Operational History

Douglas A-20 Havoc WRG# 0016737
Douglas A-20G Havoc on a mission over France, August 1944
[Source: Jack Cook Collection via the Warbird Information eXchange]

The French order called for substantial modifications, resulting in the DB-7 (for Douglas Bomber 7) variant. It had a narrower, deeper fuselage, 1,000 hp (746 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-SC3-G radials, French-built guns, and metric instruments. Midway through the delivery phase, engines were switched to 1,100 hp (820 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G. The French designation was DB-7 B-3 (the B-3 signifying "three-seat bomber").

Douglas A-20 Havoc WRG# 0000186
A-20G Havoc taking-off, France, 1944.
[Source: Jack Cook Collection via the Warbird Information eXchange]

The DB-7s were shipped in sections to Casablanca for assembly and service in France and French North Africa. When the Germans attacked France and the Low Countries on 10 May 1940, the 64 available DB-7s were deployed against the advancing Germans. Before the armistice they were evacuated to North Africa to avoid capture by German forces. Here, they fell under control of the Vichy government, but saw practically no action against the Allies except briefly during the Allied invasion of North Africa. After French forces in North Africa had sided with the Allies, DB-7s were used as trainers and were replaced in front line units by Martin B-26 Marauders. In early 1945, a few DB-7s were moved back to France where they saw action against the remaining isolated German pockets on the western coast.

British Commonwealth
The remainder of the order which was to have been delivered to France was instead taken up by the UK. In the course of the war, 24 squadrons operated the Boston. It first entered service with RAF Bomber Command in 1941, equipping No. 88 Squadron. Their first operational use was not until February 1942 against enemy shipping. On July 4, 1942 United States Army Air Force (USAAF) bomber crews, flying RAF Boston aircraft, took part in operations in Europe for the first time attacking enemy airfields in Holland. They replaced the Bristol Blenheims of No. 2 Group RAF for daylight operations against occupied Europe until replaced in turn by de Havilland Mosquitos. Some Havocs were converted to Turbinlite aircraft which replaced the nose position with a powerful searchlight. The Turbinlite aircraft would be brought onto an enemy fighter by ground radar control. The onboard radar operator would then direct the pilot until he could illuminate the enemy. At that point a Hawker Hurricane fighter accompanying the Turbinlite aircraft would make the attack. The Turbinlite squadrons were disbanded in early 1943

Soviet Union
Through Lend-Lease, Soviet forces received more than two-thirds of version A-20B planes manufactured and a significant portion of versions G and H. They were delivered via the ALSIB (Alaska-Siberia) air ferry route. These aircraft were armed with fixed-forward cannons and found success in the ground attack role.