A fourth WWII aircraft rescued from the bottom of Lake Michigan is on its way to the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Douglas Dauntless SBD-1, Bureau No. 1612, is expected to arrive today, August 2nd, at the Air Zoo’s Flight Discovery Center. The Air Zoo’s renowned restoration team will complete the full restoration of this historic aircraft, the only remaining SBD-1 in the world.
The SBD-1 (Bu. No. 1612) was accepted by the Marine Corps on September 16, 1940 and delivered to VMSB 132 at MCAS Quantico before a short stay in Camp Kearney, at what is now Marine Corp. Air Station (MCAS) Miramar in California. When Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 142 (VMSB-142) deployed to the Pacific with its new SBD-4s, Bu. No. 1612 was sent to Naval Air Station, Glenview, IL, and its Carrier Qualification Training Unit (CQTU). There, it was used to train pilots to take off and land aboard the converted paddlewheeler, USS Wolverine.
On November 23, 1942, it crash landed during a training and aircraft carrier qualification flight and became one of 38 Dauntless’ to end up on the bottom of Lake Michigan, taking with it, the life of a young officer named Ensign Herbert Welton McMinn, USNR, from Gouldbush, Texas.
In 1994, the aircraft was recovered from the bottom of Lake Michigan by A and T Recovery and passed through several museums before arriving at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar where it was to undergo restoration. With the closing of the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum on March 28, 2021, conversations between the Air Zoo and the National Naval Aviation Museum regarding 1612’s completion began.
On Monday, August 2nd, 1612 will complete the next leg of its journey from the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum to the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Center in Kalamazoo, MI. The aircraft, along with representatives from the Air Zoo, A and T Recovery, the U.S. Navy, and descendants of the McMinn family, generated great excitement at the 2021 EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI. It will make its way to Kalamazoo on August 2nd, where it will be off-loaded at the Air Zoo’s Flight Discovery Center. The Air Zoo’s nationally recognized restoration team will then take over the completion of this historic aircraft – restoring history and honor to Ensign Herbert Welton McMinn as well as the only remaining SBD-1 in the world.
”This is truly exhilarating,” states Air Zoo President & CEO, Troy Thrash. “The timing is perfect as we prepare to say goodbye to one of our most beloved restoration projects, the SBD-2P (Bu. No. 2173) heading back home to Pearl Harbor in November. The years of experience, knowledge and passion is evident and embedded in every project this team takes on.” Thrash adds, “how fortunate are we to have this opportunity to work on these historic planes? Restoring history and honor, not only to the aircraft, but to the families of the pilots that flew them and all who prepared them to breech the sky. And Herbert McMinn, who lost his life in the crash into the lake, certainly deserves that.”
The restoration is expected to take several years, and the funding needed to complete it is estimated to be in the $350,000-$500,000 range. The Air Zoo has launched a fundraising campaign to help cover the anticipated materials and operational support necessary for the team, which is mostly comprised of volunteers. This aircraft will take the place of the SBD-2P that is being completed for its return to Pearl Harbor this fall, where it will be dedicated on December 7th at the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremonies, marking the 80th Anniversary of the bombing on Pearl Harbor.