The wreck of an F4U-1 Corsair that sank in Lake Michigan in June 1943 has been recovered by a crew working with the National Naval Aviation Museum, based in Pensacola, Fla. “It’s a very significant airplane, because it represents an era in American history when we were training pilots for overseas duty,” said Chuck Greenhill, a military aircraft collector who helped to finance the recovery mission. Greenhill told the Chicago Sun-Times the airplane is a rare find in the lake, which contains dozens of warbird wrecks from thousands of training missions that originated at nearby Glenview Naval Air Station during the World War II era. This airplane features a framed cockpit canopy, the mark of the earliest F4U-1s, which gave them the nickname “Birdcage” Corsairs.
The airplane had been lost during a training mission flown by Ensign Carl H. Johnson, of Massachusetts, according to the museum website. Johnson tried to go around after a less-then-perfect landing approach, but it was too late, and the Corsair snagged a wire with its arresting hook as he was pushing the throttle forward. The wire snapped, the tailhook broke, and the airplane plunged off the deck into the lake. Johnson escaped from the cockpit and was rescued by boat. He went on to serve in Hawaii, where he was killed in a midair collision on Nov. 25, 1943, while flying an F6F-3 Hellcat. The tail section, which broke off in the accident, was recovered on an earlier expedition. The parts now will be restored by museum staff for eventual display.