grumman/ general motors
VALIANT AIR COMMAND TBM-3U Avenger
TBM bureau number 91188 was delivered to the United States Navy during WWII from the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors. Following her retirement from the U.S. Navy # 91188 saw extensive service in the hazardous role of fire bomber for the U.S. Forestry Service based at Davis, California from 1956-1964. She would continue in this role through 1969 with Georgia Forestry Commission in Macon, GA. After her distinguished career as a fire bomber 91188 transitioned between various private owners throughout the country ultimately finding herself at the Valiant Air Command, Inc. in 2002. For nearly 18 years the VAC TBM has been undergoing an extensive restoration to flight by our skilled restoration personnel.
On January 11th, 2020 she returned to skies for the first time in several years a testament to the hard work and dedication of our volunteers. Our aircraft is painted in the colors of the Flight 19's Commander, Lt Charles Taylor the lead aircraft for one of the greatest unsolved disappearances in Florida State History. Five Avengers departed NAS Ft. Lauderdale in 1945 never to be heard from again. To this day the search for the 5 missing TBMs continues to be the focus of many historical and dramatic accounts and films.
The Avenger served from 1942 onwards as the primary torpedo bomber for the US Navy. Designed by Grumman, TBM Avengers were actually built by General Motors at their NY factory. Of the 9,800 Avengers built, most were TBM variants. It is sometimes said the Avenger missed the Battle of the Midway but in fact six Avengers were stationed on Midway Island and participated in that pivotal battle. Of the six that flew, five were shot down.
US Navy tactics at the time called for a two pronged attack on enemy ship formations, dive bombers attacked from altitude, and Torpedo Bombers attacked from low level. The theory held that the Japanese Combat Air Patrol would not be able to deal with both and would be drawn to one or the other. The element not engaged would then be free to press home an attack unmolested. It was this tactical concept that dictated the design of the Avenger, the powerful .50cal gun in a power operated turret providing protection from enemy fighters diving down to attack, and a massive bomb bay to house the torpedo inside the aircraft, rather than externally as had been done up to that point. She was built rugged and tough to survive harsh carrier operations and to take tremendous punishment
At Midway, it was the Torpedo Squadrons that were engaged and took devastating losses. This allowed the dive bombers to get through and the Japanese Fleet was badly mauled with all their carriers sunk. It was a turning point in the Pacific War. The Avenger went on to serve with great distinction in the Pacific and the Atlantic, being credited with the sinking of the Imperial Japanese Navy battleship "Yamato" as well as scores of German U-boats in the Atlantic. The Avenger was used by the Royal Navy as well as a number of other Allied Air Arms.
It was an Avenger that was flown by George H.W. Bush, teh 41st President of the United States when on September 2nd 1944, he was shot down while conducting operations against the Japanese on Chichijima. Surviving four hours in the water he was rescued by the US NAVY Submarine, Finback. Another famous American who flew in Avengers was the Actor Paul Newman, served as a turret gunner on the type.