The Great Lakes provided vital support for the war effort in WWII, from building 28 fleet subs in Manitowoc, Wisconsin to providing the bulk of US industrial output, we could not have won the war if not for the benefits of the Great Lakes and their related industry. However there was another benefit of the lakes that is often overlooked. Japan quickly lost the war because, among many other things, its navy could not replace its carrier pilot losses. We could.
How did we train so many pilots in both comfort (calm seas) and safety (no enemy subs)
We took two old side-wheel Great Lakes passenger steamers and turned them into training carriers on Lake Michigan! Virtually every carrier pilot trained in the war got his landing training on these amazing ships! Sadly nothing but these great photos and the wrecks of the aircraft that ditched alongside them remain to tell their fascinating story! Check this out! USS Sable and USS Wolverine.
During World War II merchant ships were converted to aircraft carriers to train Navy pilots. The USS Sable (IX-81) was a training ship of the United States Navy during World War II. Originally built as the 'Greater Buffalo', a sidewheel excursion steamer, she was converted in 1942 to a freshwater aircraft carrier to be used on the Great Lakes. She was used for advanced training for naval aviators in carrier takeoffs and landings. One aviator that trained upon the Sable was future president George H. W. Bush. Following World War II, Sable was decommissioned on 7 November 1945. She was sold for scrapping on 7 July 1948.
The steamship 'Greater Buffalo' before it was converted to the USS Sable (IX-81).
Overhead view of the training aircraft carrier Sable (IX 81) underway on Lake Michigan with an FM Wildcat making a deck launch from the flattop 1945
The USS Sable (IX-81) lies at anchor in Lake Michigan 1943
training aircraft carrier Sable (IX 81) moored alongside a pier on the shore of Lake Michigan during a break in training operations.
Click below for many more great photos and the rest of the story.
Pilot crashes while attempting a landing on the USS Wolverine. The plane is an SNJ, the Navy version of the USAAF's T-6 trainer.