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Louis Gardner
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Imodeler at the Movies “Victory at Sea” TBM-1C Avenger flown by Lt. Robert Cosgrove 05 November, 1944

When David @dirtylittlefokker
mentioned the "" group build, I was thinking about several different subjects that would fit. This particular plane is one that I have been wanting to build for many years now... and now that it is completed, I can scratch it off my "bucket list".

I started a Sherman tank from the movie "FURY", but ran out of time for various reasons...(namely too many projects going on at once). Then there was a F9F-5 Panther jet from the movie "The Bridges of Toko-Ri", It would have been completed, but at the very last minute I ran into big time problems when spraying the overall Glossy Sea Blue. That painting mistake caused me to completely strip all of the paint off the plane and start all over again.

and this plane you see here... that I managed to complete on time.

It's an Eastern built TBM-1C that was assigned to the USS Essex. Robert Cosgrove can be seen with his crew in this next photo. He is the man standing in the middle.

On this particular day, this Avenger was badly hit by anti aircraft fire. One round exploded inside the turret. The turret gunner, Lloyce Dean, was killed instantly. The explosion (or impact of the round) literally decapitated Dean. Here you can see the plane on its way back to the Essex after the raid on Manila Harbor. Dean is inside the turret, but sadly he is dead. The skill of the pilot, and the grace of God allowed the men to return to the USS Essex after receiving a lot of battle damage.

This tragic event was filmed by war wartime camera men. What happened next was something that will hopefully never have to happen again...and is more than likely the only time something like this had ever happened...before or since. A dead crewman was buried at sea in his aircraft on purpose.

These series of photos were taken from the original television series that was called "Victory at Sea". It was also aired several times on the Military History Channel. Every since I first saw this on television, I have wanted to build a tribute model for the brave men who were there on that fateful day over 75 years ago.

The radio man Digby Denzek (who also happened to be a very close friend of Lloyce Dean's) was sitting beneath the turret inside the Avenger. He was manning the "Stinger gun" located under the turret just behind the weapons bay. He asked the pilot, Bob Cosgrove, for permission to leave his duty station. When asked why, he reported to the pilot that Dean had been hit, and hit very badly. Denzek reported to Lt. Cosgrove that blood and teeth were raining down upon him... The horrors of War.
The plane was successfully landed on the deck of the Essex. As it was taxiing to the park position, the pilot folded the wings. Here you can see how badly the turret was damaged. The force from the explosion was big enough to bend the barrel of the .050 caliber machine gun that was mounted inside Dean's turret.

Here in this next picture you can see the extensive damage to the turret. Dean is still inside, and now the wings are almost completely folded,

It was reported that once the ground crews saw the carnage inside the turret, one of the men became sick and vomited. Here they are getting Lloyce Dean's fingerprints so that he can be positively identified. They have draped a canvas tarp over him to give the man a little dignity.

I tried to capture this photo angle with my model. I wanted it to look as it did just before it was loaded with munitions on it's last flight.

This next photo shows the plane as it was being towed to the fantail of the Aircraft Carrier USS Essex. The turret gunner Lloyce Dean was left inside for burial at sea inside his plane.

This would be the first time that an Enlisted Man was purposefully left in the aircraft and buried at sea. In these next photos, you can see the personnel have been gathered for a brief funeral service. The pilot Lt. Robert Cosgrove can be seen looking directly into the camera.

Once the funeral service was completed, the Avenger was pushed overboard. Deen was still inside the plane.

I believe the service was cut short because the Essex received a warning that the Japanese may have an incoming air attack headed their way. This was a very low hour Avenger, but it was determined to be best to simply push it overboard, and they didn't have any time to strip any salvageable parts from it. It's possible that a few small parts were scavenged from the plane before it was pushed overboard.

There are a few modifications I did. The most visible one is adding the rocket rails to the underside of the wings. These were taken from several 1/48 scale Hasegawa F6F-5 Hellcat models. This particular Avenger had 8 rocket rails, 4 located under each wing. The other modification I did was simply adding two radio altimeter antennae's to the underside of each wing. These items were "borrowed" from a Tamiya F4U-1 Corsair.

The Accurate Miniature Avenger has a nicely detailed weapons bay. It could carry a variety of things, from a single torpedo, to depth charges, to various bomb loads. I chose to leave mine empty as it would have looked prior to loading for the last mission.

The rest of the airplane is well detailed right out of the box. Here you can see the cockpit.

The rear turret where Lloyce Dean was killed.

A top side plan view:

and the same view, but from underneath.

The remaining photos show you how the rest of the plane would have looked prior to the last mission...

A build log can be seen by following this link. It also has several links to various websites that go into more details on what happened on that fateful day.

As always, comments are encouraged.

20 additional images. Click to enlarge.

36 responses

  1. Beautiful model Louis @lgardner. Really like this one!

  2. Very touching story. Well worth the build.

  3. You did a fitting tribute with this Avenger.

    • Michael, @mrieth
      Thank you for the compliments. I probably should have added a little more to the story line about the friendship that existed between the radio operator named Digby, and the turret gunner named Lloyce. Apparently they went to the air crew school together right after boot camp. Thanks again my friend.

      I really liked your 1941 Movie posting. John Belushi made that movie in my opinion. Too bad he died over something that could have been prevented. Such a waste of talent. But we both know that happens on a regular basis.

  4. Great build and a fitting tribute

  5. Very sharp TBM Louis done to your usual high standard! The story inspiring the build is also excellent.

    • Hello Dale, @dtravis
      Thanks for checking it out and for leaving the nice compliments. This is a story that just had to be told. I knew that someday I would be building a model of this plane. I scrounged the decals from various sheets.

      Ironically, painting on the "ghost" numbers "353" on the cowling was the hardest thing to do. It took numerous attempts to get it right. They typically sprayed the last 3 digits of the Bureau number on the cowling on various Navy planes. I have seen this on F4U's and F6F's as well as the Avengers.

  6. Incredibly sad moment Louis, that played out during the war. Very few actually filmed or photographed. The human element very telling. I know the conversations in how to present the Avenger, and the decision not too show the damaged turret. Well done model and well presented.

    • Hello Chuck, @uscusn
      It's always good to hear from you. This is a very tragic event in our recent history. I was torn as to show the pictures of the turret after the mission or not. I decided to go ahead and do it, since it gives the reader more of a shock. This is what war is about and what it looks like. Men and women, even children die. It would really be great if we all could get along so things like this never happen again.

      Unfortunately, I don't think that mankind will ever learn. We are cursed with self destruction.

      Thanks for the comments.

  7. A very nice tribute to the brave men who fought and died flying the Avenger. The plane sure looks new.

    • Pedro my friend ! @holzhamer
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. This is a story that we should never forget. The plane looks new, because in all actuality it practically was new. It was an airframe with very low flight time on the clock when it was damaged. Because of this, I decided to keep it looking fairly new. Thanks for the compliments my friend. Your Bf-110 is really looking sharp !

  8. Great tribute @lgardner! The Avenger is one of my favorite planes, after the Corsair and Dauntless. I remember your former president H. W. Bush also flew the Avenger in WWII. Thanks for posting this my friend, best to Sandy.

  9. Great project, Louis. A trademark ‘Gardner Post’ - in itself a high compliment.

    I took the liberty of resizing and colouring the first photo to show just how realistic this work is. A true ‘miniature’ (yes, that is photo IS a model).

    I’ve seen the original footage of this story and it is a very sad and sobering view.

    The incident touches several of my interests. The Avenger is a favourite of mine (despite her inelegant lines and lack of grace) and the Essex is an iconic vessel, serving in Korea and beyond to the Bay of Pigs. Like her soul sister, the Enterprise (I know she was a Yorktown, but I can’t help associate the two), she ended in the scrapyard (in ‘69 - @roofrat will probably have something to say about that as she was taken apart in his back yard).

    Terrific work. First class modeling and a story for the ages. Thanks for gracing the group with this.


    • David, @dirtylittlefokker

      It was an honor for me to be able to post this story, and to bring it to life by building this model. Sadly if we don't keep these memories alive, they will be lost forever.

      I seriously doubt that our younger generations of school children will be taught anything about this particular event in the public school systems that we seem to have now. The current system seems to forget the horrible sacrifices that men and women endured during these horrific times of war. From what I have been told, our children don't get taught anything at all about this type of history, and WW2 is covered in just two paragraphs. Instead they are being taught other things that are all "Politically correct" and very Liberal. How bogus is that ?

      Thanks for coming up with the idea, and for encouraging us when we needed it the most. I am amazed at the resized / B&W photo you posted of my Avenger build. It looks almost spot on ! Wow, I guess I nailed it pretty close ...

      I originally thought about adding more to the story, such as the friendship that existed between Lloyce Dean, and Digby Denzek. Aparently they were very close friends. I was also torn about posting photos of the plane as it had just landed. In the end, I decided to do it, so that the reader would get the shock from seeing how badly this man and machine had been damaged. It is a tragic story, but it needed to be told. I give full credit to the original photographers who showed this scene on the Victory at Sea episode.

      My Dad and I used to watch this television series together. This Victory at Sea, and "The World at War". That was another reason why I wanted to bring this one forward. It brought back fond memories of my childhood spending time with my Dad. He has been dead now for almost 8 years. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about him.

      The Avenger is also one of my favorite planes... so it was a win for everyone in the end.

      Thanks again for the marvelous response, and for adding the pictures of the memorial for Lloyce Deen. The B&W Avenger picture you posted is amazing... Icing on the cake.

      It's great to have you back here again.

  10. Another great one, Louis!

  11. Well done Louis.

  12. Excellent Louis! Always a pleasure to peruse your articles for all the details and backstory.

    • Greg, @gkittinger
      Thank you very much for the kind words and compliments. I sincerely appreciate them.

      You have some fantastic articles here on Imodeler. The pictures that your Dad took of the "Century Series" jets are among my favorites. I really enjoyed reading those postings ...

      Thanks again my friend.

  13. Michel, @michel-verschuere
    For some reason I couldn't post directly under your response. It kept putting up the TBM photo that David posted. Instead I have to reply here. Sorry.

    Thank you very much for the kind words. I'll keep you posted with how Sandy is doing. Tomorrow she is getting a PET scan done to check if her cancer is coming back. God I hope not... I have been praying for her to stay in remission every night. You are absolutely correct about former President H.W. Bush being an Avenger pilot. I do have eventual plans to build his plane that was flown from the USS San Jacinto, as I have a set of decals for his plane named "Barbara". Since you're a fan of the aircraft type, I'll be sure to start a build journal on it as well. Take care and give little Laurent a hug from Sandy and I. Please tell your family that we said hello.

  14. Nicely modeled and presented Louis.

    • Hello Allan ! @kalamazoo

      Thanks for stopping by and checking the Avenger out. I sincerely appreciate your compliments. I have been watching your Fokker F7, and it is really looking sharp with the blue and silver colors on it now. At the rate you're going, it will probably show up in the headlines section soon. Your pair of Cobra's are looking good too !

      Thanks again my friend !

  15. Fantastic post, Louis, it has everything, beautiful model, great research and fascinating history, defined liked. But, wow, iModeler is busy these days, isn’t it? Your article is nearly off the front page already. I suppose it’s a good thing, but maybe there should be some kind of self-imposed, voluntary limit on the number of articles we can post at a time, perhaps one a day, because sometimes one person has a virtual monopoly on the first page and others hardly get a chance to be seen.

    • It's wonderful to hear from you George. @chinesegeorge
      Thank you for the compliments on the model and the article. This is a story that deserves to be brought up again every now and then, so that these men are not forgotten.

      I agree that Imodeler has become very busy lately. We have a lot of new members and they have been posting up some great work. I remember when I first started posting articles here. It seemed as if they would remain on the "front page" for about two days or so, sometimes even longer. But I too was guilty of posting a lot of articles at once myself. Once I realized how it worked, I did start self imposing a limit and throttled it back some to be courteous to others. I think this is something that we all have experienced at some point.

      Thanks again my friend for the observations and kind words. I hope to see you post something up again sometime soon. Take care, and please stay safe, especially with the virus that is hitting hard over there...

  16. Well Louis I'll just say ditto to the comments already posted. Well done buddy, hand salute. Give Sandy our best.

    • Hello Tom ! @tom-bebout
      Thanks for the kind words, and I especially appreciate you thinking about Sandy... Today she gets her PET scan done. It's her first 6 month follow up since she completed her chemo treatments, and they are checking to see if the cancer is coming back. I have been praying every night that it doesn't. We will find out at the end of the month when we get these test results. I will be wound up tight until I hear the verdict.

      Thanks again Tom. Your a good man, and even better friend. Please tell the misses we said hello. Depending on how things pan out this year, we might stop in for a quick visit and make a trip over to see the AF Museum at Wright Pat. Return hand salute...

  17. A poignant story, beautifully handled, Louis.
    The build and photos are all up to your usual high standard!

    • David @davem

      Thanks for stopping by and I thank you for the compliments. This is a story that tugs at your heart strings. Building this model is something that I have wanted to do for ages. I thought about it as a kid, but I didn't have the resources to do it back then. Once I picked up a few of the Accurate Miniatures Avenger kits, I knew that someday I would build it. The final piece to the puzzle was when David Leigh Smith @dirtylittlefokker

      started this particular group build. I knew then and there I would make it happen. I am thankful that it turned out as well as it did. I had to cobble together the decals, but in the end it all worked out. Thanks again, and please tell Brenda that we said hello from across the pond.

  18. Louis,

    Not much more to add, but wanted to commend you on the craftsmanship and the story-telling.

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