TBD Devastator airplane model. The TBD Devastator was the Navy's first all-metal, monoplane torpedo bomber. It was also the Navy's first carrier-based plane to come with an enclosed cockpit, and the first to use main landing gear wheel brakes. While most carrier-based aircraft of the day had manually folded wings for storage aboard ship, the TBD featured hydraulic folding wings. The plane had a crew of three (pilot, bombardier and gunner), and carried a half-ton torpedo. It entered service with the fleet in 1937.
In December 1941, TDB Devastators formed the backbone of the Navy's carrier torpedo force in the Pacific. During hit-and-run raids against Japanese bases in the Central Pacific in early 1942, TBDs sank two transports and destroyed or damaged 10 other vessels. In May 1942, during the Battle of the Coral Sea, TBDs helped sink one enemy carrier and heavily damage another. These early actions, however, revealed the Devastator's shortcomings in speed and range and exposed problems with its main offensive weapon. Its torpedoes often failed to explode.
The TBD next saw action in the Battle of Midway in June. This was a complete victory for the U.S. Navy, but of the 41 Devastators that took part in the battle's first day, only six made it back to their carriers. The TBD's slow speed, light defensive armament and lack of maneuverability made it easy prey for the famous Japanese Zero fighter. On the last day of the battle, however, three TBDs did help sink one heavy cruiser and seriously damage another.