Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Michigan divers discover wreck of World War II plane

Here is a great article of a local underwater find in Lake Huron just north of Port Huron, MI by a few local divers.  The article was published by the Port Huron Times-Herald and re-published by the Detroit Free Press on their website.  Congrats Dave and Drew Losinski on the great find.  Hopefully when the research and work is complete we can all get out and dive this great historical find!

Michigan divers discover wreck of World War II plane

11:09 AM, July 30, 2014

By Bob Gross
Gannett Michigan
The P39 fighter plane found in Lake Huron was powered by this engine.
The P39 fighter plane found in Lake Huron was powered by this engine. / David and Drew Losinski

David and Drew Losinski are struck by the coincidence.

They took a photo on April 11, from the surface of Lake Huron, of the wing of a World War II-era fighter plane that crashed during a training exercise, killing its pilot.

“That plane actually crashed April 11, 1944, which was 70 years to the date that the picture was taken,” Drew Losinski said. “We thought that was kind of unbelievable.”

The Losinskis are divers — David has been diving since 1977; his son, Drew, since 2002 — and both are former members of the St. Clair County Dive Team. They’ve seen lots of things underwater, but the story of the P39 fighter lost just off the Port Huron beachfront touched them.

“It was eerie,” David Losinski said. “We didn’t know really what we had.”

What they had was a one-seat warplane piloted by 2nd Lt. Frank H. Moody of Los Angeles. He was training with fellow pilots out of what was then Selfridge Field when his plane crashed.

“All four of the the guys that were in that flight were from Tuskegee,” Losinksi said. “I didn’t know anything about the Tuskegee Airmen until we got into this.”

The Tuskegee Airmen were African-American members of the 332nd Fighter Group and 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Force who fought in Europe during World War II. They also were known as the Red Tails because they painted the tails of their aircraft red.

The Losinskis found an account of the crash in the Times Herald. The story stated Moody and three other pilots were taking gunnery practice about three miles north of Port Huron.

Cecil V. Fowler saw the crash, according to the Times Herald article.

“It was the most horrible thing I have ever witnessed,” she said. “There were four planes, and I was watching them from our front window, as I usually do when they’re engaged in gunnery practice.

“Then everything happened so fast it seems unbelievable.

“Smoke started coming from the tail of the second plane, and I could see it was in trouble. The pilot apparently noticed it and tried to lift his ship.

“It was a feeble effort, for the plane seemed to lift for only a few feet and then it crashed, nose first, into the water. I saw a big splash, and then the plane went out of sight.”

Moody’s body was not recovered until it washed ashore in Port Huron on June 4, 1944 — two days before D-Day and the invasion of Normandy.

David Losinski said he and his son were assisting the state Department of Environmental Quality with a barge that sank in Lake Huron in July 2012. During those efforts, they noted several areas they wanted to investigate, including one about four miles north of the Blue Water Bridge.

Superstorm “Sandy came along and moved things around,” David Losinski said.

They resumed the investigation last spring.

“This year, we went out diving, and we could see these points of interest from the surface,” Losinski said. “Drew said, ‘Dad, that’s an airplane.’

“You could see the wings. We knew we had some kind of plane.”

He said the wreckage from the plane is scattered across the lake bottom. Pieces include the engine, the tail, part of the door and the 37-millimeter cannon that fired through the propeller hub.

The P-39 had a unique configuration with the engine placed behind the pilot and the drive shaft running under the cockpit to the propeller. The plane was equipped with the cannon and four .50-caliber machine guns — two mounted on the wings, two more just behind the propeller and timed to fire through the spinning blades.
“We came across the gauge cluster, which had the radio call tag,” David Losinski said. “Once we brought that up and cleaned the tag, we knew it was the 221226 serial number.”

The Losinskis said they want to preserve the site for people to dive on.

“In a nutshell, this is what we’re trying to do — get permission to relocate the parts so they would resemble a plane,” David Losinski said.
That’s been easier said than done.

“The state says, ‘We don’t have jurisdiction over that; it’s the Air Force,’” Losinski said. “The Air Force says, ‘Any aircraft before 1961, we’ve abandoned it.’”

The Losinskis haven’t abandoned their quest to bring this long-forgotten chapter in the history of World War II to light. They’re looking for other divers who can assist with the effort.

“We’ve done quite a bit of documenting and measuring,” David Losinski said.

They want the site to remain a memorial divers can visit.

“All the artifacts that were taken off were replaced in their original position and original situation except for the tag we cleaned up,” he said.
Bob Gross is a reporter for the Port Huron Times-Herald. Contact him at 1-810-989-6263 or Follow him on Twitter @RobertGross477

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Diving the Minnendosa

Diving the Minnedosa
The Mighty Minnedosa

Today we were able to get in a dive on the Minnedosa.  The shipwreck Minnedosa is located about 16 miles North-Northwest of Harbor Beach Michigan in Lake Huron.  The shipwreck sits in about 210 feet of water.

Descending the line to the Minnedosa 200 feet below.
We had a beautiful afternoon out on Lake Huron.  The waves were minimal (under 2 feet).  The shipwreck sits right in the downbound shipping lane, so we needed to be vigilant about freighter traffic.  The Sylvia Anne took divers out to the wreck in the morning and had to hail a few freighters to notify them that they were moored on the wreck with divers in the water in order to get them to change course.

Our bottom time on the wreck was about 20 minutes with an overall runtime for the dive of 1 hour 30 minutes for me as I spent some extra time doing some deco at 20 feet.

The Minnedosa was built in 1890 in Canada and was known as "The Pride of Canada" as she was the last and largest of the schooners that were built in Canada for the Great Lakes.  However, because of her size, she required a sizeable crew in order to sail her.  So, in most instances she was to be used in tow behind a steamer to minimize crew needs.
In October, 19005 the Minnedosa left Ft. William, Ontario with a full load of grain being towed behind the steamer Westmount.  During the trip the ships were caught in a gale.  It is unknown the reasons why the Minnedosa sank, but she plunged to the bottom with all hands lost.

The wheel of the Minnedosa is an impressive sight.
The schooner Minnedosa, built in 1890, was born to superlatives, and became known as “The Pride of Canada”. She was the last and the greatest of the thousand schooners built in Canada for the Great Lakes. Two hundred and fifty feet long with a 38’ beam with four masts, she was fully rigged and capable of 15 knots, as fast or faster than the steamers of the day. Originally, she had a life-sized half-length figure of Ceres, the Grecian goddess of harvest. She was, by all measures, a stout and well-built vessel.

In October, 1905, she left Ft. William, Ontario with a full load of grain (75,000 bushels) in her holds and entered Lake Huron behind the Steamer Westmount. Little did Captain Phillips, his wife, and the crew of six realize that this would be their last and “Final Run”.

In a horrific late October 1905 gale, the Minnedosa continued down bound, behind the Steamer Westmount, into Lake Huron’s notorious Saginaw Bay. Without warning, the giant Minnedosa plunged to the floor of Lake Huron to become one of the enduring mysteries of the Great Lakes for more than 75 years.

Cindy and Shawn photo shot with
the wheel of the Minnedosa.

From the Winnipeg Free Press Manitoba 1905-10-21
Port Huron, Mich., Oct. 21 -- A story of heroism is told by the crews of the steamer Westmont and schooner Melrose which arrived here after a terrific battle with the wind and mountainous waves on Lake Huron. The schooners Melrose and Minnedosa were in tow of the staunch steel steamer Westmount. The Minnedosa was being battered to pieces and was doomed. Behind the Minnedosa was hitched the Melrose also in desperate straits. Capt. JOHN PHILLIPS of the Minnedosa, realizing the fate in store for the Minnedosa and the nine souls on board, ordered the tow line cut, freeing the Melrose in the hope that she might be saved. The latter boat was picked up after drifting twenty miles into the lake by the Westmount and brought into port. A few minutes after the hawser was cut the Minnedosa, with its nine heroes and a cargo of 75,000 bushels of wheat lurched to the bottom off Harbor Beach, Lake Huron. Those who went down with the Minnedosa were:

  •  Capt. JOHN PHILLIPS, Kingston, Ont.
  •  MRS. PHILLIPS, the captain's wife.
  •  ARTHUR WALKER, mate, Nova Scotia.
  •  GEORGE McDERMOTT, Bellville, Ont.
  •  JAMES ALLEN, Nova Scotia.
  • A passenger and three sailors, names unknown to the captain and whose homes are believed to be at Kingston.
For thirty years Captain Alexander Milligan of St. Catharines, Ont., on the steamer Westmount and Capt. R. A. Davey of Kingston on the schooner Melrose have sailed the lakes, but the story they told when their boats were laying at Sarnia today was of a battle with wind and water, the like of which they had never before experienced. All the way down from Fort William where the Westmount, Minnedosa and Melrose of the Montreal Transportation company took took the last of their cargoes last Monday, the boats shoved their noses into fierce winds and mountain waves Captain Milligan of the Westmount stated that the Minnedosa was carrying an unusually heavy load. Her usual cargo was 60,000 bushels, but she had carried 75,000 bushels before and it was thought perfectly safe to have her carry as much this time. "It was late in the season," said Captain Milligan, "and fates were high. The Minnedosa went to the bottom without a signal of distress. We did not known how serious was her condition."

Artifacts divers found on the wreck are on
display on the stern cabin roof.

Steve exiting one of the holds of the Minnedosa.
  When the vessel went down she was
carrying a full load of grain.

Cindy with a Go-Pro camera getting footage of the shipwreck.

Divers on the bow of the Minnedosa.
  You will notice some damage to the bow that
occurred during the sinking of the vessel.

Part of the stern cabin roof were divers have placed artifacts
that were found on the Minnedosa for others
to view and enjoy.

Divers posing on the bow of the Minnedosa.

Steve investigating the bow bollard on the Minnedosa.

Cindy on the deco line waiting out the
deco obligation from a 200ft dive.