WWII USMC Marine Corps SBD Dauntless VMSB-231 Pilot and Dive Bomber on Majuro, Marshall Islands

An eBay seller recently posted an anomalous grouping of negatives online.  The photos were reportedly from the collection of a US ETO fighter pilot, but were clearly taken in a tropical location.  My BS radar went off, and I placed a single bid on one of the “better” images.  After the negative arrived (2.5 by 3.5 in original glassine envelope), I was able to extract a bit more info; although the man posed in the photo is still a mystery.  His name appears to be Jud – and I’ve narrowed down the unit info to place him as a pilot with the VMSB-231 station on Majuro in the Marshall Islands in 1944.  I’ve contacted the seller to track down more shots from this historic grouping.

The VMSB-231 stands for Marine Scout Bombing Squadron # 231.  They were known as the “Ace of Spades” and can sometimes be seen sporting spade insignia on their planes.  The unit was responsible for dive bombing Japanese shipping and freight.  The SBD was a radial engined dive-bomber that was extensively used in the early portion of the US involvement in the PTO.  Here’s a good site regarding the SBD: http://science.howstuffworks.com/douglas-sbd-dauntless.htm



Some technical data on the SBD:

Douglas SBD Dauntless Specifications

Wingspan: 41 ft. 6-1/2 in.

Length: 33 ft. 1-1/2 in.

Height: 13 ft. 7 in.

Empty Weight: 6,500 lbs

Gross Weight: 10,700 lbs

Top Speed: 252 mph

Service Ceiling: 26,100 ft.

Range: 1,100 miles

Engine/Horsepower: One Wright R-1820/1200

Crew: 2

Armament: Two .50-inch Browning machine guns in the nose; two .50-inch Browning machine guns flexibly mounted in the rear cockpit; 1,600 lbs of bombs under fuselage; 650 lbs under the wing

28 thoughts on “WWII USMC Marine Corps SBD Dauntless VMSB-231 Pilot and Dive Bomber on Majuro, Marshall Islands

  1. Thank you for your dedication to our war heroes. My father was a tail gunner with this unit in World War II. I’m finding pictures of him on the internet that our family never knew existed! If you have any more photos I would love to see them!


  2. My brother, Donald Hayes. was a Marine Corp pilot in the Ace of Spades squadron stationed on Majuro. He was shot down in April 1944. Was your father stationed there? I haven’t found any pictures of my brother on the internet but am still searching.


    • Hi Joan,

      My Uncle, Ralph W. Popham was the tail gunner/radio man in the Dauntless SBD-5 dive bomber that died on April 20, 1944 when your brother and he were killed while on a bombing mission against Wotje Atoll. I recently found this information on Fold3.com.

      • Thanks so much for your message. My family and I wondered who was in the plane with Don, where he lived, who he left behind. According to another pilot, my brother and your uncle were third in formation, made their dive, turned and crashed into the Pacific after being hit. Our older brother was also a Marine in the South Pacific . Bad years. Incidentally, Don’s middle name was Ralph.Thanks again for getting in touch.
        Joan Berglund
        Orient, NY

      • My father noted the loss in his flight log book. I could take a pic of that page and fed. Not sure if this sight is active or dormant most of the correspondence is pretty dated. I’d like to share the stuff I have.

    • To anyone interested, My father was an Aerial photographer AP 940 in Mag 13 on Majuro 44/45. I have lots of photos of Majuro,,soldiers,scenery and Ace Of Spades 331 squadron. Mail me or ? Jon

      • Hello and thank you.
        My father-in-law. Dean Empfield, was an SBD gunner in the VMSB231 on Majuro in the later years of the war.
        I have about two dozen photos with names of Marines with their planes and was about to look for names mentioned in this thread when I saw your post.

        These pix are posted on the web via another site but i do not have the URL handy.

        I will look and follow up. I will akso try to post the names too now that i know if this site

        We would love to have access to your images if possible

        Anyone is welcome to contact me at idsinc.pi@gmail.com


      • Jon,
        My father, Staff Sgt. Robert E. Morgan, served on Majuro as an aircraft armorer with VMSB 231 Aug. to Dec. 1944. I would be interested in any relevant photos.
        Many thanks if you are able to respond and let me know of anything of possible interest.
        Best regards,
        John Morgan

      • My father was also a tail gunner (Dauntless SBD dive bomber) in Ace Of Spades 231 in the Marshall Islands. We have a few pictures. Wondering if your father was the photographer. Are you still in contact with this site?

      • Hi Cheri,

        My father in law, Dean Empfield, was an SBD gunner and radio operator, but not the photographer of the pictures I posted.

        If you need me, email idsinc.pi@gmail.com

        All the very best

        RC White

    • Hi Joan , my father was also VMSB231 and I have his flight log book. In the margins he notes planes shot down, who got out or didn’t. I’ll look for your fathers name. I also have a bunch of pics

      • Hi Bob here…SSgt.Dean Empfield’s son-in-law. I checked the list of names in his Majuro pix and unfortunately don’t see anyone named Hayes. We’re still looking for any pix of Dean.

        Thanks to all.

      • Hi Greg,
        Thanks for your reply. My brother was shot down April 20th, 1944. Was your father there at that time? Judging from the pics On the website, Majuro was sort of a dismal looking place but I have heard that now there are resort hotels on the island. Would really appreciate any info you might have.

  3. My dad, Alvin Vogel was a bomb damage assessment photographer. He was with the unit for three years; still kicking at 89. I have a box of pictures here, I will go thru them.

    • Glenn,

      Please see my post of a few minutes ago…
      I just found a photo of A.D. Vogel, Chicago with G.F. Petton of Alton and J.A. Boyle of Chicago.

      My father-in-law was gunner Dean Empfield from PA. We lost him in 2003.

      Please contact me if you would like a photo.

      Please also thank your dad for his service


  4. On this image the man named Jud could be Captain Judson Bell who was shot down 9 June 1944 and rescued by a volunteer crew of the USS Gansevoort DD608 who took the destroyers whale boat close to shore near the island of Mille’s defenses in order to get him. I am looking for Captain Bell’s family because I know someone whose father was on DD 608 and they would like to present something to the family

  5. My dad was also a tail gunner on majuro in 1944. Was wondering if anyone had photos they coukd email me. He passed away in 2000. He was corporal frank giacomarro. Thanks

  6. Capt. Homer Vernon Cook with gunner Warren Tubbs was shot down at Wotje Atoll on 17 March 1944 while flying an SBD-5. Both men were killed. He was my Uncle, while his brother, James T. Cook, Jr., was a physician with the 83rd Infantry in Europe. I served with 1st MarDiv in Vietnam.
    James T. Cook, III, M.D.

  7. 5/23/2020

    I just found this site my dad was a gunner also
    Sgt. Andrew Paskovich USMC
    VMSB 231
    Majuro Atoll
    Marshall Islands
    Feb 21 1944
    Nov 16 1944
    I just recently found one of his photo albums

  8. My father was a tail gunner (Dauntless SBD dive bomber) in Ace Of Spades 231 in the Marshall Islands. We have a few pictures. I recently found some letters to him from others he served with there. Looking for family of Captain L. J. McClelland & S/Sgt. Allen H. Anderson.

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