So Cal Devastator

TBD-1 Devastator of VT-5 pictured in flight over Southern California.

Photo/description from the Naval Aviation Museum

Note the Navy E and squadron insignia, a Valkyrie or maiden of Odin that hovered over the battlefield and chose those to be slain, on the fuselage beneath the cockpit.

Insignia: Torpedo Squadron Five (VT-5) Emblem was adopted during the later 1930s when VT-5 served onboard USS Yorktown (CV-5). This reproduction features a stylized representation of a TBD Devastator torpedo plane and an explanation of the insignia’s design. Courtesy of John S. Howland, 1975. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph Catalog #: NH 82628-KN

The aircraft shown above is 5-T-7 Bu No 0331 pictured in November 1939 when she was operating off USS Yorktown (CV 5) with VT-5.


Douglas TBD-1 Torpedo Planes of Torpedo Squadron Five (VT-5) Parked on the after flight deck of USS Yorktown (CV-5) at Naval Air Station, North Island, San Diego, California, in June 1940. Three of these aircraft closest to the stern are painted in an experimental camouflaged color scheme used during Fleet Problem XXI– one of which could be 5-T-7 as it is not seen among the crowd of other planes.  Also, note two of Yorktown’s eight 5″/38 singles on sponsons. This section of the ship was examined when Yorktown’s wreck was located in May 1998. The after thirty feet (approximately) of the flight deck was missing, but most other features seen were present, including the ship’s name on her stern. This view is cropped from Photo # 80-G-652042. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 95314

Bu 0331 was transferred to VT-7 on USS Wasp (CV-8) in 1941 and later operated as a trainer at Dahlgren, Virginia until being scrapped in 1944.

While the TBD gets a bad wrap these days– largely because of their disastrous performance at Midway, where any other torpedo bomber of the day (Fairey Swordfish, Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” et al) would have likewise performed poorly in an unsupported daylight attack against a surface fleet protected by good fighter cover– it should be remembered that it was the best torpedo bomber available to the U.S. Navy at the time. Remember, VT-8, which flew Avengers at Midway, didn’t have much luck either. 

Keep in mind that at the Battle of Coral Sea, TBDs landed seven torpedos on the Japanese carrier Shoho, sending that flattop to the bottom. 

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