A World War II Navy dive bomber that flew out of Pearl Harbor will be recovered from the bottom of Lake Michigan on June 19, if all goes as planned. It is to be restored and, eventually, returned to Hawaii, where it will go on display at the Pacific Aviation Museum at Ford Island, where it was based nearly seven decades ago. The Douglas SBD Dauntless is the second of its kind to be hauled out of Lake Michigan this year.
The Dauntless currently rests at a depth of 500 feet. “This one apparently was covered with a lot of fishing nets, which really helped to keep the mussels off of it,” said Ken DeHoff, the Pacific Aviation Museum’s executive director, “so it’s supposedly in pristine condition.” The Dauntless was a mainstay of the Navy’s air fleet in the Pacific, early in World War II, and is credited with the Battle of Midway air attack that changed the course of the war.
DeHoff said the recovery effort is expected to cost more than $300,000 and is being paid by for by Fred L. Turner, former chairman and CEO of McDonald’s, as well as by the corporation. When it is pulled up, it will be greeted by hula dancers and a Hawaiian blessing, he said. Restoration, which will be done at the National Naval Aviation Museum, is expected to take several years.
The Pacific museum also is seeking to recover an Vought 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 estimated 300 military airplanes ended up on the bottom of Lake Michigan during World War II. Most got there through training accidents or mechanical problems. So far, about 39 have been recovered since 1990, DeHoff pointed out.
The SBD currently being recovered was piloted by John Lendo in 1944, when its carburetor iced up and Lendo belly-landed the plane in the lake. Lendo survived. The dive bomber 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 the Glenview Naval Air Station, DeHoff said.
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