SB2U-3 Vindicator

I was not able to find the story behind this painting by John Leonard Greaves.

© John Greaves Art (with the permission of Janet Greaves)

The filename was sb2u7new.

This is what I found about the SB2U Vindicator here.

SB2U Vindicator

SB2U Vindicator

Combat

Ultimately, the Vindicator would have but one opportunity to fly combat against the enemy when Marine Scout Bombing Squadron (VMSB) 241 operated against the Japanese fleet during the Battle of Midway. By that time, like the TBD Devastator that had also entered service in the mid-1930s and equipped Navy torpedo squadrons, the SB2U was outdated and ill equipped for war. In a play on the airplane’s nickname, VMSB-241 pilots called their aircraft “Wind Indicators,” with squadron mechanics forced to wrap bands of tape around the fuselages of some of the aircraft to hold the fabric surfaces in place.

The condition of the airplanes, combined with the experience level of those flying them, prompted the employment of glide bombing rather than true dive bombing on training flights in the weeks leading up to the battle. For one gunner, training was rudimentary given what awaited him. “As far as training was concerned, one time, when we were on a [anti]submarine patrol, my pilot asked me if I would like to fire at a few white caps on the ocean,” Duane Rhodes remembered of a flight in the back seat of an SB2U-3. “I believe he just wanted to know whether or not the gun would fire…The first moving target I ever fired at in the air was a Zero [that] was also shooting at me.”

When the squadron attacked enemy carriers on the morning of June 4, 1942, the glide-bombing attacks from an altitude of 2,000 ft. meant prolonged exposure to enemy attack as described by Second Lieutenant Daniel Cummings, who noted that an attacking Japanese Zero killed his gunner. After dropping a bomb on what he believed was a Japanese destroyer, Cummings once again confronted enemy fighters. “For the next fifteen minutes I had nothing to do except try and get away from five fighters that were concentrating on me. In the hit and run dog fighting, which was my initiation to real war, my old obsolete SB2U-3 was almost shot out from under me. I finally made my escape in the clouds.” Despite locked up elevator controls and instruments shot away, Cummings managed to get to within five miles of Midway before running out of fuel and ditching his aircraft. A PT-boat rescued him.

The following day, the serviceable SB2U-3s and SBD-2s launched once again to attack two Japanese cruisers that had collided during the night. Enemy fire hit Captain Richard Fleming’s Vindicator, but he was credited with dropping his bomb before crashing into the cruiser Mikuma. Fleming, who died along with his gunner Private First Class George Toms, received the Medal of Honor posthumously.


Note: There is no definite proof Captain Fleming crashed into the cruiser Mikuma.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_E._Fleming


There was also an interview done with a Vindicator pilot who was at Midway.

Interview with World War II SB2U-3 Pilot Sumner H. Whitten

Excerpt

Sumner H. Whitten was among the lucky members of his squadron to fly in the obsolete Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators during the Battle of Midway and survive to tell the tale.


Searching again because I had to find out what was the story behind the painting, I found that two SB2U-3s at Midway had the same number 7 as a call sign. One SB2U-3 was flown by 2nd Lt. Jack Cosley. The second SB2U-3 by 2nd Lt. Robert Judy Bear.

This is what I found on a forum…

7 – BuNo 2094 2nd Lt. Jack Cosley, USMCR PFC Charles E. Cayer Out of Commission 4 June 42

About Jack Cosley

Approved by the Secretary of the Navy on November 10, 1942

CITATION:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Second Lieutenant Jack Cosley (MCSN: 0-9304), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving as a Pilot in Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron TWO HUNDRED FORTY-ONE (VMSB-241), Marine Air Group TWENTY-TWO (MAG-22), Naval Air Station, Midway, during operations of the U.S. Naval and Marine Forces against the invading Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Midway on 4 and 5 June 1942. During the initial attack upon an enemy aircraft carrier, Second Lieutenant Cosley, in a hail of blasting fire from Japanese fighter guns and anti-aircraft batteries, dived his plane to the perilously low altitude of four hundred feet before releasing his bomb. His courageous determination and extreme disregard of personal safety were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


7 – BuNo 2124 2nd Lt. Robert Judy Bear, USMCR PFC Truell L. Sidebottom. Crew Survived

Navy Cross Citation

GENERAL ORDERS:

Commander in Chief, Pacific: Serial 21 (July 16, 1942)

CITATION:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to First Lieutenant [then Second Lieutenant] Robert Judy Bear (MCSN: 0-7072), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving as a Pilot in Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron TWO HUNDRED FORTY-ONE (VMSB-241), Marine Air Group TWENTY-TWO (MAG-22), Naval Air Station, Midway, during operations of the U.S. Naval and Marine Forces against the invading Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Midway on 4 and 5 June 1942. During the initial attack upon an enemy aircraft carrier, First Lieutenant Bear, in the face of withering fire from Japanese fighter guns and anti-aircraft batteries, dived his plane to the perilously low altitude of four hundred feet before releasing his bomb. Participating in a search and attack mission against a Japanese aircraft carrier on the night of 4 June, he brought his plane back to its base under extremely adverse weather conditions. The following day, after less than four hours’ sleep, he took part in an assault which resulted in the severe damaging of an enemy battleship. His cool courage and conscientious devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Remembering…

wp-1598223823116.jpg

Caption

Fighting members of Marine Air Squadrons after being presented medal awards for heroic deeds in the Battle of Midway. This group took part in damaging attacks on enemy carriers and battleship.

Front row (L-R); Capt. Richard L. Blain, USMCR, Capt. Leon M. Williamson, USMCR, 2nd Lt. Daniel L. Cummings,USMCR,  2nd Lt. Allen H. Ringblom,USMCR,  2nd Lt. Harold C. Schlendering, USMCR, 2nd Lt. Sumner H. Whitten, USMCR, Sgt Frank E. Zolnis, PFC Gordon R. McFeely.

2nd row: (L-R); Capt. William C. Humberd, USMCR, 2nd Lt. Jack Cosley, USMCR, 2nd Lt. George E. Koutelas, USMCR, 2nd Lt. George T. Lumpkin, Tech Sgt Clyde  Heath Stamps,  USMCR, Cpl John H. Moore, PFC Charles E. Cayer, USMC.

Dept of Navy description and photo identification. (NARA photo)

6 thoughts on “SB2U-3 Vindicator

  1. Pierre Lagacé August 24, 2020 / 6:12 am

    Accurate Miniatures 1/48 SB2U-3 ‘Vindicator’

    The Vindicator at Midway:

              VMSB-1, the “east coast” Marine Scout-Dive Bomber unit, was renumbered VMSB-231 in October 1941 and sent to the west coast as war clouds gathered in the Pacific.  In November, the unit was sent on to MCAS Ewa at Pearl Harbor.  During the first week of December, 18 of the unit’s 24 Vindicators were loaded aboard the “Saratoga”, for shipment on to Midway.  Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, which happened before “Saratoga” could send the Vindicators on to Midway Island, the carrier was recalled to Pearl Harbor, where the Marines found the Vindicators left behind at Ewa had been destroyed in the Japanese attack.  On December 23, 1941, 18 SB2U-3s, accompanied by a PBY for navigation, demonstrated their long-range capability when they made the 1,135 mile flight from Oahu to Midway in 9 hours and 45 minutes.  At Midway, the squadron joined the F2A-3s of VMF-221 as Marine Air Group 22, the westernmost American unit in the Pacific, following the surrender of Wake Island the week before.

              Discovered in 1859 and annexed by the United States in August 1867, Midway Atoll consists of Sand and Eastern islands, surrounded by a coral reef less than six miles in diameter. The atoll was used as a cable station and airport for Pan American Airways’ China Clipper until March 1941, when the U.S. Navy began construction of a naval air station. Completed in August 1941, Midway NAS included a 5,300-foot runway on Eastern Island.  Midway entered the war on December 7 when the Japanese destroyers Sazanami and Ushio shelled the airfield.  With the outbreak of war, Midway became vitally important, though at the time none of its personnel could have imagined how important.

              At the time of their departure for Midway, the SB2U-3s of VMSB-231 were due for an overhaul that would have included replacing the wing and fuselage fabric.  Suffering from heat, sunlight, and salt air on Midway, the fuselage fabric went from bad to worse, and the squadron was reduced to wrapping 4-inch medical tape over the worst areas to keep the fabric in place, which was then doped over, resulting in all the dirt on the airplane at the moment being preserved. under the dope.  These were the famous “white stripes” seen in photos.  No two airplanes had similar taping.

              Through the first five months of 1942, the Vindicators would take off at 0400 for a morning anti-submarine patrol, with an evening patrol taking off at 1730.  As one squadron member recalled, “In between, we’d practice bombing during the day. There was a barge out in the lagoon, but we got no practice in hitting a moving ship. Meanwhile, Japanese submarines were watching us – they knew what we had. Every Friday night the Japanese shelled us, but the three or four rounds they fired were not too effective considering that the island was no more than 4 feet above sea level. We’d sit on top of our dugout on Friday night, wondering where the shells would come from and where they would go. Most went right over the island and into the lagoon. They sometimes hit, making a hole 15 feet long, and we’d just fill it in.”

              In February 1942, several VMSB-231 personnel were sent back to MCAS Ewa to form new squadrons, and on March 1, 1942, the squadron was redesignated VMSB-241, the “Sons of Satan.”

              At the end of May., 1942, the pilots were informed the war was coming to them, with the main Japanese fleet set to hit Midway and invade it within a week. The squadron received 16 SBD-1 and SBD-2 airplanes a day later, to supplement the tired old SB2U-3sw

              On June 4, 1942, the squadron was ordered to take off at 0700 and attack the Japanese fleet.  Major Benjamin W. Norris led 12 SB2Us, though one had to drop out with mechanical problems. Japanese carrier planes were attacking Midway as they took off with bombs falling on the island. They were to rendezvous 40 miles east of the island, but when the SB2Us got there the SBDs were long gone.  The Vindicators headed out, climbing at 200-300 feet per minute until they reached 8,000 feet, just above the clouds. 

              The weather over Midway on June 4 was clear, with scattered clouds. As they proceeded northwest toward the Japanese fleet the cloud cover became more complete. By the time they were 25 miles from the projected attack point, the cloud cover was solid to broken, with heavy clouds extending up to 8,000 feet. Between breaks in the overcast they could see elements of the Japanese fleet.

              The SB2U-3s were in three four-plane sections, in a step-down formation when the Japanese Combat Air Patrol found them and attacked.  Several gunners were killed before the little formation got to the fleet.

              Over the Japanese fleet, the Vindicators dove n column formation through cloud breaks, still under attack by Zeros.  They emerged into clear air at about 3,500-4,000 feet, in the vicinity of a battleship, which Norris ordered them to attack; going after the carriers would have meant flying across the entire fleet while under attack.

              Two SB2Us, crewed by Lt. Andrew Campion and Private Anthony J. Maday and 2nd Lt. James H. Marmande and Pfc Edby M. Colvin, failed to return. Second Lieutenant Allan H. Ringblom ran out of fuel, and had to ditch.  He and his gunner, Private E.L. Webb, were rescued by PT-26. Lt. Cummings also had to ditch a few miles short of Midway, and was rescued by PT-20.

              The survivors of the morning strike were refueled and rearmed.  They spent until 1900 waiting to go out, at which time they were ordered to find and attack two burning Japanese carriers.

              The SBDs, now led by Captain Marshall A. Tyler following the death of squadron CO Major Henderson in the morning attack, went out on their own. Major Norris led five SB2U-3s in a V formation.  The weather was bad, and they never found a target. In the darkness the formation fell apart. Major Norris’ plane never came back, but everyone else did.

    On June 5 VMSB-231 took off at 0430 to attack two enemy cruisers, the Mogami and Mikuma, which had collided during the night.  The six SBDs were failed to finish off Mogami, but the six SB2Us, led by Captain Fleming, got a couple of hits on Mikuma, one a solid hit forward, and another a bouncer off the stern. Fleming’s SB2U was hit by anti-aircraft fire early in the attack and burst into flames;  he flew his plane into the ship, killing himself and his gunner, PFC George A. Toms. The executive officer of Mikuma, who survived the battle, said he thought Fleming was a very brave man because he hit the after turret and put it out of action. He also caused a fire that was sucked into Mikuma’s starboard air intakes, suffocating her engineers.

              VMSB-231 remained on Midway until September 1943, when they returned to Pearl Harbor. Among the aircraft they left behind were three surviving SB2U-3s, by that time they were the last Vindicators being used by any American unit anywhere.

              For carrying on his attack at cost of his life and insuring that VMSB-241’s attack on the Japanese fleet was successful, Captain Richard A. Fleming was recognized with the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GP Cox August 24, 2020 / 11:28 am

    Excellent research as always, Pierre.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s