Dauntless Dive-Bomber Found in Lake Michigan to be Restored at Portage Air Zoo

An example of a Navy Douglas SBD-2 Dauntless after being raised from Lake Michigan in 1994

Until recently, no one knew that Lake Michigan was home to a World War II relic. The Dauntless dive-bomber plane sat at the bottom of the lake until 2009, when it was recovered. The U.S. Navy then chose Air Zoo officials to restore the plane.

Troy Thrash, president and CEO of the Air Zoo, hopes to not only restore the plane, one which was housed in Pearl Harbor just one month after the fateful attack, but also to tell the story behind it.

The Dauntless‘s sister planes launched to battle after the attack on the U.S. Hawaiian Navy base. Many were destroyed in the war to follow, but as luck would have it, the Dauntless is currently under restoration in West Michigan. Thrash hopes to restore not only all the metal on the plane but also the plastic, leather, and paint to make the plane good as new. The entire process, projected for five years, will give the country back a symbol of the war fought so long ago.

U.S. Navy Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless of Bombing Squadron 10 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise
U.S. Navy Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless of Bombing Squadron 10 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise

Throughout this time, Thrash and the rest of the Air Zoo employees will refurbish the plane and reinvigorate its story. LT John Lendo, a Massachusetts native and Dartmouth graduate, was coming in for a landing on February 18th, 1944, when the engine gave out, likely due to carburetor icing. At this point, he was forced to conduct a water landing to survive the incident. Unfortunately, the resourceful pilot died ten months later fighting in the Philippines.

World War II veteran Paul Watters trained on the same type of plane and spoke of the effectiveness of the aircraft. The plane performed exceedingly well, sinking anywhere from two to four enemy carriers. Without the plane, the war may have gone a very different way.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE