Pearl Harbor Day Recovery: One Wildcat


An FM-2 Wildcat that rolled off the deck of a ship on Dec. 28, 1944, after suffering an engine failure during takeoff, was plucked from Waukegan Harbor on Lake Michigan in Illinois, Friday, reportedly thanks to a donation from 78-year-old pilot Charles Greenhill. The aircraft’s pilot, William Edward Forbes, was rescued when the aircraft went into the water more than 60 years ago. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 85. Now, local enthusiasts hope to use the aircraft to encourage development of a museum at a former Naval Air Station museum in nearby Glenview, Ill. But before that, the aircraft will be headed to Greenhill’s hangar in Kenosha, Wisc., if only temporarily.

The hangar is only expected to serve as a pit stop on the aircraft’s journey. From there it will be moved to the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla., for a restoration that could take half a decade. The WWII aircraft’s physical retrieval actually began on Sunday, but crews decided to wait until Pearl Harbor Day to remove the plane form the water. The Wildcat has been identified as Bureau Number 57039, which had 1151 hours when it sank in about 200 feet of water. More than 17,000 pilots were trained to fly from carriers on the waters of Lake Michigan during World War II.