Paul Hilliard believes the SBD Dauntless is much underrated and unfortunately much unrecognized. WWII books sometimes leave the SBD out. It played a crucial role early in the war which may be why it was forgotten about. The naval action in the Pacific was over the water and therefore did not have a lot of eyewitnesses. Sir Walter Scott wrote a poem: “So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war, there never was knight like the young Lochinvar.” Hilliard flew in the SBD for about seven to eight months. He trained in the Solomon Islands and the Philippines. It was sturdy, reliable, and it was a great tool. Hilliard has read a lot of comments about the plane. The plane allowed you to aim the bombs and not just drop them. They had twin .30 caliber machine guns in the rear seat. Coral Sea and Midway were the two most famous engagements the SBD was involved in. Yamamoto said he could run wild in the Pacific for six months but he knew it would be tough because of American production. The wonderful part of the story of the SBD was in the early part of the war. Hilliard was in the war by 1944. Yamamoto had six fleet carriers when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. Within a few months, four of those carriers were on the bottom of the ocean, one of the carriers was on its way back to Japan to be repaired, and the second that was not sunk ended up at Rabaul for repairs. Two of the carriers used at Pearl Harbor were at Coral Sea. The story at Midway is phenomenal in terms of how the SBD performed. The Japanese had been more worried about torpedo bombers so they did not have the proper fighter protection. The SBD was flown as a land-based plane around Guadalcanal. At Leyte Gulf there were still some SBDs used. Hilliard went from Bougainville to the Philippines in December 1944 and first flew out of Lingayen Gulf. Hilliard was sent home in July 1945 for rest and reassignment. The damage the SBD could cause, coupled with the accuracy, was a lethal weapon. At 12,000 feet even in the tropics it was cold. Since the SBD was an open cock pit plane it got very cold. He recalls shivering. It was an interesting experience for a 19-year-old. It was a great privilege to be a Marine Corps aviator. Hilliard recalls that he never aborted a mission because of a mechanical issue. Sometimes they had to abort their mission because of weather. Sometimes the engine would sputter and it would get your heart racing but everything always turned out alright. The SBD was a superb airplane and it served everybody well. It did the job. It was rugged sturdy and reliable and outside of that what can you say.
For Paul Hilliard, The National WWII Museum obtaining an SBD [Annotators Note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber] is a big accomplishment. Midway cemented the decision made to go to Europe first. After Midway, the carrier was the Panzer of the Pacific. Before the war in Europe had reached a conclusive finale they made the decision to expedite the end of the Pacific war because the American people were growing weary. The SBD flew at Guadalcanal. Currently the navy is trying to bring up an SBD from the bottom of Lake Michigan that will replace the one in The National WWII Museum. All of the planes Hilliard trained in are at the museum except for the PBY [Annotators Note: Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat]. Hilliard is very excited about the SBD. If his wife was still alive she would be very proud. Hilliard recalls how the shivering and the pressure differential work on your bladder at high altitude, and he wishes he could recall more details on the missions. He makes sure to read about what his group did. Hilliard was in MAG 241 [Annotators Note: actually Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 241 (VMSB-241)] and MAG 341 [Annotators Note: actually Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 341 (VMSB-341)], which were both SBD squadrons. Hilliard served with a man who may be in the Detroit area. Hilliard does not have his flight log book any more. The pilots and the gunners on the SBDs did not live together. One of the pilots in Hilliard’s squadron was Jerry Coleman and he played professional baseball with the New York Yankees.
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