The U.S. Marines Invented Dive-Bombing
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)