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Douglas SBD Dauntless

Douglas SBD Dauntless Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review October 2023 Title Douglas SBD Dauntless
Author Kev Darling Publisher Guideline Publications
Published 2023 ISBN n/a
Format 104 pages, softbound MSRP (GBP) £28.00


The legendary Douglas SBD Dauntless enjoys full “Warpaint” treatment in number 137 of the popular monograph range.

Author Kev Darling charts Dauntless history, colors, and markings over 104 lavishly illustrated pages – including covers.

Coverage includes notes on SBD design, development, and deployment – prewar, wartime, postwar, and export.

Lots of eye candy here. The picture-packed effort sports dozens of color, B&W, detail, and museum photos. 1:72-scale plans accompany the account. And at least 48 color profiles with inset plates by Sam Pearson survey the swath of Dauntless livery.

Pearson’s art is a distinct improvement over recent Warpaint installments with just three large profiles per page.

But photos confirm that the central blue disk on Costa Rican insignia actually touched inner white star points. And did that 1942 USS Lexington SBD-3 really lack red insignia “meatballs”?

Unfortunately, more gremlins stalk this study.

Darling erroneously demotes Northrop Corporation as “not a major player in the Douglas SBD Dauntless story” – and rashly ignores Dauntless’ substantial engineering debt to Northrop’s Gamma warplane range.

SBD’s pioneering “Swiss cheese” flaps, for instance, operationally appeared years earlier on Northrop A-17 attack bombers – which, despite another of Darling’s inaccurate claims, certainly did win a substantial, for the time, March 1935 USAAC production contract. The perforated devices remained fixtures on all A-17 and Douglass 8A derivatives.

Easily avoidable detail errors also bedevil the book. To wit: the “USAAC” did not exist in December 1941. Destruction of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse occurred the 10th of that month – not the 8th. And asserting “the positive conclusion of the Guadalcanal campaign in February 1942” bluntly beggars belief.

Beware of caption gaffes, too. SBDs in that page 22 shot clearly wear blue gray over light gray with early WWII rudder stripes – not “overall light grey”. The image atop page 31 plainly depicts SBDs in identical livery – not Midway combatants. And USS Saratoga was CV-3 – not “CV-2”, as claimed.

Author Darling also devotes considerable space to peripheral points – like dive bombing history and surface vessel actions. While these provided context, I often found myself mentally editing text for brevity, focus, and relevance to the book’s putatively central subject – the SBD Dauntless.

Still, many readers probably buy Warpaint titles for pretty pictures – not for precise prose or trusty text. And from those perspectives, this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s a convenient, colorful project reference. Consider it a launchpad to further study of the SBD saga.

My sincere thanks to Guideline Publications for this review sample!