Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless
A U.S. Navy Dauntless comes in for a landing at Henderson Field. Note the lowered air brakes that were perforated to slow the aircraft in a dive.
Dauntlesse dive bomber
Two Marines (the pilot is on the wing) look after one of their SBDs in one of the Henderson Field's dispersal fields.
Loading a 500 lb. bomb on a dive bomber
These men are deck handlers on the U.S.S. Enterprise. They are preparing to attach a 500 lb. demolition bomb on the twin prongs of a Dauntless bomb swing for attacks on Japanese positions on the first day of American landings on Guadalcanal.
Avenger at the ready
Along with the Dauntless, the primary offensive weapon of the Cactus Air Force was the Grumman Avenger. The Marine crew of this TBF-1 confer with their crew chief prior to a mission; the Avenger's engine is already running, ready for final check-out and take-off. (This photo was actually taken in Feb. 1943.)
Plenty of bombs
Groundcrews on Guadalcanal prepare to load a train of 500 pound bombs on an Avenger in 1942. The bombs are fully armed with both nose and tail fuses in place. Navy and Marine Avengers were frequently used as glide bombers against Japanese shipping attempting to land reinforcements on the island.
An Avenger drops its torpedo (called a "fish" by its users). Torpedo attacks had to made at slow speed at low altitude, making it a dangerous profession. It was also frequently frustrating, as American torpedoes were notoriously unreliable at this point in the war.
Another mission begins
A group of Dauntlesses line up for takeoff prior to another mission. Note that the runway is made of interlocking pieces of PSP (Pierced Steel Planking), also called Marston matting. This gave the runways a solid surface when the ground turned to mud. Single planks of PSP were also used for walkways in the tent cities, though it sometimes sank out of sight under heavy use.
(Source: "This Is Guadalcanal" by L. Douglas Keeney and William S. Butler)
Same as above, ready to go
The distance between aircraft widens as the speed increases; these planes will soon be on their way.
Ground crews watch SBD dive bombers take off for a raid against Mantanikau.
Two down, more to go
An SBD is silhouetted against a sky filling with smoke from two Japanese ships knocked out in air attacks against these and other ships of the "Tokyo Express", which were attempting to bring Japanese troop reinforcements to the island.
The campaign is over, the war is not
Exhaust smoke surrounds USMC Dauntless dive bombers as they warm up before a strike on the morning of December 10, 1942. Even though the island had been won at this point, battles in the Solomons and elsewhere would continue for years to come.
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