Marine Corps Aircraft that Made a Difference

Deck TK

Sikorsky UH-34D FLash.jpg
Matt Hale

Sikorsky UH-34D

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(Matt Hale)
In 1952, the U.S. Navy ordered an advanced anti-submarine helicopter from Sikorsky Aircraft. Sikorsky designated the new helicopter the S-58, and the Navy called it the HSS-1 Seabat, or just "Hiss." The S-58 proved capable and reliable, so the Army and Marines purchased troop-carrier versions, the Army ordering them as H-34 Choctaws in 1953, and the Marines buying HUS Seahorses in 1954.

The National Air and Space Museum's H-34 entered Marine Corps service in March 1961 as an HUS-1 Seahorse; it was redesignated UH-34D in October. After 3,416 flying hours with domestic USMC squadrons, it was retired in November 1970 and was transferred to NASM in 1974. It has been repainted to represent an aircraft of the highly decorated Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (HMM-163), stationed near Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, in 1965.

F4U-1DCorsair

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(Matt Hale)

F4H-1

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(Matt Hale)

F4F-4WildcatNavTable

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(Matt Hale)

F4F-4Wildcat

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(Matt Hale)

Dauntless cockpit

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(Eric Long)
Nearing obsolescence at the start of World War II, the Douglas SBD Dauntless served throughout the entire conflict, becoming one of the most important naval aircraft in the Pacific Theater. The Dauntless was the primary fleet shipboard bomber in the early phase of the war when the only means of striking back against Japanese forces was with carrier-launched aircraft. In 1942, SBDs sank more enemy shipping than any other aircraft. At the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, SBDs destroyed almost half of the enemy aircraft carrier force, effectively stopping Japanese expansion and turning the tide of the war in the Pacific.

The first production model, the SBD-1, was found unsuitable for shipboard operations because of limited range and the Marine Corps employed them in land-based operations. After improvements and fleet acceptance, the SBD underwent near-continuous modification in an attempt to increase combat capability and performance, including installation of more powerful engines, and surface search radar in later models.

The SBD-6 was the final version and this example is the sixth of this model built. The U.S. Army Air Corps, awed by the performance of German Stukas, but not having dive-bombers of their own, bought the SBD and called it the A-24 Banshee. Despite their early combat success, the Dauntless slowly ceded the naval dive-bombing mission to the long-delayed Curtiss SB2C Helldiver. Abandoned in 1944 by the Navy, the venerable SBD would finish the war—where it started—with the Marine Corps.

Dauntless Gunner position

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(Eric Long)
The gunner's position looking aft over the twin .30 caliber ANM2 Browning machine guns.

Dauntless radio

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(Eric Long)
The gunner also operated the SBD's radio gear.