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In WW2 the Americans used a kind of smoke/gas-bomb that they mounted under the SBD planes in naval warfare.

What was the purpose of that device and what is it called?

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The ocean is featureless, floating smoke bombs were used to mark a spot on a body of water so pilots could get back to the same spot. Smoke plumes can be seen from a long distance, they also let you gauge wind direction and speed.

Smoke bombs were often used when attacking submarines, if a pilot spotted a periscope or caught a sub on the surface before it dove he could drop a smoke marker on the spot before coming around to drop a depth bomb on it. Smoke bombs were also used to mark people in the water, for instance downed pilots or sailors, so they could be rescued.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good answer, if you could add the specific devices used (the OP does specify a military and time period), it would be great. $\endgroup$ – AEhere Jan 28 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean Smoke Floats? Use Google Books search and search for "sbd dauntless smoke float light" will find details. $\endgroup$ – Mobeer Jan 30 at 0:17

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