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USS San Jacinto (CVL-30)
USS Finback Sept 2, 1944
|Pilot Lt(jg) George H. W. Bush, 173464 USNR (survived)
Radio Lt(jg) William G. White, O-210562 USNR (MIA / KIA) MN
Gunner ARM2C John L. Delaney, 2049043 USNR (MIA / KIA) RI
Crashed September 2, 1944
Built by General Motors, Eastern Aircraft Division. Delivered to the United States Navy (USN) as TBM-1C Avenger bureau number 46214. This aircraft was painted with dark blue upper surfaces and gray lower surfaces.
Assigned to Torpedo Squadron 51 (VT-51) aboard USS San Jacinto CVL-30. Tail number 2x in white on both sides of the tail. The cowl had 2 in black on the right side. This Avenger had no nose art or nickname.
On September 2, 1944 at 7:15am took off from USS San Jacinto CVL-30 piloted by Lt(jg) George H. W. Bush armed with four 500 pound bombs as one of four Avengers led by Lt. Commander D. J. Melvin from VT-51 on a bombing mission "Strike Baker" against a radio station on Chi Chi Jima (Father Island) in the Bonin Islands (Ogasawara Islands) off Japan. Aboard as gunner for this mission was ARM2C John L. Delaney instead of Bush's regular gunner Leo Nadeau.
The formation of four Avengers included no. 1 Avenger piloted by Lt. Commander D. J. Melvin, no. 2 Avenger Lt(jg) D. H. West, no. 3 this aircraft and no. 4 Avenger piloted by Ens M. G. Moore. Also participating in the mission were twelve SB2C Helldivers from VB-20 plus eight F6F Hellcats from VF-20 both off USS Enterprise (CV-6).
Over the target at 8:30am, four Avengers encountered intense heavy and medium anti-aircraft fire. Bush was the third Avenger in the formation to release his bombs over his target in a glide bombing attack from 8,000' to 4,500'. At the start of the attack, Bush's aircraft was hit and his engine shortly after starting his dive that caused it to smoke and catch fire but he continued his attack and released his bombs claiming several damaging hits on the target that included four buildings and a radio tower. The extent of damaged caused was unobserved.
With his engine on fire, Bush turned the damaged Avenger to the east to clear Chi Chi Jima as smoke and flames engulfed the engine and spread rearwards and lost altitude and advised Lt. Commander D. J. Melvin that it was necessary to bail out.
Roughly nine miles northeast of Minami Jima, Bush and one other crew member bailed out from 3,000' over the sea. The other man's did not open his parachute and fell to his death. It was never determined which crew member bailed out Delaney or White. The third crew member never exited the damaged aircraft and likely went down with the plane when it crashed into the sea. Bush bailed out successfully and landed in the sea unhurt and deployed his life raft.
Fates of the Crew
Both Delaney or White remain officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). One of them likely went down with the Avenger and the other bailed out but his parachute failed to open and fell to his death.
Sole survivor Bush was spotted by friendly fighters that circled him to provide air cover. Four hours later, USS Finback (SS-230) on lifeguard duty arrived and crew members including Torpedoman First Class Donnet Kohler helped him aboard in documented by an 8mm movie camera. For the remainder of the month, Bush was a passenger aboard the submarine while it continued to patrol and serve on lifeguard duty to rescue other pilots. For his actions, Bush later earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for this mission.
Delaney and White were officially declared dead on September 3, 1945 and remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA) to this day. Both earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Both are memorialized at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the the courts of the missing. White on court 2. Delaney on court 5.
George H. W. Bush later became the 41st U.S. President serving from 1989-1993, the last World War II veteran to become president. In 2002, he traveled to Chi Chi Jima that aired as a television documentary that aired on CNN "A Flyboy's Story: George Bush in World War II". During his visit, he toured the wreckage of the radio station he bombed and met a former Japanese soldier Nobuaki "Warren" Iwatake who was stationed on the island and befriended a captured U.S. pilot. He also took a boat to the approximate area where he bailed out and landed in the sea until he was rescued. Bush said the trip helped relieve some of the thoughts and guilt he held and expressed his regret for loosing his two crew: John Delaney and Ted White. In 2009 aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) was named in his honor. He passed away November 30, 2018 at aged 94. He will be buried at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, TX.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - TBM-1C Avenger 46214
"46214 shot down near Chichi Jim Sep 2, 1944. Pilot was George H. W. Bush, future president of USA."
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List September 1944 - TBM-1C Avenger 46214 VT-51 Ltjg G. H. W. Bush ChiChi Jima
USN Torpedo Squadron 51 - Aircraft Action Reports Bonin Strikes, 1 Sept. 1944 through 2 Sept. 1944 pages 27-29
(Page 28) "TBM-1C VT-51 / Heavy and Med. AA / Engine / Crashed in ocean--Lost
Note: The pilot (Lt.(jg) G. H. W. Bush) of the TBM-1C which was lost, parachuted to water and was picked up by rescue submarine, which reported him unhurt."
(Page 29) Results: 2. Radio station damaged (see XII for narrative) by bombs dropped by Lt.(jg) G.H.W. Bush, USNR and Ens. M. G. Moore, USNR. Extent of damage unobserved."
(Page 30) "Lt.(jg) Bush, was piloting the third plane over the target. Bush's plane was hit in the engine shortly after final push over at 8,000 ft. In spit of this hit which caused his engine to smoke and catch on fire, Lt.(jg) Bush continued in his dive, releasing his bombs on the radio station at 85.6-50.5 to score damaging hits. Ens. Moore, in the 4th plane likewise dropped his bombs on latter installations.
After releasing his bombs, Lt.(jg) Bush turned sharply to the east to clear the island of Chichi Jima, smoke and flames enveloping his engine and spreading aft as he did so, and his plane losing altitude. He advised the C.O. by radio that it was necessary to bail out. At a point approximately 9 miles bearing 045°T from Minami Jima, Bush and one other person were seen to bail out from about 3,000 ft. Bush's chute opened and he landed safely in the water, inflated his raft and paddled farther away from Chichi Jima. The chute of the other person (either Lt.(jg) White or J. L. Delaney, ARM 2/c) who bailed out did not open. (Bush has not yet been returned to squadron by rescue sub, so this information is incomplete) The rescue sub promptly affected rescue of Lt.(jg) Bush who was unhurt, planes of VF-20 remaining over Bush's raft to protect him.
While Lt.(jg) White and J. L. Delaney are reported missing in action, it is believed that both were killed as a result of action above described."
YouTube "George Bush Rescued at Sea by the USS Finback - 02 September 1944" 8mm film from USS Finback coning tower showing the rescue of Lt(jg) George H. W. Bush in his life raft on September 2, 1944
Navy Historical Center - Vice President Bush Calls World War II Experience "Sobering"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William G. White
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John L. Delaney
FindAGrave - LtJg William Gardner "Ted" White (court of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - John Lawson "Del" Delaney (courts of the missing photos)
George H. W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum - George H. W. Bush Biography - World War II
Naval History and Heritage Command "Navy History and Heritage Command - Vice President Bush Calls World War II Experience Sobering" via Naval Aviation News 67 March-April 1985
Naval History and Heritage Command - George Herbert Walker Bush
Naval History and Heritage Command - George H. W. Bush (photos)
Naval History and Heritage Command - George Bush In World War II: A Short Bibliography
CNN Presents "A Flyboy's Story: George Bush in World War II" George H. W. Bush travels to Chi Chi Jima 2002
CNN Presents "A Flyboy's Story" former president traveled back in 2002 accompanied by CNN's Paula Zahn
CNN Presents Classroom Edition "A Flyboy's Story: George Bush in World War II"
CNN State of the Union "George H. W. Bush's life as a WWII flyboy" reedit of 2002 trip with Jake Tapper
Citizen Tribune " George H.W. Bush's life as a WWII flyboy" December 2, 2018 Bush visit to Chi Chi Jima repost
FindAGrave - George Herbert Walker Bush (photos)
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March 3, 2021
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