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Our TBM Avenger History


TBM-3E N4042/BuAer 91426

 Restored as USMC Squadron VMTB-143 Aircraft "Doris Mae"


Our TBM-3E Avenger is a Grumman designed (TBF) aircraft built under license by GM in New Jersey in 1945.  Assigned initially to the US Marine Corps, we know that this aircraft served as a replacement aircraft in several USMC training units in California from 1945 to 1948 and then was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy in 1952.  It was modified by Fairey Aviation (Canada) as an AS3M for anti-submarine warfare (turret removed; ASW operator station installed in its place; and MAD boom installed).  Acquired by Forest Protection in New Brunswick (called Tanker 18) after this service, it was modified as a spray plane with a protruding conformal tank in the bomb bay (doors removed and discarded) and a fairing installed on the aft part of canopy where the turret originally was. 


The Avenger was bought by the CAF Stars & Stripes Wing in 2001 for $64,000 and flown to Frederick, MD for restoration to the TBM-3E WWII configuration.  All flight control surfaces were recovered, new bomb bay doors bought for $20,000, and three decrepit turrets acquired from HQ CAF for $500 with partial restoration done by Col Norm Birzer.  This effort ended and the TBM was put up for assignment when the Stars & Stripes Wing disbanded.


HQ CAF assigned the aircraft to our unit in July, 2008 and the Avenger was moved to Jack Kosko’s restoration facility in Fawn Grove, PA that fall.  Major restoration efforts began early in the first quarter of 2009 and final restoration of the TBM into its original WWII configuration was basically completed with over $200,000 spent in May 2014. Our restoration crew is shown below with the CAF President's Choice Award for 2011 which they played a significant part in winning!  Maintenance flight operations were done in early 2014 at Hagerstown, FAA approval for return to flight status received and the aircraft flown to our facility in May.



According to resaearch with the Natiional Museum of the Marine Corps, TBM-3Es served in many Marine VMTB units in the Pacific: 131, 132, 134, 143, 232, 233, 234, 242, & 332.  After research on possible unit association and aircraft finish schemes for the TBM restoration, the Squadron decided to finish the aircraft as one of the USMC VMTB-143 TBMs assigned to the USS Gilbert Islands (CVE 107) carrying the markings of "P87" and nose art as "Doris Mae".  The primary flight crew of Doris Mae was (1ST LT William “Billy” Hay (Pilot) and Sergeants Charlie Hoke (Radio/Gunner) and Robert Cardno (Turret Gunner).  This decision was based on several aspects of the findings of the research conducted:

  1. The aircraft was originally a USMC aircraft assigned to training units at the end of WWII.
  2. VMTB-143 was organized and trained as a Close Air Support (CAS) unit, which fits nicely with the CAS history of our L-5 “Gayle Ann” (which also directed USMC aircraft in an airborne FAC role).
  3. VMTB-143 flew its combat missions off the USS Gilbert Islands, one of the so-called “jeep carriers” of WWII (total of 122 built).  The carrier survived as the last of her class through the Korean War, and re-commissioned as the USS Annapolis (AGMR-1), served during the Viet Nam war.  This allows us to tell a unique USMC/USN story with regard to marketing and display of the aircraft.
  4. With our BT-13 (USN designation SNV) and our associated SNJ aircraft combined with the Avenger and L-5, we are able to present a package of Basic, Advanced and Combat aircraft for display at air shows to tell the story of WWII USMC pilot training and transition to mission readiness and accomplishment.

The following short summary of VMTB-143 history is extracted from a number of places in the excellent website material on the squadron at


VMTB-143 (the “Rocket Raiders”) has its own place in history as one of the first to be specifically trained for close air support from carriers.  It became apparent to the Marine leadership that once the battle zone shifted to the mid-Pacific and then near to Japan that there would be no land-based Marine air squadrons within reach of the ground Marines until an airbase could be captured.  Unless something happened all close air support (CAS) would have to come from the Navy.  They argued successfully to have their own carriers with specially trained CAS units.  Thus in June 1944 VMTB-143 reformed at the MCAS Goleta to train for this carrier duty aboard the Gilbert Islands.  Not only were they to become carrier qualified, but the 3-man crews were expected to be proficient in bombing, rocketing, depth charging, strafing, torpedoing and aerial defense.  The Gilbert Islands was one of only 4 carriers with all-Marine flight crews in WW2 (the ship's complement was still Navy).  If the war had gone on for a few more years, as widely anticipated, there were more such carriers in the planning.  While on the Gilbert Islands the squadron earned 3 battle stars for supporting the Marines on Okinawa, air support for the Australian landings at Balikpapan, Borneo, and for operations off the coast of Japan. VMTB-143 also had the highest scoring air to air shoot downs of any USMC or USN TBM Unit!


Capital Wing
12499 Beverly Ford Road
Brandy Station, Virginia 22714
For more information call: 540-402-1818

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