Lake Michigan Aircraft Carriers
Image Courtesy of Craig Warner
Vernon Hills High School (northeast corner of the football field), 145 Lakeview Parkway, Vernon Hills.
American Legion Post 1247 and the Illinois State Historical Society in observance of the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the American Legion.
The Vernon Hills Athletic Complex once was a military airfield that trained young Americans for war. The airfield was an important part of the massive naval aviator training program during World War II. After Pearl Harbor, America found itself desperately short of aircraft carriers and, more importantly, qualified pilots. At the beginning of the war, pilot training was conducted at sea on fleet carriers. The Navy decided pilots could be trained on aircraft carriers on Lake Michigan and not be exposed to enemy attack. This resulted in higher numbers of trained pilots and freed urgently needed fleet carriers for combat duty. In 1942 aircraft carrier qualification training began using two side-wheel steam-powered cruise ships converted into aircraft carriers and re-christened the USS Sable and the USS Wolverine. This airfield supported the main airfield at NAS Glenview, and pilots trained here in state-of-the art aircraft to learn challenging carrier landing and take off techniques. Once a pilot demonstrated proficiency he would then fly to a holding point over the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette and await clearance to land on one of the carriers.
This training program qualified 17,820 pilots including the 18-year-old Ensign George H. W. Bush, future president of the United States. Though during the war thousands of Navy pilots died in service, the enemies of the United States were unable to match our deployment of aircraft carriers and highly skilled pilots. This airfield made a significant contribution to the victory of the United States over the Axis powers.
Print marker information