The first production SB2C-1 flew on 30 June 1942, and SB2Cs first flew into combat in the campaign for Rabaul in November 1943. By the next year the SB2C had replaced the SBD Dauntless as the Navy’s first line dive bomber.
The “Big-Tailed Beast,” as its not-always-affectionate crewmen called it, eventually proved to be a formidable and highly versatile weapon. It delivered bombs and depth charges with pinpoint accuracy and could strafe with cannon, rocket and machine gun fire.
The CAF Helldiver
About 7,200 Helldivers were built. The CAF Helldiver is the only SB2C still flying. She is a SB2C-5, the last production variant of this aircraft. She was utilized by the Navy from 5 July 1945 through 31 August 1948. She was assigned as a pool aircraft to various locations, primarily in California. Her final assignment was with the pool at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas in April 1948. She was removed from active service on 31 August 1948 and declared surplus on 14 October 1948. This SB2C was used by an aeronautical school for several years and was procured by a California museum in May 1963. A CAF member purchased the aircraft from the museum and donated her to the CAF on 20 December 1971. The original colors and markings on the aircraft were probably VA-1B NAS Alameda, California from February through September 1947.
She experienced engine failure in 1982 and suffered extensive damage while making an emergency landing. Many said “The Beast would never fly again”. However, the members of the West Texas Wing did not accept this proposition. After thousands of volunteer man hours and a project cost in excess of $200,000, “The Beast” did fly again in September 1988. The current colors and markings are those of the carrier U.S.S. Franklin CV-13. “The Beast” is Currently based at the West Houston Squadron in Houston Texas.