SBD-3 Dauntless (Revisited) — 80 Years Later


Calendars and dates are a human construction. We have given meaning and importance to specific dates and sometimes circumstances collide in interesting ways. This is a story that starts on August 24, 1943 — 80 years ago today — and involves an interesting connection recently made.

Tyler and I have had a longstanding project to build a photogrammetry model of the Dauntless that he and Dan Jackson originally located and identified. I was fortunate to dive the wreck on Feb 6, 2021 but we had some bad visibility on that dive and it is a site that we knew would benefit greatly from a photogrammetry model.

A few weeks ago, I was able to return with Tyler and Lauren with the objective of building a complete photogrammetry model of the debris field (which did happen, more on that in a bit).

In the meantime, I’ve had some issues with my ears and I had a few other projects I’ve been working. Therefore, documenting the site and publishing the model took a backseat — until now.

That collision of fate happened over the past weekend and it spurred me on to get it done….


I started my original post in 2021 with “August 24th, 1943 was a beautiful, clear, and typical sunny day in San Diego” and a bit further on noted that Richard H. Moore died on that day while flying the Dauntless and noted that “something went terribly wrong after the target sleeve was launched.”

He was on his delayed honeymoon trip with his wife. When Tyler and Dan originally found and identified the wreck, Tyler attempted to find relatives of either person who died during the crash but was unsuccessful.

As circumstance would have it, Tyler and I were contacted over the weekend by a relative of Richard H. Moore who read about the story on our site. Richard was Teresa Sander’s Great Uncle and she had been researching the accident and had contacted the Navy but didn’t have much luck getting additional information. Fortunately, she found our site and contacted us.

I went back to re-read my original post and realized that August 24th will be exactly 80 years since Richard H. Moore’s death. It was time to pay homage, write this post, and fully document the wreck with the photogrammetry model. Below are two photos that Teresa recently sent to Tyler and gave us permission to use.

Documenting History

Tyler and I both have a strong desire to help families overcome their grief and put closure to relatives of people who die in service of their country — whether overseas or domestically. When we found the helicopter and published that article, we were fortunate to get connected with the pilot who had stayed in touch with the family of the deceased co-pilot and we took them to the site to honor his sacrifice.

It is never easy to research a relative who died and most people are looking for some kind of closure or to know the details what happened. Documenting what we find and identifying these wrecks has helped people achieve that peace.

Our goal with this post is to more fully document the airplane crash that took the life of Richard H. Moore exactly 80 years ago today.

The Wreck

We had great conditions for the dive. Visibility at depth was probably 40+ feet; however, it was very dark due to the overcast skies and all the particulate matter in the shallower water column. I went to work taking photos of the wreck trying to ensure that I had good coverage. It is harder on a debris field since things are scattered about and, on a dive like this, you don’t want to miss anything because the cost of going back to re-dive is big.

As I was shooting, I noticed that Lauren had gone off on her scooter to look around. Tyler and I knew that the tail section was not at the main site but figured it must be nearby. We had mentioned that to Lauren so I figured she was out looking for more clues and debris areas.

As I was finishing up, I looked around to find Lauren and noticed her light shining downwards in the distance. I knew that she had found something but first I needed to get a reference point for photos to connect the two sections of the wreck. I took my photos and then headed over to the area to discover that she had found the tail section!

I took plenty of photos and was careful to move slowly both on the way over and the way back in hopes of connecting the two parts of the wreck instead of creating two separate models. That area does not have many features on the seafloor so getting photos to align would be tricky.

This wreck always has a TON of fish and this dive was no exception. We also saw one of my favorite fish (flag rockfish) and 3 or 4 wolf eels, including one inside the engine!

We got back to the main section, found the line, and did our deco in relatively warm water (60F at the 20′ stop) and not too bad for visibility.

Photogrammetry Model

Below is a link to the online model along with some screenshots. The model consists of 878 photos. About the only area that isn’t really clear is somewhat in the middle of the wing section.

As mentioned above, it can sometimes be hard to remember exactly which path you have taken and what areas have full coverage. In this case, you can see I didn’t get some coverage right over the middle. Each of the blue rectangles corresponds to a photo.

If you look closely, you will also see the wolf eel in the engine in the model. 🙂

Low Resolution (Mobile)

Low Resolution Model

Note: Something odd happened with the colors when I built the “texture” for this model but the full resolution model linked below is better.

High Resolution (Desktop)

High Resolution Model

Screen Captures

Top Down Overview

Wreck Details

This is a great example where having a photogrammetry model really allows somebody to get an idea of where the different parts/sections of the wreck are. Below is a “map” along with some detailed photos of each section:

  1. Airbrake – The “famous” holes in the trailing edge of the wing flap which would help quickly reduce speed for a bombing run.

2. Engine – The famous Wright R-1820 “Cyclone” 9 cylinder radial engine

3. Pilot Seat

4. Oil Cooler – Oil coolers are often easily identifiable by the shape, size and they usually have a “bluish” tint to them along with a filter.

5. Tow Flag Winch – This is one of the “clues” that helped to initially identify the wreck. You can still see some of the cable on the right side of the winch.

6. Landing Gears – Both landing gears are on the site. This one is stowed up into the wing and you an still see the outline of the tire.

7. Propellers – The propellers are mostly buried in the sand and I believe that the other piece in that area is part of the cowling.

8. Landing Gears – This is the other landing gear which is slightly off to the side of the main debris.

9. Tank – This could be either an O2 tank or a fire extinguisher and is at the rear section of the debris. My guess is an O2 tank.

10. Fuel Bladder – This is standing up vertical and is right behind the engine.

11. Tail Section – This was only recently found by Lauren on this dive. It is 50-100 feet away from the main debris area.

12. Horizontal Stabilizer – My guess is that this is the horizontal stabilizer half buried in the sand. The tail must be around this same area.

Next Up…

Tyler has plans to speak to Teresa in the next few days. We have offered to take them to the site similar to our trip to the helicopter and we are working with Teresa to also get connected with relatives of the pilot. We will post additional information as we can.

For now, on August 24th, 2023, we will honor the service of Radio Man 3rd Class Richard H. Moore and Captain William Parks Jr. on the 80th anniversary of their crash of SBD Dauntless #4563.

6 thoughts on “SBD-3 Dauntless (Revisited) — 80 Years Later

  1. Thank you Brett for honoring Richard Moore. Your pictures and 3D model you created are something I never imagined being able to see. I showed my mom tonight and she was really touched by your story. Thank you again Teresa Sander

  2. Thank you. Richard Moore was my father’s youngest brother. As a child, all I knew was that Uncle Dicks plane went down off the coast of California. You have given us more of the story and an understanding of what happened and why his plane went down. Thank you for all that you have done to help bring closure to our family.

    1. Judy – We are glad that the information has helped provide some closure for your family. Please let us know if there is any additional information we can provide. I am just so glad that you were able to find the site.

  3. Thank you for all the information on Richard Moore. He was my uncle (my dad was his brother). I realize now that we knew so little about the crash and your article and pictures are so helpful.

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