Douglas SBD Dauntless
Battle of Midway: A “Slow But Deadly” ditches in the Pacific Ocean
Models and diorama by Bjørn Jacobsen
In June 1942, one US Navy aircraft turned the disastrous tide for the Americans and changed a potentially damaging defeat into the US Navy’s proudest victory of WW2
Six months after Pearl Harbor, this one-day
battle reversed the tide of war in the Pacific.
The aircraft was the
Douglas SBD Dauntless
The SBD Dauntless went by many names.
The “official” nickname was “the Barge”,
but “Clunk” was another name.
SBD means “Scout Bomber Douglas”, but
it’s performance, especially in the Battle of
Midway, earned it the proud nickname
“Slow But Deadly.”
The SBD Dauntless served with the United
States Navy from mid-1940 to mid-1944,
but the most vital service came in June
1942 during the Battle of Midway.
Four Japanese fleet carriers, Akagi, Kaga,
Sōryū, and Hiryū, were sailing along the Midway Atoll when they were attacked by four squadrons of SBDs.
The SBD dive bombers disabled three of the Japanese Carrier in less than six minutes, and by the end of the attack, all four carriers were sinking.
The Battle of Midway represented the first
decisive American victory over the forces
of Imperial Japan and, along with the Battle
of Guadalcanal two months later,
represented the turning point in the Pacific
The SBD was also active during Operation
Torch and the Battle of the Philippine Sea,
During its time, it was praised for its
excellent manoeuvrability, powerful bomb
load, good defensive armament, sturdy
external features and its ability to fly longer
distances with a single fueling.
The “Slow But Deadly” aircraft was preferred
by many dive bomber pilots over the much
faster, more powerful, and better armed
Curtiss Helldiver due to its better handling characteristics, particularly during carrier landings.
A total of 5,936 SBDs were manufactured.
Building the SBD Dauntless
The model is the 1/32 Trumpeter kit.
In short: very complete and very easy to build.
The kit was built all out of the box and is constructed very well with lots of details.
It was a bit challenging to glue the two fuselage parts together because of the complexity of the cockpit/gunner compartments.
The model should end up in the Pacific Ocean, but I built it complete with wheels down.
The reason was I wanted to photograph it on the carrier deck before take-off, then in flight, and last as ditched in the ocean.
The aircraft was painted with a light grey/blue colour which I mixed myself using the Vallejo “USAF Medium Grey” as a basis and added white, grey and blue until I got the faded colour I was looking for.
The underside colour is light grey.
Johnson Future was used as a base for application of decals and weathering.
The weathering was concentrated on the oil spill from the engine and the exhaust stains and was made with dry brushing black/grey colours.
I needed the propeller to rotate because I planned to take pictures of the aircraft in the air.
Fortunately, the propeller in the kit had a “propeller shaft” which, when lubricated with dry graphite, spun freely when blown upon, by the use of a hairdryer or another vent.
The meeting with the Zeros was fatal for the Dauntless, and I had to do damages on the aircraft.
The cause of the downing was several hits in the engine department, and I choose to replace some of the plastic panels on the right side with panels made of thin metal sheets.
These metal panels could easily be bent and to look like damaged by bullets from the Zeros.
The oil tank damaged and drained for oil, which was probably the cause for engine failure and of course for the dark oil spill.
The right stabiliser was also hit, and the dope ripped away, so I drilled holes in the stabiliser and glued some paper in the openings.
The very elastic EZ-line was used to make the antenna wires.
Last, I made some bullet holes in the wing and fuselage with a scalpel.
A lot of interior details made a challenge to glue the to fuselage halves.
The interior colour:
Zink Chromate Green
Grey primer and black
The Dauntless on the carrier deck
Ready to go!
The fatal encounter with the Zeros
Preparing the Dauntless for the crash
The wheels were retracted, and several damages were done: Some of the plastic panels on the right side of the engine department were removed and replaced with thin metal sheets (from a mayonnaise tube). The metal sheets were bent to do damages after bullets impact.
The hatch was opened to get the dinghy, the damages to the right stabiliser were done, and bullet holes were made with a scalpel.
Building the Base
The base was a 50 x 50 cm OSB board.
The OBD board is excellent as a base for a diorama because it does not bend when getting wet.
The “Pacific Ocean” would be made by Papier Mache and I needed something to keep the Mache in place.
I, therefore, fixed strips of cardboard around the OBS board.
The cardboard would be removed as soon as the Papier Mache had dried.
The Papier Mache was applied in good measure and sculpted into waves.
The model (with wheels removed) was pressed into the wet Mache to make room for it later.
The painting was made with acrylic colours.
The colours were a mix of blue, white and black.
It is important the colour of the sea does not look uniform but have a lot of different shades.
To achieve this, several coats of paint was put on the base.
When the sea-colour was dry, the white seaspray was added (again with acrylic colour).
To get the wet look, the sea had a coat with Natural Water (Woodland)
The wings are what held the aircraft afloat, and it's essential that the seaspray and water around and above the wings look authentic.
It took some work to get it right, but a combination of Papier Mache, Natural Water and Water Effects made it look OK in the end.
The aircraft was coated with a layer of Johnson Future to get a wet look.
I did not have a 1/32 dignity and had to make one from scratch.
A styrene sheet became the bottom, the sides were originally a torpedo, and the short end was part of a 1/48 dinghy.
Glued together, it became a lifesaver for the crew.
The hatch where the dinghy was stored had to be opened.
I wanted a little drama in the diorama, and I let the gunner be wounded and had to be dragged out of the cockpit by the
The pilot was a US Navy pilot from PJ Production. Just some adjustment of legs and arms made I look OK.
I did not have anything that could be a wounded gunner and
had to put something together. I used a torso of a German pilot,
the head from PJ Production and the legs from a German
Altogether, it ended up as a wounded SBD-gunner.
As always, it’s the small details that make a diorama look
natural, like the pilot’s wet trouser legs.
The diorama base is 50 x 50 cm and made of painted Papier Mache.
The background is a wall decal mounted on cardboard.
The SBD Dauntless and the figures are in scale 1/32
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