Special SBD-3 to be Raised From Lake Michigan This Summer
    AirVenture presentation planned

    April 26, 2012 - A Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bomber that participated in two World War II campaigns will soon be raised from the depths of Lake Michigan and then brought to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, where it will be displayed and featured in a Warbirds in Review program. The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, is coordinating the project.

    According to Capt. Ed Ellis, who is retired from the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps and serves as the museum's vice president of development and corporate secretary of the museum foundation, A&T Recovery of Chicago plans to raise the airframe off Illinois' Waukegan Harbor in late June or early July. A&T has recovered more than 30 WWII warbirds from Lake Michigan and other sites, including a rare Birdcage Corsair in 2010. After it's brought to the surface, preparations will be made to transport the wreckage to Oshkosh, where aviation enthusiasts can get a close-up look - both in a static display and as a featured aircraft in a Warbirds in Review presentation to be announced.

    A Douglas SBD-3 on submarine patrol during Operation Torch in November 1942.

    "People will be able to walk up to it and touch it and ask questions about it," said A&T Recovery's Taras Lyssenko. "We're hoping to have some veteran SBD pilots on hand as well." After Oshkosh, the plane will be taken to Pensacola, where it will begin restoration for static display in the naval museum.

    Longtime EAAer Chuck Greenhill, EAA 113991/WOA 12289, is sponsoring the recovery mission and restoration project. He also sponsored the Birdcage Corsair project. "I am interested in helping the museum preserve these historical aircraft so that others can see and appreciate them," said Greenhill, whose personal collection of airworthy warbirds includes two P-51D Mustangs, a Grumman Duck and Goose, and two Sea Furys.

    According to military records researched by Lyssenko, the plane, BuNo 06639, was attached to the famed Fighter Squadron 14, aka the "Tophatters" - the Navy's oldest active squadron. Based on the carrier USS Ranger, the squadron provided air support for Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942. SBD dive bombers were credited with heavily damaging the Vichy French battleship Jean Bart in Casablanca Harbor, as well as destroying 14 enemy aircraft. Records also show the airplane participated in the first American naval air strike against German forces in Norway's inner channel.

    When the SBD-3 was superseded by more advanced aircraft, BuNo 06639 was assigned to the Carrier Qualification Training Unit at Naval Air Station Chicago in Glenview, Illinois, arriving there on October 3, 1943. A few weeks later, on October 22, pilot Ensign Harold R. Heller crashed during an attempted landing on the carrier USS Wolverine.

    The Navy's official analysis of the crash, acquired by Llysenko, reads: "Pilot had made two previous approached high and fast and was waved off each time, and on the third approach he received a cut, but before the plane touched the deck the pilot applied full throttle. Plane stalled and spun to the left, striking the deck at #2 barrier and continued on over the side."

    A total of 584 SBD-3s were built. Stay tuned for additional coverage on the planned recovery mission and preparations for Oshkosh.



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