The U.S. Marines In­vented Dive-Bomb­ing

Flight Journal - - 10 AVIATION MYTHS OF WORLD WAR II -

some­time dur­ing WW II, the no­tion emerged that the U.S. Ma­rine Corps in­vented dive-bomb­ing. Al­though specifics are sel­dom put forth, the vague no­tion still is cited that fly­ing leath­er­necks “in­vented” the tac­tic dur­ing var­i­ous Latin Amer­i­can brush­fire wars from 1919 on. Pre­sum­ably the “banana re­publics,” with out­law gangs and quasi-armies, spawned the arena in which the Marines ef­fec­tively be­came the ac­tion arm of U.S. cor­po­ra­tions re­ceiv­ing sup­port from Wash­ing­ton.

Part of the prob­lem is se­man­tic. True di­ve­bomb­ing—typ­i­cally greater than 60 de­grees— was sel­dom pos­si­ble in avi­a­tion’s early era. WW I and sub­se­quent air­craft lacked the “trapeze” gear to toss a bomb clear of the vul­ner­a­ble pro­pel­ler arc. Limited to light bombs car­ried out­board on the wings, the early ver­sion ac­tu­ally was glide-bomb­ing, largely prac­ticed by the Bri­tish.

En­ter the U.S. Navy. High-al­ti­tude level-bomb­ing posed no se­ri­ous threat to ships un­der­way, so a more-pre­cise method was re­quired. With air­craft car­ri­ers en­ter­ing the fleet in the 1920s, naval avi­a­tors sought an ef­fec­tive way of de­liv­er­ing bombs against fast, ag­ile tar­gets at sea. Early tri­als in the mid-1920s showed the way to the fu­ture with in­creas­ingly ca­pa­ble tail­hook air­craft car­ry­ing heav­ier ord­nance.

Both the U.S. and Ja­panese navies re­lied heav­ily upon dive-bomb­ing in the Pa­cific war, but both de­vel­oped their tech­niques and equip­ment in­de­pen­dently. Ma­rine pi­lots be­came deadly ac­cu­rate at dive-bomb­ing, but they did not in­vent it.

Above: Ord­nance men aboard the USS Lex­ing­ton (CV-16) load a 500-lb. GP bomb un­der a Dou­glas SBD Daunt­less. Note the Y-shaped “trapeze” against the belly that swung the bomb clear of the pro­pel­ler. (Photo cour­tesy of Stan Piet)

Below: The Ju 87 Stuka’s ca­reer as a dive-bomber was short-lived be­cause Al­lied fighters had them for lunch. (Photo cour­tesy of EN-Archive)

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