George H.W. Bush as
George H.W. Bush
rescued by USS
George Bush in his TBM
Avenger Barbara III.
After finishing flight training, he was assigned to Torpedo Squadron (VT-51)
as photographic officer in September 1943. As part of Air Group 51, his squadron
was based on USS San Jacinto in the spring of 1944. San Jacinto was part of
Task Force 58 that participated in operations against Marcus and Wake Islands
in May, and then in the Marianas during June. On 19 June, the task force triumphed
in one of the largest air battles of the war. During the return of his aircraft
from the mission, Ensign Bush's aircraft made a forced water landing. The destroyer,
USS Clarence K. Bronson, rescued the crew, but the plane was lost. On 25 July,
Ensign Bush and another pilot received credit for
sinking a small cargo ship.
After Bush was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade on 1 August, San Jacinto
commenced operations against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands. On 2 September
1944, Bush piloted one of four aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese
installations on Chi Chi Jima. For this mission his crew included Radioman
Second Class John Delaney, and Lieutenant Junior Grade William White, USNR,
who substituted for Bush's regular gunner. During their attack, four TBM Avengers
from VT-51 encountered intense antiaircraft fire. While starting the attack,
Bush's aircraft was hit and his engine caught on fire. He completed his attack
and released the bombs over his target scoring several damaging hits. With
his engine on fire, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one
other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft.
other man's chute did not open and he fell to his death. It was never determined
which man bailed out with Bush. Both Delaney and White were killed in action.
While Bush anxiously waited four hours in his inflated raft, several fighters
circled protectively overhead until he was rescued by the lifeguard submarine,
USS Finback (SS-230). For this action, Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
During the month he remained on Finback, Bush participated in the rescue of