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WWII-era bomber emerges from lake


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POSTED: Saturday, June 20, 2009

A 68-year-old World War II Dauntless dive bomber, successfully recovered from the muddy bottom of Lake Michigan yesterday, will be headed to the Ford Island Pacific Aviation Museum in three years after being restored.

That will take place at the National Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla.

It was the second time the Illinois marine salvage company A&T has recovered a Dauntless dive bomber, considered a major warbird in the Navy's Pacific Fleet during World War II and partly responsible for the defeat of the Japanese Navy in the Battle of Midway in 1942. The first Dauntless was recovered in the same general area on April 24.

Ken DeHoff, the museum's executive director, said the recovery operation took about an hour. The Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber hit the bottom nose first when it crashed on Feb. 18, 1944 when its carburetor iced up.

“;It was lying at a 45 degree angle with only the engine cowling covered with mud,”; said DeHoff after viewing the operations from a pier at Waukegan Harbor in Illinois near Chicago.

“;Both of its landing gears are down and intact. The plane is in good shape.”;

He said the warbird's light blue color seemed to have suffered no damage.

The SBD-2 Dauntless dive bomber with the tail No. 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.

The wings will be removed from Bomber 2173 and the aircraft will be trucked to Pensacola. The $1 million recovery and restoration effort is being paid for by Fred Turner, former chief executive officer of McDonald's Corp.

The one-hour recovery operation started about 4 a.m. Hawaii time and the bomber was raised using cables attached to lift points on the aircraft. It was dragged to the pier where a crane lifted it out of the water.

He estimated that Bomber 2173 was found in about 300 feet of water about 10 miles from shore.

The plane is among 300 or more estimated to have sunk in the lake during training in World War II. So far, about 39 have been recovered since 1990.