Midway Group Build, VT-8 “Torpedo 8” Grumman TBF-1 Avenger, 1/48 Accurate Miniatures
Here’s another historically significant plane from the Midway Group build.
This plane represents the sole surviving Grumman TBF Avenger from Torpedo 8. This plane managed to limp back home after being mauled by Japanese Zero fighters on June 4th, 1942, exactly 75 years ago today… The turret gunner Jay Manning was dead, the radio operator Harry Ferrier and pilot Ensign Bert Earnest were both wounded.
Not only is it the sole surviving Avenger, but this was the very first combat debut for the new plane as it was just entering “Combat” service with the US Navy. It is also the sole surviving torpedo plane from Torpedo 8, as the remaining Douglas TBD Devastators from this unit operating from the USS Hornet had all been shot down.
VT-8 took charge of these brand spanking new Grumman Avengers in March of 1942. The planes were at Norfolk Virginia, when this rare color publicity photograph was taken showing the acceptance by the US Navy. This is the photograph that inspired my build.
These black and white photographs were taken later in March after the unit markings had been painted on.
You can see that the tips of the propellers were painted red / yellow / blue as delivered by Grumman.
If you look closely at this picture below, you can see “8-T-1” painted on the side of the fuselage. It also has a much smaller US National insignia than what was carried on the plane later on.
A small detachment from Torpedo 8 (consisting of 6 of the new Grumman TBF-1 Avenger planes) were sent to Midway Island separately, since they had been training on the new Grumman plane in Norfolk. The rest of the VT-8 group, which were still flying the older Douglas built TBD Devastators, were still on board the USS Hornet.
This detachment from VT-8, flying the new Avengers, made their torpedo runs and failed to inflict any damage. It is not known if they simply missed the intended targets, or if the torpedoes failed to detonate upon impact. The torpedoes used by the US Navy at this time were notoriously unreliable, so I doubt it will ever be known for sure.
Out of the six TBF Avengers sent into combat for the very first time from Midway Island, this one, “8-T-1”, is the only one that returned. The rest were shot down and there were no surviving crew members from any of the other planes.
The elevator control cables had been shot away, and pilot Ensign Evans had to use the elevator trim tabs to try and coax the plane to climb after releasing the torpedo. There was considerable damage done by enemy gunfire throughout the Avenger’s airframe. I have read where the tail wheel assembly dropped down from the raised position due to damage inflicted by the Zero’s. When the tail wheel assembly dropped, it blocked the “stinger” .030 caliber machine gun located in the belly of the Avenger. With the turret gunner dead, no way to fire the stinger gun because the tail wheel blocked its field of fire, the plane was defenseless against the Zero attacks. The only weapon available for use was the cowling mounted machine gun operated by the pilot. Considering that Evans was busy trying to get the plane to respond to the trim tab inputs, he was not in any position to take a shot at any Zero that was foolish enough to get in front of him.
Ensign Evans crash landed the plane on the beach at Midway Island since it was all he could do to keep the plane airborne. It was so badly shot up that it had to be scrapped and never took to the skies again.
The fact that this plane was able to make it back to Midway in it’s condition, especially with all of the crew either being injured or dead, is simply amazing. It was a hint of things to come demonstrating the ruggedness of these Grumman built planes.
Here are a few pictures I found online of the plane after it landed.
This picture shows the plane after the salvage crew managed to get it back on the landing gear… The Starboard side main wheel failed to lock down or simply would not lower due to gunfire damage.
and I was able to find a close up picture showing some of the damage done to the turret, where Jay Manning was killed.
I started out with the 1/48 Accurate Miniatures TBF-1C kit.
In order to build this early version of the TBF-1 Avenger, I had to make some modifications to the kit. My friend Martin Dytrych sent me some great information about the differences found on the early Avengers. Thanks again Martin !
The build log can be seen here by following this link:
Some of the changes involved relocating the under wing landing light,
relocating and adding side windows to the fuselage and crew entry side door,
adding a trough into the cowling for the single pilot operated machine gun,
adding a crew seat behind the pilot,
and flight instruments which are shown on the left side of this photo below,
in the middle crew compartment just behind the pilot,
filling in the holes on the leading edge of the wing for the wing mounted machine guns, shaving off the bulged breech covers
and filling in the panel lines for the wing mounted guns,
and filling in the shell / link ejection ports located on the underside of the wings, also for the wing mounted weapons.
I wanted to build my plane as it looked shortly after it’s acceptance by the US Navy, after it had been assigned to Torpedo 8 at Norfolk Virginia. I like the colors used during this era.
This was my very first Accurate Miniatures Avenger build. I am sure it will not be the last.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about this very important plane as much as I have enjoyed building and researching it.
As usual, comments are encouraged.
18 additional images. Click to enlarge.