"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
"Slow, But Deadly"
             The Douglas SBD Dauntless
Below:  To the right of this photo, we can see one of the two wind deflectors. These were spring loaded, and would deploy when the after canopy was opened to decrease the effects of the slipstream on the rear-seater.
Above:  A radioman-gunner from VC-22, aboard USS Independence on April 30, 1943, shows us the ultimate configuration for the .30 cal. guns on the Dauntless. Upper and lower armor plate has been added to the twin mount and the primary sight now is the Mark 9 reflector type, with the smaller ring and bead acting only as an auxiliary, should the optical sight fail, or become disabled. The armor plate was stenciled "Face" on one side to prevent workers at the factory from installing it backwards, thus lessening its protection. Some graffiti has been applied, changing the wording to "I Fade", alluding to covering a bet in the popular gambling game of the era, played with dice, known as "shooting craps". We can't make out what the cartoon rendering of the gunner is saying, however.

Background: Taken at the Douglas factory, this image gives us a nice close-up of the SBD's defensive armament. Here, the ammo is belted with metallic links, rather than the cloth belt seen above.
Above:  "Friendly fire" from anxious Marine gunners on Midway Island on the morning of June 4th, 1942, has holed this VB-8 SBD-2 in the luggage compartment. Now back aboard USS Hornet, pilot and crewman inspect the damage. As mentioned previously, Hornet's air group (with the exception of VT-8) failed to locate the Japanese armada. Low on gas, some turned around and flew back to the carrier, but others, like this aircraft, flew on to Midway to refuel before returning home. The pilot is ENS William Carter. The gunner, towering over him, is Aviation Radioman 2c Oral "Slim" Moore, standing at 6' 2" tall. Moore, if contact with the enemy had been made, would be forced to defend them with the old single gun mount found on the SBD-2. The large ring and bead sight and small ammo can, attached directly to the gun, would be replaced with the improved twin .30 cal. mount on subsequent models.

Below:  Five months later, we see the improved gun mount on an SBD-3 during Operation Torch in November 1942. The firepower has been doubled and now the ammo is fed to each gun from a large capacity box, built into the aircraft, that held 2,200 rounds (1,100 per gun). The large ring and bead sight is still there and  armor protection is lacking, but the defensive capability is much improved. The pilot wears Jodhpur boots, a low riding boot, which was a popular style of private purchase footwear for airmen of all services during the war. We were happy to see he also has a Navy contract B-3 vest, as witnessed by the large "D" ring on its waist belt. For more information, go to: https://pilotsmanyourplanes.com/Page_48.html . A large sheath knife is carried on his left hip.
Above:  Having carefully cleaned the guns, this aviation ordnanceman is inspecting the belted .30 cal. ammo before loading it into the plane and reinstalling the gun mount.

Below:  A radioman-gunner, knowing that his own, and his pilot's, life depended on the guns working properly when needed, took the care and maintenance of them very seriously and no detail was overlooked. 
Above:  The rear seat man was provide with an AN-M8 pyrotechnic signal pistol, which would be fitted into the shock absorbing mount bolted to the port fuselage at his station, before firing. A variety of colored signals were carried to convey different visual messages when the need arose.

Below:  This radioman-gunner is believed to be a member of VC-22 and was photographed during the shake down cruise of USS Independence in the Caribbean during April of 1943. CVL-22 was the first of nine light carriers, converted from light cruiser hulls. Ultimately, the lack of a folding wing lead to the removal of the 9 SBDs from the compliment of the composite air groups bound for service on CVLs before they entered combat.
Above:  For the flight gear enthusiasts among us, this gunner's "volcano" ear cups catch our eyes first. The formal designation was "Earphone Receptacle, stock number (R)16-R-0439, contract number N288s-9336", but that doesn't quite have the same ring to it, so we'll stick with "volcano",  which matches the shape of the hard rubber earphone mountings nicely. The large letter "M" painted on the side of the aircraft would indicate the photo was taken during training.

Below:  Located at the Marine Corps Bombardier and Air Gunners School, at MCAS El Centro, California, a derelict SBD airframe was set up indoors to familiarize students with the layout of the rear compartment. With an area of the aluminum skin removed, we can see the gunner's position to better advantage. 
Below: These three photos show the evolution of the SBD's defensive armament.

Apparently taken at the Douglas factory, we see an SBD-2 with the single .30 cal. gun. Note the lack of a port for the pyrotechnic pistol and the absence of the canopy wind deflectors. The gun is fed from a canister on the left and sighted through a large ring and bead.

In November of 1942, an SBD-3 aboard USS Sangamon is marked for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. The yellow outline was added to the fuselage and under wing national insignia in an effort to identify friendly aircraft to Allied forces on land and at sea. Unfortunately, antiaircraft gunners aboard ship tended to "shoot first and ask questions later" when aircraft were overhead. A radioman-gunner is test firing his guns, which have no armor or reflector sight fitted to the mount.

Seen on the hangar deck of the training carrier, an ordnanceman loads the guns on an SBD-5. This would be the ultimate configuration, with upper (face) and lower (shoulder) armor and a Mark 9 reflector gunsight installed in the "Gun Mount Adapter Mark 11 Mod 3". Although his helmet appears pink, it is actually just faded red. Lacking a separate distinctive color to identify them on the flight deck, ordnancemen were clothed in the same red as firefighters / fuelers, but sported a black stripe on their helmets.
Below: A Douglas factory photo of the twin mount in an SBD-3 from July 1942. Both the chest and face armor have been installed and the guns are loaded for the photo as well.