Grumman TBM-3E “Avenger”
The Grumman TBM-3E “Avenger” is the late World War Two variant of the original Grumman TBF Torpedo bomber first flown in 1941. The TBM-3E production began in 1944 and was manufactured by the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors in Ewing, NJ now the Trenton Mercer Airport. The “TBM” designation was assigned to all versions produced by Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors that began in 1943 with the TBM-1. The TBF/TBM was initially developed as a torpedo bomber for the US Navy, and US Marines and would eventually serve in the air and naval services of allied nations during and after WWII. The TBM would go through numerous conversions after the war and would see service in the US Navy through the 1950s.
The TBF/TBM would first enter service with the US Navy in 1942 and flew in combat for the first time as a land-based Torpedo Bomber during the Battle of Midway in June of 1942. Although its combat debut was less than stellar, taking heavy losses, it would go on to serve with distinction as the workhorse of carrier-based fighter bomber operations during the Battle of Guadalcanal, the island-hopping campaign through the pacific, the battle for Okinawa, and culminating in the attacks on the Japanese Home Islands until the Japanese surrender in August 1945. The “Avenger” was notably flown by former President George H.W. Bush off the USS San Jacinto. During an attack on the Island of Chichi Jima in September 1944 he was shot down and rescued by the submarine USS Finback. He would receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions. Famed actor Paul Newman also served as a rear gunner in the “Avenger” flying from the USS Hollandia in 1945 through the Japanese Surrender.
About Our TBM-3E “Avenger”:
The American Airpower Museum Grumman TBM-3E “Avenger” Bu. #85886 is currently part of a private collection, currently on loan to the museum for display and operation. Our “Avenger” was manufactured in Trenton, NJ in 1945, entering service with the US Navy. It would go on to be assigned to VA-1L also known at VT-58 in 1946 and would eventually be stationed at NAS Atlantic City NJ and serve abord the USS Saipan with the US Navy Operational Development Force along with TBM-3Ws, F6F Hellcats, and SB2C Helldivers.
Although the exact date of its surplus is not known the aircraft would be transferred to the civilian registry in 1963 with the N#9586Z that it still carries today. Our “Avenger” would go on to fly as a crop sprayer and water tanker until it was restored to its WWII military configuration in 1983. It began its Warbird life in the mid-1980s and began appearing at Air Shows in the US. It would be acquired in 1989 by its present owner and continued flying in air shows on the east coast. It would be one of the first warbirds to join the American Airpower Museum Collection of Aircraft at our founding in 2000. It has been a mainstay in the Northeast Air Show circuit, and on display at the Museum for the last 30 years.