Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bush and Flyboys of WWII

(July 14, 2010) Below, right: Former President George H.W. Bush watches flight operations from the landing signal officer's platform aboard the aircraft carrier that bears his name, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). Bush and his wife, Barbara, spent their time aboard watching flight operations, touring the ship and visiting the crew. George H.W. Bush is conducting training in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Hall/Released)

Review by Bill Doughty

When the former President and First Lady visited namesake USS George H. W. Bush, (CVN-77) this month, among other things, they watched flight operations, toured the tribute room where a model of his WWII ship USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) is on display, and visited the ship’s library, a place filled with books, including good reads about Navy history and heritage.

Bush, one of the “Flyboys” described in James Bradley’s 2003 primer on aviation in WWII, was barely 20 when he and his flight crew were shot down after a bombing run on Chichi Jima, the island near Iwo Jima from which the orders to bomb Pearl Harbor were transmitted.

The book, on the Navy’s supplemental reading list, describes Bush’s rescue by the submarine Finback (SS-230) and the tragic loss of his two shipmates, gunner Ted White and radioman John Delaney.

Bradley delves into the horrors of war, carefully documenting incidents of torture, cruelty, even cannibalism, and explaining how such inhumanity arises from hatred, racism and xenophobia.

Less than one hundred years after Matthew C. Perry was welcomed at Chichi Jima in 1853, the tiny island was a focal point for bombing, POW abuse and fierce fighting.

Bradley interviewed then-President Bush and transcribes emotional memories of personal loss and tragedy, focusing on his sense of duty and personal ethos, his coming to terms with the tragedy of war, and ultimate transcendence, with his return to Chichi Jima in 2002, to face the ghosts of war.

Bradley, son of the Navy Corpsman who helped raise the flag on Iwo Jima, author of Flags of Our Fathers, says he is dedicated to disproving philosopher Immanuel Kant’s contention that, for humans, “the normal state of nature is not peace but war.”

In Bradley’s words, “war is the tragedy of what might have been.”

The USS George H. W. Bush is training to prevent war, to protect and defend peace, but to respond if called upon. No doubt it will have opportunities to interoperate with American allies and U.S. Navy partners -- including Japan.


The following interview with former President George H. W. Bush can be found at Both the former president and former first lady are big supporters of literacy, learning and reading. While president, Bush participated in Read Aloud events, sharing the gift of reading with young people.

Was there a book that inspired you?

George H.W. Bush: One of the historians here in Williamsburg talked about War and Peace. I had to read that in school. It was an inspiring, lengthy treatise. I read it twice. It taught me a lot about life. There was a marvelous book by Salinger called Catcher in the Rye. There was a book about discrimination called Gentleman's Agreement. These books I think helped shape my life.

Was there an experience that changed your life?

George H.W. Bush: I think the major event that shaped my life was being a Naval aviator. I got my commission and wings at 18 years old, and then I went into combat at 19. And I think, as I look back on it, that whole experience probably shaped my life more than any incident, or any event. Although I remember when I was shot down in that war. I remember how terrified I was.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 15, 2010) Command Chaplain Cmdr. Cameron Fish and former First Lady Barbara Bush tour the ship's library aboard the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The library is dedicated to the former president's daughter, who is also the ship's sponsor. Bush, along with the ship's namesake, George H.W. Bush, spent their time aboard watching flight operations, touring the ship and visiting with the crew. The aircraft carrier is underway conducting training in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan A. Bailey/Released)

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