A flight of TBD-1 Devastators over Florida in the early 1940s.

The TBD Devastator was a torpedo bomber that was used by the United States during World War II.


The main production model of the series was the TBD-1 Devastator. It had a crew of three and a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 Engine that was capable of propelling it at speeds of up to 331 km/h.

The armament of the TBD-1 consisted of one forward firing 7.62mm MG and a 7.62mm MG mounted in the gunner position. However, the forward facing MG could be switched if need be for a 12.7mm MG and an additional 7.62mm MG could be added to the gunner position to create a dual mount.[1]

The TBD could also carry up to 453 kg of bombs or a single Mk XIII Torpedo. The total wingspan of the TBD was about 15 meters while the total length was about 10.6 meters. The total combat weight was about 2,800 kg. The service ceiling of the Devastator was approximately 5,943 meters and it could climb to altitude at a rate of 213 meters per minute.[2]

The TBD was restricted to a range of about 1,474 kilometers and it could not increase its range by adding drop tanks. The TBD was fairly durable and could take some damage, but one of its major trade-offs was that it was slow and was not very maneuverable. This made it easy prey for most enemy fighters. If not properly protected with a fighter escort, TBD squadrons were almost doomed if they should encounter any Japanese aircraft. This did not bode well with pilots.


The TBD-1A was a Devastor modified to have large floats so that it could land on water. No other known modifications were made, particularly because of the plane's combat ineffectiveness.


A color photo of a flight of Devastators.

The TBD was first developed in 1935 and entered service with the US Navy in 1937. By the time of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the TBD was already obsolete compared to its Japanese counterparts. Still, the United States did not have any aircraft that could replace at the time as the new TBF Avenger wouldn't arrive until late 1942. Another factor was that at this time, the designing, evaluation, and prouction of a new aircraft was sluggish considering the United States wasn't necessarily totally ready to wage a war.

The TBD first saw combat in minor raids in the Pacific and later the Battle of the Coral Sea. At this time, reports were positive, indicating that the TBD was still a fairly effective aircraft. However, when the Battle of Midway began, TBDs were once again put into action. This time a total of 41 TBDs were launched from all three American carriers, only four returned to their carriers.[3] None scored any hits, part of this can be attributed to the failure of the Mk XIII torpedo to detonate upon impact. After the appalling casualties, the TBD was immediately replaced by the TBF Avenger and was relegated to second-line service. Eventually in 1944, the TBD exited United States service.


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