SBD Dauntless Components Displayed at the South Pacific WWII Museum

The South Pacific World War II Museum SBD Dauntless tail section arriving on a trailer. (photo South Pacific WWII Museum)

By Adam Estes

The subject of a January article, The South Pacific World War II Museum of Vanuatu (known as New Hebrides in World War Two) has announced it has obtained the engine and tail section of a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber from Bauerfield International Airport, Port Vila, Efate to the museum in Luganville, Espiritu Santo.

The Dauntless’ rear fuselage after arrival. (photo via South Pacific WWII Museum)

The identity of the Dauntless is currently unknown, as no data plates have been found on either the tail section or the engine, but it is likely that this was an aircraft that had been one that had been written off and discarded after all useful equipment had been stripped to provide spare parts to maintain other Dauntlesses.

Both the US and New Zealand had SBD squadrons at Turtle Bay Airfield on Santo during WWII. In this great shot, US SBD-4s are under the palm trees at Turtle Bay, 18 April 1943. US Archives pic.

The Dauntless acquisition began when museum director Bradley Wood came across them at the airport – itself constructed during the Second World War by Seabee units. It had been named after Marine Corps pilot Harold W. Bauer, lost at sea during the Battle of Guadalcanal on November 14, 1942.

After the museum reached out to the public through social media to identify the hitherto unknown remains, Wood and Museum Project Manager James Carter worked with Jason Rakau of Airport Vanuatu Limited (AVL) to acquire the Dauntless relics. However, getting the Dauntless was one thing; the issue now lay with how to transport them about 172 miles (276 kilometers) to the north from the island of Efate to the Museum on Espirito Santo.

Sean Griffith of Ocean Logistics arranged for the Dauntless components to be placed on a barge to Luganville, where museum officials were able to then bring it under the museum’s verandah. With the museum raising funds to build more indoor facilities, it seems likely that the Dauntless remains will be moved there when the time comes, but for now it remains safe and secure in the capable hands of the South Pacific WWII Museum. In addition to any future updates published by Vintage Aviation News, be sure to follow the South Pacific WWII Museum’s social media pages for further developments.

If you could help the Museum in any way, please get in touch with them. Email James Carter, the project manager, at or visit  

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