But before the Hellcat’s 1943 appearance in Pacific skies and before the Superfortress went operational in 1944, the basis of U.S. victory was established by an obsolescent carrier-based dive bomber in 1942. Officially it was the Scout Bomber by Douglas, the SBD. The American public knew the globe-trotting ship-killer as the Dauntless. When faster carrier aircraft appeared later, SBD partisans insisted the acronym meant “Slow But Deadly.” And so it was. Despite its slightly dumpy silhouette, during the 12 months after Pearl Harbor the Dauntless became the worst enemy of imperial Japan.
SBDs flying off the USS Enterprise (CV-6) initiated the Dauntless to combat on the first day of the Pacific war—7 December 1941—when 18 of them were caught by the Japanese flying into Pearl Harbor. Forty-five months later, on VJ Day, U.S. Marine Corps Dauntlesses still were flying missions in the Central Pacific, making the SBD a rare first-to-last warrior. The Dauntless fought a global war, not only in the breadth of the Pacific but also in climes as diverse as North Africa, southern Europe, and the Arctic. In all, the U.S. government purchased 5,936 of them.