Combat Aircraft of the Pacific War

Grumman TBF / Eastern TBM-the Avenger

Grandpa was the gunner in the turret behind the pilot in the TBF-Avenger

The Avenger was Grumman's first torpedo aircraft, and its design had much in common with that of the Company's fighters - as its chunky, robust appearance testifies. The design and engineering team under W.T. Schwendler developed the aircraft very quickly - the order for two prototypes was placed on 8 April 1940 and the first Avengers went into service just over two years later.

The new plane first saw action on 4 June 1942 against the Japanese carrier striking force at the Battle of Midway - only six Avengers were involved, operating from Midway Island. They were forced to attack against overwhelming odds, and five of the six were shot down, the surviving plane returning to Midway severely damaged and with its gunner dead. However, the survival of this aircraft demonstrated the TBF's great  toughness, and it was immediately apparent that its battle-worthiness justified its production in great numbers.

The Avenger rapidly displaced the obsolete Devastator aboard US carriers,  and from the Guadalcanal landings in August 1942 until the end of the PacificWar it remained the only shipboard torpedo aircraft of the US Navy.

Further Avengers were manufactured by the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors - the GM-produced aircraft being designated the "TBM".

The Avenger took part in every carrier-versus-carrier battle and indeed almost all carrier operations from Midway onwards, working from every fast carrier and escort carrier of the Pacific Fleet. At Guadalcanal and in subsequent campaigns it was also active from land bases.  For almost all of this time it operated as a bomber, and as a search and anti-submarine aircraft, rather than as a torpedo-plane.  As a torpedo-plane it was initially hampered by the many serious defects in the American torpedoes.  Moreover the crushing losses inflicted on their torpedo squadrons at the Battle of Midway left the United States Navy with little confidence in aerial torpedo attack, confidence which was only regained with the success of the Avengers at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Nonetheless, in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal,  November 1942,  TBFs inflicted heavy damage  on the Japanese battleship Hiei with torpedoes after she had been crippled by US surface forces.  At Philippine Sea in June 1944,  equipped with greatly improved torpedoes,  Avengers hit the carrier Hiyo,  which sank soon afterwards. In this respect they were more successful than the American dive-bombers at Philippine Sea, and this increased US Navy's emphasis on torpedo attack in subsequent operations.

In the Battle for Leyte Gulf the TBF / TBM achieved one of its most notable successes by sinking (with 19 torpedo hits) the Japanese battleship Musashi, which at 67,000 tons was one of the two largest warships in the world (the other being her sister ship Yamato).  Later in the battle Avengers played an heroic and vital role  in the desperate defence of the US escort carrier group "Taffy 3" which unexpectedly came under surface attack from the main Japanese force off Samar.

On 7 April 1945, during  the Okinawa operation,  Avengers of Task Force 58 played the main part in sinking the Yamato,  formerly Admiral Yamamoto's flagship -  hitting the huge battleship with ten or more torpedoes.

The Avenger's virtues, especially its ruggedness, reliability, and stability as a weapons platform, ensured it a remarkably long operational history.  It in fact remained in service - as an anti-submarine and airborne early-warning aircraft - until 1954.

"Avengers over the Okinawa, invasion beaches - aerial photograph


Origin:  Grumman Engineering Corporation - also built by Eastern Aircraft Division (General Motors)

Type:  Three-seat torpedo-bomber  - later served as anti-submarine and AEW (airborne early-warning) aircraft

Dimensions:  Span 54' 2" - Length 40' 0" -  Height 16' 5"

Weight (TBF-1):   10,100 lb empty,  15,905 lb loaded (TBM-3):  10,545 lb. empty,  18,250 lb loaded .

Engine:  One 1,700 hp Wright R-2600-8 or R-2600-20 Double Cyclone two-row radial

Performance (TBF-1):  Max. speed 278 mph;  initial climb 1,075 feet per minute;  service ceiling 23,400 feet;  range (loaded) 1,010-1,215 miles.

Armament -

1 x 0.5-inch Browning machine-gun, manually-aimed,  in power-operated dorsal turret
1 x 0.3-inch Browning, manually-aimed, in rear ventral position
1 x 0.3-inch Browning machine-gun, fixed forward-firing, in upper front fuselage
Internal fuselage bay for 1 x 21-inch torpedo or 2,000 lb of bombs