Dumbo was the code name used by the United States Navy during the 1940s and 1950s to signify search and rescue missions, conducted in conjunction with military operations, by long-range aircraft flying over the ocean. The purpose of Dumbo missions was to rescue downed American aviators as well as seamen in distress. Dumbo aircraft were originally land-based heavy bomber aircraft converted to carry an airborne lifeboat to be dropped in the water near survivors. The name "Dumbo" came from Walt Disney's flying elephant, the main character of the animated film Dumbo, appearing in October 1941.
By extension, "Dumbo" became the unofficial nickname for any air-sea rescue aircraft, including flying boats that had less need to drop heavy lifeboats since the aircraft could land on the water and perform rescues directly. "Dumbo" was also an unofficial nickname for any variant of the PBY Catalina patrol bomber which operated in a wide variety of roles including anti-submarine warfare against German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic.
Air-sea rescue by flying boat or floatplane was a method used by various nations before World War II to pick up aviators or sailors who were struggling in the water. Training and weather accidents could require an aircrew to be pulled from the water, and seaplanes were occasionally used for that purpose. A limitation of flying boats and floatplanes was that if the water's surface were too rough, the aircraft would not be able to land; in those instances the most that could be done was to drop emergency supplies to the survivors.
The first air-dropped lifeboat was British, a 32-foot (10 m) wooden canoe-shaped model designed in 1943 by Uffa Fox to be dropped by Avro Lancaster heavy bombers for the rescue of aircrew downed in the Channel. The lifeboat's descent to the water was slowed by parachutes. In the United States, Andrew Higgins evaluated the Fox boat and found it too weak to survive mishap in emergency operations. In November 1943, Higgins assigned engineers from his company to make a sturdier version that would right itself if it landed upside down. Higgins Industries, known for making landing craft (LCVPs) and PT boats, produced a 1½-ton (1400 kg), 27-foot (8 m) airborne lifeboat with two engines and waterproof internal compartments so that it would not sink if swamped or overturned. Intended to be dropped by modified Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, it was ready for production in early 1944.
After wartime experiences suggested improvements, Consolidated PBY Catalina aircraft were given extra features to augment their air-sea rescue capability. One such invention was a small platform that could be braced against the side of the flying boat's hull to allow a team of two Catalina crewmen to lean out into the water and rescue a swimmer.
Dumbo aircraft were sent aloft to patrol likely areas where American airmen might ditch. The Dumbo would radio the position of any survivors spotted in the water, and one or more actions could take place. The Dumbo, if a flying boat configuration, could land and pick up the survivors, or it could drop emergency supplies such as a lifeboat, by parachute. A nearby ship or submarine could be requested to come rescue the survivors, or an air-sea rescue station could be signaled to send a rescue boat.
Air-droppable lifeboats included the EDO A-3 lifeboat with an inboard motor, fuel, water and food; or a Higgins airborne A-1 lifeboat; both required parachutes to slow their descent. As well, inflatable life rafts could be dropped without a parachute.
In the face of vigorous enemy opposition, Dumbo missions sometimes required friendly units such as fighter aircraft to suppress enemy fire during the rescue attempt. In other cases, the mere presence of an armed Dumbo aircraft was enough to keep weaker enemy forces from engaging.
From the start of hostilities in World War II, air-sea rescues by flying boats were not unknown, though they were incidental to the aircraft's stated mission. In the Pacific Ocean theater, the first purposely assigned rescue aircraft, a PBY Catalina, was given the mission of plucking downed airmen from the ocean. From January to August 1943, such rescue flights based at Guadalcanal saved 161 aviators.
Beginning in November 1943, during the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign, American submarines were tasked with the rescue of U.S. Navy and Marine airmen downed during aircraft carrier attack operations. Submarines were often vectored to a rescue site by aircraft providing coordinates, but too many layers of command slowed the cooperation considerably. Long-range naval patrol aircraft were fitted with extra radio equipment to allow direct contact with surface and underwater units. By the end of 1944, some 224 airmen had been rescued by submarine.
In the last eight months of World War II, Dumbo operations complemented simultaneous United States Army Air Forces heavy bombing operations against Japanese targets. On any large-scale bombing mission carried out by Boeing B-29 Superfortresses at least three submarines were posted along the air route, with Dumbo aircraft sent to patrol the distant waters and listen for emergency radio transmissions from distressed aircraft. At the war's final B-29 bombing mission on August 14, 1945, 9 land-based Dumbos and 21 flying boats covered a surface and sub-surface force of 14 submarines and 5 rescue ships.
Once Iwo Jima was taken by American forces, Dumbo missions had less distance to fly and could range closer to Japan, or remain on station for longer periods of time. After the Battle of Okinawa, distances were cut considerably and air-sea rescue missions observed a higher degree of success. From April to August 1945, the percentage of survivors rescued was higher than at any other point in the war. Squadrons assigned Martin PBM Mariner flying boats made a significant contribution beginning in April. Flying boat rescues sometimes took place while under fire from enemy shore batteries, and on a few rare occasions from within an enemy-held harbor.
Not all Dumbo operations were successful. Some Dumbo aircraft were lost to enemy action, weather or mechanical trouble, and some friendly fighter aircraft were shot down attempting to suppress enemy fire during a rescue. During one attempted rescue, a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot was taken prisoner by Japanese motor torpedo boats which fired at and drove away both the rescue submarine and the Dumbo aircraft. During another rescue, a fighter pilot clambered aboard the Higgins lifeboat that was dropped to him but was subsequently killed by fire from the shore of Chichijima 100 yards (90 m) away.
In July 1945, a PBY Catalina Dumbo aircraft helped rescue distressed crewmen of the torpedoed cruiser USS Indianapolis. Airmen dropped rafts and supplies, but noticed that some of the more than 300 men in the water were being attacked by sharks. The pilot, Lieutenant Adrian Marks, defied regulations forbidding him to land in heavy seas and brought his flying boat to a rough landing amid 12-foot (4 m) swells. He and his crew filled the fuselage with sailors, then began using parachute cord to lash more survivors to the top of the aircraft's wing, damaging it severely. With the arrival of the destroyer USS Cecil J. Doyle, Marks and his crew were rescued along with the 56 sailors they saved. The unflyable Catalina was sunk by gunnery from the Doyle the next morning. Marks was later awarded the Air Medal for this heroic action.
After World War II, sixteen B-29 bombers were converted for air–sea rescue duty and redesignated SB-29, nicknamed "Super Dumbo". The first SB-29s were received by the Air Rescue Service in February 1947. The SB-29 served through the Korean War and into the mid-1950s.
The United States Coast Guard operated Dumbo flights along the West Coast of the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s with the PB-1G, a B-17 variant; eighteen B-17Gs were set aside by the USAAF in 1946 for transfer via the U.S. Navy to the Coast Guard to be used as search and rescue aircraft. Such a flight is depicted briefly in the 1954 film The High and the Mighty.
Battle Taxi is a 1955 American aviation drama film directed by Herbert L. Strock and written by Malvin Wald. The film stars Sterling Hayden, Arthur Franz, Marshall Thompson, Leo Needham and Jay Barney. The film was released on January 26, 1955 by United Artists.Dumbo (disambiguation)
Dumbo is a 1941 American animated film.
Dumbo may also refer to:
Dumbo (2019 film), a remake of the 1941 film
Dumbo (air-sea rescue), ocean search and rescue missions by long-range aircraft
Dumbo, Angola, more commonly known as Mandume, Angola, a town in Bié Province
Dumbo, Brooklyn, a neighborhood in New York City
Dumbo the Flying Elephant, a carousel-style ride based on the animated Disney film, featured at five Disney parks
SS Dumbo, a coaster trading vessel built in 1944
Dumbo octopus or Grimpoteuthis, a genus of octopus
Dumbo, a body type of fancy rat
Dumbo, a nuclear thermal rocket design developed in the United States
Dumbo, a pipeline used in WW2 Operation PlutoNo. 18 Squadron RNZAF
No. 18 Squadron was a squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Formed in June 1943 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, the squadron was initially equipped with Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks, before converting to F4U-1 Corsair fighter bombers in 1944. The squadron fought in the Pacific theatre during World War II, flying combat operations against Japanese forces until it was disbanded in late 1945.VH-1 (Rescue Squadron)
VH-1 (Rescue Squadron 1) was one of six dedicated (VH) Rescue Squadrons of the U.S. Navy during WWII. A more comprehensive write-up on the VH squadrons can be found in the history of Rescue Squadron 3 (VH-3), which was the US Navy's most active VH squadron. VH-1 made 19 direct rescues via open sea landings. It also assisted in the rescue of (at least) another 119 air crewman by locating them and directing surface vessels to effect the rescue. VH-1 was established on 1 February 1944 and disestablished in April 1946. The squadron employed the Consolidated PB2Y Coronado and the Martin PBM Mariner during its operations.VH-4 (Rescue Squadron)
VH-4 (Rescue Squadron 4) was one of six dedicated (VH) Rescue Squadrons of the U.S. Navy during WWII. A more comprehensive write-up on the VH squadrons can be found in the history of Rescue Squadron 3 (VH-3), which was the US Navy's most active VH squadron. VH-4 made 42 rescues of downed aviators, 9 rescues of Filipino civilians, and assisted in the rescue of another aviator. VH-4 was established on September 1944 and disestablished in November1946. The squadron employed the Martin PBM Mariner during its operations.VH-5 (Rescue Squadron)
VH-5 (Rescue Squadron 5) was one of six dedicated (VH) Rescue Squadrons of the U.S. Navy during WWII. A more comprehensive write-up on the VH squadrons can be found in the history of Rescue Squadron 3 (VH-3), which was the US Navy's most active VH squadron. VH-5 rescued 8 air crewman, assisted in the rescue another 2 aviators, and assisted in the capture of 4 Japanese adrift on a raft. VH-5 was established in September 1944 and disestablished in June 1946. The squadron employed the Martin PBM Mariner during its operations.VH-6 (Rescue Squadron)
VH-6 (Rescue Squadron 6) was one of six dedicated (VH) Rescue Squadrons of the U.S. Navy during WWII. A more comprehensive write-up on the VH squadrons can be found in the history of Rescue Squadron 3 (VH-3), which was the US Navy's most active VH squadron. In the final week of the war, VH-6 rescued 13 aviators off the coast of Japan. VH-6 was established in January 1945 and disestablished in February 1946. The squadron employed the Martin PBM Mariner during its operations.VP-148
VP-148 was a Patrol Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Bombing Squadron 148 (VB-148) on 16 August 1943, redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 148 (VPB-148) on 1 October 1944, redesignated Patrol Squadron 148 (VP-148) on 15 May 1946 and disestablished on 14 June 1946.VP-24
Patrol Squadron 24 (VP-24) was a Patrol Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Bombing Squadron One Hundred Four (VB-104) on 10 April 1943, redesignated as Patrol Bombing Squadron One Hundred Four (VPB-104) on 1 October 1944, redesignated as Patrol Squadron One Hundred Four (VP-104) on 15 May 1946, redesignated Heavy Patrol Squadron (Landplane) Four (VP-HL-4) on 15 November 1946, redesignated Patrol Squadron Twenty Four (VP-24) on 1 September 1948, the third squadron to be assigned the VP-24 designation, redesignated Attack Mining Squadron Thirteen (VA-HM-13) on 1 July 1956, redesignated Patrol Squadron Twenty Four (VP-24) on 1 July 1959 and disestablished 30 April 1995.VP-25
VP-25 was a Patrol Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Patrol Squadron 25 (VP-25) on 20 April 1944, redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 25 (VPB-25) on 1 October 1944, redesignated Patrol Squadron 25 (VP-25) on 15 May 1946 and disestablished on 28 June 1946. It was the second squadron to be designated VP-25, the first VP-25 was redesignated VP-23 on 1 August 1941.VP-25 (1943-50)
VP-25 was a Patrol Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Bombing Squadron 115 (VB-115) on 1 October 1943, redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 115 (VPB-115) on 1 October 1944, redesignated Patrol Squadron 115 (VP-115) on 15 May 1946, redesignated Heavy Patrol Squadron (Landplane) 13 (VP-HL-13) on 15 November 1946, redesignated Patrol Squadron 25 (VP-25) on 1 September 1948 and disestablished on 1 January 1950. It was the third squadron to be designated VP-25, the first VP-25 was redesignated VP-23 on 1 August 1941 and the second VP-25 was disestablished on 28 June 1946.VP-41
VP-41 was a Patrol Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Patrol Squadron 21 (VP-21) on 1 March 1944, redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 21 (VPB-21) on 1 October 1944, redesignated Patrol Squadron 21 (VP-21) on 15 May 1946, redesignated Medium Patrol Squadron (Seaplane) 11 (VP-MS-11) on 15 November 1946, redesignated Patrol Squadron 41 (VP-41) on 1 September 1948 and disestablished on 23 April 1949.VP-42
VP-42 was a Patrol Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Patrol Squadron 22 (VP-22) on 7 April 1944, redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 22 (VPB-22) on 1 October 1944, redesignated Patrol Squadron 22 (VP-22) on 15 May 1946, redesignated Medium Patrol Squadron (Seaplane) 2 (VP-MS-2) on 15 November 1946, redesignated Patrol Squadron 42 (VP-42) on 1 September 1948 and disestablished on 26 September 1969.VP-45
Patrol Squadron 45 (VP-45) is a maritime patrol squadron of the United States Navy. The squadron was established on 1 November 1942 and is based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, United States. Since 2014, VP-45 is equipped with the Boeing P-8 Poseidon aircraft.VP-AM-1
VP-AM-1 was a Amphibian Patrol Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Patrol Squadron 53 (VP-53) on 1 May 1942, redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 53 (VPB-53) on 1 October 1944, redesignated Patrol Squadron 53 (VP-53) on 15 May 1946, redesignated Amphibious Patrol Squadron 1 (VP-AM-1) on 15 November 1946 and disestablished on 5 May 1948.VPB-149
VPB-149 was a Patrol Bombing Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Bombing Squadron 149 (VB-149) on 16 September 1943, redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron Squadron 149 (VPB-149) on 1 October 1944 and disestablished on 6 September 1945.VPB-16
VPB-16 was a Patrol Bombing Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Patrol Squadron 16 (VP-16) on 20 December 1943, redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 16 (VPB-16) on 1 October 1944 and disestablished on 30 June 1945.VPB-17
VPB-17 was a Patrol Bombing Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Patrol Squadron 17 (VP-17) on 3 January 1944, redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 17 (VPB-17) on 1 October 1944 and disestablished on 30 January 1946.VPB-52
VPB-52 was a Patrol Bombing Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Torpedo Squadron 3D15 (VT-3D15) on 12 July 1928, redesignated Patrol Squadron 3-S (VP-3S) on 21 January 1931, redesignated Patrol Squadron 3 Base Force (VP-3F) on 17 July 1933, redesignated Patrol Squadron 3 (VP-3) on 1 October 1937, redesignated Patrol Squadron 32 (VP-32) on 1 July 1939, redesignated Patrol Squadron 52 (VP-52) on 1 July 1941, redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 52 (VPB-52) on 1 October 1944 and disestablished on 7 April 1945.