F6F Hellcat fighter recovered from Lake Michigan

December 02, 2009

Subject: Another Historic Aircraft Raised


It seems that Lake Michigan, here is the middle of the US, is apparently the greatest repository of recoverable
Word War II aircraft.  I wrote you earlier about the recovery of a dive bomber - this week they fished out an F6F Hellcat fighter. It will be restored for a museum.

It seems that many museum aircraft are late-war productions that never saw combat, but these Lake Michigan relics appear to be planes that saw active service and were then relegated to training. According to the news article, this newly recovered plane saw service in the skies over Guadalcanal in 1943 - after your visit to those waters leading to the tragic Savo Island battle.

An interesting note is that the recovery operations are being paid for by a charitable arm of the Enterprise vehicle rental corporation. I only recently learned that the corporate name "Enterprise" was not just a catchy word choice - the founder of the company was a naval aviator who flew off the USS Enterprise during WWII. His son, the current corporation president, and the grandson of the still-living pilot who crashed the plane were there for the recovery. The company also
sponsored a recent TV series about the USS Enterprise's role in the war - not sure if either the company or the series have made it to Australia.

Rather than copying the news article here, I'll provide a link to it. If any of your readers are interested and check the link soon, they will also find a video on the raising along with a series of still photos. I'm pasting one in this e-mail. After 65 or so years underwater, the plane seems in reasonable shape - wing tips and the vertical tail are missing but it is
otherwise all there. Pictures of other raised airplanes from the lake usually show remnants of a navy blue and buff paint scheme - this one looks like it had an olive paint job more reminiscent of army aircraft - no mention of aircraft color in the article.

You may recall that the US Navy commissioned a couple of the most unusual ships ever by building flight decks over old (even then) side paddle wheel lake steamers so that they could train pilots in peaceful waters. There was little chance of having to dodge German or Japanese submarines on Lake Michigan so flight operations could run unimpeded (although weather did sometimes restrict training in the winter - we do get snow). Another correspondent added that the Wolverine and Sable were used due to a shortage of active carriers for training, but these Great Lakes aircraft carriers were in service until almost the end of the war when the US had scores of carriers in service. Their primary reason for being where they were was that there was no need to tie up escorts (other than mostly Coast Guard safety vessels to
pluck fliers out of the drink as necessary - like the pilot of the plane reported on here) for them.

The current link for the story and videos is

As always, thanks to you and Terry for a most informative web site.


Roy E. Lucke


Thank you for the interesting mail. It is amazing that after all this time aircraft from the WW2 era are still being both found, recovered, and restored for posterity.

With every good wish to you and yours for the festive season and a great 2010.

Best regards,

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