World War II in Tuvalu
Navy Bomber Crash at Nanumea

November 27, 1943

The Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless shown was photographed in March 1975 on the Pacific island of Nanumea in Tuvalu (formerly part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands). Given the remoteness of its location (5 40'S 176 07'E) there is every reason to believe it is still there.

The fuselage of the SBD-5 was sitting off the northeast end of the now-overgrown bomber strip Nanumea was a B-24 Liberator base with the outer wings stacked nearby. The Dauntless was serving with the 331 Marine Scout Bombing Squadron, located further south in the Ellice group on Nukufetau, and was being flown into Nanumea at dusk on November 27, 1943 for a submarine patrol at dawn the following morning. One of the main undercarriage legs failed to extend and the pilot was obliged to make a forced landing; he emerged unhurt but the Dauntless was a write off. The manufacturer's data plate recorded that Dauntless s/n 38035 was built by the Douglas Aircraft Company at its El Segundo Plant in California (factory number 4674) and delivered on September 23, 1943, just two months before it was grounded forever on the tiny island in the Central Pacific.

Like several other islands in the Gilbert and Ellice, Nanumea boasted a variety of interesting aviation artifacts including B-24 and C-47 fuselage sections used as kitchens and as shelters for dried pandanas leaves which are used for roofing thatch. The most conspicuous still had their USAAF star-and-bar markings on the side.

This article appeared in the UK publication, FlyPast, and the excellent website, Pacific Wrecks. Thanks to Robert M. Stitt for the contribution.