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BOOK REVIEW


SB2U Vindicator By Dana Bell (2009)
Aircraft Pictorial #2 -- Classic Warships Publishing



The between-wars-years featured a number of interesting and unique aircraft, many of which had one foot, so to speak, in an earlier era of aviation while also embodying pioneering thinking and technologies that directly foreshadowed remarkable advances in airpower just beyond the horizon.  One such aircraft was the Vought SB2U Vindicator.  This was the first carrier-based monoplane dive bomber developed operated by the U.S. Navy, and while they were obsolete by the beginning of World War II, Vindicators fought on and saw their final engagement at Battle of Midway in 1942. 

The Vindicator featured aluminum panels from the nose to the rear cockpit with a fabric-covered rear fuselage.  The wings, which included a vertical wingfold, were all metal.  Vindicators were powered by a single Pratt & Whitney R-1535 Twin-Wasp Junior radial engine, and the propeller was designed function as a dive brake (which, incidentally, failed to work as advertised, and in practice, the gear were lowered in a dive-bombing run).  A single 1,000-pound bomb was carried on a centerline swinging trapeze to allow it to clear the propeller in a dive along with additional ordinance carried on underwing hardpoints.

The airplane was the Navy and Marine Corps’ primary dive-bomber until the SBD Dauntless came on the scene.  It was the “star” of the 1941 motion picture Dive Bomber.  Vindicators were embarked on the LEXINGTON, SARATOGA, RANGER, and WASP from 1937 to 1942.  While Vindicators were destroyed wholesale on the ground by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the type was among the dive bombers that participated in the subsequent Battle of Midway, and one Vindicator pilot, CAPT Richard Fleming, flew his crippled SB2U into the Japanese cruiser MIKUMA and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.  Of all the 260 Vindicators built, only one remains and is displayed at the National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola, Florida.  Even though it’s been out for several years now, Dana Bell’s volume on the SB2U is really excellent and still available, so let’s sit down and take a look on this Vindicator book.  

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This 72-page book by aviation historian and author Dana Bell was the second in a series of books he has published through the Classic Warships line over the last ten years or so.  Each one of these titles is expertly written, insightful, lavishly illustrated, and thoroughly and deeply researched (including newly discovered information and never-before published photos including material from the National Archives).  The Vindicator book was early in the series.  If you’re familiar with any of the later titles, you’ll find the same high quality writing, layout, printing, and information is completely consistent with all the more recent volumes.  In other words, this is a beautiful book filled to the brim with great information.
           
Bell’s Vindicator book is indeed richly informative, but it is presented in rather concise fashion and never feels overwhelming or wordy.  This is one of the keys to the success of Dana Bell’s books.  The Vindicator book begins with a general history of the airplane and then transitions into an extended photo essay starting with the prototype XSBU2U-1 (and as I write this review on 04 January 2018, today just happens to be the 82nd anniversary of the XSBU2U-1’s first flight).  The following pages cover many different external and internal details of the Vindicator, from the engine, the asymmetrical left wing leading edge spoiler, “action” shots of Vindicators in the air and during carrier ops, unusual one-off configurations (such as an SB2U with a wingtip radar pod), the front and rear cockpits, landing gear and wheel wells, floatplane-configured Vindicators, wingfolds, gun bays, the bomb trapeze, and plenty more.  The photographic coverage is, simply put, comprehensive and immensely informative.  In the final pages of the book, Bell has reproduced the Vought blueprints for the SB2U-2 including the pontoon-equipped configuration.  To me, it seems that every photo caption is like a mini-narrative, telling a story or conveying key information.

Of course, Dana Bell is a subject matter expert on aircraft paint and color schemes, and various points in this book reflect carefully researched information on Vindicator paint schemes.  These include the finest technical details of various, squadron-by-squadron silver and yellow-winged pre-war Navy and USMC schemes, later overall gray schemes, and perhaps my favorite – the wild, experimental white, gray, and ultramarine blue Barclay disruptive camouflage scheme evaluated on the airplane in 1940.            

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I can find no shortcomings in this book beyond the fact that many readers, including myself, would probably wish that it would have been longer yet still.  This book’s high-quality reproduction of original archival photography is like a time machine that transports readers back to the era of the Vindicator – just shy of hearing its engine roar to life and smelling the exhaust.  If you’re like me, you just might like to stay there a little longer!

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Dana Bell’s SB2U Vindicator is a superlative volume. As with all his other works, it is engaging, impeccably researched, and immensely informative.  Vindicator fans and students of U.S. naval and Marine Corps aviation will find this book to be a cherished reference, and scale modelers will find this book living on their workbench no matter what scale or kit of a the Vindicator they’re working on (though I recommend the Accurate Miniatures kit if you can find one!).

We are grateful to Dana Bell for his generosity in sharing a copy of the book with Detail & Scale for this review. You can find it available at amazon.com, hopefully at your local hobby shop, and at Classic Warships website (http://www.classicwarships.com/) where you can also see their other titles.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale


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** Click on the thumbnails below to view a larger image.**


 

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Just Released!

JET FIGHTERS
OF THE U. S. NAVY AND MARINE CORPS
PART 1: THE FIRST TEN YEARS
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Detail & Scale Special Edition Books

U. S. Navy and Marine Carrier-Based Aircraft of World War II
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Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan Awakens a Sleeping Giant

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Colors & Markings Series



Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 1: Atlantic
Coast Squadrons
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Colors & Markings of the F-102
Delta Dagger

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Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 2: Pacific
Coast Squadrons

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