The mid-1930s spawned a whole generation of aircraft that were very much stepping stones - far superior to the biplanes that they replaced, but not really combat ready and destined to be very much outclassed by types that would be entering service just a few years later. Prime among these in USN service was the TBD Devastator torpedo bomber - the Navy's first operational monoplane. This Douglas design also offered folding wings and retractable landing gear - very advanced features for 1935. A total of 129 TBDs were built, and equipped torpedo squadrons aboard all the prewar carriers.
The Devastator's principal offensive armament was a single 21-inch torpedo carried on the centerline, although up to 500lbs of bombs could be carried underwing. For defense, the pilot had a fixed .30-caliber machine gun, and there was a rear .50-caliber for the radio operator.
The first production Devastator was refitted as the float-equipped TBD-1A as the prototype for a float version able tom operate indepedently from remote bases. No production was undertaken, but the sole Devastator floatplane would fly on as a test machine.
As the Grumman Avenger was only just entering service as WWII began, the dwindling number of TBDs remained in frontline service during the early months of the war, flying combat missions during the first US carrier raids against Japanese forces in the Marshalls and Gilberts. The high point of the Devastator's wartime career came in May 1942, during rhe Battle of the Coral Sea, when some 22 TBDs were part of the force that attacked the Japanese carrier Shōhō.
Review: Al Adcock. TBD Devastator in action, Squadron/Signal Publications 1989 Some highlights: Several photos of the TBD production line Photos of the cockpit and gunner's position Three pages covering the TBD-1A floatplane Close up photo of the wing fold mechanism Color profiles include the XTBD-1, the floatplane, and Devastators from VT-2, VT-3, VT-5, VT-6, and VS-71 Shot of a VT-2 aircraft in a Barclay scheme