Thought I'd found a term misused in WWII history, but learned something new.

In an often-quoted account of the Battle of Midway, a Japanese officer, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, describes the attack of the American dive bombers on June 4, 1942, that crippled three of the four Japanese fleet carriers (soon leading to their being scuttled, and thus counting as sinking them in my book).

In his account, Fuchida describes an anonymous lookout crying warning at the sight of the American SBD Dauntless dive bombers:

See here for context.

I’ve read that account for years in other sources…probably all quoting Lords’ 1967 book. It always bothered me, because the Curtiss Helldiver was a later replacement for the Dauntless as the American carrier-borne dive bomber of choice. I wondered whether Fuchida was conflating late-war memories with the battle…the Helldiver entered combat on November 11, 1943. Or perhaps the Japanese somehow knew the names of upcoming American aircraft designs? What exactly did this quote mean?

I finally decided to post and ask this question. I looked to verify info and cites online, and immediately found, to my surprise, an obvious answer.

There were two previous models of scout/dive bomber aircraft named Helldiver, flying in the 1920s and 1930s, the two decades prior to WWII.

It’s not at all difficult to picture a Japanese lookout calling any American dive bomber a Helldiver, after the Imperial Navy had undoubtedly been using the name in pre-war exercises for decades.

So my post comes to nothing, really. Commander Fuchida unquestionably knew what he was talking about, and the Curtiss aircraft company seems to have really liked using that name for its products.

It’s surprising, and a little embarrassing, how easy this was to find out. :smack:


argh…title should be WWII (“two”)