Thursday, November 26, 2009

Midway SBD

This past week, I had the opportunity to pass through Chicago's Midway airport. Nice little airport. As I walked out of Concourse A, I was surprised to walk under a WWII era SBD Dauntless dive bomber.

This model aircraft was the US Navy's primary bomber aircraft when the war started. It is extremely rare these days - not very many survived the war and subsequent scrapper's torches. It was not a popular aircraft with post war aviation folks, so there just weren't many that were saved.

This particular aircraft was located in Lake Michigan in 1989, and brought to the surface in 1991. It was shipped to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, where it underwent a full restoration. Initially, it was displayed at the USAF Museum in Dayton, painted as an Army A-24.

The aircraft had been ditched in the lake on December 14, 1944, by Ensign Albert O'Dell, who had run out of fuel while practicing carrier landings on the USS Sable. Ensign O'Dell was recovered with minor injuries. His aircraft, BuNo 10575, sat on the bottom of the lake, preserved remarkably well by the frigid waters for 47 years.

In 2004, the SBD 10575(Scout Bomber Douglas) was repainted to represent one that had flown during the Battle of Midway. It was enshrined above the entrance to Concourse A, along with a very nice display honoring the Battle of Midway. (Midway Airport was given its current name in 1949 by the City of Chicago to recognize the Battle of Midway.)

SBDs played a key role in the Battle of Midway, sinking 4 Japanese carriers with dive bombing attacks, and turning the tide of the war. Having one pulled from Lake Michigan, then being restored and displayed at the airport named for the battle, is very zen-like, don't you think?

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