The Wolverine and the Sable operated daily out of Navy Pier, while the aircraft took off from Glenview Naval Air Station. Over 13,000 pilots qualified for aircraft carrier landings this way including former President, George Bush.
An estimated 175 aircraft crashed during these training flights going into the "drink" of Lake Michigan. Until 10 years ago there existed no salvage equipment sophisticated enough to locate and recover these aircraft. They remained on the bottom of Lake Michigan until December of 1990 when Pensacola Naval Air Station contracted A&T Recovery, a Chicago salvage company, to recover some of those aircraft for static display in their museum. During 1991 and 1992, A&T Recovery successfully salvaged 12 of those aircraft through the use of 1944 deck logs (journals), sonar equipment, remote control robots, and television cameras.
Two of the aircraft recovered from Lake Michigan were F4F-3 Wildcat fighters. One of those was the aircraft Lt. (j.g.) John Forsberg had flown off the Wolverine 48 years earlier into the "drink". It was found 27 miles east of Evanston in 200 feet of water. This Wildcat was recovered in such remarkable condition, that Forsberg was able to vindicate accusations made about pilot error being the cause of his crash 48 years earlier. Many of the instruments in the cockpit of this Wildcat still moved and the engine throttle was still in the forward position disputing accusations to the contrary and thereby vindicating Lt. (j.g.) John Forsberg.
Though under 200 feet of water for 48 years and sitting on its nose with the right wing broken off, the cold waters of Lake Michigan had done an amazing job of preserving this Wildcat. The following items were found to be preserved by the cold waters of the lake:
It took two and a half years to totally restore this Wildcat, but on July 18, 1994 it became the first WWII plane recovered from water to be returned to flight status.
The museum's aircraft is one of a handful of Wildcats the Navy commissioned A&T Recovery, in 1990, to salvage from the bottom of Lake Michigan where it rested for almost 50 years. This aircraft in one of the 175 planes that entered the "drink" during training exercises conducted by the Navy out of Glenview Naval Air Station during WW-II. These training exercises were used to qualify naval pilots in carrier deck landings. Utilizing the decks of the aircraft carriers USS Wolverine and USS Sable over 13,000 pilots were qualified to enter the war effort in exercises taking place literally in Chicago's back yard.
The US Navy has loaned this F4F-3 Wildcat to Air Classics Museum for restoration and installation into O'Hare Airport, with the full cooperation of the City of Chicago, and the sponsorship of McDonalds Restaurants. Once restored this aircraft will be displayed in terminal two where it will appear to be suspended just inches above a replicated deck of an aircraft carrier with it's tail hook down in simulation of an actual carrier deck landing. While the base of the replicated carrier deck will graphically reconstruct, with text and photos, the heroic story of Butch O'Hare's Medal of Honor flight for millions of visitors and residents of Chicago each year.
Please call (630) 466-0888 about booking a tour or educational presentation.