Douglas TBD Devastator

1935

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  TORPEDO-BOMBERVirtual Aircraft Museum / USA / Douglas  

Douglas TBD Devastator

The prototype of the Devastator torpedo bomber flew for the first time on 15 April 1935. It was the first monoplane selected for aircraft-carrier operations, the first of 129 ordered by the US Navy entering service in 1937. Armed with only one forward-firing and one rear-mounted machine-gun (plus a 533mm torpedo or 450kg bomb), it was. very vulnerable to enemy attack: heavy losses were suffered in action against the Japanese during the early part of World War II, especially during the Battle of the Coral Sea when the type operated from USS Lexington and Yorktown, the former being sunk but only after Devastator and Dauntless bombers had sunk the Japanese carrier Shoho and severely damaged Shokaku. The Battle of Midway, fought between 4 and 7 June 1942, was the Devastator's last major action: it was relegated to non-combat duties after suffering heavy losses during the battle.

FACTS AND FIGURES

For the first time in a Navy bomber rhe TBD featured an enclosed cockpit and all-meta construction. The corrugated wing surfaces contributed to strength bur increased drag.

Useless torpedoes, weak defensive armament and a lack of self-sealing fuel tanks contributed to the Devastator's failure in combat.

The folding wings were a novel feature and in the prewar days sometimes the wing locks were forgotten, leading to a plunge into the sea on take-off.

Douglas TBD Devastator

Specification 
 CREW3
 ENGINE1 x 900hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 Twin Wasp radial piston engine
 WEIGHTS
  Take-off weight4624 kg10194 lb
 DIMENSIONS
  Wingspan15.24 m50 ft 0 in
  Length10.67 m35 ft 0 in
  Height4.60 m15 ft 1 in
 PERFORMANCE
  Max. speed332 km/h206 mph

3-View 
Douglas TBD DevastatorA three-view drawing (800 x 734)

Comments
Blair, e-mail, 06.12.2012 23:55

A beautiful plane, the other Douglas Plane the SBD or A-24 Is beautiful too. Such an advance in technology for the mid 30's, it must have been a site when it first came about. But a not so site flying away from enemies at only 200mph. I gotta say The Pilots and Torpedo Officer /Navigator's Radioman /Gunner's who flew the TBD deserve the utmost respect.

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Reverend Pervaiz Khokhar, e-mail, 26.10.2012 09:03

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Matthew Kitchen, e-mail, 26.08.2012 10:50

Lovely aircraft. Too bad there aren't any survivors. I especially liked the yellow winged Devastators.

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David Nelson, e-mail, 08.01.2012 02:43

For those of you who are familiar with Stan Stokes "Scratch One Flat Top" the sinking of the Shoho Japanese aircraft carrier. That is my dads plane . Dad was the Radio Operator on that very aircraft. Pilot was Lt. R.F. Farrington and the crew was T.R Wiebe and Walter Nelson RMSC (retired). Sure wish their would be a documentary on that aircraft like Decovery Wings used to fo. Proud of my dad and his service to the war effort. He is still alive a 91 years and loves to tell his story

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Mickeen Hogan, e-mail, 30.09.2020 David Nelson

Dear Mr. Nelson,

I am Mickeen Hogan. I am 20 years old and I live in Brandon, Vermont. I was brought to the story of your father Walt Nelson by my interest in World War II Naval history. I watched an interview with him, and found it very interesting. I had a player in War Thunder make a custom skin for my TBD to match the one flown by your father.I used Starfighter Decals to make a 1 /700 scale replica of Lexington and her air group, including your father's plane. You probaly have heard this, but in 2018 Paul Allen found the Lexington, and near it is your father's plane. I am in contact with A&T Recovery, and they hope to retrieve at least one TBD from Lexington. I will keep you updated as events unfold. It is men like your father Walt Nelson who made this world a better place.

All the Best and Blue Skies,
Mickeen

Sincerely,
Mickeen

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Ben Beekman, e-mail, 18.03.2011 02:58

The TBD was doomed from the start if its top speed was only 206mph as stated here. Its successor, the Grumman TBF, is listed as having a top speed of 267mph, 61 mph faster (wow!) than the TBD which must have been a sitting duck. The product of a peacetime Navy with limited funding available for the required updating and modernization, the Devastator could have been improved had there been the foresight and the will to do it. But complacency seems to have been the rule in those days. As long as we had those impressive-looking battleships we had nothing to worry about. As with the faulty torpedos, it wasn't until the shooting started that those responsible for the TBD's calamitous performance had to do something about it. Sadly, its replacement came too late for the men of Torpedo Squadron 8.

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Greg Dixson, e-mail, 04.03.2011 12:14

Regarding the question of whether TBDs flew with 2 or 3 crew at Midway. Per "A Dawn Like Thunder", a history of VT-8 by Robert Mrazek, there were on two crew onboard the TBDs at Midway, at least with VT-8. Recently I also saw a documentary on John Ford who did a film about Midway while he was in the Navy during WWII. Excerpts from the film showed photos only pilots and radio operator /gunners of VT-8 taken with their aircraft before the battle.

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Frankie, e-mail, 01.01.2011 21:27

My Uncle, was RMC3 on flight TBD-1 1507 (VT-5 Yorktown) in the Marshall Gilbert raids Feb. 1, 1942. The plane went down. Uncle MIA. I hope someday they find the wreckage.

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M.E. MCCAFFREY, e-mail, 17.10.2010 20:18

TO PAUL AND THE QUESTION OF THE SMALL CLAMSHELL WINDOW IN THE FORWARD BELLY OF THE A.C IT WAS NOT FOR A TORPEDO ATTACK--FOR EXAMPLE AT MIDWAY THERE WAS NO THIRD CREW MEMBER ABOARD--NO BOMBARDIER. THE WINDOW WAS FOR HORIZONTAL ATTACKS WHEN THE BOMBARDIER USED IT TO SIGHT HIS BOMBSIGHT--IT WAS USED AT THE WAKE ISLAND ATTACK, FOR EXAMPLE, AND I HAVE AN ARTICLE BY A THIRD CREW MEMBER WHI DESCRIBES THE RAID. MAC.

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al, e-mail, 09.10.2010 16:16

At Midway did TBD fly w / 2 or 3 man crew?

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Jackie, 08.08.2010 04:57

At the time when it entered service in 1937, it was the most advanced torpedo bomber in the world. It was the first widely-used carrier-based monoplane as well as the first all-metal naval aircraft, the first with a totally enclosed cockpit, the first with hydraulically folding wings; it is fair to say that the TBD was revolutionary. It can carry a single mark 13 torpedo or a single 1000 lb bomb. By the time of Pearl Harbor however, the TBD Devastator was already obsolete. After the disastrous losses at the Battle of Midway, the TBD was quickly withdrawn from frontline units for use in training.

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frank c. bonansinga, e-mail, 07.05.2010 02:22

George Bottjer was an Ensign in VT-5 flying the TBD from the Yorktown. Though the Devastor was not a good torpedo bomber, the pilots made it work for them. At Tulagi Harbor on 4 May and in the Battle of the Coral Sea on 7 and 8 May 1942, he was instrumental in sinking the Japanese carrier Shoho and severely damaged the Shokaku.
George Bottjer was awarded the Navy Cross for his action.

He was my boss at Raytheon for ten years from 1955 to 1965 and he never once said a word about what he did.
He was some man.

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john, e-mail, 20.04.2010 01:21

the japanese b5n kate was better than this aircraft googd thing we replaced it

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john, e-mail, 20.04.2010 01:20

the japanese b5n kate was better than this aircraft googd thing we replaced it

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samuel., e-mail, 10.02.2010 03:57

the tbd was not a failure. in fact, it was good for its time. but that was 1935. by 1942, it was obsolete.

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Mark, 23.08.2009 21:56

I like the TBD. Very nice aircraft with a sad ending.

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leo rudnicki, e-mail, 08.04.2009 00:27

The Devastator was a failure? The role of torpedo delivery aircraft was a hazardous duty and the TBF's at Midway fared no better but were called a success. The British Beaufort torpedo bomber was statistically the most deadly a /c to fly, in the RAF. The fact that the torpedoes didn't work( another story) did not affect the aircraft. I heard that someone did hear the impact of a dud torpedo on a Japanese ship. The failure was the lack of fighter cover during the attack, as well as dive bomber co-ordination. It all went wrong and resulted in 3 dead carriers and never-to-be-replaced aircrews. The loss of TBD's used up and drew off the fighter cap and that is history. An operational disaster provided a pivotal victory.

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Greg, e-mail, 16.05.2008 16:17

Paul is correct, the clamshell window was for use when delivering a torpedo attack. For your information, there is a group, working with the USN, that intends to rasie a TBD-1 out of the waters of a lagoon at Jaluit Atoll. They are raising money for the effort. Check out the website at www.tighar.org.

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paul, e-mail, 24.12.2007 17:06

I believe those clamshells were for opening the window
so the assist pilot /bombadier could use the norden bomb sight

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Ray, e-mail, 14.11.2007 00:48

Can you tell me on the TBD Devastator as to what the small clam shell underneath the engine is for? It looks too small for bombs. The model airplane I have don't tell what it was for and I'm not sure if it's for a small bombs or for the pilot to observe his torpedo run. Thanks. Ray

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