This dive bomber was one of the first generation monoplanes in Navy service and was thoroughly obsolete at the outbreak of World War II in the Pacific. Yet a small number served in Marine squadrons until the Battle of Midway.
Join me for a look at an early dive bomber.
Dating back to 1934 the Vindicator was in the first group of monoplanes ordered by the US Navy. At this early date the Navy was unsure if monoplanes would work on aircraft carriers at all and Vought was ordered to build a similarly powered bi-plane as well (the SB3U, never ordered into production). The R-1535 engine produced about 750 horsepower. The type was metal covered on its forward fuselage and wings, while the tail and control surfaces were fabric covered. It had no dive flaps and was expected to use its fully reversable propeller for that job.
The type was also ordered by the French Navy and saw action in the Battle of France.
This SB2U-3 represents the last major variant of the type and was built exclusively for the Marine Corps. It had a slightly more powerful R-1535 engine and extra fuel tanks in the fuselage. It’s main armament was a 1000 lb bomb at the center station and a 250 lb bomb under each wing. It also could have two .50 machine guns in each wing, but I believe only one gun was ever carried in service. The radio operator also had a defensive .50 machine gun.
By the time War broke out the Navy had replaced all Pacific Fleet Vindicators with Dauntlesses, although Atlantic Fleet carriers (Wasp and Ranger) used the type for a few months into the war, mainly for anti-submarine patrols.
But Pacific Vindicators did see combat with the Marines. Some were destroyed on the ground at Pearl Harbor. In late December of 1941 VMSB-241 was ordered to fly from Pearl Harbor out to Midway Island, a distance of 1137 miles. At the time, this was the longest flight ever ordered for a combat ready single-engine aircraft. The coming months were filled with endless patrolling, and on May 26 the squadron was reinforced by SBD-2 Dauntlesses that were shipped in. On June 4, 1942, in The Battle of Midway, the Squadron made its first attack on the Japanese fleet. It was a mixed formation of 16 SBD-2 flown by the more experienced pilots, and 12 SB2U-3 flown by newer pilots. No hits were scored, and the Squadron Commander Lofton Henderson (in a Dauntless) was killed in the attack. Later that evening, the new Squadron commander, Benjamin Norris (in a Vindicator) was killed in a follow up mission.
The next day, the squadron was in action again against a pair of withdrawing cruisers, the Mogami and Mikuma. For the third time in two days the squadron commander, this time Richard Fleming (in a Vindicator), was killed in action. Fleming was believed to have scored a damaging near miss while crashing to his death. The ships were both heavily damaged, the Mikuma being finished off by Navy Dauntlesses and the Mogami would need six months for repairs.
This example is the Accurate Miniatures kit. Accurate Miniatures was an interesting company that appeared in the mid-1990s. They absolutely raised the bar for detail and accuracy on 1/48 scale kits. Their models are often complicated and require close attention to the instructions. I’ve been a big fan, I enjoy their well engineered sophistication. But this kit is a product of the company’s second incarnation, after a bankruptcy. I would say it is clearly not up to the standards of the earlier kits. I get the impression it was rushed to market; engineering, fit and quality of the moldings are all inferior to other releases by this company. I feel like it still built up all right, but I fought it far more than I’m used to with this brand.