Information

Eastern XTBM-4 Avenger


Eastern XTBM-4 Avenger

The Eastern XTBM-4 Avenger was the designation given to three prototypes of an improved version of the Avenger that were produced in 1945. The XTBM-4 had a stronger wing and an improved wing folding mechanism, and was ordered into production as the TBM-4 for the US Navy and the Avenger IV for the Fleet Air Arm. The first prototype was completed before the end of the war, but production was cancelled before it began, and the remaining two prototypes were the only other aircraft built.


TBF/TBM Avenger

By Stephen Sherman, Apr. 2001. Updated January 21, 2012.

W hile the Douglas Devastator had been "state of the art" when it was introduced in 1935, by 1939, the US Navy determined that it needed a more potent torpedo bomber, one with greater range, larger payload, faster speed, and tougher resistance to battle damage. The requirements for the new aircraft included: a top speed of 300 MPH, a (fully loaded) range of 1,000 miles, an internal weapons bay, 2000 lbs. payload, and a ceiling of 30,000 feet.

The Grumman "Iron Works" almost inevitably would be the supplier. Leroy Grumman, an engineer by background, helped design the torpedo bomber that would meet the navy's specs. The prototype was designated XTBF-1: eXperimental, Torpedo Bomber, F = Grumman, 1st variant. Two aircraft were built, one of which crashed in the woods near Brentwood, Long Island. But the program continued at the rapid pace which was a hallmark of Grumman's production.

Built around the 1700 horsepower Wright R-2600-8 engine, a 14-cylinder double row radial, the new TBF featured:

  • folding wings - critical for carrier use. Grumman developed a unique wing-folding mechanism for the TBF and F6F, which tucked the wings flat against the fuselage, for the most compact storage possible. Allegedly, Leroy Grumman first brainstormed the idea with a soap-eraser and paper clips.
  • three seats - A pilot, a rear gunner, and a bombardier/belly gunner.
  • powered rear turret - As required by the Navy, the plane included a powered turret for the rear gunner, originally equipped with a single .30 caliber machine gun.
  • three .30 caliber machine guns - The turret gun noted above. A nose-mounted gun for the pilot, firing through the propeller. And another rear-firing .30 caliber was tucked into its belly. This weaponry was increased in later variants.
  • large internal bay - By mounting the wings mid-way up the fuselage, Grumman allowed a roomy bay, for one 2,000 lb. torpedo, or four 500 lb. bombs, or an extra fuel tank.
  • large wings - A Grumman trademark. Relatively large wings helped to make Grumman aircraft easier to handle, a vital characteristic for a plane flown by masses of pilots with varying skill levels from pitching & heaving carrier decks.
  • extreme ruggedness - Another Grumman feature. The ability to absorb battle damage and still fly was equally important, especially to the aircrews.

On the afternoon of December 7, 1941, Grumman held a ceremony to open its new Plant 2 in Bethpage and display the new torpedo bomber to the public. During the program, Grumman vice president Clint Towl was called to the phone. "The Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor. We're at war." No announcement was made and the festivities continued. When the crowd filed out of the plant, they locked the gates, swept the plant for saboteurs, and went to a war footing, which they stayed on for almost four years.

Over the next few months, Grumman struggled mightily to turn their hand-crafted prototype into a mass-produced airplane. By June, the company had delivered 145 TBF-1's to the Navy, a pace that would be dwarfed in the next three years.

First Combat - Midway

Lieutenant Fieberling's six TBFs reached the Japanese fleet at 7:10 AM, dropped to low altitude and bore on toward the carriers. Zeros swarmed around the vulnerable torpedo planes. Two TBFs were destroyed in the first attack, followed by three more. Realizing that he could not reach the carriers, Ensign Albert K. Earnest loosed his torpedo at a cruiser, then broke away with two Zeros after him. Earnest flew his shot-up TBF back to Midway, navigating "by guess and by God." Earnest's was the only TBF to return, with nothing but the trim tab for longitudinal control, with one wheel and the torpedo bay doors hanging open. Radioman 3rd Class Harrier H. Ferrier was injured and Seaman 1st Class Jay D. Manning, who was operating the .50 caliber machine gun turret, was killed during the attack.

Eastern Solomons - Aug. 24, 1942

  • VT-8 on "Sara," commanded by Cdr. Harold "Swede" Larsen
  • VT-3 on the "Big E," led by Lt. Cdr. Charles M. Jett

Santa Cruz - Oct. 26, 1942

The two surviving carriers in the Pacific, Enterprise and Hornet, carried 14 Avengers each. In late October, the two U.S. flattops met the Japanese effort to seize Guadalcanal. The opposing fleets' patrol planes spotted each other in the early morning and both launched air strikes across the intervening 200 miles. Enterprise and Hornet sent out three strikes, totalling 73 planes: 18 Avengers, 32 dive bombers, and 23 F4F fighters.

Commanding Torpedo Ten, VT-10, from Enterprise was Lt. Cdr. John A. Collett. He led his torpedo bombers westward, toward the Japanese ships, passing Zeros and Vals heading for the American ships. When the U.S. planes found their targets, the Japanese combat air patrol and anti-aircraft knocked most of them down. The SBD's damaged on carrier, but the TBF's were shot out of the sky. A Zero shot up Lt. Cdr. Collett's Avenger. He and his radioman, ARM1/c Thomas C. Nelson were seen parachuting. Nelson was captured and (I believe) survived as a POW. Collett was never seen again. (A personal note - My maternal ancestors include the Abbott family of Winterport, Maine. The Abbott family cemetary there includes a stone inscribed "Lt. Cdr. John A. Collett, Commander VT-10, Lost at the Battle of Santa Cruz, Oct. 26, 1942." Of course, he isn't buried there. I presume that his mother was an Abbott, possibly indicated by his middle initial "A." One of my many unfinished projects is to determine Collett's relationship to my Abbott relatives. - SS)

These early battles showed the type's strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps its biggest weakness was not actually a problem with the aircraft itself, but rather with the deficient torpedoes used by the US Navy in the first two years of the war. The damn things just didn't explode (at least not with any high degree of reliability). The Mark 13 torpedoes were fragile, and had to be dropped from a low height, at speeds below 130 MPH. They under-ran their indicated depth by 11 feet they failed to explode when they hit, and they sometimes blew up prematurely. Therefore the TBF's flew a lot of missions with ordinary 500 lb. bombs. The aircraft itself was sound and could be used in various roles: torpedo bomber, glide bomber, reconnaissance, mine-layer, and scout plane. With its good radio facilities, docile handling, long range, and extra seating, it made an ideal command aircraft for Air Group Commanders (CAGs).

Sink the Hiei - Guadalcanal

At 6AM, dive bombers from Henderson hit Hiei. An hour later, Moret's Marine Corps TBF's put a torpedo in the drifting battleship. Around 10AM, they came at her again, and scored with another "fish."

Shortly, the Enterprise Avengers struck. Its Commander Air Department, John Crommelin, had sent in 15 Grumman TBF's under Lieutenant Al "Scoofer" Coffin. They were to attack Hiei, then land at Henderson Field. When they had launched in the early morning, a worried Crommelin had no idea if Henderson Field was American-held after the vicious battle, and his planes would not be able to abort back to Enterprise. Tearfully, he sent his boys in their Grummans on a possible one-way mission. They reached Hiei at 11:20 AM. The sky was full of black smoke, tracer fire and buzzing planes. Hiei fired back with everything she had, even incendiary 14-inch shells, unfired in the previous night's surface battle. The Avenger pilots saw the big shells fountain in the sea in an even row several miles astern. They flew at full throttle just over Hiei's burned and scorched decks. Seconds later, three torpedoes hit and exploded. But Hiei remained afloat. The Enterprise Avengers flew on to Henderson Field and found a friendly reception from American soldiers.

Six more of Col. Moret's Avengers hit Hiei with two more torpedos. Throughout the day, dive bombers and F4F's harassed the battleship. By sundown, the battered hulk was doomed, and Admiral Abe gave the order to scuttle her. The TBF's had scored their first major victory of the war.

Typical Monthly
Production
Grumman
TBF-1
GM
TBM
Total
Feb. 1942 5 - 5
June, 1942 60 - 60
Nov. 1942 100 1 101
July, 1943 150 100 250
June, 1944 - 300 300
March, 1945 - 400 400
TOTAL 2,291 7,546 9,837

GM Enters the Production Battle - 1943

Grumman's plants were fully committed to the F6F Hellcat. As part of the national wartime production effort, General Motors (GM) made available to the war effort five of its factories - Tarrytown, Trenton, Linden, Bloomfield, and Baltimore, together organized into the "Eastern Aircraft Division" of the big auto maker. Grumman delivered two completed TBF's, with special removable "PK" screws instead of ordinary rivets. These planes helped the GM workers see how the Avengers were put together. Under the Navy's aircraft designation scheme the GM Avengers were identified as TBM. While GM's production started slowly in 1943, by the end of the year, it was out-producing Grumman, which phased out Avenger production completely by the end of 1943.

Rosie the Riveter

The Avenger is connected with the famous "Rosie the Riveter" character, symbol of American women who worked in wartime factories. Various accounts of the genesis of the "Rosie" figure have appeared. Norman Rockwell created the most familiar "Rosie" image for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell's image shows a muscular woman dressed in overalls, face mask and goggles on her head, eating a sandwich, her riveting tool in her lap, her feet resting on a copy of Mein Kampf. Two weeks after the cover illustration was published, stories appeared in the press extolling the achievement of Rose Hicker, a worker at GM's Eastern Aircraft Division in Tarrytown, who drove a record number of rivets into the wing of a TBM Avenger.

Modifications

Starting in mid-1944, GM began building the TBM-3, with the more powerful (1900 hp) R-2600-20 engine and wing hard points for drop tanks or rockets. With over 4,600 TBM-3s built, they were the most numerous of the variants. However, even in February, 1945, most of the Avengers on the carriers in the Pacific were the Dash-1 versions. Only by V-J Day had the carrier TorpRons transitioned to the Dash-3.

Production of the Avenger stopped immediately after the end of hostilities.

O'Hare - Nov '43

The night of November 26-27, 1943 was the first combat test of the plan, following an earlier mission that hadn't contacted the Japs. The 'Black Panthers', as the night fighters were dubbed, included two sections of three planes. Both included two Hellcats and one Avenger. Butch led his section from his F6F, Warren Skon flew on his wing Lt. Cdr. Phillips piloted the TBF with radarman Hazen Rand and gunner Alvin Kernan crewing the plane. In the confusing night action, O'Hare went down, most likely the victim of a lucky shot from the Betty, but possibly due to friendly fire. Read more in my article about Ed O'Hare.

Alvin Kernan wrote one of the best WW2 memoirs I have read, Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket's World War II Odyssey. It's out-of print, but I intentionally left the link to Amazon. (Another coincidental personal note - I studied Shakespeare under Professor Alvin Kernan in the early 1970's, when I had never even heard of Butch O'Hare, and didn't know an Avenger from a Spitfire. - SS)

In late 1943 and early 1944, more of the new Essex-class carriers deployed to the Pacific, with Avengers in their VT squadrons. Avengers participated in the historic raid Feb. 16 raid on Truk.

The U-Boat War

Sinking of I-52

In an extraordinary engagement, Avengers from USS Bogue CVE-9, the top sub-killing CVE of the Atlantic, sank the Japanese transport submarine, I-52. In 1943 the Japanese and Germans worked out a plan to exchange critical materials via specialized cargo submarines: opium, rubber, quinine, tungsten, and molybdenum from the Japanese for German radar, bombsights, vacuum tubes, optical glass, ball bearings, etc.. In March, 1944, I-52 departed Kure, picked up cargo in Singapore and headed through the Indian Ocean, all monitored by U.S. intelligence. It rendezvoused with a German sub U-530 on June 23, in the mid-Atlantic, and picked up a German pilot who would guide I-52 into port at Lorient. There the exchange was planned to take place.

But Allied "Ultra" intercepts had pinpointed I-52's movements and even its cargo. Within hours of I-52's meeting with U-530, this information had been relayed to Bogue. The commander of its Composite Squadron 69 (VC-69), Lt. Cdr. Jesse Taylor, immediately took off in his TBF in pursuit of the Jap sub. As Taylor patrolled in the darkness, his radarman, Chief Ed Whitlock, picked up a blip. They went after it and dropped flares, lighting up the 350-foot long cargo sub. Taylor closed in, dropping two depth bombs. I-52 dived and the TBF dropped a sonobuoy into the water. The newly-developed sonobuoys picked up long-carrying underwater noises and transmitted these back to the carrier. Following the sonobuoy's signal, Taylor dropped a Mark 24 "Fido" acoustic torpedo. The sonobuoy transmitted the crunching sound of explosions back to Bogue. While Taylor thought he had sunk the sub, other Avengers soon picked up propeller beats. Bogue's CO, Captain A. B. Vosseller, ordered a second attack William "Flash" Gordon flew his TBF to the site and dropped another torpedo. The I-52 swiftly went to the bottom, with a huge hole in her hull. Next morning, U.S. destroyers found I-52's flotsam: a ton of raw rubber, bit of silk, and even human flesh.

For over 50 years, I-52 lay at the bottom of the Atlantic. In 1998, the National Geographic Society sponsored a deep-sea submersible mission which found the I-52's remains. The October, 1999 issue featured this dramatic story, but I could not find any web links to it.

For more info on the submarine war in the Atlantic, check out the superlative article on the Avenger's role in the fight against the U-boats at uboat.net, a site which at this writing, boasts of over 12,700(!) pages.

But the TBFs' influence far exceeded the destruction of 30 subs. By their presence and activity, many more convoys arrived safely, an undramatic, but vital, result.

Into the Night - June 20, 1944

After the U.S. Navy's Hellcats destroyed over 350 Japanese planes in the "Marianas Turkey Shoot," Admiral Marc Mitscher wanted to follow up the aerial victory and sink the Japanese carriers as well. All day, and into the afternoon, Task Force 58's search planes, probed westward for the fleeing, defenseless enemy ships. Eventually, at 3:40 PM, Avenger pilot Lt. R.S. Nelson, from Enterprise, found Ozawa's force 275 miles to the west. Mitscher ordered an immediate strike by 4:10 the planes were launched. Nonetheless, the risk to pilots was grave there just wasn't enough daylight left for them to reach their quarry, hit them, and return. Mitscher's gamble reflected the cold and brutal calculus of war - he hoped his air crew losses would cost his side less than the damage they could do to the other side's ships. A couple hours later, at the extreme end of their range, the TBFs, Hellcats, and dive bombers caught the Japanese fleet.

Avengers from CVL-24 Belleau Wood sank the light carrier Hiyo. Belleau Wood's Air Group 24 launched 12 planes, including a division of four Avengers piloted by Lt.(jg) George P. Brown in the lead, Lt. Warren Omark, Benjamin C. Tate, and W.D. Luton. All four Avengers were armed with torpedoes. When they spotted the Jap carrier, Brown ordered the planes to fan out and approach from different angles. They dove through intense anti-aircraft fire, which struck Brown's TBF. George Platz and Ellis Babcock, the two crewmen in Brown's plane, realized their plane was afire and unable to reach Brown on the intercom, they parachuted and witnessed the attack from the water.

The wounded Brown grimly held his Avenger on track. He, Omark, and Tate launched their improved torpedos at the carrier. They struck home and the two aircrewmen in the water saw Hiyo sink 30 minutes later.

Brown and his plane disappeared. Omark flew back and made a nighttime landing on Lexington. Tate and Luton also flew back, had to ditch, and were recovered safely. American search planes rescued Platz and Babcock the next day.

The TBF's sinking of Hiyo was the only serious damage done to Japanese fighting ships by the 227 planes of the "mission beyond darkness." The Avengers' experience was typical of the day: 54 planes successfully launched, 29 of these were lost, plus 8 more operational losses. From these 37 planes, about 111 men went into the water - 67 were rescued. But a lot of brave young aviators died that day. Mitscher's gamble was probably correct, it just didn't pay off as well as all had hoped.

George Bush

Undoubtedly, the most famous man to fly an Avenger was George H.W. Bush, later the 41st President of the United States. He joined the Navy in 1942, and became the youngest naval aviator ever in June, 1943. He flew Avengers with VT-51, from USS San Jacinto. On September 2, 1944 he was shot down over Chichi Jima. While Bush parachuted safely and was rescued, neither of his crewmen survived. Bush earned a DFC for delivering his bombload after his TBF had been hit.

Read more about George Bush in WWII at the Naval Historical Center web site.

October, 1944

Lt. Cdr. Edward Huxtable, CO of Gambier Bay's VC-10, directed the Avengers and Wildcats in their attacks on the heavy Japanese ships. When Admiral Kurita's 4 battleships and 8 cruisers appeared off Samar on the morning of Oct.25, Gambier Bay and the other CVE's of Task Force 3 were cruelly exposed. Huxtable's TBM only had 100 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition, but he and other pilots made dummy runs on the Japanese fleet. After sinking Gambier Bay and three destroyers, the Japanese concluded that they were facing Essex-class carriers and they steamed back through San Bernardino Strait.

The End - 1945

Grumman's torpedo bombers sank the Yamato, in its last desperate run for Okinawa on April 7, 1945.

At the 1997 ceremonies for the Enlisted Combat Aircrew Roll of Honor, Yorktown veteran, Charles G. Fries, Jr. ARM2/C, a TBM tail gunner, described the attack.

In April 1945, we went after the last remnants of the Japanese Fleet, which comprised the battleship Yamato, the cruiser Yahagi, and two screen destroyers. When we went to look for them it was overcast, and the TBF crews had to find them, which we did. When we came into range, the squadrons split into two sections. The admirals wanted very badly to bring down the battleship, and if necessary every airplane would hit it. It turned out, that was not necessary. The first TBM's got the wagon, and she was severely damaged, ready to sink.

So we went after the cruiser, whose armor plating was at a different depth. In consequence we had to change the depth setting on the torpedo so it wouldn't go under the cruiser, so it would hit Yahagi at the appropriate point and put a hole in her.

It was a little hairy because you couldn't see what you were doing. You could only get in there up to your armpit, so you were feeling your way. The wrench that turned the indicator changed the depth setting. This was right next to the arming wires that ran from the bulkhead to the torpedo's fuse. If you pulled the wrong wire, we were told the air stream coming through could actually arm the torpedo. If it were hit in any way it could have been a problem to us.

We changed the depth setting and went after the cruiser. Both big ships and the destroyers put up a lot of flak. After firing our torpedo, we were pleased to see the cruiser go down. Later another destroyer went down too. One pilot's torpedo hung up and he had to make two more runs. He got the torpedo off, so we sank three of the four Japanese ships. As far as we were concerned, the Japanese fleet was no more.

As young kids, we were so elated to see those ships go down. The wagon rolled over on her side and eventually went under. The cruiser slipped up into the air, bow first and then slid back down into the water like a toy. My first feeling of elation recalled the Pearl Harbor attack. We felt like we were getting even. However that was soon followed by a great feeling of sadness.

It was strange to see all the Japanese sailors in the water, and wondering to this day if there was any survivors. If there were I would truly like to talk to them and get their side of the story. At this point in our lives, in our middle seventies, we are more reflective. We realize that it's young kids who go to war. I don't know who starts them, but it is not a pleasant to consider all those fellows that didn't make it were somebody's son. They were only kids doing what they were told, the same as we were.

So in this point of one's life, there isn't any malice left.

Read more Aircrews' War Stories at this website.

Post War

After the war, Avengers continued flying in the U.S. Navy, primarily in anti-submarine, Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM), as missile platforms, and for training. Large numbers of Avengers found postwar roles with Canada, France, Japan and the Netherlands, some still serving in 1960. Some were converted to civilian use as fire-fighters.

Survivors/Museums


US Navy Avengers Used in Spraying

An Official Navy photo of a TBM-1 spraying for malaria control near Henderson Field off Guadalcanal on November 27, 1944. This is an important reminder that TBM sprayers were not a post-war civilian invention.” [William T. Larkins] These two pages from Naval Aviation News (Restricted), July 1946, shows that the US Navy and Marine Corps used TBMs to spray in Panama and the South Pacific in the mid-1940s.

This is RCN TBM 53732 / #316, 1955, location unknown. [Tom Pharo, Air Britain]. It eventually became Conair TBM #617, CF-KCN.

TBM Specifications

ENGINE: Wright R-2600-20 Cyclone 1,950 hp
WING SPAN: 54 feet, 2 inches
LENGTH: 40 feet, 9 inches
HEIGHT: 13 feet, 9 inches
MAX TAKEOFF WEIGHT: 17,600 lbs.
TANK CAPACITY: 625 US gallons (2350 litres)
CREW: 1
MANUFACTURED BY: Eastern Aircraft (General Motors)
TOTAL TBF/TBMs BUILT: 9,839
TOTAL IN EXISTENCE TODAY: 145
FIRST TBF/TBM BUILT: 1941
MAXIMUM SPEED: 276 mph
RANGE: 1,130 miles
SERVICE CEILING: 23,400 feet

TBM Models

TBM-1: similar to TBF-1: total 550
TBM-1C: similar to TBF-1C: total 2,336
TBM-1D/E/J/L/P: similar to corresponding TBFs
TBM-3: major production model with R-2600-20 engine and outer wing drop tanks or rockets: total 4,657
TBM-3D: conversion with APS-4 radar on right
TBM-3E: conversions with strengthened structure and RT-5/APS-4 radar in pod under right wing
TBM-3E2: updated TBM-3E with extra avionics
TBM-3H: conversions with surface-search radar
TBM-3J: conversions as TBF-1J
TBM-3L: conversions as TBF-1L
TBM-3P: photo reconnaissance conversions, differing from TBF-1P
TBM-3U: conversions for utility and target towing

US Navy Post-War TBM Variants

TBM-3M: conversions for missile launching
TBM-3M2: updates with extra equipment
TBM-3N: conversions (1945/46) for special night attack missions
TBM-3Q: various rebuilds for post-war ECM and EW research and combat duty with prominent additions on belly, cockpit, fin and in some cases wings for reception and/or jamming
TBM-3R: conversions for seven passenger or cargo transport in at least three configurations, all without guns and with door on right
TBM-3S: major post-war conversion program for Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) strike, most being further updated as TBM-3S2 with TBM 3E2 avionics
TBM-3W: major post-war conversion program for AEW (radar picket) duty with APS-20 radar, no armament and extra fins most updated as TBM-3W2 with upgraded displays for two rear operators and other changes

The TBM-3E was the last production variant of the Avenger production was finally shut down after the surrender of Japan in August 1945. Eastern had built three prototypes of the “XTBM-4”, with a number of improvements and manufacturing changes, but with the end of the conflict, TBM-4 production contracts were canceled. Eastern had delivered 7,546 Avengers to that time.


Contents

The Douglas TBD Devastator, the U.S. Navy's main torpedo bomber introduced in 1935, was obsolete by 1939. Bids were accepted from several companies, but Grumman's TBF design was selected as the replacement for the TBD and in April 1940 two prototypes were ordered by the Navy. Designed by Leroy Grumman, the first prototype was called the XTBF-1. [4] It was first flown on 7 August 1941. Although one of the first two prototypes crashed near Brentwood, New York, rapid production continued.

The Avenger was the heaviest single-engined aircraft of World War II, and only the USAAF's P-47 Thunderbolt came close to equalling it in maximum loaded weight among all single-engined fighters, being only some 400 pounds (180 kg) lighter than the TBF, by the end of World War II. To ease carrier storage concerns, simultaneously with the F4F-4 model of its Wildcat carrier fighter, Grumman designed the Avenger to also use the new Sto-Wing patented "compound angle" wing-folding mechanism, intended to maximize storage space on an aircraft carrier the Wildcat's replacement the F6F Hellcat also employed this mechanism. [5] The engine used was the twin-row Wright R-2600-20 Twin Cyclone fourteen-cylinder radial engine, which produced 1,900 horsepower (1,420 kW).

There were three crew members: pilot, turret gunner and radioman/bombardier/ventral gunner. A single synchronized .30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine gun was mounted in the nose, a .50 caliber (12.7 mm) gun was mounted right next to the turret gunner's head in a rear-facing electrically powered turret, and a single 0.30 caliber (7.62 mm) hand-fired machine gun flexibly-mounted ventrally (under the tail), which was used to defend against enemy fighters attacking from below and to the rear. This gun was fired by the radioman/bombardier while standing up and bending over in the belly of the tail section, though he usually sat on a folding bench facing forward to operate the radio and to sight in bombing runs. Later models of the TBF/TBM omitted the cowl-mount synchronized 0.30 caliber (7.62 mm) gun, and replaced it with twin Browning AN/M2 0.50 caliber (12.7 mm) light-barrel guns, one in each wing outboard of the propeller arc, per pilots' requests for better forward firepower and increased strafing ability. There was only one set of controls on the aircraft, and no direct access to the pilot's position existed from the rest of the aircraft's interior. The radio equipment was massive, especially by today's standards, and filled the length of the well-framed "greenhouse" canopy to the rear of the pilot. The radios were accessible for repair through a "tunnel" along the right hand side. Any Avengers that are still flying today usually have an additional rear-mounted seat in place of the radios, allowing for a fourth passenger.

The Avenger had a large bomb bay, allowing for one Bliss-Leavitt Mark 13 torpedo, a single 2,000-pound (907 kg) bomb, or up to four 500-pound (227 kg) bombs. The aircraft had overall ruggedness and stability, and pilots say it flew like a truck, for better or worse. With its good radio facilities, docile handling, and long range, the Grumman Avenger also made an ideal command aircraft for Commanders, Air Group (CAGs). With a 30,000 ft (9,000 m) ceiling and a fully loaded range of 1,000 miles (1,600 km), it was better than any previous American torpedo bomber, and better than its Japanese counterpart, the obsolete Nakajima B5N "Kate". Later Avenger models carried radar equipment for the ASW and AEW roles.

Escort carrier sailors referred to the TBF as the "turkey" because of its size and maneuverability in comparison to the F4F Wildcat fighters in same airgroups. [6]

U.S. Navy Edit

On the afternoon of 7 December 1941, Grumman held a ceremony to open a new manufacturing plant and display the new TBF to the public. Coincidentally, on that day, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, as Grumman soon found out. After the ceremony was over, the plant was quickly sealed off to guard against possible sabotage. By early June 1942, a shipment of more than 100 aircraft was sent to the Navy, arriving only a few hours after the three carriers quickly departed from Pearl Harbor, so most of them were too late to participate in the pivotal Battle of Midway.

Six TBF-1s were present on Midway Island – as part of VT-8 (Torpedo Squadron 8) – while the rest of the squadron flew Devastators from the aircraft carrier Hornet. Both types of torpedo bombers suffered heavy casualties. Out of the six Avengers, five were shot down and the other returned heavily damaged with one of its gunners killed, and the other gunner and the pilot wounded. [7]

Author Gordon Prange posited in Miracle at Midway that the outdated Devastators (and lack of new aircraft) contributed somewhat to the lack of a complete victory at Midway (the four Japanese fleet carriers were sunk directly by dive bombers instead). Others pointed out that the inexperienced American pilots and lack of fighter cover were responsible for poor showing of US torpedo bombers, regardless of type. [8] Later in the war, with growing American air superiority, better attack coordination and more veteran pilots, Avengers were able to play vital roles in the subsequent battles against Japanese surface forces. [9]

On 24 August 1942, the next major naval aircraft carrier battle occurred at the Eastern Solomons. Based on the carriers Saratoga and Enterprise, the 24 TBFs present were able to sink the Japanese light carrier Ryūjō and claim one dive bomber, at the cost of seven aircraft.

The first major "prize" for the TBFs (which had been assigned the name "Avenger" in October 1941, [10] [11] before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) was at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942, when Marine Corps and Navy Avengers helped sink the Japanese battleship Hiei, which had already been crippled the night before.

After hundreds of the original TBF-1 models were built, the TBF-1C began production. The allotment of space for specialized internal and wing-mounted fuel tanks doubled the Avenger's range. By 1943, Grumman began to slowly phase out production of the Avenger to produce F6F Hellcat fighters, and the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors took over production, with these aircraft being designated TBM. The Eastern Aircraft plant was located in Ewing, New Jersey. Grumman delivered a TBF-1, held together with sheet metal screws, so that the automotive engineers could disassemble it, a part at a time, and redesign the aircraft for automotive style production. This aircraft was known as the "P-K Avenger" ("P-K" being an abbreviation for Parker-Kalon, manufacturer of sheet metal screws). Starting in mid-1944, the TBM-3 began production (with a more powerful powerplant and wing hardpoints for drop tanks and rockets). The dash-3 was the most numerous of the Avengers (with about 4,600 produced). However, most of the Avengers in service were dash-1s until near the end of the war in 1945.

Besides the traditional surface role (torpedoing surface ships), Avengers claimed about 30 submarine kills, including the cargo submarine I-52. They were one of the most effective sub-killers in the Pacific theater, as well as in the Atlantic, when escort carriers were finally available to escort Allied convoys. There, the Avengers contributed to the warding off of German U-boats while providing air cover for the convoys.

After the "Marianas Turkey Shoot", in which more than 250 Japanese aircraft were downed, Admiral Marc Mitscher ordered a 220-aircraft mission to find the Japanese task force. Fighting 300 nmi (560 km) away from the fleet at the extreme end of their range, the group of Hellcats, TBF/TBMs, and dive bombers took many casualties. However, Avengers from the Independence-class aircraft carrier USS Belleau Wood sank the light carrier Hiyō as their only major prize. Mitscher's gamble did not pay off as well as he had hoped.

In June 1943, shortly before his 19th birthday, future-President George H. W. Bush was commissioned as the youngest naval aviator at the time. [12] Later, while flying a TBM with VT-51 (from USS San Jacinto), his Avenger was shot down on 2 September 1944 over the Pacific island of Chichi Jima. [13] However, he released his payload and hit the radio tower target before being forced to bail out over water. Both of his crewmates died. He was rescued at sea by the American submarine USS Finback. He later received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Another famous Avenger aviator was Paul Newman, who flew as a rear gunner. He had hoped to be accepted for pilot training, but did not qualify because he was color blind. Newman was on board the escort carrier USS Hollandia roughly 500 mi (800 km) from Japan when the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. [14]

The Avenger was the type of torpedo bomber used during the sinking of the two Japanese "super battleships", with the US Navy having complete air superiority in both engagements: Musashi and Yamato. [9] [15]

The postwar disappearance on 5 December 1945 of a flight of five American Avengers, known as Flight 19, was later added to the Bermuda Triangle legend, first written about by Edward Van Winkle Jones in an Associated Press article published in September 1950. [16]

During World War II, the US aeronautical research arm NACA used a complete Avenger in a comprehensive drag-reduction study in their large Langley wind tunnel. [17] [ failed verification ] The resulting NACA Technical Report shows the impressive results available if practical aircraft did not have to be "practical". [ clarification needed ] [ citation needed ]

Royal Navy Edit

The Avenger was also used by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, where it was initially known as the "Tarpon". However, this name was later discontinued and the Avenger name used instead, as part of the process of the Fleet Air Arm universally adopting the U.S. Navy's names for American naval aircraft. The first 402 aircraft were known as Avenger Mk I, 334 TBM-1s from Grumman were called the Avenger Mk II, and 334 TBM-3 were designated the Mk III. An interesting kill by a Royal Navy Avenger was the destruction of a V-1 flying bomb on 9 July 1944. The much faster V-1 was overtaking the Avenger when the Telegraphist Air Gunner in the dorsal turret, Leading Aircraftman Fred Shirmer, fired at it from 700 yards (640 m). For this achievement, Shirmer was Mentioned in Dispatches, later being awarded the DSM for the 1945 Operation Meridian action at Palembang. [18] In the January 1945 British carrier raid on the Soengei Gerong oil refinery during Operation Meridian, a Fleet Air Arm Avenger shot down a Nakajima Ki-44 "Tojo" in low level combat over the jungle. [19] Three Avengers were modified to carry the Highball "bouncing bomb" (given the new codename Tammany Hall), but when trials were unsuccessful, they were returned to standard configuration and passed to the Royal Navy. [20]

One hundred USN TBM-3Es were supplied to the Fleet Air Arm in 1953 under the US Mutual Defense Assistance Program. The aircraft were shipped from Norfolk, Virginia, many aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Perseus. The Avengers were fitted with British equipment by Scottish Aviation and delivered as the Avenger AS.4 to several FAA squadrons including No. 767, 814, 815, 820 and 824. The aircraft were replaced from 1954 by Fairey Gannets and were passed to squadrons of the Royal Naval Reserve including No. 1841 and 1844 until the RNR Air Branch was disbanded in 1957. The survivors were transferred to the French Navy in 1957–1958.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Edit

The only other operator in World War II was the Royal New Zealand Air Force which used the type primarily as a bomber, equipping Nos. 30 and 31 Squadrons, with both operating from South Pacific island bases during 1944 in support of the Bougainville campaign. Some of the Avengers were later transferred to the British Pacific Fleet.

In 1945, Avengers were involved in pioneering trials of aerial topdressing in New Zealand that led to the establishment of an industry which markedly increased food production and efficiency in farming worldwide. Pilots of the Royal New Zealand Air Force's No. 42 Squadron spread fertilizer from Avengers beside runways at Ohakea Air Base and provided a demonstration for farmers at Hood Aerodrome, Masterton, New Zealand. [21] [ page needed ]

Royal Canadian Navy Edit

One of the primary postwar users of the Avenger was the Royal Canadian Navy, which obtained 125 former US Navy TBM-3E Avengers from 1950 to 1952 to replace their venerable Fairey Fireflies. By the time the Avengers were delivered, the RCN was shifting its primary focus to anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and the aircraft was rapidly becoming obsolete as an attack platform. Consequently, 98 of the RCN Avengers were fitted with an extensive number of novel ASW modifications, including radar, electronic countermeasures (ECM) equipment, and sonobuoys, and the upper ball turret was replaced with a sloping glass canopy that was better suited for observation duties. The modified Avengers were designated AS 3. A number of these aircraft were later fitted with a large magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) boom on the rear left side of the fuselage and were redesignated AS 3M. However, RCN leaders soon realized the Avenger's shortcomings as an ASW aircraft, and in 1954 they elected to replace the AS 3 with the Grumman S-2 Tracker, which offered longer range, greater load-carrying capacity for electronics and armament, and a second engine, a great safety benefit when flying long-range ASW patrols over frigid North Atlantic waters. As delivery of the new license-built CS2F Trackers began in 1957, the Avengers were shifted to training duties, and were officially retired in July 1960. [22]

Camouflage research Edit

TBM Avengers were used in wartime research into counter-illumination camouflage. The torpedo bombers were fitted with Yehudi lights, a set of forward-pointing lights automatically adjusted to match the brightness of the sky. The planes therefore appeared as bright as the sky, rather than as dark shapes. The technology, a development of the Canadian navy's diffused lighting camouflage research, allowed an Avenger to advance to within 3,000 yards (2,700 m) before being seen. [23]

Civilian use Edit

Many Avengers have survived into the 21st century working as spray-applicators and water-bombers throughout North America, particularly in the Canadian province of New Brunswick.

Forest Protection Limited (FPL) of Fredericton, New Brunswick, once owned and operated the largest civilian fleet of Avengers in the world. FPL began operating Avengers in 1958 after purchasing 12 surplus TBM-3E aircraft from the Royal Canadian Navy. [24] Use of the Avenger fleet at FPL peaked in 1971 when 43 aircraft were in use as both water bombers and spray aircraft. [24] The company sold three Avengers in 2004 (C-GFPS, C-GFPM, and C-GLEJ) to museums or private collectors. The Central New Brunswick Woodsmen's Museum has a former FPL Avenger on static display. [25] An FPL Avenger that crashed in 1975 in southwestern New Brunswick was recovered and restored by a group of interested aviation enthusiasts and is currently on display at the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum. [26] FPL was still operating three Avengers in 2010 configured as water-bombers, and stationed at Miramichi Airport. One of these crashed just after takeoff on 23 April 2010, killing the pilot. [27] [28] The last FPL Avenger was retired on 26 July 2012 and sold to the Shearwater Aviation Museum in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. [29]

There are several other Avengers, usually flying as warbirds in private collections around the world today. [30] They are a popular airshow fixture in both flying and static displays. [31]

As of 2020, [update] the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) flies three TBM Avengers [32] with one based with the Rocky Mountain Wing in Grand Junction, Colorado another with the Missouri Wing at St Charles Smartt Field and their newest with the Capital Wing in Culpeper, Virginia. Each of these allow non-CAF members to ride in the aircraft for a Living History Flight Experience. [33] [34] [35]



TBF Avenger

History: First flown on 1 August 1941, the three-seat Grumman TBF-1 Avenger torpedo-bomber entered US Navy service just in time to participate in the Battle of Midway in June 1942. During its World War II lifespan, the Avenger design changed very little, and this allowed it to be built in huge quantities. Demand for the airplane was so great that the General Motors Company was also contracted to build it, under the designation TBM-1, beginning in September 1942.
Over 1,000 TBF/TBMs (initially called Tarpon Mk I, and later designated Avenger Mk I) were also used by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm in both Atlantic and Pacific theaters. The Avenger was also used by the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
The second major variant was the TBM-3, which featured strengthened wings to allow rockets and radar pods to be carried. A large percentage of the TBM-3s were delivered with their large dorsal turrets removed.
The Avenger's torpedo-delivery capability had a huge impact on the Japanese fleet during the war, and its rugged simplicity made it highly resistant to enemy air defenses. After the war, the Avenger continued to find niches in naval aviation. The US Navy maintained it as a search-and-rescue aircraft, an all-weather night bomber, an electronic countermeasures platform, a Carrier On-Board Delivery (COD) aircraft, and a target tug.
In 1953, the Royal Navy began acquiring anti-submarine warfare versions of the Avenger under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP). These aircraft were designated the Avenger AS Mk IV or AS Mk V, and were used in the ASW role until the introduction of the Fairey Gannet in 1955. Avengers were also exported under MDAP to France, Japan, Canada, and the Netherlands.
Unbelievably, some Avengers continued earning their keep until more than sixty years after their debut. Until recently, at least one aerial firefighting operation used Avengers as firebombers and/or fire spotters over the woods of Canada. Many more have found their way into the caring hands of collectors and warbird museums.
Nicknames: Chuff Turkey Pregnant Beast Tarpon (RAF).
Specifications (TBM-3):
Engine: 1,900hp Wright R-2600-20 radial piston engine
Weight: Empty 10,545 lbs., Maximum Takeoff 17,895
Wing Span: 54ft. 2in.
Length: 40ft 11.5in.
Height: 15ft 5in.
Performance:
Maximum Speed at 16,500ft: 276mph
Climb Rate: 2060 feet per minute
Ceiling: 30,100ft
Range: 1000 miles
Armament:
Two 12.7mm (0.5 in.) forward-firing machine guns
One 12.7mm (0.5 in.) dorsal-mounted machine gun
One 7.62mm (0.3 in.) ventral-mounted machine gun
Up to 2,000lb of bombs in bomb-bay
Wing-mounted rockets / drop tanks / radar pod
Number Built: 9,836 (7,546 by General Motors)
Number Still Airworthy: 42

Jun 23, 2003 #2 2003-06-23T06:31

Development
While the Douglas Devastator had been "state of the art" when it was introduced in 1935, by 1939, the US Navy determined that it needed a more potent torpedo bomber, one with greater range, larger payload, faster speed, and tougher resistance to battle damage. The requirements for the new aircraft included: a top speed of 300 MPH, a (fully loaded) range of 1,000 miles, an internal weapons bay, 2000 lbs. payload, and a ceiling of 30,000 feet.
The Grumman "Iron Works" almost inevitably would be the supplier. Leroy Grumman, an engineer by background, helped design the torpedo bomber that would meet the navy's specs. The prototype was designated XTBF-1: eXperimental, Torpedo Bomber, F = Grumman, 1st variant. Two aircraft were built, one of which crashed in the woods near Brentwood, Long Island. But the program continued at the rapid pace which was a hallmark of Grumman's production.
Built around the 1700 horsepower Wright R-2600-8 engine, a 14-cylinder double row radial, the new TBF featured:
folding wings - critical for carrier use. Grumman developed a unique wing-folding mechanism for the TBF and F6F, which tucked the wings flat against the fuselage, for the most compact storage possible. Allegedly, Leroy Grumman first brainstormed the idea with a soap-eraser and paper clips.
three seats - A pilot, a rear gunner, and a bombardier/belly gunner.
powered rear turret - As required by the Navy, the plane included a powered turret for the rear gunner, originally equipped with a single .30 caliber machine gun.
three .30 caliber machine guns - The turret gun noted above. A nose-mounted gun for the pilot, firing through the propeller. And another rear-firing .30 caliber was tucked into its belly. This weaponry was increased in later variants.
large internal bay - By mounting the wings mid-way up the fuselage, Grumman allowed a roomy bay, for one 2,000 lb. torpedo, or four 500 lb. bombs, or an extra fuel tank.
large wings - A Grumman trademark. Relatively large wings helped to make Grumman aircraft easier to handle, a vital characteristic for a plane flown by masses of pilots with varying skill levels from pitching & heaving carrier decks.
extreme ruggedness - Another Grumman feature. The ability to absorb battle damage and still fly was equally important, especially to the aircrews.
On the afternoon of December 7, 1941, Grumman held a ceremony to open its new Plant 2 in Bethpage and display the new torpedo bomber to the public. During the program, Grumman vice president Clint Towl was called to the phone. "The Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor. We're at war." No announcement was made and the festivities continued. When the crowd filed out of the plant, they locked the gates, swept the plant for saboteurs, and went to a war footing, which they stayed on for almost four years.
Over the next few months, Grumman struggled mightily to turn their hand-crafted prototype into a mass-produced airplane. By June, the company had delivered 145 TBF-1's to the Navy, a pace that would be dwarfed in the next three years.
First Combat - Midway
Only six TBF's actually entered front-line, combat service in time for the critical Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. These planes, attached to VT-8, flew up to Midway Island itself three days before. Commanded by Lieutenant Langdon K. Fieberling, none of the TBF pilots had ever been in combat, and only a few had ever flown out of sight of land before. (Most of this squadron, the famed Torpedo Squadron Eight, flew the outmoded Douglas Devastators from the carrier Hornet.) But both new and old were nearly wiped out.
Lieutenant Fieberling's six TBFs reached the Japanese fleet at 7:10 AM, dropped to low altitude and bore on toward the carriers. Zeros swarmed around the vulnerable torpedo planes. Two TBFs were destroyed in the first attack, followed by three more. Realizing that he could not reach the carriers, Ensign Albert K. Earnest loosed his torpedo at a cruiser, then broke away with two Zeros after him. Earnest flew his shot-up TBF back to Midway, navigating "by guess and by God." Earnest's was the only TBF to return, with nothing but the trim tab for longitudinal control, with one wheel and the torpedo bay doors hanging open. Radioman 3rd Class Harrier H. Ferrier was injured and Seaman 1st Class Jay D. Manning, who was operating the .50 caliber machine gun turret, was killed during the attack.
Eastern Solomons - Aug. 24, 1942
After the Americans took Guadalcanal, Admiral Yamamoto wasted no time in organizing a large naval counter-stroke. On the 24th of August, the opposing carrier forces met this time the US Navy had just two carriers: Saratoga and Enterprise. By August, enough TBF's had been delivered and worked their way through the pipeline to equip the two ships' air groups with 24 TBF's:
VT-8 on "Sara," commanded by Cdr. Harold "Swede" Larsen
VT-3 on the "Big E," led by Lt. Cdr. Charles M. Jett
During this afternoon and evening, 26 Avengers were launched in four different strikes. On the second strike, the torpedos struck the light carrier Ryujo and helped to sink her. And ARM3/c C. L. Gibson, a TBF gunner, claimed a Val dive bomber. In exchange, seven Avengers were lost.
Santa Cruz - Oct. 26, 1942
In the war's fourth big carrier engagement, the Avengers didn't do much damage.
The two surviving carriers in the Pacific, Enterprise and Hornet, carried 14 Avengers each. In late October, the two U.S. flattops met the Japanese effort to seize Guadalcanal. The opposing fleets' patrol planes spotted each other in the early morning and both launched air strikes across the intervening 200 miles. Enterprise and Hornet sent out three strikes, totalling 73 planes: 18 Avengers, 32 dive bombers, and 23 F4F fighters.
Commanding Torpedo Ten, VT-10, from Enterprise was Lt. Cdr. John A. Collett. He led his torpedo bombers westward, toward the Japanese ships, passing Zeros and Vals heading for the American ships. When the U.S. planes found their targets, the Japanese combat air patrol and anti-aircraft knocked most of them down. The SBD's damaged on carrier, but the TBF's were shot out of the sky. A Zero shot up Lt. Cdr. Collett's Avenger. He and his radioman, ARM1/c Thomas C. Nelson were seen parachuting. Nelson was captured and survived as a POW. Collett was never seen again.
These early battles showed the type's strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps its biggest weakness was not actually a problem with the aircraft itself, but rather with the deficient torpedos used by the US Navy in the first two years of the war. The damn things just didn't explode (at least not with any high degree of reliability). The Mark 13 torpedos were fragile, and had to be dropped from a low height, at speeds below 130 MPH. They under-ran thier indicated depth by 11 feet they failed to explode when they hit, and they sometimes blew up prematurely. Therefore the TBF's flew a lot of missions with ordinary 500 lb. bombs. The aircraft itself was sound and could be used in various roles: torpedo bomber, glide bomber, reconnaissance, mine-layer, and scout plane. With its good radio facilities, docile handling, long range, and extra seating, it made an ideal command aircraft for Air Group Commanders (CAGs).
Sink the Hiei - Guadalcanal
Navy and Marine Corps TBF's scored in a big way in November, 1942. Led by Lt. Col. Paul Moret, Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 131 (VMSB-131) flew TBF-1 Avengers from Guadalcanal during this pivotal month. They arrived on the 12th, just in time for the last big Japanese attack. Leading the powerful Japanese naval forces was the Hiei, a 37,000 ton batleship. Through the night of the 12th-13th the American and Japanese surface ships pounded each other, and the Japanese pulverized Henderson Field with 14-inch explosive shells, in the great naval Battle of Guadalcanal. The US Navy lost 2 cruisers and 4 destroyers, while sinking 2 Japanese destroyers and crippling the battleship Hiei. But in the morning, the U.S. planes could still use their cratered airstrip. And the carrier Enterprise lurked 300 miles to the south.
At 6AM, dive bombers from Henderson hit Hiei. An hour later, Moret's Marine Corps TBF's put a torpedo in the drifting battleship. Around 10AM, they came at her again, and scored with another "fish."
Shortly, the Enterprise Avengers struck. Its Commander Air Department, John Crommelin, had sent in 15 Grumman TBF's under Lieutenant Al "Scoofer" Coffin. They were to attack Hiei, then land at Henderson Field. When they had launched in the early morning, a worried Crommelin had no idea if Henderson Field was American-held after the vicious battle, and his planes would not be able to abort back to Enterprise. Tearfully, he sent his boys in their Grummans on a possible one-way mission. They reached Hiei at 11:20 AM. The sky was full of black smoke, tracer fire and buzzing planes. Hiei fired back with everything she had, even incendiary 14-inch shells, unfired in the previous night's surface battle. The Avenger pilots saw the big shells fountain in the sea in an even row several miles astern. They flew at full throttle just over Hiei's burned and scorched decks. Seconds later, three torpedoes hit and exploded. But Hiei remained afloat. The Enterprise Avengers flew on to Henderson Field and found a friendly reception from American soldiers.
Six more of Col. Moret's Avengers hit Hiei with two more torpedos. Throughout the day, dive bombers and F4F's harassed the battleship. By sundown, the battered hulk was doomed, and Admiral Abe gave the order to scuttle her. The TBF's had scored their first major victory of the war.
GM Enters the Production Battle - 1943
Grumman's plants were fully committed to the F6F Hellcat. As part of the national wartime production effort, General Motors (GM) made available to the war effort five of its factories - Tarrytown, Trenton, Linden, Bloomfield, and Baltimore, together organized into the "Eastern Aircraft Division" of the big auto maker. Grumman delivered two completed TBF's, with special removable "PK" screws instead of ordinary rivets. These planes helped the GM workers see how the Avengers were put together. Under the Navy's aircraft designation scheme the GM Avengers were identified as TBM. While GM's production started slowly in 1943, by the end of the year, it was out-producing Grumman, which phased out Avenger production completely by the end of 1943.
Rosie the Riveter
The Avenger is connected with the famous "Rosie the Riveter" character, symbol of American women who worked in wartime factories. Various accounts of the genesis of the "Rosie" figure have appeared. Norman Rockwell created the most familiar "Rosie" image for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell's image shows a muscular woman dressed in overalls, face mask and goggles on her head, eating a sandwich, her riveting tool in her lap, her feet resting on a copy of Mein Kampf. Two weeks after the cover illustration was published, stories appeared in the press extolling the achievement of Rose Hicker, a worker at GM's Eastern Aircraft Division in Tarrytown, who drove a record number of rivets into the wing of a TBM Avenger.
Modifications
After several hundred of the original TBF-1 were built, a few critical changes were made in the next variant, the TBF-1C. The pilot's single fuselage-mounted .30 caliber machine gun was replaced by two wing-mounted .50 caliber guns. The turret was also equipped with a .50 caliber weapon. And provisions for an internal fuel tank in the bomb bay plus two wing tanks more than doubled the Avenger's fuel capacity, from 335 to 726 gallons. The TBM-3 had these same features.
Starting in mid-1944, GM began building the TBM-3, with the more powerful (1900 hp) R-2600-20 engine and wing hard points for drop tanks or rockets. With over 4,600 TBM-3s built, they were the most numerous of the variants. However, even in February, 1945, most of the Avengers on the carriers in the Pacific were the Dash-1 versions. Only by V-J Day had the carrier TorpRons transitioned to the Dash-3.
Production of the Avenger stopped immediately after the end of hostilities.
O'Hare - Nov '43
In late 1943, the US Navy began its first systematic night fighting teams. The great fighter pilot Ed O'Hare, then the CAG Enterprise, was deeply involved in developing night fighter tactics. As the primitive radars were very bulky, they were carried on the Enterprise, on the roomy TBF Avengers, but not on the smaller and faster Hellcats. The plan required the ship's Fighter Director Officer (FDO) to spot the incoming Bettys at a distance and send the Avengers and Hellcats toward them. The radar-equipped Avengers would then lead the Hellcats into position behind the incoming bombers, close enough for the Hellcat pilots to spot visually the Betty's blue exhaust flames. Finally, the Hellcats would close in and shoot down the bombers. All the planes on both sides would be flying at low level. The plan was experimental, complicated, and risky.
The night of November 26-27, 1943 was the first combat test of the plan, following an earlier mission that hadn't contacted the Japs. The 'Black Panthers', as the night fighters were dubbed, included two sections of three planes. Both included two Hellcats and one Avenger. Butch led his section from his F6F, Warren Skon flew on his wing Lt. Cdr. Phillips piloted the TBF with radarman Hazen Rand and gunner Alvin Kernan crewing the plane. In the confusing night action, O'Hare went down, most likely the victim of a lucky shot from the Betty, but possibly due to friendly fire. Read more in my article about Ed O'Hare.
In late 1943 and early 1944, more of the new Essex-class carriers deployed to the Pacific, with Avengers in their VT squadrons. Avengers participated in the historic raid Feb. 16 raid on Truk.
The U-Boat War
In the struggle for the North Atlantic, Avengers were credited with destroying 30 submarines, including the unique sinking of the Japanese cargo sub I-52. Flying from escort carriers (CVEs), TBFs were well-suited to the sub-killer role: long endurance, stable, large weapons capacity. They became the key strike aircraft in the hunter-killer groups that ranged the Atlantic: CVE's flying Avengers and Wildcats with destroyers in support.
Sinking of I-52
In an extraordinary engagement, Avengers from USS Bogue CVE-9, the top sub-killing CVE of the Atlantic, sank the Japanese transport submarine, I-52. In 1943 the Japanese and Germans worked out a plan to exchange critical materials via specialized cargo submarines: opium, rubber, quinine, tungsten, and molybdenum from the Japanese for German radar, bombsights, vacuum tubes, optical glass, ball bearings, etc.. In March, 1944, I-52 departed Kure, picked up cargo in Singapore and headed through the Indian Ocean, all monitored by U.S. intelligence. It rendezvoused with a German sub U-530 on June 23, in the mid-Atlantic, and picked up a German pilot who would guide I-52 into port at Lorient. There the exchange was planned to take place.
But Allied "Ultra" intercepts had pinpointed I-52's movements and even its cargo. Within hours of I-52's meeting with U-530, this information had been relayed to Bogue. The commander of its Composite Squadron 69 (VC-69), Lt. Cdr. Jesse Taylor, immediately took off in his TBF in pursuit of the Jap sub. As Taylor patrolled in the darkness, his radarman, Chief Ed Whitlock, picked up a blip. They went after it and dropped flares, lighting up the 350-foot long cargo sub. Taylor closed in, dropping two depth bombs. I-52 dived and the TBF dropped a sonobuoy into the water. The newly-developed sonobuoys picked up long-carrying underwater noises and transmitted these back to the carrier. Following the sonobuoy's signal, Taylor dropped a Mark 24 "Fido" acoustic torpedo. The sonobuoy transmitted the crunching sound of explosions back to Bogue. While Taylor thought he had sunk the sub, other Avengers soon picked up propeller beats. Bogue's CO, Captain A. B. Vosseller, ordered a second attack William "Flash" Gordon flew his TBF to the site and dropped another torpedo. The I-52 swiftly went to the bottom, with a huge hole in her hull. Next morning, U.S. destroyers found I-52's flotsam: a ton of raw rubber, bit of silk, and even human flesh.
For over 50 years, I-52 lay at the bottom of the Atlantic. In 1998, the National Geographic Society sponsored a deep-sea submersible mission which found the I-52's remains.
But the TBFs' influence far exceeded the destruction of 30 subs. By their presence and activity, many more convoys arrived safely, an undramatic, but vital, result.
Into the Night - June 20, 1944
After the U.S. Navy's Hellcats destroyed over 350 Japanese planes in the "Marianas Turkey Shoot," Admiral Marc Mitscher wanted to follow up the aerial victory and sink the Japanese carriers as well. All day, and into the afternoon, Task Force 58's search planes, probed westward for the fleeing, defenseless enemy ships. Eventually, at 3:40 PM, Avenger pilot Lt. R.S. Nelson, from Enterprise, found Ozawa's force 275 miles to the west. Mitscher ordered an immediate strike by 4:10 the planes were launched. Nonetheless, the risk to pilots was grave there just wasn't enough daylight left for them to reach their quarry, hit them, and return. Mitscher's gamble reflected the cold and brutal calculus of war - he hoped his air crew losses would cost his side less than the damage they could do to the other side's ships. A couple hours later, at the extreme end of their range, the TBFs, Hellcats, and dive bombers caught the Japanese fleet.
Avengers from CVL-24 Belleau Wood sank the light carrier Hiyo. Belleau Wood's Air Group 24 launched 12 planes, including a division of four Avengers piloted by Lt.(jg) George P. Brown in the lead, Lt. Warren Omark, Benjamin C. Tate, and W.D. Luton. All four Avengers were armed with torpedoes. When they spotted the Jap carrier, Brown ordered the planes to fan out and approach from different angles. They dove through intense anti-aircraft fire, which struck Brown's TBF. George Platz and Ellis Babcock, the two crewmen in Brown's plane, realized their plane was afire and unable to reach Brown on the intercom, they parachuted and witnessed the attack from the water.
The wounded Brown grimly held his Avenger on track. He, Omark, and Tate launched their improved torpedos at the carrier. They struck home and the two aircrewmen in the water saw Hiyo sink 30 minutes later.
Brown and his plane disappeared. Omark flew back and made a nighttime landing on Lexington. Tate and Luton also flew back, had to ditch, and were recovered safely. American search planes rescued Platz and Babcock the next day.
The TBF's sinking of Hiyo was the only serious damage done to Japanese fighting ships by the 227 planes of the "mission beyond darkness." The Avengers' experience was typical of the day: 54 planes successfully launched, 29 of these were lost, plus 8 more operational losses. From these 37 planes, about 111 men went into the water - 67 were rescued. But a lot of brave young aviators died that day. Mitscher's gamble was probably correct, it just didn't pay off as well as all had hoped.
George Bush
Undoubtedly, the most famous man to fly an Avenger was George H.W. Bush, later the 41st President of the United States. He joined the Navy in 1942, and became the youngest naval aviator ever in June, 1943. He flew Avengers with VT-51, from USS San Jacinto. On September 2, 1944 he was shot down over Chichi Jima. While Bush parachuted safely and was rescued, neither of his crewmen survived. Bush earned a DFC for delivering his bombload after his TBF had been hit.
October, 1944
Avengers played a key role in sinking the Japanese super-battleship Musashi in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea and in the next day's related action, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, CVE-based Avengers helped stave off the Japanese surface ships. TBF's also helped to sink Zuikaku and three light carriers on the 26th.
Lt. Cdr. Edward Huxtable, CO of Gambier Bay's VC-10, directed the Avengers and Wildcats in their attacks on the heavy Japanese ships. When Admiral Kurita's 4 battleships and 8 cruisers appeared off Samar on the morning of Oct.25, Gambier Bay and the other CVE's of Task Force 3 were cruelly exposed. Huxtable's TBM only had 100 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition, but he and other pilots made dummy runs on the Japanese fleet. After sinking Gambier Bay and three destroyers, the Japanese concluded that they were facing Essex-class carriers and they steamed back through San Bernardino Strait.
The End - 1945
Grumman's torpedo bombers sank the Yamato, in its last desperate run for Okinawa on April 7, 1945.
At the 1997 ceremonies for the Enlisted Combat Aircrew Roll of Honor, Yorktown veteran, Charles G. Fries, Jr. ARM2/C, a TBM tail gunner, described the attack.
In April 1945, we went after the last remnants of the Japanese Fleet, which comprised the battleship Yamato, the cruiser Akagi, and two screen destroyers. When we went to look for them it was overcast, and the TBF crews had to find them, which we did. When we came into range, the squadrons split into two sections. The admirals wanted very badly to bring down the battleship, and if necessary every airplane would hit it. It turned out, that was not necessary. The first TBM's got the wagon, and she was severely damaged, ready to sink.
So we went after the cruiser, whose armor plating was at a different depth. In consequence we had to change the depth setting on the torpedo so it wouldn't go under the cruiser, so it would hit Akagi at the appropriate point and put a hole in her.
It was a little hairy because you couldn't see what you were doing. You could only get in there up to your armpit, so you were feeling your way. The wrench that turned the indicator changed the depth setting. This was right next to the arming wires that ran from the bulkhead to the torpedo's fuse. If you pulled the wrong wire, we were told the air stream coming through could actually arm the torpedo. If it were hit in any way it could have been a problem to us.
We changed the depth setting and went after the cruiser. Both big ships and the destroyers put up a lot of flak. After firing our torpedo, we were pleased to see the cruiser go down. Later another destroyer went down too. One pilot's torpedo hung up and he had to make two more runs. He got the torpedo off, so we sank three of the four Japanese ships. As far as we were concerned, the Japanese fleet was no more.
As young kids, we were so elated to see those ships go down. The wagon rolled over on her side and eventually went under. The cruiser slipped up into the air, bow first and then slid back down into the water like a toy. My first feeling of elation recalled the Pearl Harbor attack. We felt like we were getting even. However that was soon followed by a great feeling of sadness.
It was strange to see all the Japanese sailors in the water, and wondering to this day if there was any survivors. If there were I would truly like to talk to them and get their side of the story. At this point in our lives, in our middle seventies, we are more reflective. We realize that it's young kids who go to war. I don't know who starts them, but it is not a pleasant to consider all those fellows that didn't make it were somebody's son. They were only kids doing what they were told, the same as we were.
So in this point of one's life, there isn't any malice left.
After the war, Avengers continued flying in the U.S. Navy, primarily in anti-submarine, Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM), as missile platforms, and for training. Large numbers of Avengers found postwar roles with Canada, France, Japan and the Netherlands, some still serving in 1960. Some were converted to civilian use as fire-fighters.
Survivors/Museums
42 still airworthy, according to Warbird Alley. A TBM Avenger is on display at New York City's USS Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Avenger variants
Grumman TBF's
XTBF-1: two prototypes, R-2600-8 engine
TBF-1: initial production version similar to second prototype total 2,291 excluding prototypes but including -1Bs and -1Cs
TBF-1B: variant for British with minor differences: initially designated Tarpon TR.Mk 1 395 conversions
TBF-1C: as TBF-1 but maximum fuel capacity increased from 335 to 726 gallons with two wing drop tanks and bomb bay ferry tank, two 0.5-inch wing guns
TBF-1CP: conversions of TBF-1C with trimetrogen reconnaissance cameras in fan to give wide coverage
TBF-1D: conversion with RT-5/APS-4 radar in wing pod: TBF-1CD similar conversion of TBF-1C
TBF-IE conversion with special radar and additional avionics
TBF-1J: conversion for Arctic operations, including a high-capacity cockpit heater, bad weather avionics and lighting, and special ice protection
TBF-1L: searchlight on retractable mount extending from bomb bay. Quickly dropped as the searchlight made the plane a fine target for submarine anti-aircraft fire.
TBF-1P: TBF-1 conversion, as TBF-1CP
XTBF-2: conversion of TBF-1 No. 00393 with 1,900 hp XR-2600-10 engine
XTBF-3: two TBF-1s completed with engine installation of TBF-3
General Motors TBM's
TBM-1: similar to TBF-1: total 550
TBM-IC: similar to TBF-1C: total 2,336
TBM-1D/E/J/L/P: similar to corresponding TBFs
TBM-2: conversion of TBM-1 No, 24580 with XR-2600-10 engine
XTBM-3: conversions of four TBM-1Cs with R-2600-20
TBM-3: major production model with R-2600-20 engine and outer wing drop tanks or rockets: total 4,657
TBM-3D: conversion with APS-4 radar on right
TBM-3E: conversions with strengthened structure and RT-5/APS-4 radar in pod under right wing
TBM-3E2: updated TBM-3E with extra avionics
TBM-3H: conversions with surface-search radar
TBM-3J: conversions as TBF-1J
TBM-3L: conversions as TBF-1L
TBM-3P: photo-reconnaissance conversions, differing from TBF-1P
TBM-3U: conversions for utility and target towing
XTBM-4: three new-build aircraft with redesigned wing with different fold system and re-stressed to 5g maneuvers, production of 2,141 TBM-4 cancelled at VJ-Day
Post War Variants
TBM-3M: conversions for missile launching
TBM-3M2: updates with extra equipment
TBM-3N: conversions (1945/46) for special night attack missions
TBM-3Q: various rebuilds for post-war ECM and EW research and combat duty with prominent additions on belly, cockpit, fin and in some cases wings for reception and/or jamming
TBM-3R: conversions for seven passenger or cargo transport in at least three configurations, all without guns and with door on right
TBM-3S: major post-war conversion program for ASW strike, most being further updated as TBM-3S2 with TBM 3E2 avionics
TBM-3W: major post-war conversion program for AEW (radar picket) duty with APS-20 radar, no armament and extra fins most updated as TBM-3W2 with upgraded displays for two rear operators and other changes
British Designations
Avenger Mk 1: TBF-1B: total 402
Avenger Mk II: TBM-1 total 334
Avenger Mk III: TBM-3 total 222
Avenger AS.Mk 4: post-war TBM-3S: total 100

U.S. Navy Aircraft History

Rick Morgan (http://rickmorganbooks.com/index.html) and I have continued to explore the poorly documented post-war history of the various variants of the Eastern Aircraft TBM-3. The Navy still had lots of them after the war. Since they were big and easily modified, they were readily adaptable to other missions besides torpedo, glide, and level bombing that were their raison d'etre.

Most were modified from TBM-3Es. In most cases, the addition of the E would simply mean the addition of electronic equipment, in this case provisions for carrying the APS-4 radar on a stores pylon under the right wing. However, the designation is also associated, possibly coincidentally, with a redesign by Eastern to reduce weight by about four hundred pounds. One of those changes was probably the location of the tailhook, which had been internally housed on all TBFs and prior TBM production. Most TBM-3Es delivered from Eastern probably had the external tailhook. This is an example.

There is evidence that the weight reduction effectivity in production (like the tailhook change, deletion of tunnel gun provisions and some armor, etc.) was not the same as for the APS-4 provisions. As a result, the first production -3Es did not have the external tailhook. It is also possible, even likely, that TBM-3s were subsequently modified to the E configuration (i.e. APS-4 provisions) at Navy repair and overhaul facilities but retained the internal tailhook.

Based on the information provided on Joe Baugher's invaluable listing of Bureau Numbers (see http://www.joebaugher.com/navy_serials/navyserials.html) and elsewhere, it appears that one TBM-3E production lot used a block of Bureau Numbers from a cancelled BuAer contract:

Bureau Numbers Mfg Number Model

85459-86292 2278-3111 (834) TBM-3E

53050-53949 3112-4011 (900) TBM-3E

91107-91752 4012-4657 (646) TBM-3E

These out-of-sequence BuNos explain why many "older" TBM-3Es, i.e. with 53XXX BuNos, are configured with an external tailhook even though its effectivity reportedly occurred at either BuNo 85566 or 86175. It also explains erroneous statements to the effect that most TBM-3Es did not have the external tailhook when in fact most do.

For sure there are TBM-3Es with the APS-4 radar and an internal tailhook. In his comment below, Pablo Montero provided a link to this example, which is reportedly a VMTB-234 Avenger circa 1945. It looks like there is an E at the end of the type designation on the vertical fin but as is frequently the case, the BuNo cannot be read.

The next interesting issue is the alphabet soup of TBM-3 variants. A suffix was used when a change was "major" and intended to be permanent, with occasional exceptions (see TBM-3J below). Some are well known:

TBM-3D: A late-war modification to add an APS-3 radar hard mounted on the right wing and ECM (Electronic Counter Measure) equipment. The gun and associated hardware was removed from the turret and the lower compartment by VT(N)-90 to reduce weight since its primary mission was night attack.

TBM-3R: A Korean War-era modification for COD (Carrier On-board Delivery) see http://tailhooktopics.blogspot.com/2013/01/tbm-3r-cod.html

TBM-3S: A post-war modification to remove the defensive armament and add ASW mission equipment. It was teamed with a TBM-3W variant to provide submarine hunter-killer capability as a placeholder for the AF Guardian. There were variations in the mission equipment and the canopy modification (one was designated TBM-3S2 to distinguish it from the 3S). Note that a crewman now occupies the compartment aft of the pilot.

Note that BuNo 69400 was probably delivered from Eastern as a -3 and subsequently modified to carry an APS-4 radar pod under the right wing.

TBM-3J was a TBM-3E with provisions for installation of a tow target reel. The concept was that it could deploy with an air group and provide tow target services when required. It was therefore not, as can be found on internet, a TBM-3 equipped for all-weather operations, i.e. with wing and tail surface deicing.

Less well known and sometimes misidentified are the TBM-3N (see http://thanlont.blogspot.com/2015/07/tbm-3n-versus-tbm-3q.html) and TBM-3Q (see http://rickmorganbooks.com/tbm-3q-avenger.html). For example, as Rick points out in his excellent post on the latter, it did not have a belly-mounted radome like the TBM-3W as usually stated in TBM books and online summaries.

And then there are the TBM variants for which we have yet to find documentation, much less photographs. Through the magic of copy and paste, these are identified on many web sites as follows:

TBM-3H: TBM-3 modified for surface search radar

TBM-3L: TBM-3 equipped with a retractable searchlight in bomb bay

TBM-3M: TBM-3 conversion as missile launcher

TBM-3P: TBM-3 conversion for photo-reconnaissance

Of these five, for sure the TBM-3P and TBM-3L are correctly identified per Navy documentation dated November 1944.

The TBM-3P was a TBM-3 "equipped with a trimetregon (sic) camera". Rick Morgan has found "less than 10" in CASU (Carrier Aircraft Service Units) pools in San Diego and Pearl Harbor in the 1946 Allowance Lists (some are listed as TBM-3EP, which suggests that "TBM-3Ps" were converted from TBM-3s). CASUs were repair and maintenance centers at some naval air stations they were also a storage point for airplanes that could be issued to squadrons to replace attrition. The trimetrogon camera installation actually utilized three cameras, left and right oblique and vertical, taking pictures simultaneously. This is the installation in a B-17 (see https://historicairphotos.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/trimetrogon-photography/)

The TBM-3P camera installation was probably located in the lower (radioman's) compartment. Since mapping, as opposed to strike-damage assessment, was not a primary air-group mission, the TBM-3P was probably little utilized and appears to have had a short career. No pictures of one have been identified as such.

The same document lists the TBM-3L as a "TBM-3, 3D, or 3E equipped with a searchlight mounted in the bomb bay". Note that the TBM-3D had provisions for a searchlight mounted on a pylon under the left stub wing but since this was "detachable", the suffix L did not apply. (In any event, utilizing the bomb bay for this purpose seems counterproductive, which may be why there aren't too many pictures of the type—I have yet to see one.)


The description of each of the other two TBM variants is dubious. A Navy History and Heritage Command document (HERE) does not list the H and the M and identifies the J as a "utility plane", which it was since in could be configured with a tow target capability.

At the time, the suffix H was used to designate an airplane modified to be a "hospital", i.e. to transport wounded personnel. That's a possibility, although no TBM-3Hs have been identified. There was reportedly a modification of the TBM-3W's radar to optimize it for submarine-snorkel detection but this would have, if anything, probably resulted in a modification to the existing designation (there is a TBM-3W2, for example).

There may have been TBMs with deice boots but they were not designated TBM-3Js. As noted above, these were TBM-3Es modified with provisions for target towing, the forerunner of the TBM-3U. However, they retained the carrier-basing and ordnance capability as a result, the designation of a TBM with this capability depended on whether the tow equipment was installed or not! See the June 1947 issue of Naval Aviation News.


The TBM-3M, if there were any, was more likely a modification for weather reconnaissance like the PB4Y-2M, which was the purpose of the suffix at the time. None have been identified.

On the other hand, there are a couple of TBM modifications that we have pictures of but little or no additional information. The first is something in the bomb bay of TBM-3E BuNo 91704 in a picture provided by Jim Hawkins via Steve Ginter. It looks like there is an opening at the bottom of the aft end of the pod and what might be static discharge wicks or antennas on the bottom of the pod. It could be an early ECM pod installed on this TBM for inflight testing.


Indhold

Den Douglas TBD Devastator , den amerikanske flådes vigtigste torpedofly indført i 1935, var forældet ved 1939. Bud blev accepteret fra flere selskaber, men Grummans TBF design blev valgt som afløser for TBD og i april 1940 to prototyper blev bestilt af søværnet . Designet af Leroy Grumman , blev den første prototype kaldt XTBF-1 . Den blev først fløjet den 7. august 1941. Selvom en af ​​de to første prototyper styrtede ned i nærheden af Brentwood, New York , fortsatte den hurtige produktion.

Avenger var det tungeste enkeltmotorede fly under Anden Verdenskrig, og kun USAAFs P-47 Thunderbolt kom tæt på at ligne det i maksimal belastet vægt blandt alle enkeltmotorkæmpere, idet de kun var 180 kg lettere end TBF ved slutningen af ​​Anden Verdenskrig. For at lette opbevaring af luftfartsselskaber, samtidig med F4F-4-modellen af ​​sin Wildcat carrier fighter, designede Grumman Avenger til også at bruge den nye Sto-Wing patenterede "sammensatte vinkel" vingefoldmekanisme, beregnet til at maksimere lagerplads på et hangarskib Wildcats udskiftning af F6F Hellcat anvendte også denne mekanisme. Den anvendte motor var den to-række Wright R-2600-20 Twin Cyclone fjorten-cylindret radialmotor, der producerede 1.900 hestekræfter.

Der var tre besætningsmedlemmer: pilot, tårnskytter og radiomand / bombardier / ventral skytter. En enkelt synkroniseret .30 kaliber maskingevær blev monteret i næsen, en 0,50 kaliber pistol blev monteret lige ved siden af ​​revolverhovedet i en bagudvendt elektrisk drevet tårn og en enkelt 0,30 kaliber (7,62 mm) håndfyret maskingevær fleksibelt monteret ventralt (under halen), som blev brugt til at forsvare sig mod fjendens krigere, der angreb nedenfra og bagfra. Denne pistol blev affyret af radiomanden / bombardieren, mens han stod op og bøjede sig i maven på halen, skønt han sædvanligvis sad på en sammenfoldelig bænk vendt fremad for at betjene radioen og for at se i bombekørsler. Senere modeller af TBF / TBM udelukkede den synkroniserede 0,30 kaliber pistol og udskiftede den med dobbelt Browning AN / M2 0,50 kaliber (12,7 mm) letløbspistoler, en i hver vinge påhængsmotoren til propelbuen , pr. pilots anmodninger om bedre ildkraft fremad og øget beskydningsevne. Der var kun et sæt kontrolelementer på flyet, og der eksisterede ingen direkte adgang til pilotens position fra resten af ​​flyets indre. Radioudstyret var massivt, især efter nutidens standarder, og fyldte længden af ​​det velindrammede "drivhus" baldakin bag på piloten. Radioerne var tilgængelige for reparation gennem en "tunnel" langs højre side. Enhver Avengers, der stadig flyver i dag, har normalt et ekstra bagmonteret sæde i stedet for radioerne, hvilket giver mulighed for en fjerde passager.

Avenger havde en stor bombeplads, der muliggjorde en Bliss-Leavitt Mark 13 torpedo , en enkelt 2.000 pund bombe eller op til fire 227 kg bomber . Flyet havde generel robusthed og stabilitet, og piloter siger, at det fløj som en lastbil på godt og ondt. Med sine gode radiofaciliteter, føjelig håndtering og lang rækkevidde lavede Grumman Avenger også et ideelt kommandofly til Commanders, Air Group (CAG'er). Med et loft på 9.000 m og et fuldt belastet rækkevidde på 1.600 km var det bedre end nogen tidligere amerikansk torpedobomber og bedre end dets japanske modstykke, den forældede Nakajima B5N "Kate". Senere Avenger-modeller bar radarudstyr til ASW- og AEW- rollerne.

Escort carrier sejlere henvist til TBF som "kalkun" på grund af sin størrelse og manøvredygtighed i forhold til de F4F Wildcat krigere i samme airgroups.


Eastern XTBM-4 Avenger - History

The TBF was primarily designed to replace the obsolete Douglas TBD Devastator. The first of two XTBF-1 prototypes, BuNo. 2539, made a highly successful first flight on 1 August 1941. The pilot, as with most experimental Grumman aircraft at the time, was the chief experimental engineer himself, Bob Hall. Grumman was fast becoming overloaded with work and was well into the construction of Plant 2, a complete new factory twice as big as the first. Here would be built the 286 TBF-1s ordered "off the drawing board" back in December 1940.

Then, as often happens, trouble came out of the blue. On November 1941 the XTBF-1 was flying in the hands of Bob Cook and engineer Gordon Israel. Near Brentwood, about 10 miles east of the Bethpage plant, they found the bomb bay was burning fiercely. The only cause anyone could think of later was an electrical fault. Cook and Israel hit the silk, and the flaming torpedo-bomber dived into some woods. This did not damage the program, and by this time the US Navy had changed its order for 286 to an open-ended contract.

On an unseasonably hot Sunday morning, 7 December, 1941, all was bustle at Bethpage as, amid colorful ceremony, the vast new Plant 2 was dedicated. Spotlighted in the middle was the gleaming new second prototype XTBF-1, which was to be the priority product. Suddenly the company vice-president, Clint Towl, was called to the telephone by the public address system. He picked up the instrument to be told, "The Japs have attacked Pearl Harbor we are now at war." Towl prohibited any announcement, and the public began to go home then, when the last of the thousands had gone through the gate, the plant was locked and searched for any saboteurs. It was to be a secure place for the next four years and the TBF was appropriately named Avenger. Although the Avenger had an inauspicious start at the Battle of Midway, be sure to read its final score below!

Grumman built 2,291 TBFs before General Motors, Eastern Aircraft Division, began building them later under license from Grumman. The US Navy nomenclature designated these identical aircraft as TBMs with GM building 7,546 for a type total of 9,837. (TBF = Grumman-built, and TBM = GM built).

Early models of both the TBF and TBM had Wright "Twin Cyclone" R-2600-8 engines developing only 1700 hp. Later production saw increases in power up to 1900 hp with the R-2600-20 engine. This engine was also used on the Boeing 314 Clipper flying boat, B-25 Mitchell, and some models of the A-20Havoc. TBM-3s, with nearly 4,000 being built, had the more powerful engines. This required more cooling, the oil cooler was moved to the lower engine cowl lip and four more cowl flaps were added to each side. These changes and the removal of the 30 caliber ventral "stinger" gun are the primary visual differences between early and later model Avengers.

TBM-3 specifications

Dimensions: Wing span 52'2", Length 40'0'
(Width with wings folded: 16 ft)
Height: 16 ft 5 inches
Empty Weight: 10,843 lbs
Max Gross Weight: 18,250 lbs
Power: Wright "Twin Cyclone" R-2600-20 engine
14 cylinders in two banks of 7, giving 1900 hp
Max Speed: 267 mph at 16,000 ft.
Ceiling: 23,400 ft
Range: 1,130 miles ( 2,265 miles with aux. fuel tank.)
Fuel: 325 US gallons. (90 ea wing, plus 145 fuselage tank)
Oil: 32 US gallons
Crew: 3 - Pilot, Gunner, plus Radioman in fuselage station

Armed and Radar Equipped

The TBF/TBM could carry one 2,000 lb torpedo four 500 lb bombs or depth charges, twenty 100 lb bombs, mines or an auxiliary fuel tank of 275 gallons in the bomb bay. Combined wing stations carried either two 100 gallon droppable fuel tanks or two bombs of up to 1000 lb each depending on the mission. With a "useful load" of nearly 8,000 lbs of fuel and armament provided a wide range of missions - and the Avenger was outstanding in all.

At first the Grumman TBF-1 had a .30 cal gun mounted on the cowl, a 30 cal ventral gun (stinger) and the .50 cal gun in the powered turret. The turret is electrically powered, and traverses more that 180 degrees side-to-side, as well as elevation, with cam following safety switches to inhibit shooting off its own tail surfaces. By June of 1943 the -3E version had the single cowl gun replaced by two .50 cal guns in the wings and the ventral "stinger" machine gun was removed. The rudimentary but effective ASB radar with dual, aimable Yagi antennas was replaced the more advanced APS-4 radar with a single antenna mounted within a pod on the right wing. This increased the surface ship detection from approximately 40 miles to over 300. Internal armoring was also reduced by almost 250 lbs while power and gross weight were increased in these, the most common Avenger models.

The Avenger was the first US aircraft to be fitted with rockets used for ground attack. These were 5-inch HVAR variety with four mounted on each wing. The first use of the aerial rockets were to sink a U-boat on January 11, 1944.

The first torpedoes were the unreliable Mark 13 models which required to be dropped "low and slow" by the brave pilot who is most likely attacking a well-armed ship. In 1943 the reliable Mark 13-IA (ringtail) torpedo was deployed and could be dropped from a speed of up to 280 mph and 800 ft. Various techniques were used by different squadrons with accurate altitude often provided by a theAvenger's radar altimeter - separate from the search radar.

Bombs were also dropped by the pilot, either in a cluster or, using the "intervalometer" (set by the radioman) in a four-bomb stick. The pilot usually entered a 30 to 45 degree dive to about 500 ft elevation before releasing the bombs. A four-bomb stick, spaced 60 to 75 ft apart was used on maneuvering ships.

The "Middle Seat" Question

There was only one set of controls on the aircraft, and no access to the pilot's position from the rest of the aircraft. The original vacuum tube radio equipment was massive, especially by today's standards, and it filled the whole glass canopy to the rear of the pilot and ahead of the gun turret. These radios were accessible for adjustment and repair through a "tunnel" within the fuselage radioman's position. In addition, the Avenger was extensively equipped with search radar and communications on all bands from low frequency through VHF allowing it to become the early warning "eyes" for the fleet. The radio operator was always kept busy.

Our aircraft has been modified to provide an additional rear-mounted seat in place of the radios, which increases our crew compliment to four.

This is one of the first TBFs built and is likely one of those assigned to VT-8 squadron lost during the Battle of Midway. It shows the original four man crew which was later reduced by eliminating the horizontal bombardier behind the pilot. This area was quickly filled with communications radios, radar altimeter, IFF (Identification-Friend or Foe transponder) and a hydraulically operated autopilot as the TBF/TBM was continually upgraded with more modern equipment.

TBF/TBM Avenger In Battle

In the Atlantic theater, Avengers were launched from 14 smaller escort carriers (CVE) on anti-submarine roles. This was often done in pairs. One Avenger would be used as the "hunter" and carry additional fuel and droppable sonar-bouys to find submarines in the critical mid-Atlantic area beyond the reach of land-based bombers. When enemy subs were sighted, another "killer" Avenger would be bought in armed with depth charges and rockets. The 1160 lb, Mk 34 acoustic-homing anti-submarine torpedo called "Fido" was also successfully used in the Atlantic. The first submarine kill by Avengers was U-569 on May 22, 1943 with 53 final kills and one capture during WWII.

Although only 12 Japanese submarines were credited to the Avenger, both of the world's largest battleships - the Mushai and the Yamato - were sunk by Avenger bombs and torpedoes in the Pacific. The final Pacific score showed that Avengers accounted for 6 of the 10 Japanese battleships, 11 of the 15 carriers, and 10 of 14 heavy cruisers lost. Of the 12 remaining large Japanese ships, submarines sank eight and surface ships sank four. None were lost to horizontal bombing by Army planes.

The Marine Corps began land-based operations with TBF-1s at Guadalcanal in November 1942. The first Marine attack squadrons in combat in the Pacific had begun as SBD units, but by 1945, 23 Marine squadrons, land-based or on four escort carriers, used Avengers. These were used primarily for ground attack and tactical support.

Due to its weight, the Avenger was certainly not as nimble as the lighter Japanese Zerosand other enemy fighters. Therefore the best air-to-air combat tactic was to dive at a target aircraft, shoot, and continue the dive away. However the Avenger could absorb a lot of punishment and was well loved by those crew members that managed to limp home with battle damage. There are records of when the enemy had expended all of its ammo and simply had to leave. In spite of its shortcomings as a fighter, 98 aerial kills were recorded by Avenger air crews, and only 20 were lost in aerial combat from 1943 until the war's end. Other WWII aircraft designed by Grumman proved just as rugged, earning them the affectionate title of the "Grumman Iron Works".

Towards the end of WWII saw the development of the TBM-3W, the Navy&rsquos first Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft. Developed under Project Cadillac, it had a large APS-20 radar antenna underneath the fuselage that could detect enemy aircraft far beyond the line-of-sight of surface vessels. A circular area 200 miles in every direction could be scanned from 20,000 feet and relayed to ships. All armament had to be removed to accommodate the electronics and its operator, located with his console within the fuselage, and the XTBM-3W first flew on August 5, 1944. The extra fuel tanks were usually carried in this long-range "hunter" role with missions lasting up to 10-12 hours. In March 1945, deliveries began on the first 27 being rebuilt at the Johnsville Navy facility, and trials were made on the Ranger in May 1945. Four-plane TBM-3W units were first deployed with AEW installations on the Enterprise, Hornet, and Bunker Hill, late in 1945.

The last 24 Avengers were delivered to the Navy in August 1945.

The Final WWII Score

WWII Totals

Aerial Combat

Total War

Continuing Use Post-war

After the war, the Navy&rsquos carrier-based Avengers had no foreign surface fleets to oppose, and the attack forces shrunk. Submarines remained the only potential naval threat, so some Avengers were modified to the TBM-3S configuration, whose turret was removed.

Airborne early warning became a top priority, and by June 1948, the first AEW squadron, VC-2, was formed with TBM-3Ws, as additional conversions were made until 156 were in the fleet by 1953. Radar countermeasures were tested by TBM-3Q version. The last TBM-3E left squadron (VS-27) service in October 1954, but many Avengers also filled utility and non-combat roles.

When the Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP) was established, second-hand TBM-3s of various modifications were sent to allied powers, with 117 sent to Canada in 1950 (including ours), 19 to Uruguay in 1949/50, and 140 to France, beginning in May 1951. Shipments of 100 TBM-3Es began in March 1953 for the Royal Navy, where they served ASW squadrons as Avenger AS.4, AS.5, or ECM.6, depending on what electronics was fitted. After their replacement by the Fairey Gannet in 1955, 47 were passed to France, and another 19 to the Netherlands were added to 58 acquired earlier from the United States.

In an ironic twist, 20 Avengers became the first combat planes of the new Japanese Navy (called the Maritime Self-Defense Force) in 1954/55. These became the last TBMs remaining in military service until retirement in 1962, but civilian Avengers(including ours) worked as forest firefighters in North America for many years afterwards.

Click the Our Own Avenger's History tab at left for more information.


The tbm

The Avenger served from 1942 onwards as the primary torpedo bomber for the US Navy. Designed by Grumman, TBM Avengers were actually built by General Motors at their NY factory. Of the 9,800 Avengers built, most were TBM variants. It is sometimes said the Avenger missed the Battle of the Midway but in fact six Avengers were stationed on Midway Island and participated in that pivotal battle. Of the six that flew, five were shot down.

US Navy tactics at the time called for a two pronged attack on enemy ship formations, dive bombers attacked from altitude, and Torpedo Bombers attacked from low level. The theory held that the Japanese Combat Air Patrol would not be able to deal with both and would be drawn to one or the other. The element not engaged would then be free to press home an attack unmolested. It was this tactical concept that dictated the design of the Avenger, the powerful .50cal gun in a power operated turret providing protection from enemy fighters diving down to attack, and a massive bomb bay to house the torpedo inside the aircraft, rather than externally as had been done up to that point. She was built rugged and tough to survive harsh carrier operations and to take tremendous punishment

At Midway, it was the Torpedo Squadrons that were engaged and took devastating losses. This allowed the dive bombers to get through and the Japanese Fleet was badly mauled with all their carriers sunk. It was a turning point in the Pacific War. The Avenger went on to serve with great distinction in the Pacific and the Atlantic, being credited with the sinking of the Imperial Japanese Navy battleship "Yamato" as well as scores of German U-boats in the Atlantic. The Avenger was used by the Royal Navy as well as a number of other Allied Air Arms.