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Scientists search for sunken war planes

Scientists search for sunken war planes

An NOAA-funded, remote-sensing survey of Lake Michigan completed a weeklong hunt for historic World War II aircraft on June 30.

A Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal team concluded a remote sensing survey of the southern portion of Lake Michigan looking for sunken historic World War II aircraft.

The team used side-scan sonar to determine the likely positions of sunken aircraft that were lost in accidents during the training of aviators. A major goal of the project was to assess historic information about the sites and to evaluate potential safety, biological and economic hazards from a number of factors, including the impacts of invasive species like zebra mussels.

The aircraft were lost during training operations from the aircraft carriers USS Wolverine and USS Sable. Between 1942 and 1945 there were 122 aircraft losses and more than 200 separate deck accidents. Although the majority of these incidents resulted in only minor injuries, eight naval aviators died. About 120,000 successful landings took place.

“The group of aircraft is the only collection of historic, World War II, Navy aircraft preserved in cold, fresh water,” said Wendy Coble, aviation issues specialist in the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the Naval Historical Center.