'Pristine' WWII aircraft lifted from Lake Michigan

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by syscom3, Jun 24, 2009.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Dive bomber will be put on display at Pearl Harbor

    By Katie Urbaszewski
    Advertiser Staff Writer

    The Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor currently displays a full-size fiberglass model of a type of dive bomber that played a crucial role in World War II. Now that museum officials helped bring about the recovery of one of those historic planes from the bottom of Lake Michigan, the model will be replaced with the real thing.
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    A Douglas SBD Dauntless, one of several types of aircraft the U.S. Navy used to defeat the Japanese navy at the Battle of Midway, was raised yesterday from a depth of 300 feet where it had lain for 65 years. The museum's executive director, Ken DeHoff, flew to Waukegan, Ill., to observe the retrieval, an operation that took about a year to plan.

    When the plane broke the surface of the water, everyone present was "ecstatic," DeHoff said.

    "People were so excited to see how well it was intact."

    The lake's conditions — a combination of cold water and lack of sunlight — are excellent for preserving aircraft wrecks, and officials were aware even before they lifted it that the Dauntless would be in "pristine" condition, DeHoff said.

    Once the plane was on land, it quickly became clear what good condition it was in. The structure of the body, wings and tail were undamaged, much of the underside's blue paint remained and only one wheel had fallen off.

    "There was still gasoline in the tank," DeHoff said.

    Still, it will take the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., about three years to dissemble and clean each part of the plane, and DeHoff doesn't expect it to arrive in Hawai'i until 2012.
    plane served in honolulu

    An estimated 300 military airplanes went to the bottom of Lake Michigan during World War II in training accidents and mechanical malfunctions, according to the national museum. The U.S. Navy's underwater aircraft recovery program has recovered 39 of them since 1990.

    The Dauntless bound for Hawai'i, No. 2173, served in Honolulu in 1942, flew off the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and was later used for carrier qualifications out of Chicago's Navy Pier and Glenview Naval Air Station, DeHoff said.

    The carburetor iced up in 1944, resulting in a belly-landing in the lake. Pilot John Lendo survived, DeHoff said.

    The plane had been resting nosedown at a 45-degree angle at the bottom of the lake ever since, he said.

    Chicago-based A&T Recovery, which helped the Navy recover most of the 39 World War II planes retrieved from Lake Michigan, began to slowly raise the Dauntless two days before the recovery to ensure that it wouldn't be damaged by the lift.

    Crews attached air balloons to the plane underwater and let it rise naturally, and a crane retrieved the aircraft in the final stage of the recovery yesterday morning.
    arrival greeted with hula

    Hula dancers and a kahu's blessing greeted the Dauntless as the crane pulled it to the surface.

    Taras Lyssenko of A&T Recovery was surprised not only by the plane's condition — better than most of the 36 planes the company has recovered from the lake — but also by the ceremony.

    "Nobody ever does that," he said, explaining that people hardly ever celebrate the raising of a plane at all, let alone with hula dancers.

    Between paperwork the Navy required and collaboration with the National Naval Aviation Museum, the planning took about a year, DeHoff said.

    It was worth it, he said, not only for the museum, but for Hawai'i as well.

    "Every time we bring an aircraft to Hawai'i that flew out of Hawai'i, we're bringing back a piece of history," he said. "We always have people come back to say, 'I worked on that airplane.'"
     
  2. johnbr

    johnbr Well-Known Member

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    Great to hear is there any photo's.
     
  3. model299

    model299 Member

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    Back in the late 90's. I volunteered at the Planes of Fame museum at Flying Cloud airport in Eden Prairie, Mn. They had another of the Lake Michigan Dauntlesses. This one was unique in that the propeller had two standard blades, and one paddle blade. I'm not sure what happened to it. The museum was shut down by Bob Pond (It's a looong story.) and all the assets were moved to California.
     
  4. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Interesting thread Syscom - thanks for posting!
    Second John's post too...
     
  5. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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  6. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Great shot mate, thanks ! (can't see the video here at work)

    She really does look bloody pristine!!! (The Dauntless looks good too :) )
     
  7. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    And quite knowledgeable too
    She's just telling her mate "...and then this Zero got on its tail like this and..." :)
     
  8. Geedee

    Geedee Well-Known Member

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  9. Marshall_Stack

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    Thanks for the posting. Is it just me, or is it natural to have some emotions seeing a warbird saved from the depths. A manly tear if you will.

    The plane looks like it is olive drab but I imagine that is from the lake silt.
     
  10. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    Incredible the way it was preserved.
     
  11. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    Great info syscom! Thank you for posting.:thumbright:
     
  12. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Wow, I had no idea the antenna was wooden. Very cool.
     
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