Search Our Catalog

Books, Ephemera & War Bond Posters -
WWII US Navy Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless Original Illustration Fighter Plane Art by Jerome Biederman
Item #: VF4026
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Click on an image to enlarge
WWII original aircraft on art board that measures 25″x20″. Illustrated image measures 19″x14.25″. This particular aircraft is identified on the reverse and signed by the artist to the front. Jerome Biederman was born February 1, 1913 in Braddock, Pennsylvania. He was a graduate of Chicago’s American Academy Of Art. He maintained studios in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Nashville during his career. This original Gouache watercolor illustration is of a United States Navy and Marines Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless and was part of a series of aviation paintings that Jerome did in the early 70's. His artwork routinely sells for over a thousand dollars and he is listed with Artfact with many of his artworks with a selling history.
 

Design and development

Design work on the Northrop BT-1 began in 1935. In 1937, the Northrop Corporation was taken over by Douglas, and the active Northrop projects continued under Douglas Aircraft Corporation. The Northrop BT-2 was developed from the BT-1 by modifications ordered in November 1937, and provided the basis of the SBD, which first entered service in mid-1939. Ed Heinemann led a team of designers who considered a development with a 1,000 hp (750 kW) Wright Cyclone engine. The plane was developed at the Douglas El Segundo, CA plant, and that facility, along with the company's Oklahoma City plant, built almost all the SBDs produced. One year earlier, both the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps had placed orders for the new dive bomber, designated the SBD-1 and SBD-2 (the latter had increased fuel capacity and different armament). The SBD-1 went to the Marine Corps in late 1940, and the SBD-2 to the Navy in early 1941. The distinctive perforated split flaps or "dive-brakes" had been incorporated into the BT-1 to eliminate tail buffeting during diving maneuvers.

The next version was the SBD-3, which began manufacture in early 1941. It had increased armor, self-sealing fuel tanks, and four machine guns. The SBD-4 provided a 12-volt (up from 6-volt) electrical system, and a few were converted into SBD-4P reconnaissance aircraft.

Comparison of the XBT-1 and XBT-2 (SBD).

The next (and most produced) version, the SBD-5, was produced mostly in the Douglas plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This version was equipped with a 1,200 hp (890 kW) engine and an increased ammunition supply. Over 2,400 of these were built. A few of them were shipped to the Royal Navy for evaluation. In addition to American service, the SBD saw combat against the Japanese Army and Navy with No. 25 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force—but the RNZAF soon replaced them with the larger, faster, heavier and land-based Vought F4U Corsair.

Some SBDs were also flown by the Free French Air Force against the Nazi German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe. SBDs were also sold to Mexico.

The final version, the SBD-6, had more improvements, but its production ended during the summer of 1944.

The U.S. Army Air Force had its own version of the SBD, called the A-24 Banshee. It lacked the tail hook used for carrier landings, and a pneumatic tire replaced the solid tail wheel. First assigned to the 27th Bombardment Group (Light) at Hunter Field, Georgia, A-24s flew in the Louisiana maneuvers of September 1941. There were three versions of the Banshee (A-24, A-24A and A-24B) flown by the Army to a very minor degree in the early stages of the war. The USAAF used 948 of the 5,937 Dauntlesses built.

Operational history

U.S. Navy and Marine Corps

Damaged VB-6 SBD-3 on Yorktown after the attack on Kaga at Midway.

U.S. Navy and Marine Corps SBDs saw their first action at Pearl Harbor, when most of the Marine Corps SBDs of Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 232 (VMSB-232) were destroyed on the ground at Ewa Mooring Mast Field. Most U.S. Navy SBDs were operating with their carriers, which did not operate in close cooperation with the rest of the fleet. Most Navy SBDs at Pearl Harbor, like their Marine Corps counterparts, were destroyed on the ground. On 10 December 1941, SBDs from the Enterprise sank the Japanese submarine I-70.

In February–March 1942, SBDs from the carriers USS Lexington, USS Yorktown, and USS Enterprise took part in various raids on Japanese installations in the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, New Guinea, Rabaul, Wake Island, and Marcus Island. Later, SBDs painted to resemble Japanese aircraft appeared in the John Ford film December 7th (1943).

A pair of SBDs fly over Enterprise. Saratoga and her plane guard destroyer are in the background, along with another flight of three aircraft.

The first major use of the SBD in combat was at the Battle of the Coral Sea where SBDs and TBD Devastators sank the Japanese light aircraft carrier (CVL) Shōhō and damaged the Japanese fleet carrier Shōkaku. SBDs were also used for antitorpedo combat air patrols (CAP) and these scored several victories against Japanese aircraft trying to attack the Lexington and the Yorktown.

Their relatively heavy gun armament—with two forward-firing .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns and either one or two rear flexible-mount .30 in (7.62 mm) AN/M2 machine guns—was effective against the lightly-built Japanese fighters, and many pilots and gunners took aggressive attitudes to the fighters that attacked them. One pilot—Stanley "Swede" Vejtasa—was attacked by three A6M2 Zero fighters; he shot two of them down and cut off the wing of the third in a head-on pass with his wingtip.

The SBD's most important contribution to the American war effort, doubtless, came during the Battle of Midway in early June 1942. Four squadrons of Navy SBD dive bombers attacked and sank or fatally damaged all four Japanese fleet carriers present—three of them in the span of just six minutes (Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū and, later in the day, Hiryū). They also caught two straggling heavy cruisers of the Midway bombardment group of four, heavily damaging them, with the Mikuma eventually sinking.

At the Battle of Midway, Marine Corps SBDs were not as effective. One squadron, VMSB-241, flying from Midway Atoll, was not trained in the techniques of dive-bombing with their new Dauntlesses (having just partially converted from the SB2U Vindicator). Instead, its pilots resorted to the slower but easier glide bombing technique. This led to many of the SBDs being shot down, although one survivor from these attacks is now on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum and is the last surviving aircraft to fly in the battle. On the other hand, the carrier-borne squadrons were effective, especially when they were escorted by their Grumman F4F Wildcat teammates. The success of dive bombing was due to one important circumstance:

  • Unlike American squadrons that attacked shortly before one at a time, allowing defending Japanese Zero fighters to concentrate on each squadron to shoot them down or drive them away from the carriers, three squadrons totaling 47 SBDs (VS-6, VB-6, and VB-3), one squadron of 12 TBD torpedo aircraft (VT-3), and six F4F fighters (from VF-3) all arrived simultaneously, with two of the SBD squadrons (VS-6 and VB-6) arriving from a different direction from the other squadrons. Without central fighter direction, the approximately 40 Zeros concentrated on the TBDs, with some fighting the F4Fs covering the TBDs, leaving the SBDs unhindered by fighter opposition in their approach and attack (although most of the TBDs were shot down).
A VB-5 SBD from Yorktown over Wake, early October 1943.

SBDs played a major role in the Guadalcanal Campaign, operating off both American carriers and from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. SBDs attacked Japanese shipping throughout the campaign, and proved lethal to Japanese shipping that failed to clear the slot by daylight. Losses inflicted included the carrier Ryūjō, sunk near the Solomon Islands on 24 August. Three other Japanese carriers were damaged during the six-month campaign. SBDs sank a cruiser and nine transports during the decisive Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

During the decisive period of the Pacific War, the SBD's strengths and weaknesses became evident. While the American strength was dive bombing, the Japanese stressed their Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" torpedo bombers, which had caused the bulk of the damage during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

In the Atlantic Ocean the SBD saw action during Operation Torch, the Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942. The SBDs flew from the USS Ranger and two escort carriers. Eleven months later, during Operation Leader, the SBDs saw their European debut when aircraft from the Ranger attacked Nazi German shipping around Bodø, Norway.

A VB-4 SBD-3 near Bodø, Norway, 4 October 1943.

By 1944 the U.S. Navy began replacing the SBD with the more powerful SB2C Helldiver.

During the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944, a long range twilight strike was made against the retreating Japanese fleet, at (or beyond) the limit of the attacking airplanes' combat radius. The force had about twenty minutes of daylight over their targets before attempting the long return in the dark. Of the 215 aircraft, only 115 made it back. Twenty were lost to enemy action in the attack, while 80 more were lost when one by one they expended their fuel and had to ditch into the sea. In the attack, however, were 26 SBDs, all of which made it back to the carriers.

The Battle of the Philippine Sea was the last major engagement where SBDs made up a significant part of the carrier-borne bomber force. Marine squadrons continued to fly SBDs until the end of the war. Although the Curtiss Helldiver had a more powerful engine, a higher maximum speed and could carry nearly a thousand pounds more in bomb load, many of the dive bomber pilots preferred the SBD, which was lighter and had better low-speed handling characteristics, critical for carrier landings.

The Dauntless was one of the most important aircraft in the Pacific War, sinking more enemy shipping in the War in the Pacific than any other Allied bomber. In addition, Barrett Tillman, in his book on the Dauntless, claims that it has a "plus" score against enemy aircraft, considered to be a rare event for a nominal "bomber".

A total of 5,936 SBDs were produced during the War. The last SBD rolled off the assembly lines at the Douglas Aircraft plant in El Segundo, California, on 21 July 1944. The Navy placed emphasis on the heavier, faster, and longer-ranged SB2C. From Pearl Harbor through April 1944, SBDs had flown 1,189,473 operational hours, with 25 percent of all operational hours flown off aircraft carriers being in SBDs. Its battle record shows that in addition to six Japanese carriers, 14 enemy cruisers had been sunk, along with six destroyers, 15 transports or cargo ships and scores of various lesser craft.

 
The Artist
"History will duly set aside the years 1900-1950 as the most momentous. Invention followed close upon the heels of invention...of all the bewildering and glittering array, few if any remotely approach in importance that role occupied by the ability and means to move...on the land, in the air, above and below the surface of the water," expressed Jerome D. Biederman. And few artists have been equally adept at capturing important vintage automobiles and other forms of transportation as this pioneering artist.

 

"My final year in high school, I convinced myself that, above all else, I wanted to become an artist, and started a vigorous inquiry into every school of art within a thousand miles of my hometown Pittsburgh," Biederman wrote in his autobiography, published in the November-December 1970 issue of Horseless Carriage Gazette. He attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago. "The only entrance requirement consisted of artistic proof of one's ability, so I prepared a complete catalog featuring an imaginary automobile. Each page portrayed a separate model, each laboriously rendered in profile, all in full and glorious color. When this massive document was finally lashed together, it possessed all the weight and characteristics of a suitcase loaded with bricks. Thus, for better or worse, my artistic career was launched."

 

Biederman graduated from the Academy in October 1932, and like many of his contemporaries, the rigors of the Depression meant that it took him three years to find a job in his field. "My introduction to the advertising world was a revelation akin to the opening of 1,000 doors," he wrote. "Such mysteries as art direction, layout, production, type, reproduction-all unfolded in rapid succession...I survived this routine for years, but slowly and inevitably had begun the realization that the artist must at some time look to specialization and away from generalization in order that he might achieve recognition, prominence, and even fame. In 1940, I departed the advertising affair for the calmer atmosphere of a studio.

 

"I turned my full attention and energies to transportation vehicles...on/in the water, air and land," he continued. "Movement in its various forms has dominated my time, my thinking, and my life these past thirty years. In the years that followed, I did become known and my particular specialty recognized, but many detours were necessary, including art directorships, freelance artist, etc. As my exhibits became more numerous and my sells more regular, exposure of my efforts began to enter into commercial channels...calendars, prints, premiums, novelties, magazines, as well as other channels."

 

As Biederman's expanding body of work was gaining him prominence, he began a relationship with the McCleery-Cumming Corporation in 1956; this calendar company retained the artist to create six paintings for each of their 1958 automobile calendars. He painted for the calendar company for 36 years, and in the first 31 of those years, 186 automobile paintings were printed without interruption. A total of 444 Biederman transportation paintings were published in McCleery-Cumming calendars by 1993. In addition to the calendars, Mr. Biederman's automotive paintings were featured prominently in Playboy magazine, Automobile Quarterly and Horseless Carriage Gazette. He retired at the age of 75, in 1988, and died in 1996.

 

According to his widow, most of Biederman's paintings were done in tempera on heavyweight 20 x 30-inch illustration board. Calendar art averaged roughly 10 x 15 inches, depending on the subject. A substantial portion of Biederman's body of work remains intact, and most originals are available for purchase at $1,200 apiece.

 

"It seems to me that despite the untold millions of devotees adherent to this, that and the other...the fundamental 'love affair' lies in and with the internal combustion engine, the good, bad or indifferent that surrounds it," Biederman wrote. "The combination of motor, wheels and body, has known, knows, and will experience moments of greatness, be they in performance, styling, concept, even flights of fancy."
Shipping Weight: 3 lbs
Your Price $600.00 USD