SkyMax Models SM8001 USN Douglas TBD-1 Devastator Torpedo Plane - Ensign George Gay Jr., VT-8, USS Hornet (CV-8), Battle of Midway, June 1942 (1:72 Scale)
"It's when a fellow is just gone and knows it, it is just crash into the ship or crash into the sea, and you have enough control to do a little bit more damage, why you crash into the ship."
- George Henry Gay, Jr, Battle of Midway, June 1942
The Douglas TBD Devastator was a torpedo bomber of the United States Navy, ordered in 1934, first flying in 1935 and entering service in 1937. At that point, it was the most advanced aircraft flying for the USN and possibly for any navy in the world. However, the fast pace of aircraft development caught up with it, and by the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the TBD was already outdated. It performed well in some early battles, but in the Battle of Midway the Devastators launched against the Japanese fleet were almost totally wiped out. The type was immediately withdrawn from front line service, replaced by the Grumman TBF Avenger.
The TBD Devastator marked a large number of "firsts" for the U.S. Navy. 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. A semi-retractable undercarriage was fitted, with the wheels designed to protrude 10 in (250 mm) below the wings to permit a "wheels-up" landing with only minimal damage.
A crew of three was normally carried beneath a large "greenhouse" canopy almost half the length of the aircraft. The pilot sat up front; a rear gunner/radio operator took the rearmost seat, while the bombardier occupied the middle seat. During a bombing run, the bombardier lay prone, sliding into position under the pilot to sight through a window in the bottom of the fuselage, using the Norden Bombsight. The offensive armament that he targeted would be either a single Bliss-Leavitt Mark 13 aerial torpedo or a single 1,000 lb (454 kg) bomb. Defensive armament consisted of either a .30 caliber or .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine gun firing forwards, and a .30 caliber machine gun for the rear gunner.
The power plant was a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 Twin Wasp radial engine of 900 hp (671 kW). A total of 129 of the type were purchased by the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer), equipping the carriers USS Saratoga, USS Enterprise, USS Lexington, USS Wasp, USS Hornet, USS Yorktown and USS Ranger.
The U.S. Navy became aware by about 1940 that the TBD had become outclassed by the fighters and bombers of other nations and a replacement (the TBF Avenger) was in the works, but it was not in service yet when the United States entered World War II. By then, training attrition had reduced their numbers to just over 100 aircraft. The Devastator had become a death trap for its crews: slow and poorly manoeuverable, with light defensive weaponry and poor armour relative to the weapons of the time. Its speed on a glide-bombing approach was a mere 200 mph (322 km/h), making it easy prey for fighters and defensive guns alike. The aerial torpedo could not even be released at speeds above 115 mph (185 km/h). The U.S. Navy assigned popular names to its aircraft in late 1941, and the TBD became the Devastator.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of an USN Douglas TBD-1 Devastator torpedo plane that was piloted by Ensign George Gay, who was attached to VT-8, then embarked upon the USS Hornet, during the Battle of Midway, June 6th, 1942.
Wingspan: 8-1/4 inches
Length: 5-3/4 inches
Release Date: January 2011
Historical Account: "Front Row Seat" - At Midway, a total of 41 Devastators, a majority of the type still operational, were launched from Hornet, Enterprise and Yorktown to attack the Japanese fleet. The sorties were not well coordinated, in part because Admiral Raymond A. Spruance ordered a strike on the enemy carriers immediately after they were discovered, rather than spend the time to assemble a well-ordered attack among the different types of aircraft (fighters, bombers, torpedo planes); reasoning that attacking the Japanese would prevent a counterstrike against the US carriers. TBDs lost contact with their fighter escort and started their attacks without fighter protection. Torpedo delivery requires a long, straight-line attack run, making the aircraft vulnerable, and the slow speed of the aircraft made them easy targets for the A6M Zeros. Only four TBDs made it back to Enterprise, none to Hornet and two to Yorktown, without scoring a torpedo hit.
Nonetheless their sacrifice was not completely in vain, as several TBDs managed get within a few ship-lengths range of their targets before dropping their torpedoes, being close enough to able to strafe the enemy ships and force the Japanese carriers to make sharp evasive maneuvers. As the carriers were in the midst of refueling and rearming operations with planes on the deck ready to take off, they were unable to launch these armed and fueled planes due to the TBD attacks, so this left the carriers in an even more vulnerable position. Furthermore, the heroic actions of the Devastator aircrews that day drew the Japanese air cover out of position. This window of opportunity was exploited by the late-arriving SBD Dauntless dive-bombers led by Lieutenant Commander C. Wade McClusky and Max Leslie, and three of the four Japanese carriers were fatally damaged shortly afterwards.