During the interwar years, naval tacticians devoted a great deal of attention to developing dive bombing as an accurate means of attacking maneuvering ships. With the delivery of Vought-Sikorsky’s SB2U to the fleet on December 20, 1937, the Navy took an important technological step. The airplane represented the service’s first monoplane scout-bomber whose speed eclipsed its predecessor in Navy bombing squadrons by 45 M.P.H. There were three versions of the airplane operated by the Navy and Marine Corps. The SB2U-1, of which 54 were ordered, was followed by 58 SB2U-2s delivered beginning in 1938 that differed only in weight, the result of extra equipment. With a more powerful engine, increased fuel capacity, and more armor protection, the SB2U-3 arrived on the scene in 1940 and served almost exclusively in Marine Corps squadrons. It was with the delivery of this version that the aircraft was christened with the name Vindicator.
By the time of World War II, the Vindicator suffered from the inherent flaw of being the ultimate development of the trussed fuselage and fabric concept, prompting their replacement by newer designs like the SBD Dauntless, which incorporated metal stressed skin construction techniques. The Vindicator's sole combat came in June 1942 at the Battle of Midway, nearly seven years after the aircraft first became operational. Outclassed by the SBD, which featured dive brakes and was a more rugged design, the SB2U-3s received the uninspiring moniker "Wind Indicators" from the Marines assigned to fly them. All told, of the 12 Vindicators assigned to Marine Scout Bombing Squadron (VMSB) 241 during the battle, six were lost, and five severely damaged by enemy fire or exceeding operational limits of the aircraft. Of the aircraft lost, one was flown by Captain Richard E. Fleming, who during an attack against the Japanese cruiser Mikuma on June 5, 1942, pressed home his bombing run despite his aircraft being in flames. Killed in action, he received a posthumous Medal of Honor.
|Manufacturer:||Vought-Sikorsky Division, United Aircraft Corporation|
|Type:||Carrier-based scout and dive bomber|
|Crew:||Pilot and observer/gunner|
|Powerplant:||One Pratt & Whitney 826 hp R-1535-96 radial|
Length: 34 ft.
Empty: 5,634 lb.
Max Speed: 243 mph at 9,500 ft.
One fixed forward-firing and one flexible rear .50-caliber machine gun