Monogram 1/48 TBD-1 Devestator




@ $10-15


Three options


Scott Van Aken




The Douglas TBD-1 was the Navy's first widely-used monoplane shipboard plane. Designed to carry a heavy torpedo below the fuselage, it was necessarily a large aircraft and its 900-horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830 "Twin Wasp" radial engine could drive it to a maximum speed of slightly over 200 miles per hour. The XTBD-1 first flew in April 1935 and 129 production TBD-1s were delivered in 1937-39, rapidly replacing biplanes in the Navy's carrier torpedo squadrons. The type gave U.S. Fleet aviators valuable experience with what was, for the time, a rather high-performance aircraft. "Normal" operational attrition whittled away at the TBD inventory, which peaked at about 120 in 1939 and had declined to barely more than a hundred at the start of the Pacific War.

Though the new Grumman TBF "Avenger" was entering production as its intended replacement, the TBD-1 was the Pacific Fleet's sole torpedo plane for the first part of the war against Japan. It seemingly did well in the raids of February-March 1942 and in the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May, serving in both the torpedo attack and high-level bombing roles. However, in about an hour's time on 4 June 1942, during the Battle of Midway, the TBD entered the annals of Naval history as a synonym for costly futility. Three squadrons of TBD-1s made heroic torpedo attacks on the Japanese carrier force, losing all but four of forty-one aircraft while achieving no hits. Old and slow, with a weak defensive armament and without self-sealing fuel tanks, the TBD had proven horribly vulnerable to enemy fighters, though this vulnerability was to a great extent typical of all torpedo attacks against well-defended ships.

At the end of the Midway battle, the Navy had just thirty-nine TBDs left. New "Avengers" quickly took their place on Pacific Fleet flight decks, but the older planes continued to serve (briefly) in the Atlantic Fleet and in training squadrons until late 1943. The twenty-one TBDs left in the Navy inventory at the start of 1944 were mainly employed as stationary hulks for maintainance training, and all were gone by the end of that year. There are no surviving TBDs today, though hope exists for recovery, restoration and exhibit of a plane lost at sea.

The TBD's short production life, and specialized intended employment, precluded much variety in the type. The first production unit was converted to a floatplane, designated TBD-1A, and used for tests well into World War II. With the 1941 adoption of "popular" names for Navy aircraft, the TBD began to be called the "Devastator", but for most of its operational life, it was just known as the TBD-1.

Thanks to the US Navy Museum for the historical background.



Probably as long running in terms of production at Monogram as their P-61, the TBD has been bought by the tens of thousands by modelers all over the world. This 1974 kit is still pretty much the best one on the market in any scale and thanks to Monogram's conscientious attention to detail, it will be a while before it is bettered.

Coming from the 'raised panel' era should not put off the prospective modeler as much of the plane is covered in corrugations! Devoid of the operating features that were so common in the 60s, this kit provides a most complete cockpit, the ability to have the wings folded and the ability to set it up for either bombs or a torpedo. There are separate bomb aimer's doors and those can be positioned open if one desires. There are also separate flaps that can be positioned down if one wishes. There are two accessory compartment access panels that can be posed open. One side shows the forward .30 machine gun while the other can have a crewman standing on it in preparation to operate the inertial starter to get the engine going. The final option is to have the canopy open and stacked in position.

Instructions are excellent and provide both the usual construction drawings and a step by step written sequence with little check boxes so that you can ensure you are following along properly. A color chart is provided showing 'Monogram-Humbrol' paints, but I'd bet the Humbrol numbers are obsolete.  Markings are for three planes. One is the box top aircraft in the pre-war scheme from VT-2 aboard the USS Lexington. The other two are in the blue grey over light grey scheme. One from VT-8 aboard the Hornet and with the red/white tail stripes. The other a post Coral Sea plane from VT-6 aboard the USS Enterprise. Decals are well printed and very glossy. Monogram had a checkered history of having good decals back in the 70's, 80's and early 90's. However, with the advent of the outstanding Yellow Wings decal sets, there is no need to use the kit decals for your pre-war marked Devastator.


This is a really fine kit that builds into a very impressive model. What's more, it is easy to find just about anywhere.

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