SBD Question

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by diddyriddick, May 3, 2010.

  1. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2009
    Messages:
    1,388
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Location:
    Hamlet, NC, US
    I have a question that maybe ya'll can help with....

    American Carrier Air Groups(at least early in the war)had roughly 2 squadrons of fighters(VF), 1 squadron of Torpedo planes(VT), 1 squadron of Dive Bombers(VB), and 1 squadron of Scout Bombers(VS). It is the last two that I'm struggling with. Before 1943, the VB squadrons and the VS squadrons both were equipped with SBDs, and indeed the scout squadrons were also used in the dive-bombing role.

    So my question is...Was there any difference between the equipment that the VS and VB squadrons used? Did they have any sort of special mods? Or was it a matter of tactics and application?
     
  2. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    5,680
    Likes Received:
    430
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Retired and living on the dole
    Location:
    Lakeview, AR
    Diddy, my experience is that in a war you use what you have to do whatever. The dauntless a northrop creation was taken over by Douglas and was a pretty tough aircraft. The SBD-3 with self-sealing tanks, 2-.50 and 2-.30 machineguns, armour, and a bullet-proof windshield did not have to run from the lightweight Zeros and dauntless pilots easily became fighter pilots. as a "fighter" the dauntless shot down something like 140 enemy fighters to 100 dauntless. one of the best records in the war.
    the SBD-4 with an improved electrical system and larger tanks had a recon version fitted with cameras and an 1100 mi range so i guess that that would be a special mod
    the army version, the A-24 Banshee was supposed to compete with the Stuka but the Army never got very far with it
     
  3. Markus

    Markus Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2010
    Messages:
    227
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Not at all. Both flew the same planes and used the same tactics. Depending on the mission the armament differt. SBD on a scouting/recon mission were armed with 500lb bombs, those on an attack mission carried 1,000 pounders. Well, 1,000 pounders were the prefered choice and could only be carried over a shorter distance.

    By the way, US CV started the war with one fighter squadron and not a very large one. App. 16 operational a/c I think.
     
  4. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    5,680
    Likes Received:
    430
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Retired and living on the dole
    Location:
    Lakeview, AR
    Marcus, if you know, why would a recon aircraft carry an additional 1000lbs of bombs? isn't recon: get in, get out, ASAP.
    bombs would be useless against attacking aircraft which would be expected on recon over enemy territory
     
  5. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Messages:
    4,441
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    MGR
    Location:
    Phila, Pa
    Mike,I think he said the scouting mission was a 500lb bomb and the attack mission was a 1,000 lb bomb. That is what I have read as well.

    Not sure the Japanese did the same thing with their scouts. I think they went with no load and focused on getting more range. Find first and strike first seems to have been their concept.
     
  6. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2009
    Messages:
    6,418
    Likes Received:
    64
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    That's my understanding also. And I agree that it was dumb. The SBD is not a terribly long range aircraft to begin with. Scouts should have carried 500 lbs of additional fuel rather then a small bomb.
     
  7. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    5,680
    Likes Received:
    430
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Retired and living on the dole
    Location:
    Lakeview, AR
    confusion of terminology. to me "scout" means recon. didn't ground attack aircraft have a specific target and then several "targets of opportunity" on which to expend any unused ordinance?
    so a scout aircraft was just heading out over enemy territory hoping to find something to drop its 2 - 500lbs bombbs on?
    the SBD-4 photorecon, would they be stripped down and just take pics and return or did they carry bombs too?
    on the ground recon is in and out, no contact if possible, and if so run like hell to the extraction point
     
  8. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Messages:
    4,441
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    MGR
    Location:
    Phila, Pa
    I think it had to do with doctrine. The US Navy monkeyed around with it a quite a bit during the war and ended up with all sorts of mixtures (TBF with one or two F6 escorts, two F6s on their own- kind of a scout killer more or less and, very late in the war, F6s with bombs out in flight or squadron sized packs, but that idea wasn't fully developed, more like intruders by late war). But early war to about 1943, the doctrine was one (if it was expected to be quiet or not very active) to two (if the odds of a contact were high) SBDs with 500lbs bombs.

    It tended to work well although the pilots seemed to get mixed signals from the Squadron Leaders. In at least one case, a pilot made contact and kept tabs on the enemy task force, sending out contact messages for a while before coming home with his bomb still attached. He was under the impression contact was more important than bombing. His CO did not agree and there were some mild allegations of cowardice. In the next battle (I think the first one was the Eastern Solomons and the second was Santa Cruz Islands, pilot was off the Enterprise IIRC), the guy managed to wrangle the spot where the Japanese task force was most lkely to be on the Scouting mission, found the Japanese Carriers, made his report and bombed, hitting the target.

    He definitely had something to prove.

    But from Mike's perspective, scouting is not supposed to have an attack aspect to it. This pilot though the same but found out later that was not the case. Whereas it is pretty clear to a scout in the Infantry that keeping quiet and looking around is the best way to a survive and get the job done, it is not always the same case with a Carrier Air Group which tends to have a more melded mission than strictly attack or scout.
     
  9. renrich

    renrich Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2007
    Messages:
    4,542
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    real estate
    Location:
    Montrose, Colorado
    Firstly, I believe you will find that early war CVs embarked one VF squadron, one VT squadron and two VB squadrons. That changed later as the need to protect the CV with a CAP and also provide escort forced the CV to carry more VFs. The space to carry more VFs was exacerbated because the F4F3 did not have folding wings. The F4F4 did have folding wings.

    According to Lundstrom, "The First Team", the Enterprise Air Group on 1 February, 1942 comprised:
    Fighting Six with 18 F4F3, F4F3A
    Bombing Six with 18 SBD-2,3
    Scouting Six with 18 SBD2, 3
    Torpedo Six with 18 TBD-1
    The CAG had one SBD-3
    Total Air Group-73
    I don't believe that the SBDs differed in the two roles of scout and bombing but I believe the scouts normally carried a lighter bomb load. I am not sure if the pilots specialised as far as training in the two roles but doubt it. Later the SBDs also were used as an anti-VT CAP but were not very successful.
     
  10. Markus

    Markus Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2010
    Messages:
    227
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    The "scouting" SBD were obviously supposed to be doing armed recon as one never knows what one finds. A lone enemy cruiser or transport perhabs? By the way, timshatz is right. One group of two or three SBD on a recon mission attacked and put out of action a CVL with a hit that started a fire and wrecked the ship´s arrester gear.
     
  11. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,359
    Likes Received:
    561
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Executive, Consulting
    Location:
    Scurry, Texas
    #11 drgondog, May 4, 2010
    Last edited: May 4, 2010
    There was one example of Scouts in WWII that had fighting as part of its mission.

    The Experimental, then 1st, 2nd and 3rd Scouts attached to each 8th Air Force Air Division were tasked to scout/recon the bomber routes, report weather and target visibility, look at secondary targets if planned target visibility sucked, help co-ordinate Rally Point assembly after bombs away - perform initial BDA - and last but not least - "see a German, kill a German" whenever they encountered Luftwaffe.

    The Second Scout Force, attached to 355th FG at Steeple Morden, had as many jet kills as the rest of the 355th and broke up two major forces on November 26, 1944 and February 9, 1945.

    On the 26th they individually (7 Mustangs) broke up a Gruppe level attack by JG301 saving a LOT of B-24s from destruction.
     
  12. JoeB

    JoeB Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2006
    Messages:
    809
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    18
    The scouting section which scored hit or hits (sources differ) on Zuiho at Santa Cruz was Lt. Birney Strong and Ens Chuck Irvine. Strong had led a section which sighted but didn't attack Ryujo at Eastern Solomons. In the Zuiho strike their rear gunners also eached claimed a Zero as they escapted, and one (from Zuikaku) was actually downed, one of the relatively few cases SBD's downed Zeroes in 1942, though SBD crews were frequently under the impression it had happened.

    Note that on both the main fan shaped sector searches, Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz, some of the sectors were covered by SBD's from Scout squadrons but some by SBD's from Bomb squadrons, and some also by TBF's at Eastern Solomons, so even in employment of the a/c the Bomb v Scout distinction was of limited meaning. It was similar later in the war when US carriers had VF and VBF sdns (and only one divebomber sdn, by then): the nominal 'fighters' and 'fighter bombers' performed similar missions in practice.

    On arming scouting SBD's, it seems to me it made sense in context of overall USN carrier a/c doctrine. The question wasn't so much giving up radius of search, since the idea of the carrier's scouts was to immediately set up attacks for its own a/c (carrying even heavier bombs, of course). Searching well beyond that range for general recon was not the idea. The bomb did cut the a/c's endurance to shadow a high value target, but as shown in Santa Cruz case gave the enemy something else to worry about, and in pre-radar case (Japanese had radar on some ships in both ES and SC battles but of limited capability) a section of a/c had a fair chance of unopposed attack (Strong/Irvine attack was not fired on till they'd already dropped their bombs). Also there could be lower value targets of opportunity. One successful example I can think of off hand was first sinking by USN in WWII of a significant sized warship (ie not counting midget subs at PH), I-70 by a scouting SBD from Enterprise Dec 10 1941.

    Joe
     
  13. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Messages:
    4,441
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    MGR
    Location:
    Phila, Pa
    Think they flew Mustangs, probably amongst many birds. Also, it was my understanding that the majority of the 8th AF scout pilots were there after flying a full tour in Bombers.

    But, as scouts, they pretty much fit the bill. Seems the SBDs on carrier decks were more recon/armed recon than scouting (although I could be quibbeling over verbage).
     
  14. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2009
    Messages:
    1,388
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Location:
    Hamlet, NC, US
    Couple of thoughts here...

    Firstly, as to bomb weight-IIRC, the prescribed bomb-load also depended on available flight deck. The first bombers to sortie needed a lighter load because they had less flight deck with which to work.

    Secondly, when we talk about scouts for a CAG, first and foremost, it seems to me that they were "scouting" to search out the enemy's fleet. Scouting out the foe's ground positions was normally a simple exercise in navigation, while finding the enemy fleet before he found you was imperative. One of the reasons for the success of Spruance/Fletcher at Midway was because they found the Kido Butai before the IJN found them. Remember the Tone Scout plane?

    Just a thought....
     
  15. Markus

    Markus Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2010
    Messages:
    227
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0

    Yes, but sort-of. Torpedo bombers were the heaviest planes and were thus parked in the rear, dive-bombers could take off from the center position and fighters needed the least distance for take off. I have not read any info that launch procedures needed to be changed because SBD were carrying 1,000 instead of 500lb bombs.
     
  16. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    5,680
    Likes Received:
    430
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Retired and living on the dole
    Location:
    Lakeview, AR
    Thank you to all, my mind-set is land based. recon was done to locate targets, such as truck parks, supply depots, HQ, etc. an 8 man team could do little or nothing and alerting the enemy was the last thing we wanted, i.e. if they knew they were spotted they moved, and a wasted arc light resulted.
    timshatz, if i were pilot #1 i would have done the same thing, report and bring in the big guys rather than ruining the surprise.
    going back to Midway what if the Tone Scout had attacked and been shot down w/o reporting? unless you are really lucky a couple of 500lbs are not going to do much damage and you've alerted the target
     
  17. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Messages:
    4,441
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    MGR
    Location:
    Phila, Pa
    Right. I think you have it. The Scout was first and foremost a contact plane. Find the enemy, most importantly shipping, and let everyone else know where they were. If he managed to put a bomb on target, all the better, but he had to let everyone know where they were before he did that.

    A good question that comes from that assumption is "How does he get a reply from a radio call from a fleet that is under radio silence?" Answer is, often, he didn't. He would get it from another plane or just make an assumption that the message was heard and then make his attack. He usually sent it many times before making that assumption.

    One good point that Joe B brought up earlier was the use of VFBs as scout/bombers. As the war progressed, the fighter load on carriers got larger and larger while the dedicated bomber component got smaller. It was a factor of utility of the fighter and the kamikaze threat (where fighter coverage against a standard raid was one fighter for every two attackers, with the Kamikaze, it was 1 to 1). But the F6 was also a pretty good scout plane too. Given extra tanks, it had a very good range capability as well as the speed and firepower to get itself out of trouble. While it did not get that job often (it still fell to the multicrew single engined aircraft for the most part), it did end up on "offensive patrols" with bombs and rockets out looking for trouble in enemy turf. Usually with a target in mind (such as an airfield) but not exclusive.
     
  18. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Messages:
    4,441
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    MGR
    Location:
    Phila, Pa
    And that is how the brawl (verbal) between he and his CO went. CO was a real hard charger and wanted scalps, his or the enemy. So, things simmered for a few months. Then the Santa Cruz Islands happens and he got his chance.

    I think Joe pegged the guy too. I think it was Strong.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that waking up the enemy on the ground, in his turf, is not a smart move for a small unit. While I've never been there or done that, it seems the less the other side knows of your movements in that realm, the better. And the intel can be extremely useful. It is rumored that during the Falklands War, the SAS had a team on the Argentinian Mainland that let the British Fleet know every time a strike was launched.

    If true, that is extremely useful intel for a fleet commander.
     
  19. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2009
    Messages:
    1,388
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Location:
    Hamlet, NC, US
    "Best knew that his fellow squadron commander, Lieutenant W. Earl Galaher of VS-6, had to equip his unit with 500-pound bombs because, being the first dive bombers to take off, they did not have the deck space necessary for a run long enough to launch with 1,000 pound bombs."

    Miracle at Midway Prange, Gordon W. P. 261
     
  20. Nikademus

    Nikademus Member

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2007
    Messages:
    525
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    Drone
    Location:
    Seattle

    To my knowledge the VS/VB squadrons were interchangable in their role assignments and training.
     
Loading...

Share This Page