It is common knowledge that many presidents served in the military, but for some reason, many people don’t think about the fact that, had things gone differently, that person would not have been our president. Such is the case with George HW Bush, who was a torpedo bomber pilot, stationed in the Pacific Theater of World War II. On September 2, 1944, the future President George HW Bush was on a mission when his plane was hit by Japanese anti-aircraft guns. The damage was sufficient enough that the crew had no choice but to bail out of the plane over the ocean.
According to the Navy’s records, Bush’s squadron was conducting a bombing mission on a Japanese installation on the island of Chi Chi Jima in the Pacific when they encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire. The engine on Bush’s plane was set ablaze, yet Bush managed to release his bombs and head back toward the aircraft carrier San Jacinto before bailing out over the water. Two other crew members perished in the attack. After floating on a raft for four hours, a submarine crew fished a safe but exhausted Bush out of the water. Bush was given the Distinguished Flying Cross. This was not the only close call Bush had. After making a previous bombing run, he was forced to make a crash landing on water. He was rescued by a US destroyer crew on that mission. After his experience near Chi Chi Jima, Bush returned to the San Jacinto and continued to pilot torpedo bombers in several successful missions.
Throughout 1944, the squadron, VT-51, of which Bush was a part, suffered a 300% casualty rate among its pilots. The squadron was based off of the USS San Jacinto, and somehow, the future president managed to win three Air Medals, as well as a Presidential Unit Citation. Over the course of his military career, Bush flew 58 combat missions during the war, and achieved the rank of lieutenant. Following his time in the South Pacific, Bush was reassigned to Norfolk Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia in December of 1944. There he was tasked with training new pilots. He received an honorable discharge from the Navy in September 1945 after the Japanese surrender.
Thinking of a president as having come so close to death, and the complete change of history that his death would have brought to the United States, is an odd thought, but it was entirely possible, nevertheless. While we would not have realized the difference it would make, because we wouldn’t have know what was to be. Still, good or bad, for better or worse…it would have changed history. In this case, President George HW Bush did survive, and even continued to parachute out of planes. No one ever said exactly why he did that, but maybe it was to celebrate his bailout. Nevertheless…every 5th birthday, even on his 90th, when he was confined to a wheelchair, President Bush strapped on a parachute and bailed out of a plane. Not my idea of fun, but then I have no desire to jump out of a perfectly goo airplane. Still, there are a lot of people, including my son-in-law, Travis Royce and grandson, Caalab Royce, who think it’s a great idea. President Bush passed away on November 30, 2018 at the good old age of 94.