Tuskegee Airman's plane crashed into Lake Huron. Found 70 years later to the day.

Oct 19, 2017
Originally published on October 19, 2017 12:05 pm

 


Nobody ever thought they would find it: the P-39 fighter plane that Tuskegee Airman Frank Herman Moody, originally of Oklahoma, was flying over Lake Huron when he crashed.


But then, as luck or fate would have it, there was a bad storm on Lake Huron in April of that year, a barge and tug went down, and a cleanup was scheduled.


It was during this cleanup that a set of almost perfectly intact wings were found on the lake's floor.

A few hundred feet away, the engine was discovered.


The divers had found Moody's plane, 70 years to the date it crashed onto the lake's bottom on April 11, 1944.


Wayne Lusardi, an archaeologist and diver with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, is exploring the wreck site. Here's what he knows so far about the plane and its pilot.


1.) It's amazing the wings survived intact. 


Lusardi said Moody crashed while flying in formation only about 100 feet above the water, hitting the lake at a high speed, killing Moody and wrecking the engine and scattering the guns. Moody was completing training out of Selfridge and Wurtsmith Air Force bases after enlisting to fight in the early years of World War II as a fighter pilot.


2.) Those wings carry a lot of history.


It's important that the tail section was painted red, the sign of the Tuskegee Airmen, confirming the plane belonged to a "Red-Tail," the nickname for the Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first commissioned officers of color in the United States armed forces. They flew successful missions over North Africa and Sicily during World War II.


3.) It was one of the most emotional wrecks Lusardi has ever worked on. 


“It was a place where a moment in history occurred. And it was unfortunately a place where a man died," Lusardi said. "And although I’ve been working on shipwrecks for many many years, I’ve never really felt a connection with the site and the person that was last a part of that site. It was pretty emotional." He said many of the crew were African American, and some had direct personal experience with people who had known Moody.


4.) It won't be the last Tuskegee Airmen craft to find. 


“There are more wrecks flown by Tuskegee Airmen that are still out in the lake, and we hope to find them in the coming field season." He said 18,000 Army air crews were killed during training in World War II. He predicts there are at least four more Tuskegee Airmen planes that are still hidden somewhere out on the Great Lakes.


Listen above for the full conversation.


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