Douglas B-18 Bolo


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Douglas B-18 Bolo

Faced with a US Army Air Corps requirement of early 1934 for a bomber with virtually double the bomb load and range capability of the Martin B-10, which was then the USAAC's standard bomber, Douglas had little doubt that it could draw upon engineering experience and design technology of the DC-2 commercial transport which was then on the point of making its first flight.

Private-venture prototypes to meet the US Army's requirements were evaluated at Wright Field, Ohio, in August 1935, these including the Boeing Model 299, Douglas DB-1 and Martin 146. The first was built as the B-17 Flying Fortress, the last was produced as an export variant of the Martin B-10/B-12 series, and the Douglas DB-1 (Douglas Bomber 1) was ordered in January 1936 into immediate production under the designation B-18. Derived from the commercial DC-2, the DB-1 prototype retained a basically similar wing, tail unit and powerplant. There were, however, two differences in the wing: while retaining the same basic planform as the DC-2, that of the DB-1 had a 1.37m increase in span and was mounted in a mid-wing instead of low-wing position on an entirely new fuselage, one that was deeper than that of the commercial transport to provide adequate accommodation for a crew of six, and to include nose and dorsal turrets, a bomb-aimer's position, and an internal bomb bay. There was, in addition, a third gunner's position, with a ventral gun discharging via a tunnel in the underfuselage structure. Powerplant comprised two 694kW Wright R-1820-45 Cyclone 9 engines.

A total of 133 B-18s was covered by the first contract, this number including the single DB-1 which had served as a prototype. True production aircraft, which had the type name Bold, had a number of equipment changes, producing an increase in the normal loaded weight, and more-powerful Wright R-1820-45 radials. The last B-18 to come off the production line differed by having a power-operated nose turret, and carried the company identification DB-2, but this feature did not become standard on subsequent production aircraft.


The next contracts, covering 217 B-18 A aircraft, were placed in June 1937 (177) and mid-1938 (40). This version differed by having the bomb-aimer's position extended forward and over the nose-gunner's station, and the installation of yet-more-powerful Wright R-1820-53 engines. Most of the USAAC's bomber squadrons were equipped with B-18s or B-18As in 1940, and the majority of the 33 B-18As which equipped the USAAC's 5th and 11th Bomb Groups, based on Hawaiian airfields, were destroyed when the Japanese launched their attack on Pearl Harbor.

When in 1942 B-18s were replaced in first-line service by B-17s, some 122 B-18As were equipped with search radar and magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) equipment for deployment in the Caribbean on anti-submarine patrols under the designation B-18B. The Royal Canadian Air Force also acquired 20 B-18As which, under the designation Digby Mk I, were employed on maritime patrol. The designation B-18C applied to two other aircraft reconfigured for ASW patrol. Another two aircraft were converted for use in a transport role under the designation C-58, but many others were used similarly without conversion or redesignation.

Douglas B-18 Bolo on YOUTUBE

Douglas B-18 Bolo

 ENGINE2 x Wright R-1820-53 Cyclone 9, 746kW
  Take-off weight12552 kg27673 lb
  Empty weight7403 kg16321 lb
  Wingspan27.28 m90 ft 6 in
  Length17.63 m58 ft 10 in
  Height4.62 m15 ft 2 in
  Wing area89.65 m2964.98 sq ft
  Max. speed346 km/h215 mph
  Cruise speed269 km/h167 mph
  Ceiling7285 m23900 ft
  Range1937 km1204 miles
 ARMAMENT3 x 7.62mm machine-guns, 2948kg of bombs

B-18AA three-view drawing of B-18A (547 x 685)

Comments1-20 21-40
sergio Rodriguez, e-mail, 11.05.2015 14:14

Did some one known about a B-18
sank in the panama gulf during wwII


duncan morehouse, e-mail, 05.12.2014 05:20

My father along with another RAAF Flight Lieutenant and 5 to 7 US Army Air Corps people attempted to escape the Japanese from Andir airport (Bandoeng Java) in a B-18 that was shot up. They were decoyed by the star Venus which they thought was a Japanese night fighter and had to land on the beach in North East Java and were captured. Has anyone any other details on this attempted escape it would be appreciated as my father and his RAAF partner are now dead and I can get no further in my research.


Peter Boer, e-mail, 04.12.2020 duncan morehouse

Dear Duncan,
I am a military aviation historian and researcher from the Netherlands presently researching the escape efforts from Java in March 1942 and the early history of the NEI Army Aviation Corps in Australia 1942-1943 (18 Squadron NEI). I am very interested in the story of your father and have done research on the B-18 escape preparations at Andir, Java.

Peter Boer


Bob Taylor, e-mail, 26.05.2014 06:07

I had the privilege of knowing a WWII AAF vet who fought in the Philippines in 1942-42. He was a gunner in A-20s that never got to the islands, but all the crews did. He eventually wound up in a provisional infantry unit fighting on Bataan, was captured, endured the Death March, Hell Ships cruise to Japan and on to forced labor in a Japanese steel mill in Manchuria. He was liberated by Russisn armored units in August 1945. He was one of he very few USAAF and later USAF, entitled to wear the Combat Infantry Badge from his service on Bataan! He stayed in the service until medically retired in 1949. Being a POW of the Japsnese ruined his health and took twenty years off his life, based on contemporary WWII vets. He passed away in 1993. His name was Andrew C. Vidra from Euclid, Ohio.
Andy had one aerial combat mission in mid-December 1941 in a B-18 bomber, as volunteer rear turret gunner. On takeoff from Clark AAF, his B-18 was attacked by Japanese fighters which shot them down before the landing hear was fully retracted! The ship crashed just off the end of the runway. Andy said it was over so fast he hardly had the rear turret manned before the plane was skidding in! The ship was caring a minimal bomb load (that luckily didn't explode), as it was primarily a recon /patrol mission!
As I write about this on Memorial Day, it's fitting that I enclose this last tidbit about Andy. I was a public school history teacher, and had the great opportunity to have Andy speak to my classes once before his health deteriorated. The high school students were spellbound by his accountings of his experience. Andy closed his presentation taking questions, and one kid asked how he felt about it all the many years later ( this was in 1988). Andy recalled that as a kid of nineteen, it was a terrible wake up call to learn how terrible war was...but if it would keep any of the teenagers in the audience away from war, he would readily do it all again! Greatest Generation....yep!


Klaatu83, e-mail, 24.04.2013 02:10

Although the B-18 was considered to be obsolete as a front-line bomber by the time that the U.S. entered World War II, a large number of these aircraft still made a valuable contribution as bomber crew trainers.


Klaatu83, e-mail, 24.04.2013 02:03

Air Corps bought this airplane in preference to the North American B-21 mainly because the B-18 was less a great deal expensive. The reason for that is not difficult to find: the B-21 was designed from scratch, while the B-18 was essentially adapted from Douglas' existing DC-3 commercial transport. The fuselages may be different, but a comparison of the sings and tail surfaces reveals that they are almost identical.


James Gallo, e-mail, 20.04.2013 22:33

Why did Douglas call it Bolo?
Does anyone know which B-18B sunk a German U-Boat, the U-654 on 22 August 1942 in the Caribbean?


Ed Roache, e-mail, 22.11.2012 13:10

With the release of the Special Hobbies 1:72 scale kit of the B-18, I'm keen to build one that has some significance to Australia. I've found two photos so far of the 3 that escaped from the Philippines to Australia, but cannot see any serials. I'm assuming they were OD over NG and the stars had meatballs (from one photo), but any other info anyone can supply would be gratefully received.



Bud Frazier, e-mail, 01.05.2012 02:07

The B 18 was the first bomber I worked on at Sarasoda, Fla contract maintanince school during the korean war.Had many catnaps in the bomb bay.Don't have the tail numbers . Would like to know where it went later.


deaftom, e-mail, 03.04.2011 05:58

Diana, there's a nicely restored B-18A in the Wings over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, at Denver, Colorado. I'm not sure whether it's flyable or whether it has been permanently retired from flight; it certainly looks flight-ready.


Bob Rose, e-mail, 06.03.2011 17:26

I appreciate the clear illustrations. Was Radio Operator on these prior to the start of WWII. Pilots could land and takeoff from the scant SE US cow pastures of NC. The 13th Bomb Group was stationed at Orlando AB FL. No Basic Trainuing in those days. Went from enlistment point to the assigned unit.


Diana Streevey King, e-mail, 01.01.2011 20:24

Does anyone know if there are any restored B-18s that are flyable?


Dale Berkihiser, e-mail, 01.01.2011 10:26

I helped rivet them together in the fall of 1937 & into the spring of 1938. By buddy, Ted Lawson of the Book "30 seconds Over Tokyo", worked with hydraulics in the engine nacelles.
I have lasted 93 years.


Don Safer, e-mail, 17.10.2010 21:08

There was a B-18 kept at the Hayward Airport (California) in 1959 when, as a 15 year old, I was taking photos. One photo of this B-18, aparently used as a sprayer, can be found on my donsafer dot com site.


Richard Rogers, e-mail, 08.02.2010 05:33

The B18 Jack Buckley is refering to was 4143B. It was damaged landing on the beach Chirikof island in 58 or early 59 and the high tide finished it. I flew it some but I worked for Sig Staveland at Arctic Air Cargo out of Anchorage. We had two others with a fiberglass pointed nose that we flew most of the time. 62477 and 1692M. 62477 is at the airforce museum in Ohio.


Joe Kline, e-mail, 07.01.2010 09:46

My dad was an aerial photographer with the 21st Reconnaissance
Squadron in 1940-41 at Miami, Fl. They flew B-18's and he took some fantastic air to air shots of B-18's that I would be happy to share with this site.


chris, e-mail, 13.11.2009 01:11

I wount to build an rc plane of this aircraft. Can anyone sent me images.


Johnny Signor, e-mail, 04.08.2009 07:25

A question about an early B-10, I have a photocopy of a B-10 with an emblem on its nose I'm trying to get an ID of, the emblem is of an aircraft that appears to be a Douglas OA-4 type with Bird like wings raised above it,a boomb falling below it and on a disc divided by a land shape in lower half and a sky area above and there are stars in the "Alaskan" flag design shape /constellation, this emblem was on the nose and in front of the aircraft are pilots /crewman wearing a patch of the 30th Bomb sqd which was with the 19th Bomb group and another B-10 in background with same emblem on it's nose, anyone who knows this emblem Please contact me at my e mail thank you very much !!!!
it would have been in the late 30's very early 40's ?


Jack F. Buckley, e-mail, 19.08.2008 00:26

When I lived in Homer, Alaska in the early 1950s there was a B18 that flew from Anchorage to Chirikof Island (near Kodiak) and flew loads of dressed beef back. He would stop and Homer now and then for fuel. The pilot was named Sig Staveland and was later killed while making a GCA approach to Kodiak in an AeroCommander. He once told me that he had landed the B18 in Seldovia but I had a hard time landing there in a PA18 so I really never believed that story.


Kenneth L. Ross, e-mail, 26.05.2008 22:41

My first bomb droped as a cadet on 11-11-42 was from a B18 at 4000'. Was at advanced bombardier school in San Angelo, TX. A great training plane. Slow and steady, if I recall it took about 30 minutes to get to bombing altitude of 400' above target. A Capt. Adams was the pilot. I later graduated and became an instructor.


Arthur E. Sevigny, e-mail, 13.03.2008 19:45

That bomber would have been from the 7th Bomb Group. Tail markings at the time were: first letter type of unit IE: B for bomber. Second letter coresponded to the units number so G is the 7th letter thus 7th Bomb Group and two was the individual number assigned to the aircraft. Must have happened in 1937 or 38. Unit only had the B-18 1937-1940. They were based at Hamilton Fld, CA at that time


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