Crew to recover bomber with local ties from lake


POSTED: Friday, June 19, 2009

For more than 65 years, the cold waters of Lake Michigan have been the home of a World War II Dauntless dive bomber.

Today the 32-foot bomber, one of an estimated 300 military aircraft sitting at the bottom of the lake, will be brought to the surface.

“;We hope to bring it here in three years after restoring it,”; said Ken DeHoff, executive director of the Pacific Aviation Museum at Ford Island. DeHoff plans to be at today's recovery operations at Waukegan Harbor in Illinois.

Hula dancers from a Chicago-based halau headed by Chris Tuiaana will be on the pier with Joe Manumaoeuna delivering a Hawaiian blessing, according to museum officials.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Dauntless was the standard dive bomber of the Navy. It was the first Navy plane to sink an enemy ship (Japanese sub I-70) in World War II, just three days after Pearl Harbor.

During the Battle of Midway in 1942, Dauntless pilots helped to sink four Japanese carriers and down 138 enemy aircraft, turning the tide of the war against Japan in the Pacific.

The SBD-2 Dauntless dive bomber with the tail number 2173 was constructed in 1941 and flew out of Ford Island a year later. It served on the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise and USS Yorktown.

Bomber 2173 was piloted by Lt. j.g. John Lendo when it experienced icing in the engine's carburetor and crashed into Lake Michigan during an aircraft carrier qualification training flight on Feb. 18, 1944. Lendo survived, but the airplane sank in 500 feet of water. He was killed in the Pacific, DeHoff said.

More than 17,000 pilots completed similar carrier training, including Lt. j.g. George H.W. Bush, later to become U.S. president. Aircraft carriers used for training docked at Navy Pier in Chicago and the airplanes and pilots flew from Glenview Naval Air Station in Illinois.

Today's recovery operation and the subsequent restoration efforts will be coordinated and done by the National Naval Aviation Museum, DeHoff said. It will cost $1 million and be funded by a donation by Fred L. Turner, honorary chairman and former chief executive officer of McDonald's Corp. in Oak Brook, Ill.

Bomber 2173 was one of 5,936 Dauntlesses that rolled off the Douglas assembly line by July 1944, the National Naval Aviation Museum reported.

Also involved in today's recovery operations will be the Naval History and Heritage Command, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation and a crew from A&T Recovery.

Turner, in a written news release from the Ford Island aviation museum, said the restored plane will bear the name of Rear Adm. James D. “;Jig Dog”; Ramage, who sank a Japanese aircraft carrier with a 500-pound bomb in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in 1944, earning him the Navy's highest honor, the Navy Cross, as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

“;I have the highest respect and admiration for the brave Americans who fought in World War II, and especially for the pilots of the SBD dive bombers,”; Turner said. “;My friend 'Jig Dog' Ramage showed incredible leadership and courage during the war. I'm a history buff, and I consider him to be a hero. This gift is my way of honoring Jig Dog and his fellow pilots, and saying thank you for their service. My hat is off to Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor for its commitment to displaying this restored plane so future generations can learn and reflect on the crucial role of the SBD in the war.”;

In three years, Bomber 2173 will replace a fiberglass replica now on display in the Ford Island museum.

It will join a Grumman F-4F Wildcat that flew at Guadalcanal and also crashed in Lake Michigan. The museum's future recovery plans include a Gull Wing F-4U Corsair that flew out of Guadalcanal and a Grumman F-6F Hellcat.

“;We know that there are other combat-experienced aircraft that have historic Pacific Theater value that are on the floor of Lake Michigan, and we hope we can continue to go through this process,”; DeHoff said.




Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber

        » Crew: Pilot and gunner

» Wing span: 41 feet, 6 inches


» Length: 32 feet


» Height: 13 feet


» Maximum speed: 265 mph


» Ceiling: 27,260 feet


» Maximum range: 1,370 miles


» Armament: One forward-firing .50-caliber machine gun in the engine nose cowling; in the rear, one .30-caliber machine gun; one 1,000-pound bomb below the fuselage; and a 100-pound bomb mounted under each wing.


Source: National Naval Aviation Museum