Skip to comments.Pictures: World War II-era Fighter Raised From Lake Michigan (Waterlogged Wildcat)
Posted on 12/12/2012 2:43:19 PM PST by nickcarraway
Salvagers recovered a World War II-era fighter plane that crashed during takeoff nearly 70 years ago from Lake Michigan last week. Pulled from its watery grave on December 7, 201271 years after Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harborthe plane will eventually be restored at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
The FM-2 Wildcat fighter plane, recovered from approximately 200 feet (61 meters) of water, crashed into the lake on December 28, 1944. The plane's engine had died during an attempted takeoff from the U.S.S. Sable, one of two U.S. aircraft carriers used for pilot training on Lake Michigan in the 1940s.
"They were small, sidewheel steamer aircraft carriers and smaller than a normal aircraft carrier," explained Taras Lyssenko, who co-owns A&T Recovery, a Chicago-based company that led the salvage project.
Between 1942 and 1945, 17,000 pilots were trained to fly and fight on Lake Michigan, and the small, tubby FM-2 Wildcat was one of the primary training aircraft used.
Lyssenko said he was shocked when he first saw the state of this particular FM-2 Wildcat. "I don't know how the pilot survived this crash, because this plane lost its engine on takeoff and rolled right off the front of the ship," he said.
"And the ship was going about 20 miles [32 kilometers] per hour. It looks to me like the ship hit the plane and ripped the tail off."
FM-2? The Wildcat was designated F4F. This was a training carrier so maybe this was an older aircraft. Freeper experts please chime in.
FM-2 Genaral Motors license built version for second line defense and export to Great Britain (Martlet)
Aha! Thanks for the info.
IIRC the F4F Wildcat was replaced by the 2,000 hp F6F Hellcat. Jap pilots didn’t know what hit them.
There was an excellent episode of "Dogfights" that dealt with the dawn of the Hellcat. Early on, the Zero pilots would let the Wildcat pilots try to outclimb them knowing that the Wildcat would stall and the Zero would simply follow them down with guns blazing.
In one of the Hellcat's first battles a Zero attempted this well tried trick only the Hellcat kept going up, and up, and up...until the Zero stalled and started tumbling. The Hellcat rolled over and machine gunned the Zero all the way to the water :-)
Everything had changed.
I believe the FM-2 was equipped with a Wright engine, more powerful than the F4F’s Pratt & Whitney, hence the notably larger rudder for control of propeller-induced torque. Many FM-2s went on board small ASW carriers along with TBMs, the General Motors/Eastern Aircraft version of the TBF Avenger. Both were well suited to operate from the small flight decks.
The Wildcats replacing the Buffalo's to him were like the F-14s replacing the F4 Phantoms to me on my old flat top..
The Navy had a very confusing designation system for their planes in WWII based on the manufacturer of the plane. The same plane could have several designations based on where it was built. The F4F was the Grumman built Wildcat, while the FM2 was the same plane built by GM. You would think the F4U would be another version of the Wildcat, but it was the Vought Corsair, which was also known as the F3A, FG and AU. They also had their own designations for AAF planes, like PBJ for the B25.
A successful landing aboard the Sable on Lake Michigan in '45.
The annoying thing here is the USN keeps taking the easy wins of recovering aircraft from Lake Michigan.
There are plenty of restored F4Fs and FMs out there. But NOT a single TBD Devastator, which was a big advancement in Naval Aviation when it first entered service, made significant contributions at Coral Sea and went down to tragic glory at Midway.
Four are known to exist. All are under water. One off Miami, another off San Diego and two more in the Gilberts. The one off Miami is a Coral Sea vet.
The Navy should be spending it’s limited recovery assets going after one or more of these. Not mucking around with Frikkin FM2s.
The FM-2 was an improved Wildcat that gave the Japs a fit, especially the kamikazes.
You took the words right out of my mouth(or thoughts out of my brain), I too know the Wildcat was the F4F. This must be some sort of trainer, or maybe a prototype. As you say, any FReepers who knows what a FM-2 is please chime in.
Internet search is your friend:)
A Naval Historian contact sent this link when I fwd him a link to this discussion:
He also mentioned:
“Interestingly, had the war lasted another year, some of the FM-2s flying from escort carriers might well have been replaced by Ryan FR-1 “Fireballs”, an interesting little fighter that had a reciprocating engine (R-1820) in front and a small turbojet in the back. Production and fleet introduction was just getting started when the Japanese surrendered.”
Too bad there aren’t more of these FM-2s in flying condition - they look like a fun little airplane to fly even if they weren’t a terribly formidable fighter.
This is what happens when the Navy lays perpetual claim to anything and everything it ever flew that went down.
In contrast, the Army/Air Force’s policy is that if one of its planes crashed prior to a certain date (I want to say 1962), in their eyes it’s free and clear for recovery and restoration.
As a former Grumman employee, I have read some of the history of Grumman products. Grumman, IIRC, stopped making the Wildcat and switched its fighter production entirely to Hellcats. But it developed what the British called the Martlet as a fighter for small ASW carriers, just as you point out. Considering how many merchantmen were sunk in the gap between Britain and Iceland, too far from either for land-based ASW patrols, that mission was a critical application of carrier aviation.
- Freedom's Forge:
- How American Business Produced Victory in World War II
is a most interesting discussion of the contrast between Americas woeful lack of inventory of military equipment on the occasion of Pearl Harbor and the dramatic military production accomplished even in 1942, let alone in subsequent war years. It turns out that from 1939, and especially from the fall of France in May 1940, FDR was determined to keep Britain from losing, and equally determined to prepare American industry for war production.
WWII was what forced FDR to back off of Doctor New Deal" in favor of Doctor Win-the-War."
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