If there was one plane that became a “pilot’s favorite” during the Second World War, the A-20 Havoc made it to the top. Described as “light-bomber, attack, and night-fighter” by an article from The Aviation History Online Museum, the Douglas A-20 Havoc was one of the first American aircraft to serve in World War II. First built during the late-1930s, the majority of Havocs served with the Soviets, with the next biggest operator being the US Army Air Force (USAAF), followed by Great Britain. Other operators included Canada, France, Australia, South Africa, and the Netherlands. It also served in the postwar years with Brazil until the 1950s.

Cry ‘Havoc!’ And Release The Dogs Of War!

U.S. Army Air Force Douglas A-20G-20-DO “No. 57” (S/N 42-86657) in flight. (USAAF/Wikimedia Commons)

Still citing from the above page, Douglas A-20 Havoc was easy to fly with good handling characteristics during takeoff and landing. It represented an advance in flight control systems with light handling during high-speed flight, with no overbalance on small control inputs. The tricycle landing gear made takeoff, landing, and ground handling very simple, and pilots could fly it with a minimum of instructions. It also provided a stable gun platform for night-fighter missions. Handling with one engine out was also said to be very satisfactory, although the prototype crashed while simulating an engine-out procedure. It was very durable and could withstand extreme battle damage, and found a role in every combat theater of the war. 

It was also rather unique among U.S. medium bombers in having only a single pilot at the controls. 

The Havoc Production 

A total of 7,478 DB-7/A-20s were built, most at Douglas, with 380 built at the Boeing plant in Seattle, Wash. The Havoc was a mid-wing, twin-engine, three-place medium bomber that earned a reputation for getting its crews home, even when both crew and aircraft suffered crippling blows. It was called the “Boston” when in service with England’s Royal Air Force. It proved so versatile that nearly 30 varients of the Havoc were built for various combat roles including, high altitude bomber, ground-attack, night fighter, photographic reconnaissance 

Douglas A-20G Havoc cockpit. (Wikimedia Commons)

Despite official neutrality in 1938, it entered production. There was little doubt in the United States that the country should support its allies, Britain and France, citing from a historical snapshot found on Boeing’s site. 

Living Up To Its Name 

The National Interest published an article citing:

“The A-20 has been overlooked for its contributions—even though it was the most-produced attack bomber produced during the war. A total of 7,477 DB-7/A-20s were built. The mid-wing, twin-engine medium bomber was noted for its survivability, which helped ensure that it could take significant damage and still get its crew home. At the same time, it lived up to its “Havoc” name delivering a serious punch to the enemy. It was designed as a light bomber, but during the war operated more like a fighter, while it was also used in a night intruder and reconnaissance role.”

It is powered by two Wright R-2600s that provided 1,600 HP each and had a maximum speed of 317 MPH and a cruising speed of 230 MPH. This light-bomber could carry up to two tons of bombs. A gunship configuration replaced the plexiglass nose and added six fixed .50 caliber Browning machine guns in the nose that all fired forward while in the dorsal turret there were two more .50 calibers. If that was not enough, another one was also attached behind the bomb bay, overall adding to its awesomeness and havoc-bringing capabilities. Eight 50 cal machine guns gave the Havoc one hell of a Sunday punch in a ground attack role.