The Demise of Brewster

Last revised December 25, 1999

Following the completion of the F2A production run, the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation's difficulties went from bad to worse. The corporation had received large orders for its Model 340 dive bomber, which was a scaled-up version of the SBA with a 1700 hp Wright Cyclone R-2600 twin-row air-cooled radial. The British Purchasing Commission ordered 750 examples of the Model 340 in July of 1940 as the Bermuda, and the Dutch government ordered 162 similar examples for the Netherlands East Indies. On December 24, 1940, the US Navy ordered 140 (later increased to 203) examples as the SB2A Buccaneer. Following the passage of the Lend-Lease Act in 1941, the USAAF and USN jointly assumed responsibility for the aircraft that had been ordered by Britain.

This series of large orders required much larger facilities than those that were available in Long Island City or Newark, and the Brewster Corporation went in search of larger quarters. These could not be in the Long Island area, since the War Production Board did not want any more plants built in areas that were too close to the coastline and hence vulnerable to enemy attack. James Work had an estate in Johnsville, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia, and the Defense Plant Corporation agreed to build a plant there and lease it to Brewster.

More business for Brewster arrived in the form of a contract to build the Vought F4U Corsair carrier-based fighter under license. On November 1, 1941, Brewster was given a contract to built the Corsair under license as the F3A. The same production delays that had affected the Bermuda and Buccaneer also affected the F3A-1, and the delays in both programs led to a brief takeover of the Brewster factory by the Navy on April 18, 1942. Captain George Westervelt of the Navy's Construction Corps was placed in charge while the management at Brewster was reorganized. A month later, on May 20, the Navy turned over the corporation to a new board of directors, with Charles Van Dusen as the president.

Unfortunately, the problems continued and Brewster's luck went from bad to worse. By this time, the specialized dive bomber had lost much of its lustre, and aircraft such as the Vultee Vengeance and the Brewster Buccaneer were no longer needed as front-line combat aircraft. The Lend-Lease contract for the British Bermuda was cancelled in 1943, and shortly thereafter, the SB2A Buccaneer dive bomber project was cancelled by the Navy in favor of the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver.

Neither the Bermuda produced for Britain nor the Buccaneer produced for the US Navy ever saw any combat, and all examples that were built were used exclusively for training and target towing. The last of 770 dive bombers was completed in May of 1944. All examples were scrapped in April of 1945.

The first F3A-1 did not fly until April 26, 1943 and by the end of 1943 only 136 had left the production line. The delays in the F3A program were the source of several Congressional hearings. Because of the controversy, the Navy terminated Brewster's F3A contract on July 1, 1944 after 738 had been built. That month, the Navy closed down the Brewster factory itself, marking the end of the line for the company.


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  2. Jim Maas, F2A Buffalo in Action, Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1987.

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  4. William Green, Famous Fighters of the Second World War, Second Series, Doubleday, 1967.

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