World War II in Tuvalu
Navy Bomber Crash at Nanumea
November 27, 1943
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
Wrecks. Thanks to Robert M. Stitt for the contribution.