George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography --- by Webster G. Tarpley & Anton Chaitkin

Chapter - VI -Bush in World War II

George Bush has always traded shamelessly on his alleged record as a naval aviator during the Second World War in the Pacific theatre. During the 1964 senate campaign in Texas against Senator Ralph Yarborough, Bush televised a grainy old film which depicted young George being rescued at sea by the crew of the submarine USS Finnback after his Avenger torpedo bomber was hit by Japanese anti-aircraft fire during a bombing raid on the island of Chichi Jima on September 2, 1944. That film, retrieved from the Navy archives, backfired when it was put on the air too many times, eventually becoming something of a maladroit cliche.

Bush's campaign literature has always celebrated his alleged exploits as a naval aviator and the Distinguished Flying Cross he received. As we become increasingly familiar with the power of the Brown Brothers, Harriman/Skull and Bones network working for Senator Prescott Bush, we will learn to become increasingly skeptical of such official accolades and of the official accounts on which they are premissed.

But George Bush has always traded shamelessly on his alleged war record. During Bush's Gulf war adventure of 1990-91, the adulation of Bush's ostensible warrior prowess reached levels that were previously considered characteristic of openly totalitarian and militaristic regimes. Late in 1990, after Bush had committed himself irrevocably to his campaign of bombing and savagery against Iraq, hack writer Joe Hyams completed an authorized account of George Bush at war. This was entitled Flight of the Avenger (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991), and appeared during the time of the Middle East conflagration that was the product of Bush's obsessions. Hyams's work had the unmistakeable imprimatur of the regime: not just George, but also Barbara had been interviewed during its preparation, and its adulatory tone placed this squalid text squarely within the "red Studebaker" school of political hagiography.

The appearance of such a book at such a time is suggestive of the practice of the most infamous twentieth-century dictatorships, in which the figure of the strong man, Fuehrer, duce, or vozhd as he might be called, has been used for the transmission of symbolic-allegorical directives to the subject population. Was fascist Italy seeking to assert its economic autarky in food production in the face of trade sanctions by the League of Nations? Then a film would be produced by the MINCULPOP (the Ministry of Popular Culture, or propaganda) depicting Mussolini indefatigably harvesting grain. Was Nazi Germany in the final stages of preparation of a military campaign against a neighboring state? If so, Goebbels would orchestrate a cascade of magazine articles and best-selling pulp evoking the glories of Hitler in the trenches of 1914-18. Closer to our own time, Leonid Brezhnev sought to aliment his own personality cult with a little book called Malaya Zemlya, an account of his war experiences which was used by his propagandists to motivate his promotion to Marshal of the USSR and the erection of a statue in his honor during his own lifetime. This is the tradition to which Flight of the Avenger belongs.

Bush tells us in his campaign autobiography that he decided to enlist in the armed forces, specifically naval aviation, shortly after he heard of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. About six months later, Bush graduated from Phillips Academy, and the commencement speaker was Secretary of War Henry Stimson, eminence grise of the US ruling elite. Stimson was possibly mindful of the hecatomb of young members of the British ruling classes which had occurred in the trenches of World War I on the western front. In any event, Stimson's advice to the Andover graduates was that the war would go on for a long time, and that the best way of serving the country was to continue one's education in college. Prescott Bush supposedly asked his son if Stimson's recommendation had altered his plan to enlist. Young Bush answered that he was still committed to join the navy.

Henry L. Stimson was certainly an authoritative spokesman for the Eastern Liberal Establishment, and Bushman propaganda has lately exalted him as one of the seminal influences on Bush's political outlook. Stimson had been educated at both Yale (where he had been tapped by Skull and Bones) and Harvard Law School. He became the law partner of Elihu Root, who was Theordore Roosevelt's secretary of state. Stimson had been Theodore Roosevelt's anti-corruption, trust-busting US Attorney in New York City during the first years of the FBI, then Taft's secretary of war, a colonel of artillery in World War I, Governor General of the Philippines for Coolidge, secretary of state for Hoover, and enunciator of the "Stimson doctrine." This last was a piece of hypocritical posturing directed against Japan, asserting that changes in the international order brought about by force of arms (and thus in contravention of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928) should not be given diplomatic recognition. This amounted to a US committment to uphold the Versailles system, the same policy upheld by Baker, Eagleburger, and Kissinger in the Serbian war on Slovenia and Croatia during 1991. Stimson, though a Republican, was brought into Roosevelt's war cabinet in 1940 in token of bipartisan intentions.

But in 1942, Bush was not buying Stimson's advice. It is doubtless significant that in the mind of young George Bush, World War Two meant exclusively the war in the Pacific, against the Japanese. In the Bush-approved accounts of this period of his life, there is scarcely a mention of the European theatre, despite the fact that Roosevelt and the entire Anglo-American establishment had accorded strategic priority to the "Germany first" scenario. Young George, it would appear, had his heart set on becoming a navy flier.

Normally the Navy required two years of college from volunteers wishing to become naval aviators. But, for reasons which have never been satisfactorily explained, young George was exempted from this requirement. Had father Prescott's crony Artemus Gates, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air, been instrumental in making the exception, which was the key to allowing George to become the youngest of all navy pilots?

On June 12, 1942, his eighteenth birthday, Bush joined the navy in Boston as a seaman second class. [fn 1] He was ordered to report for active duty as an aviation cadet on August 6, 1942. After a last date with Barbara, George was taken to Penn Station in New York City by father Prescott to board a troop train headed for Chapel Hill, North Carolina. At Chapel Hill Naval Air Station, one of Bush's fellow cadets was the well-known Boston Red Sox hitter Ted Williams, who would later join Bush on the campaign trail in his desperate fight in the New Hampshire primary in February, 1988.

After preflight training at Chapel Hill, Bush moved on to Wold-Chamberlain Naval Airfield in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he flew solo for the first time in November, 1942. In February, 1943 Bush moved on to Corpus Christi, Texas, for further training. Bush received his commission as an ensign at Corpus Christi on June 9, 1943.

After this Bush moved through a number of naval air bases over a period of almost a year for various types of advanced training. In mid-June 1943 he was learning to fly the Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo-bomber at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In August he made landings on the USS Sable, a paddle wheel ship that was used as an aircraft carrier for training purposes. During the summer of 1943 Bush spent a couple of weeks of leave with Barbara at Walker's Point in Kennebunkport; their engagement was announced in the New York Times of December 12, 1943.

Later in the summer of 1943 Bush moved on to the Naval Air Base at Norfolk, Virginia. In September, 1943 Bush's new squadron, called VT-51, moved on to the Naval Air Station at Chincoteague, Virginia, located on the Delmarva peninsula. On December 14, 1943 Bush and his squadron were brought to Philadelphia to attend the commissioning of the USS San Jacinto (CVL30), a light attack carrier built on a cruiser hull. Since the name of the ship recalled Sam Houston's defeat of the Mexican leader Santa Anna in 1836, and since the ship flew a Lone Star flag, Bushman propaganda has made much of these artefacts in an attempt to buttress "carpetbag" Bush's tenuous connections to the state of Texas. Bush's VF-51 squadron reported on board this ship for a shakedown cruise on February 6, 1944, and on March 25, 1944 the San Jacinto left for San Diego by way of the Panama Canal. The San Jacinto reached Pearl harbor on April 20, 1944, and was assigned to Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's Task Force 58/38, a group of fast carriers, on May 2, 1944.

In June Bush's ship joined battle with Japanese forces in the Marianas archpelago. Here Bush flew his first combat missions. On June 17, a loss of oil pressure forced Bush to make an emergency landing at sea. Bush, along with his two crewmembers, gunner Leo Nadeau and radioman-tail gunner John L. Delaney, were picked up by a US destroyer after some hours in the water. Bush's first Avenger, named by him the Barbara, was lost.

During July, 1944 Bush took part in thirteen air strikes, many in connection with the US marines landing on Guam. In August Bush's ship proceeded to the area of Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima in the Bonin Islands for a new round of sorties.

On September 2, 1944, Bush and three other Avenger pilots, escorted by Hellcat fighter planes, were directed to attack a radio transmitter on Chichi Jima. Planes from the USS Enterprise would also join in the attack. On this mission Bush's rear-seat gunner would not be the usual Leo Nadeau, but rather Lt. (jg) William Gardner "Ted" White, the squadron ordnance officer of VT-51, already a Yale graduate and already a member of Skull and Bones. White's father had been a classmate of Prescott Bush. White took his place in the rear-facing machine gun turret of Bush's TBM Avenger, the Barbara II. The radioman-gunner was John L. Delaney, a regular member of Bush's crew.

What happened in the skies of Chichi Jima that day is a matter of lively controversy. Bush has presented several differing versions of his own story. In his campaign autobiography published in 1987 Bush gives the following account:

In this account, there is no more mention of White and Delaney until Bush hit the water and began looking around for them. Bush says that it was only after having been rescued by the USS Finnback, a submarine, that he "learned that neither Jack Delaney nor Ted White had survived. One went down with the plane; the other was seen jumping, but his parachute failed to open." The Hyams account of 1991 was written after an August 1988 interview with Chester Mierzejewski, another member of Bush's squadron, had raised important questions about the haste with which Bush bailed out, rather than attempting a water landing. Mierzejewski's account, which is summarized below, contradicted Bush's own version of these events, and hinted that Bush might have abandoned his two crewmembers to a horrible and needless death. The Hyams account, which is partly intended to refute Mierzejewski, develops as follows:

Perhaps so, but it is difficult to understand why the smoke from Bush's plane was so distinctly visible in such a smoke-filled environment. Hyams goes on to describe Bush's completion of his bombing run. His account continues:

Hyams quotes a later entry by Melvin in the squadron log as to the fate of Bush's two crewmen: ""At a point approximately nine miles bearing 045'T (degrees) from Minami Jima, Bush and one other person were seen to bail out from about 3,000 feet. Bush's chute opened and he landed safely in the water, inflated his raft, and paddled farther away from Chi-Chi Jima. The chute of the other person who bailed out did not open. Bush has not yet been returned to the this information is incomplete. While Lt. j.g. White and J.L. Delaney are reported missing in action, it is believed that both were killed as a result of the above described action." [fn 4] But it is interesting to note that this report, contrary to usual standard navy practice, has no date. This should alert us to that tampering with public records, such as Bush's filings at the Securities and Exchange Commission during the 1960's, which appears to be a specialty of the Brown Brothers, Harriman/Skull and Bones network.

For comparison, let us now cite the cursory account of this same incident provided by Bush's authorized biographer in the candidate's 1980 presidential campaign biography:

King's account in interesting for its omission of any mention of Bush's injury in bailing out, a gashed forehead he got when he struck the tail assembly of the plane. This had to have occurred long before Bush had hit the water, so this account is garbled indeed.

Let us also cite parts of the account provided by Fitzhugh Green in his 1989 authorized biography. Green has Bush making his attack "at a 60-degree angle." "For his two crew members," notes Green, "life was about to end." His version goes on:

Green writes that when Bush was swimming in the water, he realized that "his crew had disappeared" and that "the loss of the two men numbed Bush."

For the 1992 presidential campaign, the Bushmen have readied yet another rehash of the adulatory "red Studebaker" printout in the form of a new biography by Richard Ben Cramer. This is distinguished as a literary effort above all by the artificial verbal pyrotechnics with which the author attempts to breathe new life into the dog-eared Bush canonical printout. For these, Cramer relies on a hyperkinetic style with non-verbal syntax which to some degree echoes Bush's own disjointed manner of speaking. The resulting text may have found favor with Bush when he was gripped by his hyperthyroid rages during the buildup for the Gulf war. A part of this text has appeared in Esquire Magazine. [fn 7] Here is Cramer's description of the critical phase of the incident:

It will be seen that these versions contain numerous internal contradictions, but that the hallmark of "red Studebaker" orthodoxy, especially after the appearance of the Mierzejewsky account, is that Bush's plane was on fire, with visible smoke and flames. The Bush propaganda machine needs the fire on board the Avenger in order to justify Bush's precipitous decision to bail out, leaving his two crew members to their fate, rather than attempting the water landing which might have saved them.

The only person who has ever claimed to have seen Bush's plane get hit, and to have seen it hit the water, is Chester Mierzejewksi, who was the rear turret gunner in the aircraft flown by Squadron Commander Douglas Melvin. During 1987-88, Mierzejewksi became increasingly indignant as he watched Bush repeat his canonical account of how he was shot down. Shortly before the Republican National Convention in 1988, Mierzekewski, by then a 68 year old retired aircraft foreman living in Cheshire, Connecticut, decided to tell his story to Allan Wolper and Al Ellenberg of the New York Post, which printed it as a copyrighted article. [fn 8]

"That guy is not telling the truth," Mierzejewski said of Bush.

As the rear-looking turret gunner on Commander Melvin's plane, Mierzejewski had the most advantageous position for observing the events in question here. Since Melvin's plane flew directly ahead of Bush's, he had a direct and unobstructed view of what was happening aft of his own plane. When the New York Post reporters asked former Lt. Legare Hole, the executive officer of Bush's squadron, about who might have best observed the last minutes of the Barbara II, Hole replied: "The turret gunner in Melvin's plane would have had a good view. If the plane was on fire, there is a very good chance he would be able to see that. The pilot can't see everything that the gunner can, and he'd miss an awful lot, " Hole told the New York Post.

Gunner Lawrence Mueller of Milwaukee, another former member of Bush's squadron who flew on the Chichi Jima mission, when asked who would have had the best view, replied: "The turret gunner of Melvin's plane." Mierzejewksi for his part said that his plane was flying about 100 feet ahead of Bush's plane during the incident - so close that he could see into Bush's cockpit.

Mierzejewki, who is also a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, told the New York Post that he saw "a puff of smoke" come out of Bush's plane and quickly dissipate. He asserted that after that there was no more smoke visible, that Bush's "plane was never on fire" and that "no smoke came out of his cockpit when he opened his canopy to bail out." Mierzejewski stated that only one man ever got out of the Barbara II, and that was Bush himself. "I was hoping I would see some other parachutes. I never did. I saw the plane go down. I knew the guys were still in it. It was a helpless feeling."

Mierzejewski has long been troubled by the notion that Bush's decision to parachute from his damaged aircraft might have cost the lives of Radioman second class John Delaney, a close friend of Mierzejewksy, as well as gunner Lt. Junior Grade William White. 'I think [Bush] could have saved those lives, if they were alive. I don't know that they were, but at least they had a chance if he had attempted a water landing,'" Mierzejewski told the New York Post.

Former executive officer Legare Hole summed up the question for the New York Post reporters as follows: "If the plane is on fire, it hastens your decision to bail out. If it is not on fire, you make a water landing." The point is that a water landing held out more hope for all members of the crew. The Avenger had been designed to float for approximately two minutes, giving the tailgunner enough time to inflate a raft and giving everyone an extra margin of time to get free of the plane before it sank. Bush had carried out a water landing back in June when his plane had lost oil pressure.

The official- but undated- report on the incident among the squadron records was signed by Commander Melvin and an intelligence officer named Lt. Martin E. Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick is deceased, and Melvin in 1988 was hospitalized with Parkinson's disease and could not be interviewed. Mierzejewski in early August 1988 had never seen the undated intelligence report in question. "Kilpatrick was the first person I spoke to when we got back to the ship," he said. "I told him what I saw. I don't understand why it's not in the report."

Gunner Lawrence Mueller tended to corroborate Mierzejewki's account. Mueller had kept a log book of his own in which he made notations as the squadron was debriefed in the ready room after each mission. For September 2, 1944, Mueller's personal log had the following entry: "White and Delaney presumed to have gone down with plane." Mueller told the New York Post that "no parachute was sighted except Bush's when the plane went down." The New York Post reporters were specific that according to Mueller, no one in the San Jacinto ready room during the debriefing had said anything about a fire on board Bush's plane. Mueller said: "I would have put it in my logbook if I had heard it."

According to this New York Post article, the report of Bush's debriefing aboard the submarine Finnback after his rescue makes no mention of any fire aboard the plane. When the New York Post reporters interviewed Thomas R. Keene, an airman from another carrier who had been picked up by the Finnback a few days after Bush, and referred to the alleged fire on board Bush's plane, "Keene was surprised to hear" it. "'Did he say that?," Keene asked.

Leo Nadeau, Bush's usual rear turret gunner, who had been in contact with Bush during the 1980's, attempted to undercut Mierzejewski's credibility by stating that "Ski," as Mierzejewski was called, would have been "too busy shooting" to have been able to focus on the events involving Bush's plane. But even the pro-Bush accounts agree that the reason that White had been allowed to come aloft in the first place was the expectation that there would be no Japanese aircraft over the target, making a thoroughly trained and experienced gunner superfluous. Indeed, no account alleges that any Japanese aircraft appeared over Chichi Jima.

Bush and Mierzejewski met again on board the San Jacinto after the downed pilot was returned from the Finnback about a month after the loss of the Barbara II. According to the New York Post account, about a month after all these events Bush, clad in Red Cross pajamas, returned to the San Jacinto. "He came into the ready room and sat down next to me," Mierzejewksi recounted. "He [Bush] knew I saw the whole thing. He said, 'Ski, I'm sure those two men were dead. I called them on the radio three times. They were dead.' When he told me they were dead, I couldn't prove they weren't. He seemed distraught. He was trying to assure me he did the best he could. I'm thinking what am I going to say to him," Mierzejewski commented in 1988.

Mierzejewski began to become concerned about Bush's presentation of his war record while watching Bush's December 1987 interview with David Frost, which was one of the candidate's most sanctimonious performances. In March, 1988 Mierzejeweski wrote to Bush and told him that his recollections were very different from the vice president's story. Mierzejewski's letter was not hostile in tone, but voiced concern that political opponents might come forward to dispute Bush. There was no reply to this letter, and Chester Mierzejewski ultimately elected to tell his own unique eye-witness version of the facts to the New York Post. Certainly his authoritative, first-hand account places a large question mark over the events of September 2, 1944 which Bush has so often sought to exploit for political gain.

Several days after Mierzejewski's interview was published, Bush's office obtained and released to the press a copy of the (undated) squadron log report. One Donald Rhodes of Bush's office called Mierzejewksi to offer him a copy of the report.

It is typical of Joe Hyams' hack work for Bush in The Flight of the Avenger that he never mentions Mierzejewksi's critical account, although he is obviously acutely aware of the objections raised by Mierzejewski and wants very much to discredit those objections. Indeed, Hyams totally ignores Mierzejewski as a source, and also studiously ignores the other witness who would have supported Mierzejewski, that is to say Mueller. Hyams had the support of Bush's White House staff in arranging interviews for his book, but somehow he never got around to talking to Mierzejewski and Mueller. This must increase our suspicion that Bush has some damning cicrumstance he wishes to hide.

Bush himself admits that he was in a big hurry to get out of his cockpit: "The wind was playing tricks, or more likely, I pulled the rip cord too soon." [fn 9] This caused his gashed forehead and damaged his parachute.

Concerning the ability of Brown Brothers, Harriman to fix a combat report in naval aviation, it is clear that this could be accomplished as easily as fixing a parking ticket. Artemus Gates is someone who could have helped out. Other Brown Brothers, Harriman assets in powerful posts included Secretary of War Stimson, Secretary of War for Air Robert Lovett, Special Envoy W. Averell Harriman, and even President Roosevelt's confidant and virtual alter ego, Harry Hopkins, an asset of the Harriman family.

Bush was very upset about what had happened to his two crewmen. Later, during one of his Skull and Bones "Life History" self-exposures, Bush referred to Lt. White, the Skull and Bones member who had gone to his death with the Barbara II: "I wish I hadn't let him go," said Bush, according to former Congressman Thomas W. L. (Lud) Ashley, a fellow Skull and Bones member and during 1991 one of the administrators of the Neil Bush legal defense fund. According to Ashley, "Bush was heartbroken. He had gone over it in his mind 100,000 times and concluded he couldn't have done anything....He didn't feel guilty about anything that happened....But the incident was a source of real grief to him. It tore him up, real anguish. It was so fresh in his mind. He had a real friendship with this man," said Ashley. [fn 10]

Bush later wrote letters to the families of the men who had died on his plane. He received a reply from Delaney's sister, Mary Jane Delaney. The letter read in part:

You mention in your letter that you would like to help me in some way. There is a way, and that is to stop thinking you are in any way responsible for your plane accident and what has happened to your men. I might have thought you were if my brother Jack had not always spoken of you as the best pilot in the squadron. [fn 11]

Bush also wrote a letter to his parents in which he talked about White and Delaney: "I try to think about it as little as possible, yet I cannot get the thought of those two out of my mind. Oh, I'm OK- I want to fly again and I won't be scared of it, but I know I won't be able to shake the memory of this incident and I don't believe I want to completely." [fn 12]

As Bush himself looked back on all these events from the threshold of his genocidal assault on Iraq, he complacently concluded that the pagan fates had preserved his life for some future purpose. He told Hyams:

There wasn't a sudden revelation of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but there was an awakening. There's no question that underlying all that were my own religious beliefs. In my own view there's got to be some kind of destiny and I was being spared for something on earth. [fn 13]

After having deliberately ignored the relevant dissenting views about the heroism of his patron, Hyams chooses to conclude his book on the following disturbing note:

When flying his Avenger off the deck of the San Jac, Bush was responsible for his own fate as well as his crewmen's. As president he is responsible for the fate of all Americans as well as that of much of the world.

And that is precisely the problem.

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1. For details of Bush's navy career, see Joe Hyams, Flight of the Avenger (New York, 1991), passim.

2. Bush and Gold, Looking Forward, p. 36.

3. Hyams, Flight of the Avenger, pp. 106-107.

4. Hyams, Flight of the Avenger, p. 111.

5. Nicholas King, George Bush: A Biography (New York, 1980), pp. 30-31.

6. Fitzhugh Green, George Bush: An Intimate Portrait (New York, 1989), pp. 36-37.

7. Richard Ben Cramer, "George Bush" How He Got Here," Espquire, June 1991.

8. Allan Wolper and Al Ellenberg, "The Day Bush Bailed Out," New York Post, August 12, 1988, p. 1 ff.

10. Bush and Gold, p. 36.

11. Washington Post, August 7, 1988

12. Hyams, p. 143.

13 bis. Bush and Gold, pp. 40-41.

14. Hyams, p. 134

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