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Offline tigershark

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Crashed WWII plane to return to Hawaii
« on: June 06, 2009, 02:27:02 PM »
Crashed WWII plane to return to Hawaii
Dauntless dive bomber will be recovered from depths of Lake Michigan
 By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Hula dancers and a kahu's blessing will greet the expected recovery June 19 of a Pacific warrior — a World War II Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber that sits in "pristine" condition on the bottom of chilly Lake Michigan, officials said.
The recovery from a depth of 500 feet is expected to cost in excess of $300,000. Once restored, the historic aircraft will go on display at the Pacific Aviation Museum-Pearl Harbor, on Ford Island.

"We're excited as can be to have an aircraft that actually flew out of Pearl Harbor and Ford Island and was on the (aircraft carrier) Enterprise," said Ken DeHoff, the Pacific Aviation Museum's executive director.

About 39 of an estimated 300 military airplanes that went to the bottom of Lake Michigan during World War II, many in training accidents and mechanical malfunctions, have been recovered since the Navy program began in 1990, according to the National Naval Aviation Museum.

The April 24 lift and arrival of a Dauntless at Waukegan Harbor just north of Chicago represented the reactivation of the Navy's underwater aircraft recovery program.

That program is going through revision to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act and increase the involvement of states bordering waterways not just in the Great Lakes region but across the United States, officials said.

The process caused some confusion over the planned recovery of the Dauntless for the Pacific Aviation Museum — pushing it back from Friday to June 19 — and has left some questions over future recoveries.

The Pacific Aviation Museum also is seeking to sometime in the future recover a gullwing F4U Corsair that flew out of Guadalcanal and a Grumman F6F Hellcat.

"We know that there are combat-experienced Hellcat and Corsair aircraft that have historic value that are on the floor of Lake Michigan, and we hope we can continue to go through this process," DeHoff said.

An F4F Wildcat that saw duty on Guadalcanal in World War II and later went into Lake Michigan was restored years ago and is already part of the Pacific Aviation Museum collection.

Bill Hendrix, a spokesman for the Naval History and Heritage Command, said the draft policy being considered now is to "kind of fill in the blanks" and make sure states are consulted on future recoveries.

The deep and cold waters of Lake Michigan are excellent for preserving aircraft wrecks, and the radial-engined SBD that was retrieved April 24 — even though it was encrusted with zebra mussels — had clearly visible aircraft markings on its side.

That aircraft, destined for a museum in New Orleans, crashed on Nov. 24, 1944, during carrier qualification on the training aircraft carrier Wolverine, one of two paddlewheel steamers that had been converted to practice flattops.

Lake Michigan was used because it avoided the threat of German U-boat attacks. More than 17,000 pilots trained on the ships.

DeHoff said the SBD being recovered for the Pacific Aviation Museum, No. 2173, was being piloted by John Lendo in 1944 when the carburetor iced up and the airplane belly-landed in the lake. Lendo survived, he said.

The Dauntless was in Honolulu in 1942, flew off the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and later was used for carrier qualifications out of Chicago's Navy Pier and Glenview Naval Air Station, DeHoff said.

"This one was apparently covered with a lot of fishing nets, which really helped to keep the mussels off of it," DeHoff said. "So it's really supposedly in pristine condition."

Dauntless dive bombers were a mainstay of the Navy's World War II air fleet in the Pacific, and spearheaded the air attack in the Battle of Midway, which turned the tide of war against the Japanese.

DeHoff said the aviation museum has been working with the Navy and other officials for the past six months on the recovery. The aircraft will have to be rigged for the delicate task of retrieval, which can tear off a wing if the wrong stress is placed on the airframe.

The more than $300,000 retrieval cost is being paid for by Fred L. Turner, former chairman and CEO of the hamburger chain McDonald's Corp., as well as by the corporation itself, DeHoff said.

Restoration at the National Naval Aviation Museum is expected to take several years.

The nonprofit Pacific Aviation Museum, with seven aircraft on display and eight others in restoration, has a fiberglass SBD Dauntless that will be replaced by the real McCoy, DeHoff said.

Reach William Cole at



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