Hobby Master HA2201 USN Curtiss SB2C-1 Helldiver Dive-Bomber - VB-17, USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), Raid on Rabaul, Nov. 11th, 1943 [Closed Dive Brakes] (1:72 Scale)
"I once took off, and just after I left the deck my gunner, Russ Dustan, yelled "Hey George! Get this son of a bitch in the air!" and he pulled out his life raft because we were leaving a streak in the water behind us. I knew we were getting close. I was trying to scratch for altitude and get my gear up. When you're running out of speed and running out of room... it gets a little complicated at times."
- US Navy Ensign George Bomberger, pilot of a SB2C Helldiver aircraft aboard USS Franklin, late 1943
The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was an American aircraft carrier-based dive bomber aircraft produced for the United States Navy during World War II. It replaced the Douglas SBD Dauntless in US Navy service. Despite its size, the SB2C was much faster than the SBD it replaced. Crew nicknames for the aircraft included the Big-Tailed Beast (or just the derogatory Beast), Two-Cee and Son-of-a-Bitch 2nd Class (after its designation and partly because of its reputation for having difficult handling characteristics).
Although production problems persisted throughout its combat service, pilots soon changed their minds about the potency of the Helldiver.
The large number (literally thousands) of modifications and changes on the production line meant that the Curtiss Helldiver did not enter combat until November 11th, 1943, with VB-17 on the USS Bunker Hill, when they attacked the Japanese-held port of Rabaul on the island of New Britain, north of Papua New Guinea. Even though the Helldiver entered U.S. Naval service, it still had such structural problems that the aircraft crews were forbidden to dive bomb in clean conditions (one of its main tasks). The SB2C-1 could deploy slats mechanically linked with undercarriage actuation extended from the outer third of the wing leading edge to aid lateral control at low speeds. The early prognosis of the "Beast" was unfavourable as it was strongly disliked by aircrews because it was much bigger and heavier than the SBD it replaced.
The litany of faults that the Helldiver bore included the fact that it was underpowered, had a shorter range than the SBD, was equipped with an unreliable electrical system and was often poorly manufactured. An oddity of the SB2Cs with 1942 to 1943-style tricolor camouflage was that the undersides of the outer wing panels carried dark topside camouflage because the undersurfaces were visible from above when the wings were folded.
Postwar, surplus aircraft were sold to the navies of France, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Thailand.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a USN Curtiss SB2C-1 Helldiver dive-bomber that was attached to VB-17, then embarked upon the USS Bunker Hill on Nov. 11th, 1943. This particular aircraft feature closed dive brakes.
Release Date: November 2008
Historical Account: "Bypassed but Not Forgotten" - After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor it was apparent that Rabaul would come under attack. By December 1941, all women and children were evacuated. In January 1942, Rabaul was heavily bombed, and on January 23rd the Battle of Rabaul began with the landing of thousands of Japanese marines.
During their occupation the Japanese developed Rabaul into a much more powerful base than the Australians had planned after the 1937 volcanic eruptions, with long term consequences for the town in the post-War period. The Japanese army dug many kilometres of tunnels as shelter from the Allied air forces. By 1943, there were about 110,000 Japanese troops based in Rabaul. The Japanese army also set up brothels in Rabaul where "... perhaps 2,000 or more women were deceived and forced into prostitution of a most demanding kind ...", according to Emeritus Professor Hank Nelson from the Australian National University's Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies.
On April 18th, 1943, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was shot down and killed by U.S. fighter planes over South Bougainville, between Buin (on its then-coastal location) and Kahili after taking off from Rabaul. Japanese communications describing Yamamoto's flight itinerary were decrypted by United States Navy cryptographers. Eighteen specially-fitted USAAF P-38 Lightning fighters took off from Guadalcanal and destroyed the Yamamoto plane and escorts.
Instead of capturing Rabaul, the Allied forces bypassed it by establishing a ring of airfields on islands around it. Cut off from re-supply and under constant air attack, the base became useless. The Japanese held Rabaul until they surrendered at the end of the war in August 1945.