The Wheels Struck the Water!

A Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber is forced to ditch after a long-range operation, from Naval Aviation News, Aviation Training Division, Office of Chief of Naval Operations and Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department, Sept. 15, 1944.

The wheels struck the water!

“Mission successful,” muttered Ensign D as he dodged heavy ack-ack and swung his SBD around for a homeward flight. He and Aircrewman Lawrence Flanagan had destroyed anti-aircraft batteries, fuel dumps and radio stations.

The attack had been made at extreme range, and their fuel supply was dangerously low. As soon as U.S. task force carriers were spotted, four SBD’s immediately landed to refuel before returning to Carrier X.

Ensign D stayed on course, for he anticipated no trouble and he knew his meager supply would just last. However, the unexpected happened. As he approached the carrier for a night landing, he was quickly waved off by the signal officer. The deck was full, and another circle was a real challenge to his gas tank. As he brought his plane in for a second approach, the engine suddenly sputtered–then conked out.

Forced to make a water landing, Ensign D put his plane down in the heavy sea and turbulence of the big ship’s wake. The wheels hit first and flipped the bomber over on its back. Ensign D struggled to get out of his plane cockpit.

Inhaling and swallowing a great deal of water, he fought his way up only to be caught in the bomb rack. Meanwhile Flanagan had extricated himself from the capsized plane, and was swimming on the surface when he noticed the pilot’s dilemma. He made a dive for Ensign D, freed him, and hauled the pilot to the surface. Ensign D owes his life to Aircrewman Flanagan’s heroism.

Aircrewmen have what it takes!

The Wheels Struck the Water, Douglas SBD Dauntless Ditching


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