1/32 SBD-4 Dauntless, No 25 Squadron RNZAF, Espiritu Santo Island, 1944
In early 1944, No 25 Squadron RNZAF began operational training on SBD-4 aircraft at Pallikulo on Espiritu Santo Island in the New Hebrides. These SBD-4s were ex-USMC aircraft, and in quite poor condition. Operational training included practice strikes with aircraft from Marine Air Groups 11, 12 and 21, TBF-1c Avengers of No 30 Squadron RNZAF, and escorting fighters.
The SBD-4s were handed back to the Marines in Feb-Mar 1944 and replaced with the SBD-5 variant. On March 22 1944, eighteen of these aircraft left for Piva on Bougainville via Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The morning after they arrived, and in response to massive Japanese attacks on the Marine defenders in the area, they carried out their first operational sorties. Their targets were so close to the airfield that the ground crews were able to watch the entire action from their dispersal bays.
Later operations were directed at the large Japanese base areas around Rabaul in New Britain, operations which also included participation by No 30 Squadron’s TBF Avengers.
The SBD-5s were eventually handed back to the USMC, following which the squadron transitioned to the F4U-1 Corsair, but that’s another story.
The model is from the Trumpeter 1/32 SBD-3/4 kit, and represents NZ5034, one of the rather “clapped-out” SBD-4s used for operational training on Espiritu Santo. This weary old war horse was never used in combat by the RNZAF, but she did prepare the aircrews of No 25 Squadron for later combat operations on the SBD-5. So you could say that she played her part.
11 additional images. Click to enlarge.