The name Douglas has long been associated with outstanding U.S. naval attack aircraft—especially the SBD Dauntless, AD Skyraider, A3D Skywarrior, and A4D Skyhawk. These aircraft were the progeny of the Douglas DT, the U.S. Navy’s first successful torpedo plane.
Donald Douglas and his friend David R. Davis established an aircraft company in Los Angeles in 1920. Douglas had entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1909 but resigned as a midshipman in 1912 to pursue a career in aviation. He studied aeronautical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating in 1914, after which he remained briefly at MIT and then was associated with several aircraft firms, twice serving as chief engineer for the Glenn Martin Company. He also served, briefly, as chief civilian aeronautical engineer for the Army Signal Corps.
The Davis-Douglas Company’s first product was the Douglas Cloudster, a chunky single-engine biplane that its designers hoped would be the first aircraft to fly nonstop across the United States. The plane—only one was built—had limited success, being modified to carry five passengers and the pilot in open cockpits.