More than 60 years ago, former Sgt. Robert Martin of Englewood, Fla. was a back seat gunner in a Douglas Dauntless SBD single-engine dive bomber flying against Japanese fortifications on Bougainville in the New Georgia Islands in the Pacific during World War II. He was a member of Marine Dive Bomber Squadron 234.

Lt. Ralph E. Dixon of Wichita, Kan., piloted the SBD Martin flew in during most of the war. Martin summed Dixon up by saying, “He was a good pilot.”

“At the beginning, we were flying from Munda Island, attacking Bougainville. We mostly went after the Japanese big 5- and 8-inch guns with our dive bombers. We’d fly down the gun barrels to drop our bombs,” the 81-year-old Englewood, Fla. aviator said.

The SBD was the primary dive bomber used by the Navy and Marine Corps in the Second World War. It was lightly armed with one .50-caliber machine gun in each wing and twin .30-caliber machine guns operated by the rear seat gunner. Its main punch came from a 1,000-pound bomb hanging under the dive bomber’s fuselage and one 100-pound bomb on each wing.

“When you were diving on a target from 10,000 feet, you didn’t have time to be scared,” he explained. “You were apprehensive to begin with, but it was all over so quickly.”

Because their SBDs were poorly armed and slow, the dive bombers flew with fighter protection high above them.

“Pappy Boyington’s ‘Black Sheep Squadron’ protected us in their Corsairs oftentimes,” Martin said. “He was flying cover for us when he was shot down (and captured) on Jan. 3, 1944.”

Japanese fighter planes weren’t a big problem.

“We ran into very few of them because Boyington and his squadron kept them away from us,” he said. “Once in a while, an enemy fighter would break through, but they quickly learned not to attack us from the tail because of our twin machine guns.”

Rabaul was Martin’s biggest battle. He flew against Japan’s biggest air and naval base on New Britain Island in the Solomons.

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He was Dauntless dive bomber gunner in WWII