A World War II plane pulled from the depths Lake Michigan now hangs in the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
Riggers today hoisted the SBD-3 Dauntless into place above the Leatherneck Gallery — the atrium visitors to the famous museum see upon entering the building. There, it will hang with other aircraft that were integral to the missions of U.S. Marines throughout history.
The Dauntless was used by the U.S. Navy starting on Aug. 24, 1942. Several Marine Corps squadrons used the plane in the U.S.
The aircraft transferred from the Marine Corps to the U.S. Navy Carrier Qualification Training Unit in Glenview, Ill. in 1943. It was lost in a training accident that same year when the plane crashed and sank to the bottom of Lake Michigan.
A team from the National Museum of Naval Aviation recovered the plane in 1991, 48 years after it crashed. Aside from being scraped by boat anchors, damage to the aircraft was light.
The plane was restored and place at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Alabama. The airplane was acquired in 2005 by the Marine Corps Museum, and the plan was to display the plane in the museum’s World War II Gallery.
It was later learned the airplane needed an overhaul before it could be displayed in the museum. Work on the project began in 2009. The plane was stripped down to its rivets and rebuilt. Rocks and sand were found fell out of the aircraft as workers began the restoration, said Marine Museum spokeswoman Gwenn Adams.
The majority of the restoration work took place on Quantico Marine Corps Base, in the now condemned Larson’s Gym. The final restoration work took place over six months at the Udar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly.
Riggers from iWeiss used a lift and a hoist to move the plane in place shortly after 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. The aircraft will be placed into a dive altitude with dive flaps open, with a 1,000-pound bomb strapped to its belly.
Also waiting inside the Leatherneck Gallery is a Vietnam-era helicopter, a U434-D. It will be hoisted into place onto a new display as part of the over exhibit in the large gallery. Another Vietnam-era helicopter that had been on display in the gallery will be moved into storage, said Adams.
The addition of the new aircraft is the reason the museum closed its doors for winter. Work also continues the museum’s efforts to “complete the circle,” with the addition of new halls that will showcase life for Marines who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a gallery that shows life for Marines on the front lines of battle.
Those new galleries and a new theater and art gallery should open next year. The additions will complete the vision for the original museum that opened in 2006.
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