Home Intro People Events Equipment Places Maps Books Photos Videos Other Reference FAQ About

World War II Database

Helldiver file photo [100]

SB2C Helldiver

CountryUnited States
ManufacturerCurtiss-Wright Corporation
Primary RoleDive Bomber
Maiden Flight18 December 1940


ww2dbaseThe Helldiver dive bombers were designed to replace the SBD Dauntless aircraft as the main dive bombers of the United States Navy. They were built larger to carry heavier armament in terms of both defensive weapons as well as ordnance. On 29 Nov 1940, production on the aircraft began. They first saw action during the carrier raid on Rabaul, New Britain in the Solomon Islands on 11 Nov 1943.

ww2dbaseInitially, pilots did not receive the new design with enthusiasm. Part of it was perhaps preference, for many of them had been flying SBD Dauntless aircraft for some time now. Nevertheless, there were solid reasons for the initial dislike. The first SB2C Helldiver aircraft suffered frequent electrical problems, causing headaches for maintenance crews. Furthermore, these large dive bombers were underpowered. US Navy Ensign George Bomberger, pilot of a SB2C Helldiver aircraft aboard USS Franklin, recalled that, with one 1,000-pound and two 250-pound bombs on the aircraft, a full tank of aviation gas, and fully loaded 20-mm ammunition, the aircraft was so heavy that at take off the aircraft often sank below the bow. "Our engine was a good engine," Bomberger said, "but when you had a heavy load like that... it just wasn't one of the best planes for a carrier." He recalled one incident where he nearly crashed:

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."

ww2dbaseGunners, however, tend to prefer SB2C Helldiver aircraft to their predecessors. They enjoyed the heavier armament that could fire 1,200 to 1,500 rounds per minute for each gun, as well as the collapsible "shell back" design in front of the stabilizer that gave them greater fields of fire. "When you compared the SB2C with the SBD Douglass", said Helldiver gunner Abner Harris also of USS Franklin, "there is no comparison, really. It was much bigger and faster, a good flyer, and it flew real smooth."

ww2dbaseIn addition to naval service, 900 of them were also built for the US Army, which named them A-25A Shrike. They did not play a big role in the US Army, and some were transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force (10 units) and the US Marine Corps (410 units).

ww2dbaseThe British Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm operated 26 SB2C Helldiver dive bombers. They were not used in combat as their performance did not satisfy British demands.

ww2dbaseAfter WW2, surplus were sold to France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Thailand. The last SB2C Helldiver aircraft retired from military service in 1959 with the Italian Air Force.

ww2dbaseDuring the model's production life, 7,140 were built.

ww2dbaseSources: Inferno, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Oct 2007

SB2C Helldiver Timeline

11 May 1939 The US Navy placed an order for the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver carrier-borne dive-bomber.
18 Dec 1940 The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, US Navy scout-bomber, took its first flight.
11 Nov 1943 SB2C Helldiver aircraft saw combat for the first time in the Solomon Islands.
3 Jun 1944 Engineers at Curtiss-Wright published an internal memorandum noting the defects of the current generation of SB2C Helldiver aircraft (bell cranks might break during high speed dives) but the company failed to address the issue even for the aircraft built but not yet delivered to the US Navy. A number of aviators would be killed or injured due to this defect for the next month to come or perhaps longer due to this defect.


MachineryOne Wright R-2600 Cyclone radial engine rated at 1,900hp
Armament2x20mm cannon, 2x7.62mm machine guns, 900kg bombs or 1xMark 13-2 torpedo, optional 225kg bombs under wing
Span15.17 m
Length11.18 m
Height4.50 m
Wing Area39.20 m²
Weight, Empty4,588 kg
Weight, Loaded6,202 kg
Weight, Maximum7,600 kg
Speed, Maximum473 km/h
Rate of Climb8.90 m/s
Service Ceiling7,600 m
Range, Normal1,900 km


XSB2C prototype aircraft in flight, late 1940Marine Corps SB2C Helldiver in flight, 1943-45. Note the unusual display of the Navy Bureau Number in the USAAF manner. This aircraft was USAAF A-25A Shrike #42-80453 that was transferred to the Marines.
See all 100 photographs of SB2C Helldiver Dive Bomber

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Nelson L Quick says:
18 Oct 2006 01:16:53 PM

detailed info on Curtiss Wright special investigators during WW-2 would appreciate any help.
2. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
24 Oct 2007 02:32:22 PM

The Helldiver had a nickname which neatly tells how its pilots and Aircraft Carrier Captains felt about it-They called it the Beast.

3. Smitty says:
30 Mar 2008 07:22:18 PM

References such as "the Beast" and "SOB 2nd Class" referred to the early models (series 1-2) with many bugs. Flyers of the 4th and 5th series loved them for some of the following reasons:
SB2C-4 had a higher cruising speed and greater range (without drop tanks) than the TBM Avenger, and a significantly higher top speed. It easily outperformed the SBD Dauntless in every category except range. Its cruising speed was only two mph slower than the F6F Hellcat. Only the F4U Corsair, among contemporary carrier-based aircraft, had a significantly superior speed. The Corsair could carry the same load as the Helldiver but over a much shorter range. Of aircraft designed in the same, immediate pre-war period, only the Corsair outlasted it in front-line Navy service. SB2C’s were responsible for more ship tonnage sunk during WWII than any other aircraft.
4. Anonymous says:
16 Jun 2009 01:04:53 PM

Does anyone know maximum speed acheived in a dive? I had always heard it was closer to 400MPH than the 294-296 you often see, which may be for level flight.
5. Blake says:
22 Sep 2009 12:52:58 AM

I had the privledge of meeting the man that dropped the bomb on the Yamoto with an SB2C HellDiver, it was a honor meeting him. His name is Lt. Hugh Grubis, he allowed me to chat with him, one of the most influential people I have met.
6. Rob Stuart says:
6 Dec 2009 05:21:56 PM

Interestingly, 1,194 of the 7,140 Helldivers were made in Canada but neither the RCN nor the RCAF used them.
7. Tom says:
7 Sep 2010 01:43:57 AM

Does anyone know if any of the Helldiver's guns faced to the rear? Thanks.
8. Anonymous says:
18 Aug 2012 05:02:27 PM

I liked my Helldiver I thought it handled ok (But I Never flew anything else). I also liked how top speed was only a few mph less with a 1000 pound bomb because of the internal bomb bay. I did not like if flak hit the engine it was a good engine and kept running even if you lost a couple of cylinders but any loss of engine power and you can forget making a carrier landing just dump it and swim.
9. Refugee620 says:
27 Oct 2013 10:08:51 PM

Way cool site !!! One of the best i've found.
10. Anonymous says:
24 May 2015 09:27:07 AM

I'm looking for info on Ens Hurley A Curtis helldiver pilot lost in 45 off the coast of Florida any suggestions on how to find this info is appreciated I've tried contacting the navy to no avail dennisoncurtis@gmail.com

11. Anonymous says:
15 Jan 2016 02:05:46 PM

Smitty I believe that honour goes to the Swordfish.
12. randeben says:
10 Jun 2017 12:44:42 PM

I have a photo of a Helldiver #A157. Probably reconnaissance. Where could it be stationed?

13. Lost Boys says:
1 Jul 2017 03:31:31 PM

randeben, I can answer your question. An SB2C-4 Helldiver with tail number A157 would be from NAS Astoria. (Oregon) also known as Tongue Point Naval Station. Your comment peaked my interest, as I have seen a photo of that plane in one of my books that was taken 23 August 1945 over the Tongue Point Naval Station in Astoria, Oregon. That was 8 days before our grandfathers twin brother, ARM3 Paul M. Cutler & his pilot ENS Winston W. Wilson disappeared over the Pacific, West of Tillamook, OR on 31 August 1945. We are curious if this may be their aircraft before it went down. BuNo21078. To date I haven't been able to positively match a tail number to the known BuNo of their aircraft.
14. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
6 Oct 2017 12:50:31 AM

Post war, Helldivers were the only bombers in the US Navy, and continued to equip USN units until 1948, when the Douglas Skyraider was introduced. French Navy Helldivers saw operational service in Indo-China, and the six Helldivers delivered to Thailand in 1951 were finally retired in 1955.
15. Kevin Campbell says:
1 Aug 2019 11:59:37 AM

My father flew Helldivers in VT75 and was a plankholder on the FDR (CVB32)
16. randeben says:
20 Sep 2020 12:31:34 AM

Lost Boys thank you for information. If I can read the tail right it is Navy 20472.

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments


1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Change View
Desktop View

Search WW2DB
More on SB2C Helldiver
Related Documents:
» Carrier Aircraft Specifications
» Carrier Aircraft Specifications

SB2C Helldiver Dive Bomber Photo Gallery
XSB2C prototype aircraft in flight, late 1940Marine Corps SB2C Helldiver in flight, 1943-45. Note the unusual display of the Navy Bureau Number in the USAAF manner. This aircraft was USAAF A-25A Shrike #42-80453 that was transferred to the Marines.
See all 100 photographs of SB2C Helldiver Dive Bomber

Famous WW2 Quote
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Winston Churchill, on the RAF

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!