Lockheed PV-1 Ventura

The vast expanses of the Pacific meant a lot of patrol aircraft were needed.


Let’s take a look at a successful wartime expedient to fill that need.

The Ventura had a fairly complicated development history, so this may take a little longer than I normally devote to the technical details!
The story really starts way back at the Model 10 Electra, a light airliner that first flew in 1934.  This type was best known as the plane Amelia Earhart disappeared with in 1937.


Model 10 Electra

That same year she disappeared a larger, more powerful plane known as the Model 14 Super Electra first flew.  Even though the pace of aviation technological development was rapid at the time, sales were slow due to the lingering effects of the great depression.  Almost immediately with the launch of the Model 14, Lockheed produced engineering drawings for a fully militarized version.  This would prove to be a wise move since the little Lockheed could not really compete with the Boeing 247 or Douglass DC-2.  But the RAF ordered 200 of the military version in 1938.  This was the largest order in Lockheed’s brief history.


A-29 Hudson

The type was named “Hudson” by the British and it had several significant “firsts”.  In October of 1939 it was the first RAF aircraft flying from England to down a German aircraft, that also made it the first American-built type to score a kill. It later became the first aircraft to capture a warship on the high seas when a No 269 Squadron Hudson flying from Iceland damaged the U-570 so that it couldn’t submerge.  The crew waved a large white flag to the plane which circled until RN naval vessels arrived on scene.  When the US found itself at war several Hudsons were taken over and re-badged A-28 or A-29 (depending on R-1830 or R-1820 engine) by the Army Air Force.  These were used for training and anti-submarine patrols from the continental US.
For those first several months of war there was a bit of a turf battle between the AAF and Navy about those ASW patrols.  The Navy finally won the dispute, and took over several A-29s that were renamed PBO.

Meanwhile, things were happening at Lockheed too.  The Super Electra was really never successful as a civilian type.  Mainly because it was too small and under-powered to be economical.  So it was enlarged and given more power and designated Model 18 Lodestar.  This type was ordered into production as the military transport C-56/C-60.
And of course, it was also militarized much as the Model 14 had been. Again, the RAF was the first customer for the type.  The Ventura Mk I had the same layout as the earlier Hudson and looked very similar.  Superficially it would be hard to tell the two apart but side-by-side it would be apparent that the Ventura was slightly bigger and had much bigger engines (R-2800 replacing R-1820 or R-1830).  Instead of patrol work the British felt the type would be a good replacement for the Bristol Blenheim as a light day bomber.  But, as was the case of most converted airliners, it quickly proved too fragile and too vulnerable for that role.  It did however, excel as a replacement for the Hudson with better load, range and speed.
The USAAF also took a number of Model 18s as the B-34 Lexington.  They used it mostly as a bomber trainer before giving up all production rights to the US Navy.
The Navy designated it PV-1 (a small number were taken from British orders as PV-3, but I believe these were all used stateside).  It seems a little odd that the “bomber” designation was dropped from this aircraft (the earlier Hudson was a PBO, even the Catalina was a PBY), and the “V” part of the designation was because the type was built by Lockheed’s new Vega subsidiary.  The Navy version was different in having extra fuel and an ASD-1 search radar in place of the bombardiers station.
The one knock against the type was its high wing loading that often made it difficult for fully loaded planes to get airborne from a hot, humid, tropical airfield.  This led to the PV-2 Harpoon which was mostly similar except for a larger wing; of course this fixed the complaint but made the plane slower.



Apart from Britain and the US; Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were major users.

The new Ventura’s intended role with the navy was long range patrol and harassment missions to all the minor trouble spots in the Pacific.  Not quite as long range as the Catalina, but much faster, more maneuverable, with heavier firepower and bomb load.  Patrol pilots who found themselves assigned to Ventura squadrons developed an almost fighter pilot mentality and conducted patrols VERY aggressively.  Of course that may also be because many of them were assigned to Marine squadrons! In early 1943 when the type entered service, the quality of Japanese pilots was slipping badly and Ventura pilots were happy to exploit this.  Many scored kills, even over fighters.  Missions were mostly flown in singles or pairs.  The first squadrons were based in the Aleutians but they were quickly assigned to many scattered islands. Especially those with by-passed Japanese bases nearby.  They were also used for taking a closer look at things spotted by other types (PBY, PBM, PB4Y); it was on one such mission at the tail end of the war when a Ventura crew first spotted survivors of Indianapolis before anyone officially knew the ship was missing.img_0215
As the Navy’s first type in broad production to carry radar it was used in number of unexpected roles too.  Venturas were called on as leaders for AAF bomber squadrons, especially when weather was poor.  The Marines also used the type as a night fighter in the Solomons for several months.  It was an improvement, faster than, the P-70 Havoc.  But still mostly inadequate for that job.

The aircraft shown here was flown by VP-133 and based out of Tinian in the last year of the war.  The whole squadron carried the octopus tentacles around the turret.  They raided by-passed bases including Truk.  Summer of 1945 a detachment was sent to Iwo Jima to attack picket boats and radar installations along the coast of Japan to help clear the way for B-29 attacks.

This is the Revell kit.  Anyone familiar with the large Monogram kits from the 1970s will find plenty familiar here.  I believe this was the last such kit made (after Revell bought the brand out).  Dating to early this century it is more modern in terms of good detail and fit with engraved panel lines.  Its a surprisingly minor type to get the big brand treatment, but I for one am completely pleased we got this before the end of that era.


Aircraft photos from American Warplanes of World War II by David Donald

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
This entry was posted in Patrol, USA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Lockheed PV-1 Ventura

  1. jfwknifton says:

    Thanks for that fascinating account. I knew that the RAF were not very impressed with the aircraft as a day bomber but I didn’t know how many other useful jobs it performed in the Pacific,
    (I bet that gunner had a name for his octopus)

  2. Ernie Davis says:

    Interesting look at one of the lesser known models of WWII.

  3. A interesting account of the type. It had quite a history and was certainly overall, a successful model, especially in the Pacific. It’s a fabulous example you have built there too!

  4. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Most instructive Dave. I have learn so much more about that plane.

  5. James Warnagiris says:

    My father, then Lt. Thomas Warnagiris, USNR flew the PV1 for over two years with vp128. The unit found the plane more than capable as they fought both Germany and Japan during WW11. Dad set the record for single engine flight (4hrs.20 mins.) flying over the south Atlantic in 1944.

  6. James Warnagiris says:

    Sure – video.wpi.edu/../v1/contents/permalinks/vpb-128/view

  7. R. Schumacher says:

    Correction to your history. The “octopus” painted on a/c was designed by VP-150 crews, “Devilfish”.
    My dad was a pilot w/VP-150, and ultimately ended up on Tinian June ’44. In march ’45 they returned to States to transition to PV-2 Harpoons. VP-133 inherited those a/c previously painted by original squadron. Check the VP Navy website for patrol squadron histories to confirm.Walt Disney studios also designed their squadron logo with octopus, also confirmed in USN records at VP Navy site.

    • atcDave says:

      Oh interesting. Definitely one of the more elaborate Squadron markings of the War. I don’t believe I credited anyone with creating it, because I knew I didn’t know!

  8. R. Schumacher says:

    Dad didn’t talk about the was much until I was in high school.The info about inexperienced Japanese pilots and aging acing seems to hold true From what I’ve been told & read. He told me that an Oscar (Ki-43) or land based Zero came out of clouds at same altitude coming at them fast. He turned toward open sea pushing engines to maximum & diving to pick up more speed. He saw that they were pulling away and believed that the fighter would not keep up flying over open sea. All US air crews had those nylon/silk emergency maps to use if they went down. He showed me his and I noticed lots of grid lines but hardly any islands, reefs, or land whatsoever. That’s something to consider pursuing another plane when you have limited fuel and a lack of land. He passed away 3 weeks after 99th birthday 2018.

    • atcDave says:

      No doubt that took nerve to fly into enemy airspace specifically to snoop around, in a small aircraft with limited reserves and resources.
      Sounds like your dad was blessed with many years after. Its terrific that was able to share at least a little with you. I’ve met Vets who didn’t want to talk about it, and those who loved spinning tales each more ridiculous than the last! It truly takes all sorts.

  9. R. Schumacher says:

    He was a high school science teacher & football coach when war started. Went back to teaching when war ended. I thought of that parallel with Tom Hanks character in Pvt. Ryan being a school teacher as well. I wanted to teach also, but after college, teachers jobs in the 70’s were fewer & low paying. I switched to law enforcement carrier Calif. SF bay area, retired in late 90’s. Still would have preferred being a history teacher.

    • atcDave says:

      No doubt we always need good history teachers. now more than ever!
      I figure Air Traffic was a good career for me, but if I’d known in College that’s what I was going to do I would have majored in history instead of business. That has always been where my passion was.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s