Douglas Aircraft opened a factory in Santa Monica, California, in 1920 with a capital of $350.
The Davis-Douglas Cloudster of 1920, Donald W. Douglas's first design, was followed in 1921 by the DT torpedo- bomber for the U.S. Navy, the largest single-engined aircraft in the U.S.A. at the time. Four modified DTs, known as Douglas World Cruisers, made the first round-the-world flight in 1924, with Army crews. The Douglas Aircraft Company was formed in 1928, and in July 1929 a former Douglas engineer, Jack Northrop, set up the Northrop Aircraft Company and produced an all-metal low-wing dive-bomber, the XBT-1/A-17.
Northrop and Douglas merged in 1937 (Douglas with a majority stockholding), and in 1938 it became Douglas-El Segundo. The dive-bomber design progressed, via the Douglas TBD Devastator of 1934, to become the U.S. Navy's first monoplane, and was followed by the Dauntless SBD. Ultimate Douglas development of the single-engined piston-engined attack-bomber was the 1945 Skyraider, which served in many roles until 1968, both in Korea and Vietnam. Last single-engined military designs by Douglas were the small delta-wing F4D Skyray jet fighter (first flown January 1951) and highly successful A4D Skyhawk jet attack-bomber (first flown June 1954 and 2,960 built up to 1979; current programs around the world keep substantial numbers of Skyhawks operationally capable with foreign forces).
The first twin-engined Douglas design appeared in 1925; the T2D for the U.S. Navy. The B7 of 1930 was the first of a series for the U.S. Army, and was followed by the B-18 in 1935. The most famous twin, however, was the DB-7/A-20 Boston (and nightfighter Havoc), which first saw action in June 1940. A total of 7,385 was built, of which 3,125 went to Russia. The A-26/B-26 Invader of 1945, developed from the A-20, served in Korea and Vietnam, and the Boston/Havoc concept was taken into the jet age by the Skywarrior and Skynight. A version of the former became the B-66 Destroyer, Douglas's (and the USAF's) last conventional light-attack bomber.
In 1933, under pressure from United Airlines' Boeing 247, Transcontinental & Western Air turned to Douglas to provide a competing aircraft. The first DC-1 (Douglas Commercial) appeared in prototype only, but 131 DC-2s followed in 1932-1936. A wide-bodied sleeper version, the DST, led to the DC-3 in 1936, which was to be the most famous airliner of all time. In 1940 the USAAC ordered it as the C-47 transport. Douglas built 9,255 of the 10,125 produced, and in 1961 1,000 were still in military use, and 600 civil DC-3s remained in operation in the U.S.A. in 1974. Douglas, consulting five airlines, developed a four-engined version, the DC-4, in 1941. The Army commandeered all civil DC-4s on U.S. entry into the war, and 1,162 military C-54s were built. After the war many reverted to DC-4 status, to be succeeded by the DC-6 and DC-7. Douglas temporarily lost its lead in transport when Boeing produced the Model 707, but then produced the very effective DC-8 and DC-9 jet.
Military transport design continued with the big C-124 Globemaster in 1950, and C-133 Cargomaster of 1957, a heavy strategic freighter capable of carrying all the thencurrent IRBMs or ICBMs. In 1947 Douglas went supersonic with the jet D-558-1 Skystreak and D-558-2 rocket Skyrocket, built for NASA. The latter held the world speed record in 1953 at 1,981km/h and achieved Mach 2.01 at 19,810m in 1953. The later X-3 research aircraft was intended for flight at up to Mach 3. There was a brief involvement with executive jets with the PD-808 Vespa-jet, production being transferred from El Segundo to Rinaldo Piaggio before, in 1967, the company merged with McDonnell Aircraft to become McDonnell Douglas.