1/72 “George Gay” Midway TBD-1 Devastator – v.2

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Seven years ago I completed my first aircraft builds, a trio of U.S. Navy aircraft to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway. I modeled one of each of the three types of carrier planes that operated from the U.S. carriers during the battle, choosing one from each of the three carriers.  The aircraft I chose were ones piloted by aviators that I met and got an autograph from at the Admiral Nimitz symposium in 1992 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the battle while they were speaking on aerial combat in 1942.

Ensign George “Tex” Gay – a Waco boy – was the only survivor of Torpedo 8’s attack on the Japanese carriers the morning of 4 June.  He spoke at the 1992 event and was kind enough to personalize an inscription in his book about his experiences.  

Getting the markings for his plane right was a little difficult in 2017, since the squadron changed its insignia before the battle, and most modelers put his “T-14” – or the earlier designation “8-T-14” forward of the star on the fuselage.  But the Torpedo 8 film footage shot just before the battle showed at least some of the TBDs with the plane numbers behind the insignia, with those being the ones that had a larger insignia, so I went with that.

The movie also showed each plane crew with their plane, and the shot with Gay and Huntington showed their torpedo personalized with a grinning snout, so I put that on my model as well.  

I have since replaced the F4F-4 with the new-tool Airfix kit, and it was time to replace the TBD-1 as well. I initially planned on replacing it with the Admiral kit, but it ended up being so poor I changed my mind and decided to use another of the vintage Airfix kits, but with aftermarket photoetch by White Ensign, both exterior and interior, and a vacuformed cockpit. Paints were the Vallejo airbrush colors.

After building both the Admiral and another Airfix kit, I felt that I was ready to take on the Airfix & PE. I started by lightly sanding the fuselage (masking off the rudder) to tone down the overscale rivets. Yes, the TBD did not have recessed rivets, but they still didn’t usually show in photos. The paneling still shows very slightly, but is never visible at a distance.

Next was building the WE PE cockpit. It went together fairly easily but was very difficult to fit together. Once it was, though, I assembled the inner wings and added the PE wing fold mechanisms.

The torpedo was not from the Airfix kit, which was underscale. I used the Admiral torpedo, added the extension to the rear to get it up to the proper length, and then built the trapezoidal, scalloped wood box around the fins.

I didn’t include the grinning snout, since I assumed that was washed off after the promo pics. I also used the Admiral 30 cal. twin mount to represent the mounts the squadron’s commander John Waldron had added shortly before Midway.

While studying the old Torpedo 8 footage to confirm the shape of the wooden fin box I found a clear image showing the rudder – which had the red and white stripes overpainted in late May – was noticeably darker than the rest of the aircraft, so I added that. After being cut into the requisite sections the vacuformed canopy was masked off and painted.

One of my favorite feature of v.2 is the PE wing fold mechanism. While it had some of the detail I added a little more.

I’m very happy to have an improved TBD-1 next to George Gay’s signature in my display cabinet. Next up is Dick Best’s SBD – but first I’m repainting the old George Gay as a Lexington T-1 at Coral Sea.

About Post Author

Michael C. Smith

Marshall, Texas lawyer. I post on things that attract my interest while puttering in my study. Mostly family, books, home, history, World War II and scale modeling.
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