Throughout his book The Battle for Hell’s Island, Stephen Moore describes the TBD Devastator as a liability in battle. His story concentrates on the Scouting and Bombing squadrons of the carrier battles and the challenges that each pilot faces while manning a SBD Dauntless aircraft. Those pilots in the TBD Devastators, however, needed miracles. The torpedoes rarely hit the target, they were slow in all facets of combat and they did not have the fuel efficiency to fly longer missions. By the time the Battle of Midway was complete, entire torpedo squadrons of TBD’s were wiped out and urgently being replaced by newer, faster aircraft. The few remaining aircraft to survive Midway were scrapped and re imagined into a different form of weaponry.
Today the world of airplane enthusiasts has forgotten about those slow, outdated and obsolete critiques of the Douglas TBD Devastator. This rare bird is now in great pursuit because it was wiped out during the South Pacific campaign. With no example of a Devastator in any museums in the world, the only known location of an existing TBD is underwater. In my preliminary research, I have found the known location of two: one off the coast of San Francisco and one near the Marshall Islands in the Coral Sea. These planes have been located by companies that specialize in lifting, transporting and restoring old objects out of the sea. One such outfit, TIGHAR, has been trying to obtain the necessary permits to recover the TBD located near the Marshall Islands for a while now. Whether it be federal bureaucracy or coordinating with the Marshall Islands, the easy part seems to be the recovery. One of the founding members of TIGHAR has agreed to talk with me regarding these difficulties in bringing back a plane that, during it’s time, not many people were sad to see go. More details to follow…
This beautiful rendition of the Douglas TBD originated from the following website: