The Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers built for the Navy originally carried the designation of TBF. The Avenger came into service in 1942 to replace the Douglas Devastator, but in its first combat at Midway in June 1942, it fared badly. Five out of six were shot down during an unescorted attack on Japanese ships.
Grumman built 2,291 Avengers but stopped producing them in 1943 to concentrate on fighter aircraft production. Beginning in late 1942, the Eastern Division of General Motors, under a wartime contract with Grumman, built 550 aircraft similar to the Grumman models, but designated as the TBM. General Motors then built 3,757 of the TBM-3 variants with added armor, wing guns and radar. In total, almost 9,900 Avengers were built for the Navy, Marine Corps and Allied navies. The TBM-3 could carry a 2,000-pound torpedo or 2,500 pounds of bombs.
Throughout the war, Avengers played a key role in sinking many Japanese warships in the Pacific and in protecting supply convoys from German submarines in the Atlantic Ocean while serving aboard escort carriers. Avengers could launch off the shortened decks of escort and light carriers. The Avenger had good range due to an internal fuel capacity of 325 gallons and a consumption of 75 gallons per hour.
On September 2nd, 1944, President George H.W. Bush was shot down while flying an Avenger during a bombing mission against Japanese positions on Chichi Jima. He successfully parachuted and was picked up just off the coast by an American submarine. This Avenger (TBM-3E) carries the insignia of VC-65, the squadron serving on the escort Carrier Midway (CVE-62) in 1944. The Midway participated in the Saipan invasion and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The ship was renamed the St. Lo on October 10th, 1944, and was the first major warship sunk by a kamikaze attack.