The General Motors TBM-3E at Colorado Springs' National Museum of World War II Aviation is one of about 25 airworthy Avengers in the U.S. Another 15 or so are on static display around the country, and about 20 are being restored. Others are flying, on display or under restoration in a number of other countries. Still, since GM and Grumman produced nearly 10,000 during the war, these remaining Avengers are a pale shadow of the former fleet, and therefore are rare birds — especially the ones that fly.
The Museum’s Avenger, which flies in occasional airshows, is jointly owned by Westpac Restorations and Chris Johnson of Fort Valley and Manassas, Va. It was built in May 1945, carrying the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics Number 91453. It went to Seattle, Wash., in August 1945, where it remained until 1947, according to warbirddepot.com. It was assigned to the USS Princeton in 1948, was declared surplus in 1957 and served as a fire bomber until 1984 when it was bought by James Williams of O’Brien, Ore., and restored to its present condition. In 1995, it was acquired by Jack Carson of Santa Barbara, Calif., who flew Avengers from the USS Bogue in the Atlantic during World War II. The Bogue and her escorts are credited with sinking 13 submarines. Carson sold the TBM to Klaers, Wojciak and Johnson in 1998.
It was kept at Westpac’s Rialto, Calif., facility until 2002, when it was taken to the Tennessee Museum of Aviation in Sevierville, Tenn. It remained there until 2008, when it was moved to Westpac’s new home in Colorado Springs.
The TBM, N4170A, went to sea again in 1995, after 47 years, on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to participate in the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II celebrations at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A propeller problem prevented Carson from flying off the carrier with other vintage warbirds. Among the warbirds that did launch from the Vinson was the B-25J bomber „In The Mood”, N9117Z, that resides at the Museum.
Avengers and B-25s were linked to another carrier in 1942. The Avenger part of the story, told by Commander Harry H. Ferrier (USN-ret.), begins with delivery to the Navy in Norfolk, Va., of the first 21 planes to Torpedo Squadron 8, or VT-8, in March, 1942. „We were all impressed with the new plane’s speed, maneuverability and ruggedness,” Ferrier says. It had made its first flight in August 1941. The Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, prompted the brand new carrier USS Hornet to depart Norfolk for the Pacific in March, immediately after her shakedown cruise. Aboard were obsolescent Douglas TBD-1 Devastators belonging to VT-8. The Avengers were flown shortly thereafter from Norfolk to San Diego, Calif., where they were loaded on a transport ship that sailed for Pearl Harbor. Hours after their arrival on June 1, Ferrier writes, the call went out for volunteers to fly six of the Avengers to Midway Island, 1,300 miles away.
Ferrier, a radioman on one of the six Avengers, says everyone at Midway could sense that a meeting the Japanese was imminent. Midway planes, including the Avengers, took off on June 4 and headed toward the formidable Japanese fleet, which included five carriers. Five of the six Avengers were shot down. The gunner in Ferrier’s plane was killed and Ferrier himself was wounded. His plane made it back to Midway with heavy damage.
But an Avenger „had survived its baptism of fire and proved itself a rugged, worthy replacement for the TBDs,” Ferrier says in retelling of a portion of the Battle of Midway. The Hornet, meanwhile, had arrived northeast of Midway with two other U.S. carriers, Enterprise and Yorktown. In the carrier vs. carrier battle that followed, all 15 of the Hornet-based Devastators of VT-8 were lost. Devastators of Torpedo Squadrons Three and Six also were lost, and four Army B-26s made futile attacks. But, as Ferrier says, these terrible losses sealed the fate of the Japanese carriers. The attacks allowed squadrons from the U.S. carriers to hit their Japanese counterparts when they were most vulnerable — while rearming and refueling their aircraft. Japan lost four carriers. Yorktown also was sunk, but the battle was a major victory for the U.S. Navy.
The Avenger was so named after Midway „to recognize the mission and dedication of all torpedo squadrons — to avenge the heroic sacrifice of their predecessors,” Ferrier says.
Source / Author: National Museum of World War II Aviation