Manufacturer: General Motors Corporation
Type: Torpedo Bomber
Power Plant: 1 Wright R-2600-20 Cyclone
Horsepower: 1,900 hp
Length: 39 ft, 2 in
Wing Span: 54 ft, 2 in
Height: 16 ft, 5 in
Max Speed: 430 kts (470 mph)
Rate of climb: 2,060 ft/min
Ceiling: 23,40019 ft
Range: 982 nm (1,036 mi)
Guns: 2 × 7.62mm machine guns, 1 x 12.7 mm machine gun
Bombs (internal bomb bay): 1 × Mk XIII Torpedo
Crew: Pilot, gunner and radar operator
The Grumman TBF Avenger (designated TBM for aircraft manufactured by General Motors) is an American torpedo bomber developed for the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The Avenger entered U.S. service in 1942, and first saw action during the Battle of Midway. 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.
Starting in mid-1944, the TBM-3 began production (with a more powerful power plant and wing hardpoints for drop tanks and rockets).
The Avenger was used by a number of Marine Corps squadrons, both on land and from a number of dedicated aircraft carriers. The first to enter combat was VMSB-131 which reached Henderson Field with its TBF-1s just in time to take part in the last major Japanese offensive.
The Marine Avengers achieved their first major success during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in mid-November 1942. At this point VMSB-131 was operating alongside VT-10 (normally based on the Enterprise) and VT-8. On 13 November all three squadrons took part in a series of attacks on the Japanese battleship Hiei, claiming ten torpedo hits from twenty-six launched, and sinking the battleship. Another success came on the next day when aircraft from VT-10 and VMSB-131 sank the cruiser Kinugasa. There were rare examples of Marine Corps Avengers making torpedo attacks – most of the time they used bombs and rockets to support the Marines or depth charges and rockets while on anti-submarine patrols.
One year after VMSB-131 made its debut on Guadalcanal, VMTB-143, 232 and 233 took part in the fighting on Bougainville, operating from Torokina air strip. The same three units then took part in the prolonged series of attacks on the Japanese airfields and harbor at Rabaul, allowing that strong Japanese base to be neutralized and leapfrogged.
In July 1944 VMTB-131 and VMTB-242 took part in the fighting in the Mariana Islands, providing air support of Guam and Tinian. In August 1944 VMTB-134 took part in the invasion of Peleliu, operating from airfields that were virtually on the front line.
In March 1945 VMTB-242 was still based on Tinian, but the war had moved on to Iwo Jima. The squadron took off to make the 800 mile trip to Iwo Jima, planning to land on the island if an airstrip had been secured or on a nearby carrier if not. They were eventually able to land on the island, providing air support for the ground troops. At the end of the campaign they flew anti-submarine patrols from the island, then returned to Tinian.
Four aircraft carriers operated with Marine Corps squadrons embarked. USS Block Island carried VMTB-233 during the battle of Okinawa and for attacks on the Ryukyu Islands. USS Gilbert Island had VMTB-143 during the Okinawa campaign and then took part in the attack on Balikpapan. USS Vella Gulf had VMTB-234, operating in the Central Pacific and attacking Pagan and Rota. USS Cape Gloucester operated VMTB-132 in the East China Sea.
The Marine Corps utilized the Avenger in the Korean War as a utility aircraft with Headquarters Squadrons 22 and 33 (1950-1953).
TBM-3E (BuNo 53726) was accepted by the U.S. Navy on June 16, 1945. On June 1, 1946 it was assigned to the aircraft pool at NAS San Diego CA. In September 1946 it was transferred to the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, and assigned to the aircraft pool at NAS Ford Island, and then NAS Barbers Point. After an overhaul period in San Diego it was assigned to NAS Norfolk and then the Naval Aviation Reserve Training Unit (NARTU) at NAF Anacostia, Washington DC. In late 1949 it was refurbished at NAS Corpus Christi, TX. It spent the next two years in storage at Litchfield Park, AZ. It was pulled out of storage to support the surge in pilot training during the Korean War. In 1952 it served at the NARTU at NAS Birmingham, AL before heading to Carrier Qualification Training Unit FOUR (CQTU-4) and Basic Training Unit THREE (BTU-3) at Naval Air Auxiliary Field Barin Field, AL. In 1954 this aircraft returned to Litchfield Park for storage and was stricken from Navy inventory in April 1962. It was purchased by Marsh Aviation in 1963 and converted to an air tanker. In 1965 it was sold to Reeder Aviation and was used for the Spruce Budworm aerial spray program in Newfoundland and New Brunswick Canada. In 1987 this aircraft was purchased by Northwest Warbirds Inc. in Twin Falls, Idaho. In 1988 it was purchased by the National Museum of the Marine Corps and displayed at MCAS El Toro. In 1999 it moved to its current location at MCAS Miramar. It is painted in the colors of VMBT-132 when in July 1945 it was deployed in the escort carrier USS Cape Gloucester (CVE-109) and participated in the battle of Okinawa