YouTube – Douglas A-20
U.S. Dollar Cost:
two or three
2 x 1,600 hp. ea.
47 ft. 11 in.
61 ft. 4 in.
9- .50 cal.
Douglas A-20 aircraft were the most extensively built light bombers of World War II.
The origin of the Douglas A-20, called Havoc, goes back to 1938 when Douglas submitted a proposal for the aircraft to the Army Air Corps. This was in response to their request for a new twin engine light attack aircraft.
The result was an advanced and complex design which incorporated a tricycle landing gear arrangement for better pilot visibility on the ground. The aircraft also featured a highly unusual emergency second control column for use by the rear gunner in the event the pilot became incapacitated.
France placed and order for 100 Douglas A-20 aircraft in February of 1940. Some of the aircraft did see service with the French Air Force. A number of the aircraft flew to England to continue fighting against the Axis, while the ones which remained behind after the French surrender were used by the Vichy Air Force.
In April of 1941 the Douglas A-20 entered service with the British Royal Air Force for use as a night fighter and attack aircraft. One, three seat version of the aircraft, carrying a 2,000 lb. bomb load was used for “nuisance” raids against occupied France.
Early Douglas A-20 aircraft were limited by short range. With the addition of larger fuel tanks and other improvements they gained a reputation as having range, good speed, and maneuverability. They were considered a pilot’s favorite.
The first Douglas A-20 aircraft to serve as RAF bombers were designated “Boston” by them. They were used, as originally designed, for daylight bombing. The first bomber aircraft arrived in England from the United States in the summer of 1941. They replaced older British light bombing aircraft, carrying out anti-shipping missions in addition to land bombing raids. A total of 781 of the bombers were delivered to the RAF. The first to enter service did so with No. 88 Squadron at Swanton Morley in October 1941. They saw action for the first time on February 12, 1942, and went on to fly many more missions against targets in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. They flew many of the missions at very low altitudes to avoid enemy radar.
Douglas A-20 aircraft also took part in attacks on the German warships Scharnhorst, Prinz Eugen and Gneisenau, during their channel dash. Some bombers served with the RAF in Algeria, Italy, and Tunesia.
On July 4, 1942, Douglas A-20 bombers of the RAF attacked airfields in Holland. Six of the participating aircraft were flown by crews of the United States Eighth Air Force. It provided initial combat experience for United States Air Force pilots. Eventually, A-20 aircraft were replaced by heavier bombers for such missions, as more aircraft became available. Thereafter they were primarily restricted to tactical operations.
As part of D-Day operations, British based Douglas A-20 aircraft of the Second Tactical Air Force generated smoke screens over the invasion beaches. During 1944, improved versions of the aircraft were introduced, including a power operated gun turret. These versions served with the RAF in the Second Tactical Air Force until the end of the War in Europe as close air support aircraft.
In U.S. Army Air Force service the Douglas A-20 served with the Ninth Air Force in Europe, the Twelfth in the Mediterranean, and in the Pacific with the Fifth Air Force. Many Douglas A-20 aircraft were supplied to the Soviet Union. A total of over 7,470 Douglas A-20 aircraft of all types were produced.