunners while gaining relatively slowly.
I have to wince at this one.

The A6M had a 75 mph speed advantage and perhaps 8,000 feet in service ceiling advantage coupled with an overwhelming armament advantage. It climbed better, but not by too much, and would outturn a Dauntless by some margin. All this means the Zero was a much better mount for aerial combat, but was not nearly as rugged.

Not too sure the SBD would gain at all, much less very slowly.

The world's best Naval fighter (at the time) versus a dive bomber SHOULD be a win for the Zero. If it wasn't, I think the Zero was surprised or the Dauntless pilot was pretty decent coupled with a non-veteran Zero pilot.
 
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Were IJN/IJAAF pilots able to talk to American pilots over their radios?
This thread reminded me of a scene in a movie (God Is My Co-pilot?) where the Japanese pilot says to our hero, "Out of ammunition, eh Yank?"
Was that possible?
 
From the same Osprey book, the final numbers differ a bit from R Leonard's above, it says 63 SBDs shot down by fighters, of which 39 CV based in 1941-1942, the other 24 being either at Guadalcanal, or at the Marianas battle in 1944. Compare this with the maximum of 9 A6Ms lost to SBDs in 1942.

Perhaps there might have been a few more SBDs lost in the Solomons in 1943 or at Rabaul to get closer to the numbers above. Conversely, a few more A6Ms might have been lost in 1943 or at the Marianas. Whichever way, i think it's reasonable to assume a roughly 6 to 1 ratio of kills for the A6M vs the SBDs.

As I said, ". . . the A6M was probably the culprit for the majority . . ." re the 79 SBDs shot down by Japanese aircraft in the entire war; your 63 would appear to be a majority.

But as far as A6Ms credited to SBD drivers and their gunners in 1942, your 9 appears to be a little off. I count 18 shootdown credits to rear gunners and 14 to pilots, a total of 32, plus 1 to a gunner on 7 Dec 1941. Can put a name, squadron, and date to to each with no real effort.
 
Thanks for your insight R Leonard.

Would your numbers of lost A6Ms be actually confirmed by japanese sources though? If they are actually just USN/USMC claims, well they are just that, claims. These were always grossly inflated by both sides in WW2.
 
Oh, please, don't start that crap. You may have noticed that I use the words "credit" or "credits" through out. How about you provide a complete list of Japanese losses so we can compare. You'll need names, dates, & places. While there are certainly, note, "credits" here and there which even cause me to raise an eyebrow, I'm not in the business of calling people liars . . . are you?
 
Just as an aside, Pacific claims were MUCH less inflated than ETO claims. A lot of it has to do with circumstances.

In the ETO, you had many bombers and many fighters engaging in combat in large streams, at least later in the war, usually simultaneously.

I the Pacific, you had mostly 4 v 4, 4 v 8, or 8 v 8 combat... usually over water where a damaged landing meant a definite loss. It was MUICH easier to keep track of than 250 planes from both side all shooting at something all at the same time.
 
A-24 was the USAAF's land-based version of the SBD (non-navalized).

Without USN training, the Army used them more as a glide bomber, so weren't quite as successful as their SBD counterparts.

As far as an SBD versus A6M, you can be 100% sure that Saburo Sakai did not like the Dauntless...
 
What is interesting to me is the Zero had no firing button on the stick. It is bare. So, you have one hand flying, and one hand shooting.

This is a A6M5 panel I helped sell, as well as the original stick, which I can't find a picture for.
 

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I read a quote from an American pilot who reported that. I thought it was BS. I stand corrected.
 

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