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Eric Berg
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1/48 GWH Douglas TBD-1 Devastator – Midway

February 13, 2021 · in Aviation · · 36 · 4.1K

Plenty has been written on these iModeler pages about the history of the Douglas . Let's just say that this wasn't one of Douglas's finer achievements. All fifteen TBD's of VT-8 were shot down during the battle of and only one pilot survived. Not because the TBDs were not up to the job, instead the loss was due to poor strategic planning by the higher ups. Read Tom Cleaver's historical commentary in the comment section below. I chose to build TBD T-16 piloted by Lt. Commander John Waldron who led his VT-8 squadron into the thick of it all from the deck of the .

I picked up 's Midway TBD-1 kit several years ago in Hong Kong dirt cheap and finally got around to building it with Monogram's circa 30 yr old kit alongside. Hands down, this GWH kit is a huge improvement detail wise and pretty much makes the well liked Monogram TBD-1 obsolete. But it's not an easy build.

The many typos, misnumbered parts and missing info in the GWH's instruction booklet don't help either. The kit is somewhat over engineered with several irritating and tiny fragile parts that require due care when removing them from their sprue attachments. A couple of parts were so finicky and minuscule that I didn't use them. The worst were the two one piece wing fold motor with attached driveshafts. Both ultra thin shafts broke in multiple pieces upon sprue removal (whoops!) and were impossible to repair so I tossed them. I didn't string the vertical antenna either, because I had already glued the wings in the folded position and did not want to go back and botch things up at the last minute while on the final home stretch.

This GWH boxing does indeed have the correct landing set missing in the initial boxings that everybody was rightfully complaining about early on. The kit PE parts here are not the greatest and feature seat belts and harnesses instead of correct lap belts. There is also issue of the clear canopy parts that are way too thick and are all but useless in the open position. That's why I decided to go with a vac canopy from Rob-taurus. I used the much better Techmod decals and pilfered a few parts from the Monogram kit but everything else is straight from the box. Acrylic paints are Vallejo for the faded PRU blue and my own mix of Tamiya colors for USN light grey.

The attention to detail and fit of GWH's Devastator is really superb compared to Monogram so it's probably the best TBD-1 currently out there in any scale despite a few mistakes, but no kit is perfect. Just know that it's a slow going, must be careful build.

You can read all the details and avoid the pitfalls I encountered by reading my complete build here my first of 2021.

Enjoy the photos and thanks for looking.

Reader reactions:
29  Awesome

12 additional images. Click to enlarge.

36 responses

  1. After an amazing build thread, that I had the utmost pleasure to follow, you ended up with a truly excellent result, Eric.
    I loved the way you overcame the kit's issues, the torpedo restraints pop up, among others...
    You put A LOT of quality work there.
    Congratulations! This is a great TBD!

  2. Thanks Spiros for following along and giving me some tips and encouragement. You really came through.

  3. Your build resulted in an outstanding TBD, Eric. @eb801
    As said by our friend Spiros, @fiveten, you have tackled the issues very well.
    Lots of extra detailing like those torpedo straps etc.
    Thanks for the building thread.
    An absolute "like".

    • Mucho thanks John vB. Those sanding needles you recommended worked great and I was really happy with the results. Those plus taking my sweet time was the secret to getting most of the awful leading edge seams to "disappear".

  4. Like the F2A and the P-40, the story of the TBD as a failure is one of those "not quite" stories. What happened to the TBDs at Midway is they got separated from the rest of their airgroups, and were stuck with making unsupported, uncoordinated attacks on their own. The enemy CAP could concentrate on them without worry. That had nothing to do with the innate quality of the airplane; remember that the vastly-superior TBF made its debut in the same battle, got sent out to attack under similar solo conditions, and lost 3 of 4.

    What was supposed to happen was that the torpedo bombers would make their attack in coordination with and simultaneous to the dive bombers, thus dividing the defender's attention. When this was done right, as it was at Coral Sea with the sinking of Shoho, the TBDs and SBDs attacked in coordination and both squadrons got away with minimal damage/loss. Midway saw every rule in the book thrown over the side.

    VT-8 went their own way because Waldron had a better picture of what was what than the incompetent moron they had for a CAG, Stanhope Ring. who proves that "first in his class" generally means "last in actual ability" - there are other examples. Ring would have been out the door long before were he not a member of the Canoe U Protection and Marching Society (he was detested by every pilot in the air group for being an arrogant a s s as well as a terrible pilot). As it was, he led the rest of the Hornet air group out to the middle of nowhere, then mindlessly told them to follow prewar procedure and divert to the nearest land base, in this case Midway which was under attack.All the fighers and half the dive bombers were lost, Only about 15 made it back to the ship. If Marc Mitscher hadn't already been promoted to Rear Admiral, he'd have been beached. As it was, Ring was protected and sent back to Training Command, never to command in combat again, though they promoted him to Rear Admiral on his way out the door in 1949.

    At the time it was introduced, the TBD was actually the most-advanced carrier bomber in the world. Unfortunately, that happened in 1935, at the outset of what was a pretty steep curve in technology development. If the airplane had the 1,100 hp engine the SBD flew on, things might have been significantly different, but it had the early 850hp R-1830 - it was a technological contemporary of the SB2U and the BT-1, neither of which were particularly combat-worthy - when the time came they were almost out the door other than the Marines being stuck with the SB2U. Then the TBD was saddled with the Mk. XIV, the worst torpedo ever developed by anyone, forcing it to attack at 100mph and 100 feet, pulling no G at the drop. A nice slow target.

    If you look at its performance in the Gilberts strikes in February 1942, the Lae attack in March, and Coral Sea, it did about as good as any carrier attack bomber that wasn't the B5N2.

    All of that said, this is a beautiful model and you have definitely gotten everything and then some from what was there in the box. I followed the project and I really like the result.

    • IS a well-done model.
      Thanks for good background information.
      I'm probably the only one that needs you to tell...the meaning of "CAP"

      • CAP is combat air patrol, essentially the enemy fighter group protecting the fleet carriers.

        Tom, great points about the TBD, your mentioning of which is just another reason I love this site. What happened with the TBs at Midway was indeed more than the fault of the planes.. had they made their runs successfully, even with the support of Ring's coverage, one could speculate it would have had littleton do with the outcome, and we'd be even further lamenting the inadequacies of the Mk.14s... But history is what is, not so much what could have been.

    • Thanks TC for your encouragement and tips. And adding the additional history. Yes it wasn't the inadequacies of the plane itself that brought them down, but human blundering once again.

  5. Truly a beautiful result Eric. It shows the care and finesse that you put into the build. I followed the build thread and felt for you as you tackled the more irritating aspects of the build. But perseverance paid off.

  6. I’ve been expecting your Devastator model to be presented on the headlines, just to have some extra photos. And I am not disappointed Eric, it’s really a very solid build, lots of detail and great paintwork. Thumbs up

  7. Outstanding build.

  8. Very impressive build Eric! you got a real nice looking Devastator there!
    Everything on this build looks amazing.
    'Like' button definitely punched for this model and posting.

  9. Nice work on one of my favorite planes, Eric.

  10. Great result, Eric, definitely worth all that extra work you put in, and definitely liked as well.

  11. Absolute marvelous build! Kudo's, Eric!

  12. Eric, this is just gorgeous. Though much unloved, the TBD is one of my favorites with its broad wing chord, and sleek fuselage with its streamlined canopy. Especially a beauty when compared to the "fatcat" TBF. Your clean build does this plane heaps of justice, liked!

  13. Really well done, Eric (@eb801). I just watched the newest Midway movie for the 4th time yesterday, mainly because I like the flying sequences that show planes like yours. Interior looks especially good.

    • Appreciate your comments.

      If you haven’t already, check out the movie “Dive Bomber” (1941) with Fred MacMurray and Errol Flynn as flight doctors trying to figure how to prevent pilots from blacking out when pulling out of a dive. Lots of great footage of real SB2U Vindicators and TBDs and more. Not historically accurate but it is very entertaining and great for references.

  14. A masterpiece! Looks great.

  15. Superb Devastator Eric!

  16. Lovely work Eric!

  17. 🙂 ... Greetings ... 🙂 :
    This is a very well done representation of the Devastator.
    True not a very glorious and successive history, but without a doubt ... one of
    the elegant aircrafts of it's time, this model is mere proof of that.
    Well done Eric !

  18. Incredible looking TBD. All the effort put into the build paid off. It's one of those planes that just got eclipsed by all the improvements going on at the time in aviation.

  19. A nicely done TBD!

  20. To all the rest of you, thanks for looking and the appreciative comments.

  21. Hi. Just stumbled across your build log and photos. In the process of finishing this kit up now. Wish I had found your log earlier. Would have saved me a few steps. The instructions just aren't that clear in several areas. Especially the torpedo bay. Also didn't know about those holes in the fuselage side so I left them. I had initially glued the gun on then realized I needed to remove to prime and paint. Anyway, it's almost done. Yours looks awesome. Great details. Think I'll use your idea on the torpedo cables.

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

    • Are you also building the GWH kit? I couldn't tell as your photo looks "squished" to me. Thanks for the comments Russ @rfking.

      • Yes. Same kit as your build. Familiar with everything you mention. Not the greatest instructions. Just started back building a few months ago after about 45 years off. 57 now. This about my 6th build so far. Almost finished. Will post some photos. My blue is a little too dark but not trying for exact replica.

        • It does take awhile to get back into making models.

          Did you use a rattle can or airbrush? One thing that took me forever to figure out when I returned to the hobby is to thin the heck out of the paint and layer it in in very fine mists until it builds up to the the color density you want. It also eliminates the pebble look.

          One more hint, when posting photos (at least on iModeler), make sure your image size is between 600-800 pixels in width max.

          It always amaze me how many model companies can’t seem to produce logical instructions that are error free. The new Airfix and Eduard do a superb job in that department.

  22. Been using an airbrush, Paasche. Getting the hang of it. Figuring out the thinner / paint ratios has been a learning curve but learning new things on each build. Thanks for heads up on the photos.
    My last plane was an Eduard. P39. Nice kit.

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