There's something very special about a restoration project. Sometimes it's a historic home; sometimes it's a classic car. But for this group, many with military and service backgrounds, the passion is for aircraft.

While the Air Zoo in Portage is a wonderful place to share memories and to allow, say the next generation, to get up close to and see actual aircraft all with historical significance, a good deal of the passion is maybe somewhat behind the scenes, where work goes on, sometimes slowly and painstakingly, on aircraft from long ago.

One of the projects going on at the Air Zoo is the SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber. After it was damaged during action in the Pacific, it was repurposed as a training plane but crashed into Lake Michigan some sixty five years ago. The Air Zoo crew says it's in remarkable shape for sitting in the water for that long a time. The goal is for this plane to end up at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

There are several major restoration projects underway at the Air Zoo right now. For the uninitiated, it may appear that the work is all labor, and, of course that is a big part of the puzzle of restoring, but the hunt for locating parts is critical, too.

One of the critical pieces of electronics surviving from aboard the SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber being restored at the AirZoo (side by side with a photo of what it should look like). (Photo provided by the AirZoo)

With every tick of the clock, we get another step further away from that long ago. The number of World War II veterans shrinks with every passing day. And there's an underlying sense of responsibility to that "Greatest Generation" from the people doing the work now, some with their own experiences from Vietnam and other conflicts, the responsibility to get it right, to honor those achievements, from now almost 80 years ago.

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