As a result of several friendly fire incidents during and following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on 23DEC41 CinC Pacific issued a directive that all US aircraft in the Hawaiian area were to carry national markings in six locations (upper and lower surfaces of both wings, both sides of the fuselage) and red and white tail stripes on the rudder. By early January various other commands had followed suit, and the changes became official. Here is a beautiful color shot of a factory fresh Avenger in the standard Blue Gray over Light Gray camouflage and the specified markings in effect from 23DEC41 to 06MAY42. (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
Leroy Grumman designed the wing fold mechanism which was applied to the F4F-4 Wildcat, TBM Avenger, and F6F Hellcat, and is still in use on the C-2 Greyhound today. Called the STO-wing, it allows the wing to pivot as it is rotated along the fuselage. Adoption of the folding wing allowed an increase of approximately 50% to the aircraft capacity of U.S. Navy carriers. This is a relatively rare view of the wing in mid-fold. (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
With the wing completely folded the space savings is obvious. Modelers should note that the inside of the wing is finished in the upper surface Blue Gray color, not in primer. Also note the landing gear leg, wheel hub, and gear cover are in the underside Light Gray color. (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
To eliminate any confusion with the Japanese Hinomaru, the red centers of the US national insignia were ordered to be removed by ALNAV97 on 06MAY42. Rudder stripes were also painted out at this time, preferably with blue gray to match the upper surface camouflage, but many units made do with whatever paint was available. This is a factory-fresh Avenger in the specified markings, which the first Avengers to see combat wore during the Battle of Midway. (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
There were several variations in the size and location of the insignia, modelers are well advised to seek photographs of the specific subjects they wish to portray whenever possible. This Avenger has an unusually-small fuselage insignia. (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
1943 was a confusing year for US Navy aircraft markings, with many changes being made and some only partially adopted in the field. Effective 01FEB43, SR-2c directed that naval aircraft revert back to four national insignia, upper port wing, lower starboard wing, and both fuselage sides. Photographic evidence suggests that many field units did not eliminate the extra wing insignia. On 28JUN43 ALNAV 12 directed that the national insignia be modified to incorporate a white bar on either side of the star, and the entire insignia was to be outlined in red. This directive generated considerable opposition in the Pacific Theater, commanders fearing any red might lead to confusion with the Japanese Hinomaru. On 31JUL43 Third Fleet issued a directive for its subordinate units NOT to outline the national insignia in red, and AN-I-9b of 14AUG43 made the change official by changing the outline color to Insignia Blue. This Avenger sports the short-lived red border to the national insignia. (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
A major camouflage change came about when SR-2C of 05JAN43 introduced a graded scheme consisting of Non-Specular Sea Blue, Semi-Gloss Sea Blue, and Intermediate Blue over white. This began showing up at the front in the summer of 1943 and was in effect until the scheme was changed to glossy Sea Blue overall by SR-2c, effective 07OCT44. (LIFE photograph)
An interesting photograph of the underside of an Avenger with its bomb bay doors open. Note how the white underside color extends down the fuselage sides under the wings and horizontal tail plane. (LIFE photograph)
This rocket-armed Avenger aboard the USS Cape Glouchester (CVE-109), a Commencement Bay-class Escort Carrier. It wears the overall Sea Blue scheme authorized 07OCT44.
The range and internal volume of the Avenger lent itself well to auxiliary roles, keeping variants in service after the war ended. This is a TBM-3R, modified for Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) transport duties. The rear gun turret was removed and faired over and seating was provided for seven passengers. In addition, a special basket was designed to allow cargo to be carried inside the bomb bay. The basket could be raised and lowered using the Avenger’s internal bomb hoists facilitating a rapid exchange of the pre-loaded baskets. This Avenger carries the post-war red barred insignia authorized on 14JAN47.
Part II here: