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Earlier this week, the Traverse City Ticker – an essential local news source to Northern Michigan residents – had a top story worth sharing with aviation enthusiasts. Naturally, we were excited and wanted to share the details on the RF System Lab blog.

According to the Ticker, the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum will host an exhibit commemorating secret naval training and testing that occurred in Northern Michigan during WWII. Lake Michigan was chosen because it was the only U.S.-landlocked body of water large enough to accommodate the ships.

From 1942 to 1945 the USS Wolverine and the USS Sable, aircraft carriers converted from passenger ships, were stationed in Lake Michigan. They were used for secret training of sailors and pilots to avoid spies from Japan that were placed in the Pacific.

The Ticker was able to speak with Amanda Wetzel, assistant lighthouse director, about her efforts to bring this exhibit to Traverse City.  As stated in the original article “Last October, Wetzel began talking to veterans who served on and locals who remember seeing the ships. Since then, she says she’s ‘uncovered a lot of the story that didn’t receive the press it deserved, that there was an aircraft carrier stationed here in Grand Traverse Bay in the 1940s.’”

In addition to the secret ships, the U.S. Navy also tested top secret equipment, which included technology similar to current day unmanned aerial vehicles; which were guided by rotary style phones as they took off from the local Cherry Capital Airport.

During WWII, Navy personnel were frequently seen in Traverse City, but training and testing were hardly ever topics overheard in everyday conversation. “The belief was loose lips sink ships,” says Wetzel. “You didn’t talk about it. They truly believed spies were everywhere.” Wetzel told the Ticker that more than 17,000 men were trained on the carriers.

Attractions at the exhibit will include documents, photos and various artifacts of the era, as well as remarks by former President George H. Bush, who trained on the Sable. There will also be a gala honoring past and present navy and coast guard personnel at the Park Place Hotel.

To view the original article about this exciting event coming to our hometown, visit the Traverse City Ticker.

Image via JasonGillman.com

When you think of impactful industries in Michigan, your mind probably automatically goes straight to automobiles. But think back to World War II, when a factory employed 42,000 workers, a third of those women (Rosie the Riveter ring a bell?), to build B-24 bombers. According to Save the Bomber Plant, The Willow Run Bomber plant produced new bombers at a rate of one airplane every hour at its peak. Some even refer to the plant as the “birthplace of modern manufacturing” because of the way it improved upon manufacturing to take things beyond the assembly line.

Willow Run Bomber plant, Rosie the Riveter

A “Rosie the Riveter” working in the Willow Run Bomber Plant. Image via Save the Bomber Plant.

The Willow Run Bomber Plant is clearly an important chapter in American History; one that Michigan can be proud of. It brought on social change, had a big hand in our ability to win the war, and sparked growth in the southeastern Michigan region that continues on even today. However, despite its impactful history, the Willow Run Bomber plant is not likely to find a buyer to keep it intact.

Because of this, the “Save the Bomber Plant” campaign was created to use the majority of the plant as a museum to tell the story of what Willow Run accomplished and to create a permanent location for the Yankee Air museum. In addition, a smaller critical portion of the plant will be preserved and maintained.

In order to accomplish the $8 million campaign goal, the Michigan Aerospace Foundation must raise $5 million in additional funding. If you’re interested in helping to preserve a piece of history, specifically the eastern end of the plant, donate on the Save the Bomber Plant website.