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Today in Aviation History

Facts, records and events that can be found in the exhibits of the Cradle of Aviation Museum.

April 8, 1940

April 8, 1940 - The US Navy contracts with Grumman for two prototypes of the XTBF-1, later named “Avenger,” a mid-wing monoplane that would become the Navy’s standard carrier torpedo bomber of World War II.

>>> Be sure to see our TBM-3E Avenger in our WWII Gallery!

The XTBF-1
The Douglas' TBD Devastator, the U.S. Navy's main torpedo bomber introduced in 1935, was obsolete by 1939. Bids were accepted from several companies, but Grumman's TBF design was selected as the replacement for the TBD and in April 1940 two prototypes were ordered by the Navy. Designed by Leroy Grumman, the first prototype was called the XTBF-1. It was first flown on August 7, 1941. Although one of the first two prototypes crashed near Brentwood, New York, rapid production continued. More via the Naval Aviation Museum

TBF Avenger in WWII
On the afternoon of 7 December 1941, Grumman held a ceremony to open a new manufacturing plant and display the new TBF to the public. Coincidentally, on that day, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, as Grumman soon found out. After the ceremony was over, the plant was quickly sealed off to guard against possible sabotage. By early June 1942, a shipment of more than 100 aircraft was sent to the Navy, arriving only a few hours after the three carriers quickly departed from Pearl Harbor, so most of them were too late to participate in the pivotal Battle of Midway.  Six TBF-1s were present on Midway Island – as part of VT-8 (Torpedo Squadron 8) – while the rest of the squadron flew Devastators from the aircraft carrier Hornet. Both types of torpedo bombers suffered heavy casualties. Out of the six Avengers, five were shot down and the other returned heavily damaged with one of its gunners killed, and the other gunner and the pilot injured. Nonetheless, the US torpedo bombers were credited with drawing away the Japanese combat air patrols so the American dive bombers could successfully hit the Japanese carriers. More about the Avenger via

Leroy R. Grumman
Leroy Randle Grumman (January 4, 1895 – October 4, 1982) was an American aeronautical engineer, test pilot, and industrialist. In 1929, he co-founded Grumman Aeronautical Engineering Co., later renamed Grumman Aerospace Corporation, and now part of Northrop Grumman. More about Leroy Grumman