Hi, I’m Eric Boehm, curator of aviation here
at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
And today we’ll be taking a look at one of the truly iconic
aircraft of the Second World War.
The Grumman Eastern Aircraft Division, TBM Avenger.
Even before the United States entered World War II, planners realized
that they needed to replace the Navy’s obsolete torpedo bombers.
Grumman aircraft from Long Island, New York, already had several
successful designs in Navy service.
In mid-1941, they debuted a new aircraft designated TBF.
The “TB” stood for Torpedo Bomber, and the “F”
was the Navy’s designation for Grumman,
and it would live up to its legacy.
The first flight of the TBF was just a few months before the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor.
Coincidentally, Grumman held a public unveiling ceremony for the new
airplane on December 7th, 1941, the very same day of the attack.
The TBF was given the name Avenger, which
seems appropriate given the timing of these events.
The Avenger is big.
In fact, it was the heaviest carrier borne aircraft of World War II.
Like most aircraft operated from carriers, the Avenger
has folding wings so that more aircraft can be stored below in the hangar deck.
With the wingspan of over 54 feet, a simple
hinged wing was not practical.
Grumman devised a compound angled wing fold mechanism to solve the problem.
This large internal bomb bay could house a
2,000 pound Mark 13 torpedo or a 2,000 pound general purpose bomb or
four 500 pound bombs.
The Avenger usually carried a crew of three.
Besides the pilot, there was a Radioman/Bombardier in the compartment
aft of the bomb bay and
a defensive gunner with a single .50 caliber machine gun in a ventral turret.
The turret could spin 360 degrees very quickly and continuously.
The gun could be elevated 85 degrees up and
30 degrees down, giving the gun a remarkable complete field of fire.
Avengers like this one served with distinction in all theaters of the
war, and especially while flying from the USS Intrepid during World War II
In addition to the U.S. Navy,
they also served with at least nine other nations during and after World War II.
The versitile Avenger was also modified to serve as a
carrier onboard delivery aircraft, for search and rescue duties, submarine
hunting and also as an electronic countermeasures platform.
Because it could lift a large, useful load, Avengers were converted to
fire bombers after the war.
The military equipment and guns were removed, and a large tank that could
hold water or fire retardant was mounted in the bomb bay.
Many Avengers flew on for decades, fighting forest fires in Canada.