WWII-era dive-bomber lifted from Lake Michigan
A dive bomber that had ditched in Lake Michigan on a training run in 1944 was brought to land Friday for restoration in Florida for the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. The Douglas SBD Dauntless lifted from the water Friday to a pier in Waukegan, Ill., is among 130 to 300 or more planes estimated to have sunk in the lake during training late in World War II.
"Corsairs, Avengers, Dauntless _ any number of World War II aircraft are in the water," said Capt. Ed Ellis, secretary of the foundation that supports the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., where the newly recovered plane will be restored.
Ellis puts the total aircraft sunk in Lake Michigan at more than 300. Taras Lyssenko, co-owner of A&T Recovery, created to recover those planes, thinks the number is closer to 130. Whatever the figure, they are spread over some 2,500 square miles of lake bottom.
Lyssenko said the plane was found in the mid 1990s in more than 300 feet of water, more than 20 miles offshore. He said it took years to obtain Navy permission and secure state and federal permits to mount a recovery.
Because the plane was so deep, submarine robots were called in to survey the area _ and, in recent weeks, to set up ropes used to lift the plane to the surface for towing.
He described the salvage as far more delicate than recovering a ship.
"Ships have all kinds of things you can put chains on. You can't put a chain on this," he said. And it must be lifted very gently. Otherwise, mud-filled wings might get ripped off.
It's likely to be another 18 months to three years before that plane or another Dauntless restored by the aviation museum is ready for the World War II Museum, spokeswoman Clem Goldberger said.
"The pilot survived. We do not recover aircraft if there was a fatality. They're considered gravesites," Ellis said.