FM-2 Wildcat to Be Raised From Lake Michigan Friday
An FM-2 Wildcat like this one is being rescued from Lake Michigan December 7.
December 5, 2012 - A submerged World War II fighter is scheduled to be raised from Lake Michigan this Friday, December 7, at the Waukegan, Illinois, harbor. The plane, a Grumman (Eastern Aircraft) FM-2 Wildcat, had been sitting at the bottom of the lake off the Chicago shoreline for more than 65 years after crashing during a carrier operations training flight.
The project was initiated by the National Naval Aviation Museum and the Naval History and Heritage Command; the plane's location, recovery, restoration, and eventual display is being sponsored by the museum foundation.
A crew from A and T Recovery in Chicago is conducting the recovery operation, with funding from Charles Greenhill, EAA 113991/Warbirds of America 12289, of Mettawa, Illinois.
"This effort will lead to another important World War II aircraft being presented to the American public that shows the significant history of the greatest generation, whose courage and dedication to our country preserved America's and the world's freedom," said Capt. Ed Ellis, JAGC, USN (Ret.), vice president of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. "The Naval Aviation Museum will work for display of the Wildcat in the Chicago area in a venue, such as the Glenview Hangar One Museum."
According to the military's report, the aircraft (FM-2 Wildcat Bureau No. 57039) crashed into the lake in about 200 feet of water at 1151 hours on December 28, 1944. The pilot, Ensign William E. Forbes, was about to make his third takeoff from the USS Sable for his aircraft carrier qualification. Although the engine had checked out okay, it began to "pop" on the takeoff roll and then quit completely. It rolled off the carrier's bow and sank. Forbes survived the crash and went on to fly escort for Pacific-based ship convoys off the USS Antietam and USS Cabot carriers.
Forbes went to law school at Fresno State University and practiced there in from 1951 until his death in 2008. His daughter, Christine Smith, of Seattle, Washington, is thrilled that the Wildcat is being rescued, but can't be there on Friday to see it come out of the water due to the short notice for the operation.
More than 17,000 pilots completed the training including Lt. j. g. George H. W. Bush, who would become the 41st U.S. president. The aircraft carriers used for training docked at Navy Pier in Chicago and the airplanes and pilots flew from Glenview Naval Air Station in Glenview, Illinois.
A and T Recovery, in conjunction with the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, the National Naval Aviation Museum, and the Naval History and Heritage Command, has rescued about 40 World War II aircraft from Lake Michigan. These aircraft are now on display in museums and airports around the U.S., including Hawaii. Two notable examples are currently on display in Chicago, a Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat Fighter on display at O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and a Douglas SDB Dauntless dive-bomber at Chicago Midway Airport (MDW).