Flight of the Avenger is the dramatic story of former President George H. W. Bush's days as a torpedo bomber in VT-51 during World War II. As author Joe Hyams, an Army correspondent in the Pacific during WWII states, "it is also a heartwarming tale of an old-fashioned courtship with Barbara Pierce."
The combat experiences of Air Group 51 aboard the USS San Jacinto were similar to those of AG-4. Records from the Naval archives show that our USS Essex planes hit some of the same targets as the San Jacinto, since we operated side-by-side for part of the Pacific War.
This book presents details of Lt(jg) Bush's strike on Chichi Jima and his ultimate rescue. The mission was a glide bombing attack on a radio transmission station. As he approached the target, his plane was hit and caught fire. He radioed his crew to bail out and stayed with the plane as long as he could. Unfortunately, neither of the other two men in the plane survived, although one other parachute partially opened. Details of this bailout from the Navy operations archives are given in A Tribute to TBM Avenger Air Crewmen.
The official report of the rescue of Bush by the submarine USS Finback is cited along with a good report on the activities of the rescue sub. Bush was picked up by the Finback on September 2, 1944. The sub was fired on by shore batteries while it was moving toward the downed airman and it was depth-charged twice while Bush was aboard. "Life aboard the Finback was unlike anything Bush had experienced or imagined." Thirty days after he was picked up he was put ashore at Midway with other rescued airmen. He finally caught up with the San Jacinto at Ulithi, 8 weeks after being shot down.
Bush's experience as a torpedo pilot during WWII had a major impact on his future life and no doubt shaped his approach to the Presidency of the United States. Joe Hyams put it this way, "Nor were the lessons of war lost on him. As with so many other young men of his generation, his years of military service were a special kind of schooling."
Flight of the Avenger was published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, San Diego, New York and London in 1991.
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