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Great Lakes-Based Documentary is Looking for Pilots Who Trained on Lake Michigan


A new documentary on a little-known chapter of the history of the Great Lakes will be screened next month near Cleveland. 

Between 1942 and 1945, 17,000 pilots landed planes on the USS Wolverine and USS Sable, two aircraft carriers stationed on Lake Michigan. Among the pilots was President George H.W. Bush. 

A new documentary called "Heroes on Deck" details that mission, says Christopher Gillcrist, executive director of the National Museum of the Great Lakes. The film features home videos captured by one of the pilots, as well as video from the National Archives. 

"It’s the story of the operation of these aircraft carriers and what remains of their activities, which are essentially plane wrecks; almost 100 plane wrecks that occurred on Lake Michigan during training," Gillcrist said. 

The film is making its way to Cleveland, and Gillcrist  is looking for pilots who trained on Lake Michigan. He wants them to be part of a December showing in Lakewood.

He estimates about 2,000 pilots are still alive, and fewer than 10 may be in Northeast Ohio. 

The film’s director John Davies will speak at next month’s screening on Dec.2, from 7-10 p.m. at the Lakewood Civic Auditorium.

"At most of these screenings that I do around the country, sometimes somebody stands up in the audience and says, “I was a pilot, I flew off those carriers. They’re usually late 80's, early 90's,” said Davies. 

Pilots or their families can contact the Great Lakes Museum at glhs1@inlandseas.org.

Great Lakes Today is a collaboration of WBFO Buffalo, ideastream Cleveland and WXXI Rochester. For more stories, go to greatlakestoday.org.