"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
"Slow, But Deadly"
             The Douglas SBD Dauntless
Background:  A pair of VB-5 SBD-5s return to USS Yorktown (CV-10) after unloading their ordnance on Wake Island, October 5, 1943. Most noticeable is their different camouflage application. Although both exibit the tri-color scheme of Sea Blue, Intermediate Blue and White, "white 14" has the upper surface camouflage carried down the fuselage sides to merge with the upper surface of the wings. The national insignia show signs that the red surround has been covered with freshly painted Insignia Blue, as directed after September. The black stripes on the tail hook were not applied at the factory, they were an addition while in service to enhance its visibility before a landing. A petty officer, acting as the LSO's aircraft spotter and telephone talker, was on hand at the LSO station. Through binoculars, he would observe the planes as they made the down-wind leg of their approach and call out to the LSO "Gear, flaps, hook, all down, sir." If any of the three were not confirmed, the LSO would then give a specific signal, using his paddles, to correct any pilot error and avoid a wave off.

Below:  Another view of  "B-11" from VB-8, as seen on our previous page. She has just landed and is being positioned by the plane handlers on Hornet's elevator amidships for a trip to the hangar deck below. Due to the lack of folding wings, the SBD had to be manually turned at a 45 degree angle first to fit. The fact that the deck crewmen are wearing their "tin hats" and life jackets leads us to speculate that this action might be taking place just prior to, or during, the Japanese air assault on USS Yorktown (CV-5), which was steaming nearby.
Above:  At the forward end of USS Saratoga's flight deck, as newly landed planes taxi forward and are guided to their parking spots, disembarking flight crews head for their ready rooms while plane handlers jockey the SBDs into their final positions. They may be returning from a scouting mission, rather than a strike, as we can see undropped ordnance remains under VB-12 's "white 9". The scene is reported to be from October 1943.

Below:  VB-16 SBD-5s are safely back aboard USS Lexington after a strike in September 1943. Most members of the deck crew are wearing their steel helmets and several carry their life belts in custom made white sail-canvas bags, rather than wearing them around the waist. The radioman-gunner in the foreground has one of the new type QAS parachute harnesses, probably converted from a standard seat model by the riggers aboard the ship.
Above:  The navigation lights and exhaust flames of these SBD-4s can be clearly seen here aboard USS Ranger, cruising in the Atlantic, during night carrier qualifications. Although the squadron (VB-41 and VB-42) and individual aircraft numbers are marked on each, below the canopy, they have also been given temporary, high visibility, numbers on the rear fuselage, using what appears to be tape.

Below:  This set of 3 photos documents the successful return of a VB-9 SBD-5 to USS Essex after a strike on Tarawa Atoll in November 1943. The pilot, LT James K. Brother, probably noticed some loss of  control as a result of the flak damage to his starboard elevator, but with chartboard still in hand, he can now see the extent of the damage to the fabric covered surface and surrounding metal-clad areas of the empennage. Note, the LT's sidearm is a .45 automatic, carried in an M1916 holster, on a web pistol belt.

Not to be left out, the deck crewmen and his radioman-gunner survey the damage as well. Note, the gunner is still using an AN-Aero standard seat type parachute, although the QAS type would have started to become available by this time, having been introduced four months earlier.

As seen from the island superstructure, all the planes have landed, the flight crews have cleared the deck, and respotting and rearming has commenced. The tow bar of an aircraft tug, in this case a jeep, is being attached to the lug at the rear of  "white 10". No doubt she will be taken to the after elevator for a trip down to the hangar deck and some much needed repairs.
Below:  Needless to say, not all carrier landings were safe ones however, as witnessed by these two photos of  VB-16 Dauntless "white 45", that has been stopped by the crash barrier, having missed engaging any landing cables. The barrier, comprised of steel cables raised several feet above deck level, was intended to protect the previously recovered planes parked forward at the bow and actually stopped an errant plane by catching the prop and / or tripping the main landing gear struts, resulting in a nose over. 

Despite the pilot's shoulder harness and seat belt, the violent deceleration often resulted in his head impacting the gunsight above the instrument panel, sometimes with fatal results. Both pilot and crewman appear to have been moving after their bomber settled back down on the deck, so hopefully they were able to walk away this time.
Below:  The enlisted radiomen-gunners of VB-16 pose with their CO, LCDR Ralph Weymouth, standing back row, center. He was with VB-16 throughout their deployment, from September 1943 until July 1944 (the end of the SBD's service life in carrier based units), moving from executive to commanding officer. As expected, we see a typical mix of old and new flight gear in use by the crewmen.

Next, the CO poses with his pilots. By this time, believed to be June 1944, the .38 "Victory" revolver has been widely distributed to pilots and crewmen, replacing the .45 pistol in most cases, along with an issue shoulder holster. Several men here, including Weymouth, have chosen to carry their revolvers in a custom made leather holster (the chest strap looks like a trouser belt) and its ammo in a rigger made pouch.

Lastly, this photo of LCDR Weymouth gives us a closer look at one of these holsters and the ammo pouch, which appears large enough to hold a full box of 50 rounds along with a handful of loose cartridges, or some small items of first aid / survival gear. To combat the threat of rust from prolonged exposure to sea air, he carries his pistol in an old sock, lightly impregnated with gun oil. His AN-6540 Summer flight helmet is fitted with ANB-H-1A earphones, combined with the rubber-covered loom that was provided with the earlier issue TH-37 type phones.