The Grumman TBF or TBM Avenger is a torpedo bomber developed for the United States Navy (USN) in the early forties. It became one of the outstanding torpedo bombers of World War II.
First of all is it a TBF or a TBM? That depends on who built it? Grumman Aircraft Company initially produced the TBF. Grumman was unable to produce as many as the USN needed because of limited factory production and priorities. The government ask General Motors to help out, thus the TBM. “M” designed for General Motors The TBF and the TBM are the same only the last letter determined where and by whom it was manufactured
The TBF will identify the aircraft in this essay. The TBF had its combat debut in the “Battle of Midway” where 5 out 0f 6 were lost, but greatly improved with both in aircraft improvements and pilot skills
President-to-be George Bush Sr. flew a TBM in the South Pacific and was shot down near the Japanese held island of Chichi Jima as his final act before going into the ocean was to bomb the radio facilities on the island. He was rescued by the American submarine Finback.
Hollywood Actor Paul Newman was a rear gunner on an TBF and was on the USS Hollandia which was about 500 miles from the Japanese city of Hiroshima when the first Atomic Bomb from the Enola Gay was dropped.
There were 9,839 TBFs produced during the War. and used by USN, Royal Navy Royal Canadian Navy and Royal New Zealand Air Force
The PBY American flying boat built by Consolidated Aircraft company was one of the most widely used seaplanes of World War II. The PBY nickname was the Catalina and the PBY was used by all branches of the United States armed forces.
During the Second World War, the Catalina was used for anti-submarine warfare, patrol bombing, convoy escort, air-sea rescue missions and cargo transport. The PBY was the most numerous aircraft of its kind and was not retired by the military users until 1979 by the Brazilian Air Force .
The United States Navy (USN) was the biggest user of the flying boat and the first. Thus, the USN designation system determined the name. “PB”was for Patrol Bomber, the third letter assigned by USN to the manufacturer of the aircraft was “Y”. In this case it was Consolidated Aircraft .
Since there were other manufacturers assigned to build the Catalina, different “names” such Canadian Vickers were PBV, Boeing Canada PB2B (Boeing in the U. S was already building Catalina with the code PBB).
The traditional names for the Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft were normally names of towns/cities in England. When the RAF purchased PBY’s, they broke tradition and named their aircraft Catalina, after Catalina Island in California which the USN adopted in 1942.
The PBY was originally designed to be a Patrol Bomber that would attack enemy supply ships. However, it soon became apparent that they were an ideal air-sea rescue for downed airmen.
In addition, they could be used as a recon aircraft as they could fly for many hours without the need for refueling. The Catalina first flight was on 28 March 1935. The primary users were USN, USAAF (United States Army Air Force),and RAF. The total production by Consolidated Aircraft, Canadian Manufacturers and Soviet Manufacture was 3,305 aircraft.
The Douglas TBD Devastator was an American built torpedo bomber of the United States Navy (USN). When it first flew in 1934 it was the Navy’s’ most advanced aircraft. By the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, it was outdated.
The Devastator did perform well in early battles. The “Battle of Midway” was a total disaster for the TBD. There were 41 TBD Devastators along with SBD Dauntless dive bombers with F4F Wildcat fighter support from the USS Enterprise, USS Hornet, and USS Yorktown sent to attack the 4 Japanese aircraft carriers and their support ships.
The outdated TBD’s were sitting ducks as the Japanese Zeros pounced on the from upon high and the ships from the Japanese task force made mincemeat of the Devastators with their anti-aircraft guns.
There were 41 TBDs sent out to attack the enemy carriers only 6 returned to their home ships. Thirty-five aircraft and crews were lost. The remaining Devastators in the USN inventory were taken out of service after the battle and replaced with the Grumman TBF Avengers.
The Douglas built SBD (Scout Bomber Douglas) also called the “Dauntless”, was a World War II United States Navy (USN) Dive Bomber and Scout plane. The SBD was the USN main aircraft carrier bomber from 1940 through 1944.
It is remembered as the plane that devastated four Japanese aircraft carriers at the Battle of Midway in June 1942. The SBD also had a nickname of “Slow But Deadly” which was well deserved as it possessed long range, good handling characteristics , maneuverability, potent bomb load, excellent diving characteristics, good defensive armament and ruggedness.
The SBD was also used by the United States Marine Corp (USMC) on land bases and Marine squadrons were also assigned on aircraft carriers.
One SBD variant, without the arrestor hook , was built for the United States Army Force (USAAF) as the A-24 Banshee. The primary users of the SBD Dauntless/A-24 Banshee were The USN, The USAAF, Free French Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force. The SBD/Banshee were built between 1940-1944 and 5,936 of all variants were built.
The Douglas A-26 Invader is a twin-engined light bomber, with tricycle landing gear wich was built by the Douglas Aircraft corp in Long Beach California during the Second World War It was a fast aircraft capable of carrying a large bomb load.
It had an ample of various of armament to make a formidable ground attack aircraft. It had 6 to 8 50 cal browning machine guns in the nose and 8 .50 Cal Browning M2 machine guns in the wing. Low flight and strafing ground targets was it’s speciality.
The primary users of the A-26 (in 1948 the designation was changed to B-26) was the United states Army Air Force, United States Navy and French Air Force. The B-26 was retired military service in 1980 by the last user, Colombian Air Force.
The XA-26 prototype
Design and Development
The A-26 was the successor to the Douglas A-20 Havoc also know as the Douglas Boston. The A-20 was one of the most successful and widely used aircraft by the Allies of World War II.
Chief aerodynamicist A.M.O. Smith was the head of the project to design the XA-26 that was ready for flight in July 1942 from Mines Field in El Segundo, California (future home of LAX).
The test flight conducted by Benny Howard, proved to be highly successful. The aircraft handled well but engine overheat problem needed correction thru modifying the engine cowl flaps.
The nose wheel assembly need to be reinforced as during the testing, it collapsed several times. The A-26 was built with two different configurations. The A-26B had gun nose that could house .50 cal machine guns or 37mm auto cannon or even a pack howitzer (which was never used operationally).
The A-26C had a glass nose to house the Norden bombsight for precision bombing. The firs models had two M-2 machine guns in the nose, but later upgrades of the A-26C had underwing gun packs or internal guns in the wing.
Other modifications and refinement are : The A-26B could house up to 14 .50 cal machine guns in forward fixed mounts. The A-26B nose could be replaced on the A-26C and vice versa in a matter of a few hours.
In some of the final versions , both A-26B and A-26C “flat top”canopies were replaced by a clamshell style which greatly improved visibility.
The interior of the A-26 cockpit
Along side of the pilot on the A-26B a crew member sat as the Navigator and Gun Loader . In the A-26C the crew member serviced as the Navigator and Bombardier .
Like the RAF bombers Lancaster, Blenheim/Beaufort and Wellington, most of the time the A-26 had only one set of controls for the pilot only. A small number of aircraft did have dual controls mainly for training purposes.
The first A-26B was delivered to United States Army Air Force in August 1943. The Fifth Air Force had to train the crews then they were deployed to the Southwest Pacific for combat evaluation with attacks on Manokwari a Japanese island in the South Pacific.
The repot back was not good, the evaluating pilots found the cockpit view to be restricted because of the location of the engines. This they said prevented low-level attack.
General George Kenney Commander of the Far EAst Air Force said “We do not want the A-26 under any circumstances to be a replacement for anything”.
The A-26 was used only sparingly in the Pacific for the remainder of the War. However things looked better for the A-26 and Douglas Aircraft when A-26s stared arriving in Europe in late September 1944 for their assignment to the Ninth Air Force.
There were 8 “test missions” that the A-26 was sent on. This time the type of mission was more suitable, as a bomber which was the original mission for the A-26 Invader.
Soon the Ninth Air Force announced that they would replace all of their A-20 Havoc and B-26 Marauder aircraft with the Douglas A-26 Invader.
Besides bombing and strafing, tactical recon and night interdiction missions were all undertaken successfully . In a contrast to the Pacific based crews, the European crews received the A-26 with a very positive attitude.
In the European Theater the Invader flen 11,567 sorties, dropped 18,054 tons of bombs and recorded 7 victories (remember this was a bomber) while losing 67 aircraft.
With the establishment of the United States Air Force in 1947, the A-26 was redesignated the B-26 and used as an recon aircraft by USAF The USN obtained the Invader from the USAF for target towing and other utility functions.
During the Korean conflict the B-26 Invaders were among the first USAF aircraft to sent on missions in North and South Korea. On 29 June 1950, a squadron of Invaders bombed the first target in North Korea which was an airfield.
The B-26 continued to fly missions through-out the Korean War, mostly night -time missions.
But land target was it’s speciality as it destroyed 38,500 vehicles, 406 locomotives and 3,700 railway cars. The B-26 units received two unit citations and the Presidential Citation. The Invader carried out the last USAF mission of the Korean War before the Armistice Agreement was signed.
During the Southeast Asian conflict a few years later, the B-26 Invader was used to fight the Pathet Lao invaders that were invading Laos. The B-26 were used in the Southeast Asian theater for number of years for ground attack purposes.
They were replaced by the Douglas A-1 Skyraider. In later years the CIA used B-26s for clandestine operations in Central and South America.
Other countries that used the B-26 Invader were France, Indonesia, Portugal and Biafra.
Where you can see the Douglas A-26 Invader
436874 Military Aviation Museum, Virginia Beach, Virginia
446928 National Naval Aviation Museum Pensacola, Florida
Lady Liberty Commemorative Air Force Enid, Oklahoma
City of Santa Rosa Pacific Coast Air Museum Santa Rose, California
322494 Pima Air and Space Museum Tucson, Arizona
This is Just a Partial List of the Douglas A-26 Invader, Check With Your Local Air Museum for More Information
TheBritish Avro Lancaster was a 4-engined heavy bomber of World War II. The “Lanc” was powered by 4 Rolls Royce Merlin piston engines and a 13 foot de Havilland Hydromatic propeller.
The Lancaster could carry up to 12,000 lbs of various types of bombs. It first saw service with the RAF (Royal Air Force) Bomber Command in 1942 as part of the Allied Strategic Bombing offensive.
It was used primarily for night time bombing campaigns over Europe and became one of the more famous and successful night-time bombers during World War II.
It delivered 608,612 tons of bombs to the enemy flying 156,000 sorites (missions). Modified Lancasters could carry the giant 22,000 lb Grand Slam earthquake bomb the largest of any conventional bomb in World War II.
Avro produced 7,377 “Lancs” for the RAF, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), and Royal Australian Air Force. It’s first flight was 09 January 1941 and was retired by the last user theRCAF in 1965.
The British Supermarine Spitfire was a single seat fighter during World War II. The primary user of the “Spit” was the Royal Air Force (RAF) along with many of their allies. The Spitfire was designed to be a short-ranged interceptor aircraft that was designed by R.J. Mitchell.
The public perceived that the Spitfire to be the the primary defender of Britain, however the Hawker Hurricane had the higher number of sorties and more victories than the Spitfire. The Spitfire had a lower attrition rate and a lower kill-to-loss rate.
After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire became the backbone of the RAF Fighter command. The Spitfire saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and Southeast Asian theatres of war.
This aircraft was much loved by it’s pilots serving in roles of intercepter, photo-recon, fighter-bomber, and training aircraft. It served in these roles until the 1950s. There were over 20,300 of the built of all models and variants.
The British Hawker Hurricane is a single seat, fighter aircraft that was a dominant force in the early days of World War II.This aircraft became renowned for it’s role in the Battle of Britain. In spite of it’s more famous brother the Supermarine Spitfire, the Hurricane led all British aircraft with 55% of the victories during the Battle of Britain.
There were 14,487 Hurricanes built by the Hawker Aircraft company.. The Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force were the primary users of the fighter. The Hurricane was relied upon to defend England for the advances of the German Luftwaffe wich sent various aircraft in it’s attempt to conquer by destroying England’s military.
The legendary dogfights between the Hurricane and the German Messerschmitt Bf-109 could fill volumes of military history books.
The Grumman F6f Hellcat was a carrier based fighter aircraft of World War II. Built in the United States by the Grumman Corporation for the United States Navy to replace the aging F4F Wildcat. There was an competition within the aircraft industry that the USN (United States Navy) had to sort out.
The Vought F4U Corsair was the main competitor with the Hellcat and won out to be the primary carrier-based fighter for the USN. Then a problem arose with the Corsair in that the pilots had major troubles landing on aircraft carriers due to visibility issues on final approach.
This problem was due to the long nose of the aircraft and large 4 bladed propeller. The issue was temporarily solved as the Corsair became a land based with the USMC (United States Marine Corp) which used it to great effect against the Japanese.
The F6F had an Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine which produced 2,000 hp. This engine was also used for the Vought F4U Corsair and the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. While the F6F Hellcat resembled the older F4F Wildcat and was kiddingly called the “Wildcat’s older brother” it was a tough, rugged and well designed carrier fighter that was superior to the Japanese Zero.
This helped the USN have air superiority in the Pacific. There were 12,275 F4F Hellcats produced from 1943-45. The Hellcat had over 5,222 victories over enemy aircraft by USN, USMC and the British RAF pilots.
The Curtiss P-36 Hawk was an American built fighter aircraft that was used in the 1930s and 40s.It was a new generation of combat aircraft. A sleek monoplane design using metal with aluminum body and powered by a radial engine.
The P-36 Hawk was the forerunner of the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk – (used by the Flying Tigers in China,which were were made up of American volunteer pilots before America’s engagement in World War II). However once the hostilities started in December of 1941, the Hawk say little action with USAAC
However other Allied countries did order the Hawk. This would include (Free) French, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of China, India, and but not least, England.
When France and Norway fell to Germany, many P-36s were captured by the Germans who turned them into good use against the Soviets.
During the Franco-Thai war of 1940-41, Hawks were used by both sides. The South African Air Force saw combat with P-36s against the Italians in east Africa. The British RAF fought in the air over Burma with the Mohawk as they were called by RAF.
There 215 P-36s built by Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company along with 900 variant “model 75” or Mohawk sold to foreign countries.
Design and Development
In the beginning of the life of the Hawk, it was called Model 75 as a private venture and the firs prototype was built 1934. It was all metal fuselage and wings with fabric control surfaces (rudder, ailerons and trim tabs)
It was powered by a Wright XR-1670-5 radial engine producing 900hp. The common armament of the day was one .30 cal machine gun and one .50 cal machine firing through through the propeller. Also common was no cockpit armor and no self-sealing fuel tanks.
The prototype flew 06 May 1935 for the first time reaching a speed of 281 mph at 10,000 ft. The Model 75 prototype then flew to Wright Field in Ohio to participate in a “fly-off”, but another prototype of another company went down, enroute to Ohio . The competition “fly-off” was postponed to a later date.
The delay, allowing the competitor to submit another aircraft, allowed Curtiss to replace the engine on the Model 75 with a Wright XR- 1820-39 Cyclone engine producing 950 hp.
Some other fuselage work was done to be done and to replace the rear window for improved visibility. The new prototype was now called Model 75D with the changes from the delayed “fly-off”
In April of 1936, the long delayed “fly-off ” took place, but the new engine failed to perform as required, with a top speed of 285 mph.
The competing Seversky P-35 also failed to produce the required speed. Because of its performance, the Seversky P-35 was declared the winner of the “fly-off” and awarded a contract by the United States Army Air Corp (USAAC) for 77 aircraft.
Because of the political unrest in Europe in 1936, the USAAC wanted a backup aircraft as Seversky had limited manufacturing experience. The “back-up” aircraft, still a Curtiss Model 75, was revamped with a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-13 Twin Wasp engine, a refined rear window.
It was now called P-36A. It had an excellent rate of climb (ROC), tremendous roll rate and a high power to weight ratio. While there were deficiencies such as a poor supercharger which caused poor high altitude performance, nonetheless, USAAC ordered 210 of the P-36A.
Then in 1937, USAAC requested that Curtiss modify the Model 75 for an Allison V 1710 supercharged, liquid cooled, inline engine. This newly remodeled Model 75 was called XP-37.
The cockpit was move way back in the fuselage as it had a new supercharger system with bulky side doors for the engine and supercharger. It was test flown in April 1937 reaching 340 mph at 20,000ft.
After much testing, Curtiss found the Supercharger was very unreliable and visibility from the cockpit was almost non-existence for take-off and landings.
Thus the project was cancelled un favor of anther prototype called the XP-40. Before the Xp-40 was produced, one more attempt was mad to use Model 75.
The new prototype was called the XP-42. It had a long slek nose giving it the impression of having an liquid cooled in-line engine. Instead it had a radial engine which had unresolvable cooling problems.
This project was cancelled. Thus the P-36 Hawk became the standard for combat operations of the Model 75 platform.
The first production P-36As were delivered to USAAC in 1938. But due to “teething” problems it took a long time to correct these problems. By then the USAAC considered the P-36A to be obsolete.
However in February 1941, 39 P-36As were loaded on to the USS Enterprise in California and when the aircraft carrier got near the coast of Hawaii, the non-carriered built P-36As flew off the Enterprise to Wheeler Field in Oahu.
This was the first take-offs from an aircraft carrier by a non-carrier type aircraft. We know later, of the famous Jimmy Doolittle raid of B-25s over Tokyo in 1942 that took off from the USS Hornet. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 07 December 1941, only 5 of the 39 of the P-36A got airborne.
The 5 Hawks did a fine job as they downed two Japanese Zeros with a loss of one P-36. This was the only action the P-36A Hawk saw in World War II for the USAAC.
Most of the USAAC P-36As were relegated to advance trainers for the great influx of new pilots coming in the military.
Argentina 30 Curtiss P-750s were sold the Argentinians and a license to construct 20 more locally.
British-RAF The Mohawk was tested and compared against the Famous Spitfire. It did have a few features that were better than the “Spit” but in over-all analysis the RAF did not order any.
However due to the changing tides of war, the RAF inherited 229 Mohawks from the fleeing French pilots during the fall of France to the Germans. Most of these were sento the Royal Indian Air Force in India.
China The Hawk 75H which was a simplified version with fixed landing gear were sold to the Chinese Nationalists.
Finland After the Germans had taken France, they sold 45 Curtiss Hawks of various models to the Finns in their war against Russia. The Hawk was well liked by the Finn pilots, scoring 190 victories over the Soviets.
Other countries to use the P-36 of various models were; Norway, Peru Portugal and Thailand.
Where you can see the Curtiss P-36 Hawk
38-001 P-36A is on static display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio
Check With Your Local Air Museum for More Information on the Curtiss P-36 Hawk
Wingspan: 37 ft 4 in
Length: 28 ft 6 in
Height: 8 ft 5 in
Weight: 4,567 lbs (empty)
Max Speed: 313 mph
Cruise Speed: 270 mph
Ceiling: 32,700 ft
Range: 625mi (combat)
Engine: 1/Pratt & Whitney R-1830-17 Twin Wasp Air-cooled radial engine rated at 1,050 hp.