On anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack, WWII plane recovered from Lake Michigan
BY DAN MORAN firstname.lastname@example.org December 7, 2012 7:32PM
Waukegan- A World War II vintage aircraft that has been sitting on the bottom of Lake Michigan for the past 65 years is raised and set to be restored. The plane an Eastern Aircraft FM-2 "Wildcat" crashed in Lake Michigan as part of pilot training exercises in December 1944. The pilot at that time was Ensign William forbes who survived the crash to fly again. The plane was raised at Larsen Marine in Waukegan bb A and T recovery made possible by a generous donation of Chuck Greenhill of Mettawa, Illinois. Greenhill with help of Taras Lyssenko gets help into the cockpit.| Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media.
Updated: December 7, 2012 7:33PM
Seventy-one years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a World War II relic was pulled from Lake Michigan Friday as recovery crews reeled in an Eastern Aircraft FM-2 Wildcat fighter that crashed during carrier-qualification training in December 1944.
“It’s a pretty inspiring thing to see an aircraft come out of the water after that many years,” said Chuck Greenhill, an aviation buff who financed the endeavor and was the first to sit in the waterlogged cockpit. “You think you’d get used to it, but you don’t.”
The Wildcat actually came ashore at Waukegan’s Larsen Marine in two pieces. A crowd of more than 200 onlookers, including several World War II veterans, watched as the otherwise intact fuselage slowly settled onto a tarp. Greenhill reported that the stick was in place and the rudder pedals still worked.
“It’s so important for to have these airplanes available for the public to see so people can appreciate what happened back in this era,” Greenhill said. “If this thing laid in the lake, it would just be completely forgotten — it would be junk.”
Waukegan Harbor is no stranger to the ongoing efforts to locate and recover some of the estimated 200 Navy aircraft that either crashed or were dumped into Lake Michigan during wartime carrier training. In the case of Friday’s Wildcat, the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation reported that Ensign William Forbes was attempting his third takeoff from the USS Sable on the morning of Dec. 28, 1944, when the fighter’s engine failed, rolling it off the bow into 200 feet of water.
Forbes survived the accident. He died in 2008. Among those there carrying on the spirit of his generation was Richard Boomer of Waukegan, who served in the Navy as a corpsman attached to the 6th Marine Division on Okinawa.
“I’ve been out here for all these planes,“ said Boomer, who was joined by his daughter, Liz. “In the Navy, I saw these airplanes when I was on the ground — they would fly over us, and you’d see the Japanese fly over us, the kamikazes ... It’s history.”