June 2012

After 9 seasons in the NBA coming right out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, Lebron James finally stands atop the basketball world as the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 4 games to 1 in the NBA Finals. Loathed by many fans for his departure from Cleveland via an ESPN TV special entitled “The Decision”, Lebron famously (or infamously) took his talents to South Beach and teamed up with fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. In an over-the-top pep rally, multiple championships were promised to the Miami Heat faithful, but the Heat faded down the stretch, losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 Finals. This year, inconsistent play continued as the Chicago Bulls posted the best record in the East, but The Heat survived trailing in series against the Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, and even the Thunder to attain their goal. Through all this, James became the alpha dog and dominated play in a way not seen since the days of Magic Johnson. Without explosive scoring (with the exception of his 45 point outburst in game 6 against the Celtics), there was no doubt to veteran basketball watchers that Lebron controlled the game totally. Passing, rebounding, and driving to the hoop aggressively, James averaged 28.6 points, 7.4 assists, and 10.2 rebounds in the Finals and capped it off with a triple double in the clinching game to bring home the MVP award.

Say what you will about his off court decision to make the move from Cleveland to Miami, but James has emerged as a clutch player when it counted this season. He is the ultimate facilitator, excellent defender, and, when needed, a devastating scorer. Can the Heat repeat? Tough to say with the mileage on Wade’s legs and the inconsistency of the supporting cast, but no one can say that James hasn’t won a championship now.

Click on the image for a larger version.

On the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, it only seems appropriate to honor the Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber. Inarguably the turning point of the Pacific War, the Battle of Midway saw the U.S. break the back of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Never again would Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto’s “Kido Butai” carrier force dominate the Pacific as aircraft from the American carriers Enterprise, Yorktown, and Hornet sank four Japanese carriers, the Akagi, Soryu, Kaga, and Hiryu. The fatal strikes were delivered with bombs dropped by Dauntless bombers diving out of the sky at a nearly vertical trajectory amid heavy anti-aircraft fire. Three of the Japanese carriers were fatally hit by Dauntless’s in just 6 minutes of action. The pilots used the huge Rising Sun painted on the carrier decks as a target to line up their strikes.

By the war’s end, the plucky Dauntless had sunk more Japanese shipping than any other aircraft.

The Douglas SBD Dauntless, which first flew in 1940, carried its primary bomb under the fuselage attached to a cradle that swung the 1000lb ordinance beyond the arc of the propellor as the aircraft dove at its target. A Dauntless pilot would start his dive and deploy dive brake flaps on the wings to slow his descent and allow him to line up the target. Above, you can see the y-shaped cradle beneath the fuselage. The Dauntless flew with a crew of two, a pilot and a rear gunner. Though slow compared to some of its contemporaries, the Dauntless made up for its performance drawbacks by being tough and reliable.

Note the perforated dive flaps on wings of the Dauntless in the photo above. This Dauntless is on display at the National Air and Space Museum, National Mall, Washington, D.C.

The Dauntless served with distinction in the U.S. Navy until 1944 and will always be remembered as the key aircraft of the Midway campaign. Dauntless squadron leaders Max Leslie (Yorktown) and Wade McCluskey (Enterprise) led the planes that scored the fatal blows and were awarded the Navy Cross for their efforts.

Douglas SBD Dauntless

Speed: 255 mph
Ceiling: 25,530 ft
Armament: 2 × .50 in machine guns (firing forward) and 2 x 0.30 in machine guns in rear, 2,250lbs of bombs
Crew: 2