Seventy-four years ago today, the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver took flight for the first time. A carrier-based dive and torpedo bomber, the Helldiver was designed to replace the Douglas SBD Dauntless. SB2Cs were large aircraft due to the requirement of an internal bomb bay; Helldivers were built to carry a 2,000 pound bomb internally, or two smaller 1,600 pound weapons, or a torpedo. SB2Cs first went to war with VB-17 on the USS Bunker Hill in November 1943 and the Navy used the platform in every major surface action as an integral part of its carrier air groups until the end of the war. The bane of Navy pilots because of reliability problems and difficult handling characteristics, the Helldiver picked up the derogatory nickname “Beast” and “Son of a Bitch, 2nd Class” (after its designation).
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