Today, Merchants Square Mall is the best place to shop for antiques and collectibles in the Lehigh Valley.
But years ago, Merchants Square Mall played a unique role in military history. In 1943, it was part of a production facility for Consolidated-Vultee, which produced military aircraft during the second World War.
The Consolidated TBY Sea Wolf was a United States Navy torpedo bomber of World War II. A competitor and contemporary to the very similar TBF Avenger, the Sea Wolf was subject to substantial delays and never saw combat; only 180 of the type were built before cancellation after VJ Day.
The original design was not by Consolidated Aircraft, but rather by Vought, who designed the then XTBU-1 Sea Wolf to a 1939 Navy requirement. The first prototype flew 2 weeks after Pearl Harbor. Its performance seemed superior to the Avenger and the Navy placed an order for a thousand examples.
Bad luck intervened; the prototype was damaged in a rough arrested landing trial, and when repaired a month later was again damaged in a collision with a training aircraft. Once repaired again, the prototype was accepted by the Navy. However, by this time Vought was heavily over-committed to other contracts, especially for the F4U Corsair fighter, and had no production capacity. It was arranged that Consolidated-Vultee would produce the aircraft (as the TBY), but this had to wait until the new production facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania was complete, which took until late 1943. Merchants Square Mall is part of that “new production facility”.