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Level: Hangar Deck
- The Grumman TBF Avenger was the U.S. Navy’s primary torpedo bomber for most of World War II.
- Avengers built by the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors were designated TBM.
- Many Avengers, like the one here at the Intrepid Museum, saw post-war service fighting forest fires.
You’re standing near an Avenger torpedo bomber, one type of aircraft that flew off Intrepid during World War II. The Avenger has one large, three-bladed propeller on the nose, each blade is black with a yellow tip. The Avenger is 40 feet (12.2 m) long from nose to tail. Its body and the top of its wings are dark blue, its sides are light blue, and its belly and the underside of the wings are white.
The Avenger’s wings are a clue that it’s a Navy plane, because they’re folded up against the fuselage, or body, of the plane. Folding up, the wings saved space so the Intrepid crew could pack the aircraft in like sardines on the hangar deck. To get a sense of what the folded wings look like, try this little exercise with your arms, or just use your imagination. Imagine your arms are wings. Hold them straight out to the sides at shoulder height, with your palms facing forward. Now bend your elbows and bring your fingertips in to touch your chest. Then push your elbows back behind you as far as you can. Your arms are now like the folded wings.
On top of the Avenger is a glass-enclosed cockpit where the pilot sat. At the back of the cockpit, behind the pilot, there’s a round glass dome called the ball turret. That’s where the rear gunner sat. His main job was to guard the plane from attacks from above. Under the gunner’s post is a little window. That’s where the radioman sat. He was also the bombardier and navigator.
There’s a ball turret on display here, about 15 feet away from the Avenger. If you’re facing the propeller of the plane, the ball turret will be to your right, on the port side of the ship. The turret looks like a round glass dome, supported inside by a framework of green painted steel. Inside is mounted a fifty-caliber machine gun with its black muzzle sticking out of the dome about a foot to the right. The Avenger could carry one 2,000 pound torpedo or 2,000 pounds of other ordnance, such as four 500 pound bombs. There’s a torpedo lying underneath the belly of this Avenger. It looks like a black tube, about ten feet long and two feet in diameter.
During World War II, the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation and the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors built close to 10,000 Avengers. Avenger crews from Intrepid helped sink some of the most powerful warships in the Japanese fleet, including the battleships Yamato and the Musashi.
Photos & Videos
Video description: Curator of Aviation Eric Boehm does a walk-around tour pointing out key features of the Museum’s WWII era TBM Avenger torpedo bomber. The aircrafts dorsal ball turret is also explained and is displayed nearby. Historical images are used throughout to further illustrate important details.
The Avenger was first flown in 1941 and introduced operationally in June 1942. It was the U.S. Navy’s standard torpedo bomber throughout World War II, and more than 9,836 were constructed. They were originally built with the designation TBF by Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation. In 1943, Grumman was also tasked with building the F6F Hellcat fighter for the Navy. To meet the wartime production quotas for both aircraft, the manufacturing of the Avenger was moved to the former automotive facilities of General Motors near Trenton, New Jersey. Under the Navy’s designation system at the time, the Avengers produced by General Motors’ Eastern Aircraft Division were designated TBMs. Avengers were affectionately nicknamed “turkeys” for their somewhat ungainly appearance.
Avengers were the heaviest single-engine aircraft to fly during World War II. They served on Intrepid throughout the war. In the Pacific, Avengers were involved in sinking many of the most powerful warships in the Japanese fleet. Avengers from Intrepid participated in the sinking of the super battleships Yamato and Musashi.
The standard crew on the Avenger included the pilot, a radioman in the lower compartment and a gunner who manned an electrically powered rotating ball turret, which housed a single .50-caliber machine gun. Besides its primary mission of attacking targets with torpedoes, the Avenger was also a very capable dive bomber and medium-to-high-altitude bombing aircraft.
Perhaps the most famous Avenger pilot was President George H. W. Bush, who flew from the escort carrier USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) in 1944. Despite aircraft damage and the loss of both his crewmen, Bush successfully attacked the Japanese radio station on the strategic central Pacific island of Chichijima and then parachuted to safety over the sea.
Its outstanding load-carrying capacity made the Avenger ideal for fighting forest fires, as it was able to drop large quantities of water and retardant. This Avenger served as a fire-fighter and survey aircraft with the New York State Conservation Department from 1964 until 1976. It also flew missions as a fish-bomber, stocking New York lakes with baby fish.
This aircraft is on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola, Florida. The Mark 13 torpedo is on loan from the U.S. Navy.
|Length:||40 feet 11.5 inches (12.5 m)|
|Wingspan:||54 feet 2 inches (16.5 m)|
|Height:||15 feet 5 inches (4.7 m)|
|Empty Weight:||10,545 pounds (4,783 kg)|
|Max Weight:||17,893 pounds (8,116 kg)|
|Top Speed:||275 miles per hour (444 kph)|
|Ceiling:||30,100 feet (9,174 m)|
|Crew:||One pilot, radioman and turret gunner|
|Armament:||Two wing-mounted .50-caliber machine guns, one turret-mounted .50-caliber machine gun, up to 2,200 pounds of internal payload of bombs or torpedo, wing mounted rockets|