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Two years earlier, in the last major carrier battles, the Americans had been able to field three carriers.

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On 13 June Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher had fifteen carriers with aircraft, including seven fleet carriers and seven light carriers carrying Avengers, for a total of operational aircraft. Task Group 52, with eight escort carriers, carried another 83 Avengers.

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The battle was triggered by the American invasion of Saipan , and saw nine Japanese carriers attack the fleet. Two Japanese carriers were sunk by submarines, leaving seven intact to attempt to escape to the west, although with their precious air groups destroyed. On 20 June the American fleet devoted all of its efforts to finding Admiral Ozawa's fleet.

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A fierce air battle developed over the Japanese carriers, but the defenders was overwhelmed. Despite the size of the American attacking force the results of the attack were disappointing. Avengers from VT managed to sink the carrier Hiyo with torpedoes, but most were armed with lb bombs, and although the carriers Chiyoda and Zuikaku were damaged they managed to escape. This was only a temporary respite for the Japanese. After a few preparatory operations the Americans returned to the Philippines, landing on Leyte.

Grumman TBF Avenger

Task Force 38 had nine attack and eight light carriers, with Avengers, although USS Princeton was lost early in the operation. These Avengers were used to make a series of attacks on Okinawa and Formosa on October , before moving on to attack Japanese positions on the Philippines on October. The Japanese saw this attack as their last chance to force the decisive fleet battle they had been seeking since Midway.

Their plan involved fleets sailing from Singapore and from Japan, with the once-might carrier force demoted to the role of a decoy. The real damage was to be done by Admiral Kurita's First Striking Force, which contained seven battleships, including the Musashi and Yamato , the two biggest battleships ever built. The Japanese plan was a partial success.

On 24 October the Americans discovered Kurita's fleet and pummelled it. Six carriers were involved in the attacks. The Musashi was hit by nineteen torpedoes from Avengers, and at 7. Admiral Kurita decided to delay his attack until the night of October, and withdrew temporarily. This move was discovered by the Americans, and helped convince Admiral Halsey that this threat had been dealt with.

The Japanese had shown a very impressive ability to replace lost aircraft in the past and Halsey had no way to know that the carriers posed no real threat. Task Force 38, with the fleet carriers and light carriers, moved north to deal with this potentially very serious threat.

TF 38's Avengers played a major part in the four main attacks launched on 25 October, sinking or helping to sink all four Japanese carriers. The Chitose was sunk during the first attack. The Chiyoda was hit and damaged so badly during the second attack that she was abandoned.

The Zuikaku , the last surviving carrier from the force that had attacked Pearl Harbor, was damaged during the first attack and sunk by three torpedoes from Avengers of VT during the third attack. The Zuiho was also damaged during the first attack and sunk during the third. In theory Task Group 77's eighteen carriers carried a powerful force of Avengers and fighters - the fact that the Avengers were operating from escort carriers rather than fleet carriers had no impact on their performance. However the escort carriers had a limited amount of storage space for ammunition, and they were carrying normal bombs and rockets, intended to support the troops on Leyte, rather than the torpedoes and armour piercing bombs they needed against the Japanese battleships and cruisers.

Kurita had not been expecting to find any aircraft carriers off Leyte, but early on the morning of 25 October his fleet ran into the six escort carriers of Admiral Sprague's Task Unit Sprague's only option was to head south towards the other two escort groups, while launching every aircraft he had in an attempt to distract the Japanese. Many of his Avengers were launched without bombs or torpedoes loaded, but they managed to convince Kurita that he was facing a much more powerful force than he really was.

The aircraft from 'Taffy Three', combined with more from 'Taffy Two' as that second task unit came into range and with the determined attacks of Sprague's destroyer screen, eventually convinced Kurita to abandon the attack. Even so two carriers had been lost - the Gambier Bay to gunfire and the St Lo by a kamikaze, and three destroyers had been sunk. Three of the Japanese light cruisers had been so badly damaged by bombs from the Avengers that they had to be abandoned, although forty-two Avengers were lost.

The next American target was Iwo Jima. Immediately before the invasion of that island Task Force 38, with fourteen fast carriers and Avengers including new TBM-3s in five squadrons , sailed for Japan, launching a series of raids around Tokyo on February The same carriers then took part in the invasion of Iwo Jima, attacking Japanese positions on the island. Task Force 58 was also involved in the invasion of Okinawa , and one final battle with a major element of the Japanese surface fleet. This was the giant battleship Yamato , which was dispatched towards Okinawa on 7 April on a suicide mission.

She never reached her destination. Instead aircraft from Task Force 58 attacked her while she was still over miles away, scoring 18 torpedo hits on the battleship.

016 - TBF / TBM Avenger Units of World War 2 (B. Tillman).

Although the Yamato was still afloat when the attacks ended, she was mortally wounded and capsized and exploded. Towards the end of the war the Avengers of Task Force 38 under Halsey took part in a series of air strikes on the Japanese Home Islands that lasted from 10 July until the end of the war. Towards the end of the war the Avenger became increasingly superfluous. The single-seat fighter bombers, in particular the Hellcat and Corsair, were able to carry the same payload of standard bombs or rockets at higher speeds, although over shorter distances, than the Avenger, while the decreasing number of Japanese ships found at sea reduced the need for a torpedo bomber.

Indeed the Avenger spent far more time operating as a level bomber than as a torpedo bomber, at least in part because of severe problems with the main American air-launched torpedo. The Helldiver began to replace it in some VT and VA squadrons, and after the end of the war it was quickly phased out as an attack aircraft, in favour of a new generation of single-seat naval attack aircraft.

This didn't end the Avenger's active career.

About TBF/TBM Avenger Units of World War 2

Its large bomb bay proved to be ideal for conversion to a wide range of alternative roles and versions of the Avenger served as both the hunter and killer in anti-submarine warfare -3W and -3S , and as a transport aircraft designed to carry supplies and personnel onto aircraft carriers at sea -3R amongst other things. Many of the crews were very inexperienced, and the squadrons suffered heavy losses, but they did help to silence several heavy gun batteries and three aircraft from VGS became the first Avengers to sink a submarine when they destroyed a Vichy French submarine.

The Avenger was used extensively from American escort carriers during the Battle of the Atlantic and briefly by the British, although the Swordfish remained the aircraft of choice on the smaller carriers. She entered service in March , and escorted three convoys in March and April, without any success.

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However this early experience did give the new group some valuable experience. It was realised that more Avengers were needed, and the compliment of aircraft was changed to nine Wildcats and twelve Avengers. A more active search pattern was developed, covering the area to the front and sides of the convoy in an attempt to find U-boats as they were approaching a convoy. On 21 May U was attacked, and was forced to return to base for repairs. On the following day four submarines were attacked.

The third, U, was also forced home for repairs, and the fourth, U, was scuttled after two damaging attacks.

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Two more sinkings followed in June, and by the end of the war VC-9 had eight confirmed kills out of the thirty achieved by the composite air wings, making it the most successful of them. Six U-boats were sunk, and the air gap began to be closed. The month also saw the first use of the Mk 24 Fido torpedo, when on 14 July one sank U after homing in on its engines. The majority of Avenger U-boat kills came during The fall in victories during actually marked the Allied victory in the Atlantic. The wolf packs had been withdrawn by Donitz, and the targets simply weren't there any more.

Overview As its name suggests, the Avenger meted out severe retribution on the Japanese in the Pacific, participating in every major engagement through to VJ-Day. About the Author Barrett Tillman is the world's most prolific US naval aviation author, having published over two-dozen titles on the World War 2 period alone.

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