25 Squadron's main task was to be part of the 'neutralisation' of the large Japanese base areas around Rabaul on the northern tip of New Britain.
Commencing strikes along with the Avengers from 30 Squadron, and Marine and Navy aircraft, their job was to dive bomb and strafe the anti-aircraft gun positions to allow the Avengers to bomb the runways which were the primary targets.
They were tasked with providing 12 aircraft and crews on a daily basis to carry out these operations - a tall order when the average operational strength of the squadron was 15 aircraft. This was achieved on all days except one.
As the squadron was operating under the control of the Strike Command of COMAIRSOLS (Commander Air Solomons), they were for all practical reasons a U.S. squadron.
The normal tour of duty in the area was by then of six weeks duration, but 25 Squadron did an eight week tour, averaging 95 hours per crew, and carried out 32 strikes, completing 29.
On May 20th, the surviving aircraft were ferried to Renarde Field on the Russell Islands by their crews, and handed back to the Marine Corps. Most aircraft had flown an average of 120 hours, and to the astonishment of the receiving officer, were in 'as-new' condition! This was indeed a tribute to the men of 25 Servicing unit who had toiled away in sometimes atrocious conditions, and with few supplies of spare parts.
The next day, the crews were flown back to Whenuapai in New Zealand in two Dakotas from 40 Squadron, where the squadron was disbanded on June 19th. (25 Squadron was re-formed at Ardmore on October 30th as a fighter squadron, and training commenced using the F4U-1 Corsair).
Two aircraft and crews were lost over the Rabaul area, NZ5050 (P/O Geoffrey Cray and W/O Frank Bell) on April 17th, and NZ5051 (F/O Jack Edwards and F/SGT. Hoppe) on May 10th.
An extract from F/O Jack Edwards logbook can be found here (via Damon Edwards)
Three aircraft were written off due to operational damage, NZ5054 and NZ5059 crashed and burnt on landing at Piva on April 2nd after a strike, and NZ5058 due to damage received over Rabaul on April 17th. NZ5037 went missing with it's crew on a training flight. NZ5055 crashed at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal on March 22nd . One aircraft, '176' (Bu.No.28452) which never received an RNZAF serial number, went missing on a ferry flight along with it's pilot, F/O McLellan-Symonds.
All the remaining SBD-3's and 4's in New Zealand were used for limited crew training until February 1944, then were placed in open storage at Hobsonville Airfield.
Three Dauntless aircraft were used as instructional airframes (NZ5009 - INST91 and NZ5018 - INST92 at the Trade Training School (TTS) in Nelson, and NZ5016 - INST110). They were all sold for scrap in 1948.
The only complete ex-RNZAF SBD is that held at the 'Planes of Fame' Museum in the United States. This has been identified as NZ5062.