Press Release

Up from the deep

The National WWII Museum sponsors recovery of WWII SBD Dauntless from Lake Michigan

NEW ORLEANS (April 22, 2009) – During World War II, many young naval aviators were given their first opportunity to take off and land on aircraft carriers in Lake Michigan on board the USS Wolverine (IX-64) and the USS Sable (IX-81).  In the hands of the inexperienced pilots, many of these planes missed their mark and ended up at the bottom of Lake Michigan. That is where they remained until the National Naval Aviation Museum initiated its Underwater Aircraft Recovery Program in 1990.


The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, through the assistance of an anonymous donor, has sponsored the recovery of an SBD Dauntless for eventual recovery and display in the Museum. The National Naval Aviation Museum in coordination with the Naval History and Heritage Command, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation will complete the recovery portion of the effort this week. 


The Douglas SBD Dauntless, nicknamed “The Barge” or “Slow but Deadly,” was the Navy’s most advanced dive bomber at the outbreak of World War II. Easily identified by its perforated dive flaps, the Dauntless was built to withstand the tremendous stress of dive bombing—the tactic of putting an aircraft in a near vertical dive from 20,000 feet, releasing the bomb at 1,500 feet and pulling out of the dive at wave-top height. The Dauntless dive bomber achieved iconic status by sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers during the Battle of Midway.


The National Naval Aviation Museum has loaned The National World War II Museum a fully restored SBD Dauntless, a Guadalcanal combat veteran, which is currently on display until the newly recovered aircraft can be restored. The recovery effort has yielded over thirty vintage aircraft, many of which are on display in the nation’s finest aviation museums and other public venues.


"We are honored to support the retrieval of another iconic WWII aircraft -- the SBD Dauntless," said Dr. Gordon "Nick" Mueller, President and CEO of The National World War II Museum. "Once restored, it will join our display of airborne artifacts – the C-47, British Spitfire, and the German Messerschmidt Bf109. Until then, our Museum – and our visitors – are grateful to the National Naval Aviation Museum for the loan of the restored Dauntless we currently have on exhibit."


The National World War II Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today.  The Museum is in the midst of a $300 million multi-phase expansion project that will open its first buildings in the November 2009. The Victory Theater will show Beyond All Boundaries, an exclusive 4-D cinematic experience executive produced by Tom Hanks, and The Stage Door Canteen will be a nod to the days when a weary soldier could find a food, fun and fellowship at these remarkable venues.  For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-527-6012 or visit