Reduced to four operational aircraft carriers in the early months of WWII, the U.S. Navy also found itself faced with serious shortcomings in aircraft performance against Japanese machines. The Douglas SBD Dauntless was then the only offensive carrier aircraft that could effectively take the fight to the Japanese. The men of Bombing Six, flying off the deck of the USS Enterprise, played a major part in the first big success of the war, the Battle of Midway.
LCdr Richard "Dick" Best led dive bombing squadron VB-6 aboard USS Enterprise (CV 6). His action in the Battle of Midway helped destroy three Japanese carriers, turning the tide of the war in the Pacific.
On June 4, 1942, (then Lt.) Best’s squadron was a member of Lt. Cmdr. Wade McClusky’s Enterprise Air Group. His group of about 16 planes combined with Cmdr. Max Leslie’s USS Yorktown (CV 5) Air Group, which by fate arrived at virtually the same time over the top of three Japanese carriers — Akagi, Kaga, Soryu. Their unintended rendezvous doubled the size of the U.S. strike force, which led to fatal blows to the three ships — all veterans of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Dick Best's squadron of Dauntless scout bombers became separated with the unexpected arrival of McCluskey’s bombers. Splitting his force, Best led the 1st Division of three planes from the southwest against Akagi. Seeing the yellow flight deck emblazoned with a large red circle, Best dropped his 1,000-pound bomb from 2,500 feet, scoring a hit abreast of the bridge at 10:22 a.m., followed in succession by hits from his two partners, leaving the ship a wreck. His squadron mates in the 2nd Division hit Kaga, contributing to the carrier’s sinking.Signature:LCdr Richard H. "Dick" BEST