Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy converted two existing lake steamers into aircraft carriers. The Navy acquired two vessels from the Cleveland and Buffalo Transit Company and converted them into the USS Wolverine and USS Sable. Retaining their original propulsion system, they became the only coal-driven side paddle-wheel aircraft carriers in U.S. Navy history.
Operating on the relatively calm waters of Lake Michigan, the ships offered inexperienced pilots a landing deck that didn’t pitch and roll too severely. The ships were safe from Japanese or German submarines and did not require escort ships badly needed elsewhere. 120,000 successful landings took place, qualifying 17,800 pilots for aircraft carrier operations, including former President George H.W. Bush. There were 128 aircraft lost and over 200 accidents during training.
Their history is important to the U.S. Navy, the states surrounding southern Lake Michigan and to our nation. The cold temperature of the freshwater at depths over 300 feet has preserved these aircraft as the best assemblage of U.S. Navy sunken, historic aircraft. These wrecks provide a wealth of knowledge about naval aviation history and our local heritage. Property of the U.S. Navy, several of the wrecks have been recovered, restored, and placed on display at locations such as Midway Airport and numerous museums.
Learn more about the carrier qualifications during World War II and the ongoing efforts to recover and preserve the lost aircraft. You can watch the edited Citizen Soldier
Bob Rasmussen, Director of the National Naval Aviation Museum
Taras Lyssenko, A&T Recovery, LLC
CAPT Ed Ellis, Secretary of Naval Aviation Museum Foundation
Bill Marquardt, President of Glenview Hangar One Foundation
DVD 2012-12-04 Lake Michigan
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