Battle of Midway
June 3 - 6, 1942
TWO TBD-1 "DEVASTATORS"
FOUND AT JALUIT ATOLL
Two Douglas TBD-1 "Devastators" that ditched north of Jaluit Atoll in February 1942 were recently discovered as reported by Flypast Magazine.
According to the Flypast article, the Devastator was found because of a survey requested by the U.S. National Park Service. The Park Service wanted mapping and photographic documentation of the Jaluit area, especially the seaplane base at Imeji. The diver, Matthew D. Harris, was lead to the TBD by local fishermen, about six miles out from Imeji on the western side of the atoll.
TBDs were flown by the United States Navy Torpedo Squadrons from the beginning of the Pacific War on December 7, 1941 through the Battle of Midway in June 1942. They scored their greatest success when TBDs from Lexington and Yorktown helped sink the Japanese carrier Shoho at the Battle of Coral Sea in early May, 1942. It was at Midway where forty-one TBDs, from three US carriers, in three separate waves with little or no fighter cover, courageously attacked Japanese carriers. Out of those forty-one, thirty-five were shot down, two ditched near their home carrier and four landed safely. This was the final battle for the United States Navy's first low-wing, all metal monoplane aircraft.
No examples of the TBD currently exist anywhere except for their watery graves. It would be a great tribute to the gallant flyers of the three torpedo squadrons at Midway if these planes were salvaged and restored.
If you are interested in seeing these planes salvaged and restored, please read the articles below and contact the United States Naval Aviation Museum.
The following is from an e-mail by author John Lundstrom:
The two TBDs that ditched on 1 Feb. 1942 on the north edge of Jaluit Atoll were:
5-T-7 BuNo 1298
LT Harlan T. ("Dub") Johnson, VT-5 XO
Charles E. Fosha, ACMM, NAP USN
James W. Dalzell, RM1c USN
5-T-6 BuNo 1515
ENS. Herbert R. Hein, Jr., A-V(N)
Joseph D. Strahl AOM3c USN
Marshal E. Windham, Sea1c USN
In the bad weather Johnson got disoriented after attacking Jaluit and headed out the wrong way (north not southeast). He radioed that he and Hein were ditching. The Japanese official history notes finding these two crews.
The crews were taken prisoner. Some if not all survived the war. RADM Johnson (USNA 1931) died in 1994 in Sarasota, FL. Ens. Hein also survived and may still be living.
This TBD should be recovered & brought back to the US!
The following is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the December 1997 Issue of Flypast Magazine:
JALUIT - UNDERWATER WRECKS
The waters of Jaluit atoll are now 'home' to a number of aircraft, including an almost perfect example of a Douglas "Devastator. "
"The second Kawanishi was in deeper water. She had come to rest inverted close to a large pinnacle... her fuselage and tail had separated from her main body, but otherwise she was in almost pristine condition (for a World War Two aircraft under the Pacific Ocean). Even her starboard float was up-right and in place."