The TDR-1 drone was one of the most secret aircraft of WWII, and despite orders of upwards of 5000 at one time, fewer than 200 were ever built. After the war the few that weren’t expended in combat were destroyed as targets, and a handful were apparently sold as civil aircraft. The one surviving TDR-1 in fact flew as a private plane. Now located in the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, it is a highly significant artifact. Yet, the STAG-1 veterans group had to fight mightily to see it enshrined. The two men who led the way for recognition and preservation of the drone, veterans Bob Bothfeld and Norman Tengstrom, simply would not let the aircraft be forgotten.
When the veterans first saw the TDR-1 in a storage area at Pensacola in the 1990s, it was in sad condition and in need of a complete restoration. It was stored in a remote out-building. “Our buses took us there,” Norm Tengstrom wrote,” and after wandering through what can only be described as filthy work areas we found our TDR. Wings removed, tires flat, fairings removed and crumpled and all covered with a layer of dust. After pulling aside a pile of scrap lumber we were able to get close enough to examine the drone and take some pictures.” It was a sad day for all concerned. “We have always been proud of our place in history,” Norm Tengstrom noted. “To see the symbol of that place, the last remaining TDR-1, so desecrated and ignored, brought tears to our eyes and anger to our hearts. Adding salt to our wounds was the Japanese Zero (at the Museum), gleamingly restored and prominently displayed…” By 1999, the group’s efforts to obtain recognition were rewarded. The drone was reassembled and displayed at the museum, and in a restoration effort undertaken. Today the drone has a place of honor in the Museum.
The TDR-1 at Penscola lacks any of the electronic equipment originally carried by the drone, but some of this gear has surfaced in the hands of private collectors. Interestingly, in the last few years some pieces of other TDR-1s have surfaced including TV nose lenses, landing gear and even an entire tail section. Perhaps in the future a second TDR-1 can be assembled from these pieces.
Photo of the TDR-1 at Pensacola: http://www.aero-web.org/database/aircraft/getimage.htm?id=20083