WWII Plane Resurfaces After 65 Years

Specialized crew docks WWII fighter jet at Waukegan Harbor

By Nicola Orichuia
|  Saturday, Nov 28, 2009  |  Updated 10:00 AM CDT
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WWII Bomber Pulled From Lake Michigan

stillworkshop.com

An F6F-3 Hellcat

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After 65 years of lying quietly at the bottom of Lake Michigan, a World War II fighter plane will be hoisted back to ground on Monday.

And for the first time since he crashed on Jan. 5, 1945, the pilot of that plane is ready to tell his story.

"I went straight underwater," Walter B. Elcock told the Chicago Tribune.

Elcock, now 89 and living in Georgia, still remembers the day his F6F-3 Hellcat fell into the cold waters of Lake Michigan and how he had to swim back to the surface with all his heavy gear.

He was rescued shortly after by a Coast Guard ship.

"Relief, I guess, is the best word," Elcock said, as he thought about the feelings of that near-death experience.

Elcock’s grandson, Hunter Brawley, started searching for the aircraft after finding a Chicago-based team specialized in recovering warplanes from Lake Michigan and getting special permission to perform the search from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office.

"I grew up hearing the story of this crash," Brawley, 36, told the Tribune.

The plane’s recovery started at 6 a.m. on Nov. 21, when a crew from A&T Recovery started raising the plane from under 250 feet of water.

After four hours of painstakingly pulling up the plane, the crew led by Taras Lyssenko started towing the aircraft back towards Chicago.

Now the plane is safely docked at Waukegan Harbor, where it is waiting to be hauled to the ground by a nautical crane on Monday.

This is the second WWII fighter plane recovered since last summer.
 
Read the full story at chicagotribune.com.

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