Fellow Flag Officers,
The passing of President George H.W. Bush has been all over the news and
numerous biographies and obituaries can be found on line. So I will just
cover his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. (Additional photos,
documents, the citation for his Distinguished Flying Cross, and a more
detailed service biography can be found on the Naval History and Heritage
Command website at https://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/people/presidents/bush.html prepared by NHHC staff over the weekend.
An editorial “cartoon” is also worth a look at https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2018/12/01/how-this-emotional-george-hw-bush-cartoon-went-viral-touching-even-his-family/?utm_term=.266d2d0994b9 showing his Navy Avenger arriving in heaven to meet his wife and young daughter.
George Bush enlisted in the Navy on his 18th Birthday on 12 Jun 1942.
After 10 months of training he was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval
Reserve on 9 Jun 1943, making him one of the youngest naval aviators (for
many years it was thought, including by him, that he was “the” youngest.)
In September 1943, he was then assigned as pilot and photo officer to
Torpedo Squadron FIFTY ONE (VT-51) embarked on the light carrier USS SAN
JACINTO (CVL-30) which was part of Task Force 58. He participated in the
carrier raids on Marcus and Wake Islands, among the earliest combat
operations by the new Essex-class carriers and Independence-class light
carriers (including SAN JACINTO) just joining the fleet. He participated in
the invasion of the Marianas and the Battle of the Philippine Sea in Jun
1944. On 19 Jun, Bush’s plane (Avenger torpedo-bomber named “Bar II”
(short for Barbara, his wife) had been caught on the catapult of the SAN
JACINTO when a Japanese air raid came in. Once it was over, he launched to
conduct a bombing mission over Guam, but either during the air raid or
bombing mission his plane suffered damage and he was forced to ditch the
aircraft in the ocean while returning to the ship, a dangerous action that
he executed nearly perfectly, and he and both his crewmen were rescued by
the U.S. Navy destroyer CLARENCE K. BRONSON. On 25 July 1944 Bush and
another pilot sank a small cargo ship. Ensign Bush was promoted to LTJG on 1
During a later mission in the vicinity of Palau, one of the planes in
his same flight was shot down, killing a close friend, Lieutenant Roland
Houle. (This aircraft was located in 2014. In 2018, the Defense POW-MIA
Accounting Agency (DPAA) recovered remains from the aircraft, and positively
identified the two aircrewmen, but Houle apparently was lost after he
escaped the aircraft and remains missing in action.) Of the original 16
pilots in the Avenger squadron (VT-51) on SAN JACINTO, half would be killed
or captured during the war.
On 2 Sep 1944, on his 50th combat mission, flying TBM-1C Avenger
torpedo-bomber “Bar III,” Bush’s luck ran out. During a second day of
strikes on Chichi Jima, noted for the extreme intensity of Japanese
anti-aircraft fire, his plane was one of a four-ship formation attacking the
radio transmitter on Chichi Jima, when his plane was hit while inbound to
the target. Despite the serious damage to his aircraft, Bush nevertheless
pressed home his attack, and scored damaging hits, an action for which he
would be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Bush was able to get his
damaged aircraft back out over water when he determined that he would not be
able to get his plane back to the carrier, nor could he apparently control
it well enough to be able to ditch. (Of note, no other pilots or aircrew
who were shot down over or near Chichi Jima survived the war. Those who
survived being shot down were captured and executed by the Japanese, in
several cases involving cannibalism. After the war, the Japanese major
general in command of the island was tried and executed for war crimes.)
Bush was unable to raise either Lieutenant Junior Grade William “Ted”
White in the dorsal turret, or his radioman/gunner Radioman Second Class
John Delaney. Believing that White at least was already dead, Bush elected
to bail out. (LTJG White was not Bush’s normal gunner; he was an
Intelligence Officer who had taken the gunner’s place so that he could
observe Chichi Jima’s defenses.) There are some differences in accounts
about how badly the aircraft was smoking at the time Bush bailed out, but
only he would know how well the aircraft could be controlled. Aircraft
following behind reported seeing two chutes, one presumably was Bush, the
other was a streamer and was probably Delaney. Neither White nor Delaney
were ever found. (In an Avenger, the turret gunner cannot wear a parachute
due to space limitation; in the event of a bailout or ditching, the turret
gunner must be helped down from the turret by the radioman/ventral gunner,
put on his parachute, and exit via a hatch on the underside of the aircraft.
A badly wounded turret gunner would not likely survive either a bailout or a
Bush was injured when he hit the tail after bailing out, but came to and
was able to get into his raft. A Hellcat fighter from the SAN JACINTO kept
Japanese boats from reaching the downed aviator, while other aircraft
reached the duty “lifeguard” U.S. submarine, USS FINBACK (SS-230,) via radio
and arranged for Bush to be rescued by the sub after being in the water for
four hours. Bush then spent the next 30 days aboard FINBACK, along with
four other rescued aviators, for the remainder of her patrol, enduring
several depth charge attacks as FINBACK sank two Japanese freighters. As a
result of being on the sub, Bush missed the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but
rejoined his squadron for operations in the Philippines (and Typhoon Cobra)
flying eight more combat missions. In one of his last missions, Japanese
anti-aircraft fire near Manila Bay blew a hole in his wing, but yet again,
Bush pressed home his attack on a Japanese transport ship despite the
In addition to the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bush would also earn three
Air Medals, and SAN JACINTO would be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
In December 1945, Bush was returned to the U.S. when his squadron was
replaced on SAN JACINTO, where he trained new pilots in a new Torpedo
Squadron (VT-153.) When the war ended, he was released from active duty,
and entered Yale University. He was promoted to Lieutenant in the U.S.
Naval Reserve in 1948 and resigned his commission on 24 October 1955. And
the rest, as they say, is history.
Although LT Bush left the service of the United States Navy, he never
left the service of our country. Whether one agreed with him politically or
not, he set an extraordinary example of service, and did it with exceptional
dedication and decency.
Rest in Peace President George H.W. Bush.
Samuel J. Cox
RADM, USN (retired)
Director of Naval History
Curator for the Navy
Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
Even with their patriotic and courageous service, there seems to be an information gap about the support and resources that are available to veterans when they’re attempting to purchase their own home. Active duty military personnel may not be able to find a home for their family if they think they don’t have enough money to afford one.
Both veterans and active service members are searching for options on what possible financing resources they can use to purchase their home and that’s something that needs to be fixed. The Realty Medics specialize as Orlando property managers, but no matter what the need is, we’re always happy to help our veterans in any way that we can.
Home Buying Resources for Veterans: Click HERE
Here are some pictures taken recently of the Arctic Scout serving as Committee Boat for Sail Boat Racing.
For the past two weeks, the Arctic Scout and Glacier Volunteers have been providing services to sailors assembled from as far away as Lymington, UK to compete in championship racing.
Just think, 57 years ago the USS GlACIER AGB4 and the USS Staten Island AGB-5 were deep in the Bellinghausen Sea off of the designated “Thurston Peninsula”. The Arctic Scout, then called the Greenland Cruiser, lay in her mooring on the Starboard Quarter.
As we approached the coast soon to become recognized as Thurston Island, we launched the Scout to scout ahead and protect the two large ice breakers which were sailing into uncharted waters.
The ice was heavy, 8/10 tenths to 9/10 tenths coverage. Sometimes we became trapped in 100% covered ice and the ships moored along side each other and waited for improvement. On FEB 6 to 14, we experienced heavy wind up to 75 Kts, heavy snow and of course COLD-COLD-COLD.
So here you see the US NAVY BOAT now our prized ARCTIC SCOUT, bobbing nicely on her anchor in the South Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach!!
Thanks to thousands of our supporters we are able to keep “cruising as before, all engines on line, ships generators running, all hands accounted for”
Navigator in 1961 and still on watch in 2018.
You are all welcome to join with us, contribute to the Glacier Society, and come to Florida for a cruise!!
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John Barell, a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy for five years, passed away at his home in Manhattan, NY on November 17, 2017.
John was born on July 9, 1938, in Rochester, NY to Ralph and Elizabeth Ferguson Barell. In 1956, John graduated from Wellesley High School in Wellesley, MA. He continued his education at Harvard University and in 1960, he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in History.
By becoming a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, John fulfilled his childhood dream of going to Antarctica and emulating explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd, whom John had met in high school. John served aboard the USS Glacier for 5 years where he enjoyed a highly accomplished career. In his spare time, John wrote several books on Antarctica and professional discovery books such as “Did You Ever Wonder?” and “Fostering Curiosity Here.” A link to John’s books can be found here.
John is survived by his wife, Nancy; his sisters, Marcia Graff of Basking Ridge, NJ and Robin L. Beck (Tim) of Boothbay, ME; six nieces and nephews, his Aunt and several cousins.
John Barell was a brave and loyal sailor, as well as a patient and loving husband and friend. The discipline and patriotism he learned in the U.S. Navy never left him, as friends and family will attest. John will be deeply missed by his family and his Navy family.
Rest in peace, good friend.
In honor of #GivingTuesday, I am raising money for The Glacier Society, Inc., a 501(C)3 organization whose mission is to preserve and promote the heritage of the United States Maritime Exploration of the Polar Regions by serving as an educational resource and training and educating our youth, not only on important polar issues but on seamanship as well. Our motto, “Uniting Polar interests across the Globe”, is more relevant and important today than it has ever been.
Click here to help us make a difference.
Every little bit helps.
To learn more about The Glacier Society visit our website at www.glaciersociety.org.
We thank you for all of your support!
We at the Glacier Society honor and thank all those who have served in the United States Military. We would like to thank the brave men and women that have decided to step up and accept the challenge of defending our freedom here in the United States and around the world.
Let’s all take the time to remember those that have sacrificed not being with their families, and missing holidays with loved ones to serve and protect us. Please respect and, thank our veterans on this day honoring their service. Remember, these courageous men and women risked their lives defending our nation, and deserve nothing but respect and honor.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” -JFK
August 4th marked the 227th anniversary of the creation of the US Coast Guard. Happy Belated Birthday, USCG! In honor of 227 years, click here for a glimpse at some of the amazing images taken of our brave men and women from the USCG.