The Lake County Veterans Memorial concept started with the acquisition of an aircraft from Chanute Air Museum in Rantoul, IL. Faced with a loss of funding, the museum was forced with relocating its exhibit aircraft or having them scrapped. About the same time, Waukegan airport manager James Stanczak had applied for the loan of an aircraft from the U.S. Air Force to put on display at Waukegan National Airport. Through his efforts, the Air Force agreed to transfer an F-111A from Chanute to Waukegan National Airport in December of 2015.
While researching the aircraft, it was determined that this series of aircraft had a major role in the development of our modern military aircraft. Originally labeled McNamara’s Folly, it was born in one of the most corrupt and inept procurement debacles ever. In spite of that, it became an excellent aircraft. It was the first aircraft to have production moveable swept wings, the first to have turbofan engines which gave it the power to fly supersonically at low altitude and the efficiency to fly to Europe without refueling. Its electronics allowed it to fly at night, in any weather, hugging the ground to avoid detection. The aircraft proudly served in Viet Nam; as our front line nuclear defense during the Cold War; in the raid on Ghaddafi’s Libyan headquarters; and in Desert Storm. They were finally retired in 1996. Australia continued to use the F-111 until 2010. Truly an aircraft our Veterans hold in high respect.
Knowing this, it was felt that the best use of this aircraft is to anchor a county-wide Veteran’s Park and Memorial. To be situated at the Waukegan National Airport, this Memorial, in an intimate park-like setting, would honor all veterans – past and present – in all branches of service. An initial concept has been developed. Currently, we are making presentations of this initial design to county Veteran’s organizations to get their input on what they would like to see in the final design. Costs have been estimated at $100,000, dependent on final details. We are also working with local businesses and individuals for assistance in this worthy project. Many have already come forward, and more are expected once we roll out our publicity program in March. Also, ideas are being discussed to use this opportunity to provide programs to our schools to encourage discussion of our veterans and their service to our country.
The aircraft is currently undergoing restoration, as many years of outdoor exhibition has taken its toll. Aggressive as it is, our plan is to have the aircraft on display, and ground broken for the Memorial Park in time for dedication at this year’s Waukegan Air Show on Sept. 10.
General Dynamics F-111 “Aardvark”
The General Dynamics F-111 “Aardvark” was a supersonic, medium-range tactical attack aircraft that also served as a strategic bomber and provided aerial reconnaissance. Developed in the 1960’s, it first entered service in 1967 with the United States Air Force and flew missions over Southeast Asia, played an integral role in the Gulf War, and flew in service of the Strategic Air Command until 1998.
Introduced: July 18, 1967
Weight: 47,180 lbs
Serial #: 2/563
This historic F-111 was relocated from Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum in Rantoul, Illinois to the Waukegan National Airport to help serve as a gateway to welcome tourists and visitors to the area. Plans are for this plane to be a featured attraction at a proposed Veterans Plaza to be created on a site at the Waukegan Airport once it has been reassembled and restored to its original condition. Please consider being a part of history by making a donation to meet our fund-raising goal.