Tuskegee Red Tail is discovered in Lake Huron

In August of 2015, Erik Denson, a NASA engineer at the Kennedy Space Center, and six other underwater explorers made history by conducting a five-day archeological survey of a Bell P-39Q Airacobra. This fighter plane piloted by 2nd Lt. Frank Moody, a 22-year-old Tuskegee Airman from Los Angeles. After crashing his plane on April 11, 1944, his body washed ashore in Port Huron, Michigan, a few months later. This is one of the four estimated plane wrecks from Tuskegee Red Tails flight training over the Great Lakes in World War II.

Bell P-39Q Airacobra Michigan Tuskegee Red Tails
Bell P-39Q Airacobra Source: USAF Museum

The Famous Squadrons Training Ground

“We are not allowed to disturb or recover artifacts without permits,” he said. “I am making a recommendation to recover some selected artifacts, but not the entire aircraft,” Lusardi said that it would be expensive to remove the complete airplane.

“I embarked on a mission of a lifetime,” said Denson, a graduate of Howard University. “One that would touch our hearts and souls.”

The team that worked with Lusardi also included members from the Diving With a Purpose (DWP) Maritime Archaeology Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The DWP program consists mainly of members of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS). The program started as a partnership with the National Park Service to help document historic shipwrecks in Florida’s Biscayne National Park and to teach divers the basic techniques of underwater archeology.

“These pilots were scholars with degrees from some of our country’s finest colleges and universities,” she said. “They were only limited, in some instances, by their color. But they were strong and courageous. I left Lake Huron with a commitment to help tell their story — who they were and what they did from our perspective. We must tell our own history.”

Oscoda Army Air Corp Base 1943
Image from US Army Air Corp

Oscoda Army Air Field

Airman Frank Herman Moody, originally of Oklahoma, was flying over Lake Huron when he crashed. Moody had completed his basic flight training in Tuskegee and was taking advanced training at Selfridge and Oscoda Army Air Field. He was part of the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Corps for the Tuskegee Red Tails.

When the five-day mission ended, Denson brought a wreath aboard the dive boat and asked his fellow scuba divers to say a few words to commemorate the Tuskegee Airmen.

Quotes credited to the  Westside Gazette.

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Mike Hardy

Mike Hardy is a Marketing Information Technology Manager and author of a fun-loving blog covering topics of the Upper Thumb of Michigan. Starting in 2009, he authored a vast range of content and established a loyal base of 15,000 visitors per month. Mike welcomes your feedback, which can be found on Thumbwinds, "About" page.

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