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United States' Douglas TBD Devastator


Douglas TBD Devastator:
United States' Douglas TBD Devastator
Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook

Douglas TBD Devastator:
United States' Douglas TBD Devastator
Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook
Douglas TBD Devastator:
United States' Douglas TBD Devastator
Douglas TBD Devastator:
United States' Douglas TBD Devastator


The Douglas TBD Devastator was the first US Navy all metal, low wing, carrier based monoplane with hydraulic folding wings.1,2,5 If there was a strong wind, ground crew would have to move the wings.1 Some of the early pilots weren't used to the folding wings and crashed their planes when they didn't check that the wings were locked down.1

Was designed by Donald Douglas in 1934.1,3 The TBD was the United States Navy's first all metal low wing aircraft.3 Designs from Great Lakes Aircraft Corporation (XTBG-1) and Hall Aluminum Aircraft Corporation (XPTBH-2) were also submitted.3,5

The TBD Devastator originally had wing floatation bags to help the crew escape if the aircraft was ditched, but they were removed during the war to make sure the Norden bombsight would go down with the TBD.1


The undercarriage retracted but the main wheels would remain sticking out of the belly.2,3 This was to allow for safer emergency landings.3


After the tests of the prototype, the design of the cockpit was improved to allow better pilot visibility.3


By using hydraulic controls the wings could be folded back.3

1941 Torpedo Bomber Comparison


The XTBD-1 prototype first flew on April 15, 1935.1,2,3,5

Carrier trials were conducted aboard the USS Lexington in December 1935.1


1145 / 129 TBD-1s were ordered in February 1936.2,3 15 more ordered in August 1938.5

  • Douglas XTBD-1: 12,5
  • Douglas TBD-1: 1292,5
  • Total: 1302,5
    • Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company3,5
    • Manufacturing location: El Segundo, California5

Torpedo Bomber All Production Comparison


  • Great Lakes XTBG-1: Prototype.3,5 Biplane.3,5
  • Hall Aluminum XPTBH-2: Prototype.3 High wing.3
  • Douglas XTBD-1: Prototype.2,5 Powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-60 Twin Wasp.2
  • Douglas TBD-1: Powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 Twin Wasp engine.3 More powerful engine.5 Canopy raised.5
  • Douglas TBD-1A: Fitted with Edo floats and test flown in 1939 at Newport, Rhode Island.1,2


The VT-3 (Torpedo Squadron), on the USS Saratoga3, was the first unit to receive the TBD Devastators in October / November3 1937.1,2,3,5

Start of War

There were 69 operational TBD Devastators, out of 100 available, that were in service at the time of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbof.3


On June 4, 1942, 35 / 363 TBD Devastators were shot down.1,2,3 There were a total of 41 Devastators from the Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown.3,5 The Hornet had 14 of its 15 Devastators that took off on June 4, 1942, shot down.3


In 1942, against the Japanese in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, the TBD Devastators were outfitted with three 500 lb / 227 kg bombs or twelve 100 lb / 45 kg bombs (six under each wing).1


After being pulled from the front lines, after the Battle of Midway3, TBD Devastators were used for communications and training.1,5


  Douglas TBD-1 Devastator
Type Torpedo bomber1,2,3,4,5
Crew 31,2,3,5
Pilot, gunner/navigator, torpedo operator1,2
Engine (Type) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 Twin Wasp piston1,2,3,5
Wright Cyclone4
Cylinders Radial1,4, Radial 142,3,5
Cooling Air3
HP 9001,2,3,5
Propeller blades 31,2, 3 variable pitch5
Span 50'1,2,3,4
15.24 m1,2
Length 35'1,2,3,4
10.67 m1,2
Height 15'1, 15' 1"2,3
4.6 m1,2
Wing area 422 ft2 1
39.2 m2 1
Empty 6,169 lb1, 6,182 lb2,5
2,804 kg1,2
Loaded 10,173 lb1, 10,194 lb2,3,5
4,624 kg1,2
Speed @ sea level 206 mph5
Speed @ 8,000' /
2,440 m
205 mph1, 206 mph2,3
332 kph1,2
Cruise speed 128 mph2,5
206 kph2
Climb 720'/minute2
219 m/minute2
Service ceiling 19,700'1,2,3,5
6,005 m1,2
Range 415 miles1, 716 miles3
670 km1
Range with full load
(1,000 lb)
435 miles2, 716 miles5
700 km2
Maximum range 716 miles2
1,152 km2
Armament 2: MG3
Nose 1: 0.3" MG2
1: .30 cal MG5
Port wing 1: 7.62 mm MG1
Rear cockpit 1: 7.62 mm MG1
1: 0.3" MG2
1: .30 cal MG5
Bombs 1,000 lb3,5, 1,500 lb1
680 kg1
Torpedo 1: 1,000 lb1,2,5
1: 21"2
1: 454 kg1,2
53 cm2


  1. Aircraft of WWII, General Editor: Jim Winchester, 2004
  2. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  3. World War II Airplanes Volume 2, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  4. Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook, Ensign L. C. Guthman, 1943
  5. American Attack Aircraft Since 1926, E. R. Johnson, 2012
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site