History and specifications of the TBF Avenger
The TBF Avenger made its maiden flight on August 7, 1941, and officially entered operational service in the US Navy in January 1942. The aircraft was manufactured by the Grumman Corporation, now known as Northrup Grumman, and also known for legendary warplanes. like the F6F Hellcat and the F-14 Tomcat.
In a historical twist of fate, as noted in a September 2022 article by Scott Mall in Flying, “On the evening of December 7, 1941, Grumman held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new manufacturing facility and unveiled to the public their new Avenger torpedo bomber.”
“When Grumman officials learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the facility was quickly protected from possible sabotage.”
As Stephan Wilkinson teaches us at HistoryNet, the Avenger was the largest single-engine aircraft produced during World War II by any fighter. With a maximum takeoff weight of 17,893 pounds, it surpassed even the P-47 Thunderbolt, which carried nicknames like “the flying tub” and “the jug.”
The bomb bay’s 1-ton payload capacity, which could hold either a single 2,000-pound Mark 13 torpedo or four 500-pound bombs, was a major contributor to the aircraft’s overall weight.
Additional specifications included:
- A fuselage length of 40 feet 11 inches.
- A wingspan of 54 feet 2 inches.
- A height of 16 feet 5 inches.
The top speed was 276 miles per hour at 16,500 feet, and the maximum altitude was 30,100 feet.
Self-defensive armament consisted of two forward-firing .50 caliber Browning M2 “Ma Deuce” machine guns, a .50 caliber dorsal cannon, and a .30 caliber Browning M1919 ventral cannon. A total of 9,839 Avengers were built.
Avenger: Kill the Musashi
When it came to World War II’s largest battleships, it was the largest single-engine fighter plane that did the job (or any other period in history, for that matter). When the Battle of Leyte Gulf began, the Musashi was the first of the IJN’s great ships to meet her end. (The battle was the last time two battleships faced off against one another.)
Of course, the Avenger didn’t sink the Musashi on its own: the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver also made a big contribution. Summing up, at 10:27 in the morning of October 24, 1944, the attack against the Musashi began. The operation involved 259 planes that took off in six waves from four US warships.
The Avengers attack scored a total of 19 torpedo hits, 10 to port and 9 to starboard, while the Helldivers scored 17 bomb hits. The Musashi sank in the Sibuyan Sea at around 19:30, killing 1,023 of its 2,399 crew members (including the commander).
Avenger: Slaying the Yamato
The Musashi sank in the Sibuyan Sea at around 19:30, killing 1,023 of its 2,399 crew members (including the commander).
At 12:37 p.m. that day, the attack began, and by 2:23 p.m., the ship had exploded in a mushroom cloud from the combined effects of 11 torpedoes and 6 bombs. (For the dramatic account of the sinking of the Yamato, read the best-selling book Japanese Destroyer Captain by former IJN captain Tameichi Hara.)
Yamato also suffered far greater casualties than Musashi, with 3,055 of her 3,332 crew perishing, including the fleet commander, Vice Admiral Seiichi Itō.
Avenger: The Plane of a Future President
In addition to sinking the biggest battleships in the world, the other big claim for the TBF Avenger was that it was flown by a future President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. After being commissioned an ensign in the United States Naval Reserve on June 9, 1943, Bush participated in a combat cruise from May to November 1944.
He completed 1,228 flight hours, 126 carrier landings, and 58 combat missions. During an air raid on a Japanese facility at Chichijima, Bush’s TBF was shot down, killing her crewmates.
The future president of the United States managed to jump from the wrecked plane and, after floating for hours in a life raft and bleeding profusely from his forehead, he was rescued by the USS Finback submarine.
A good number of Avengers survive today, both as static exhibits and as airworthy examples. One of the latter is in the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Capital Wing at Brandy Station, Virginia.