Does anyone other than George Herbert Bush really know what happened during WWII when his aircraft was shot down?

My father was an enlisted turret gunner in the same type aircraft- the Grumman Avenger (TBF/TBM). It carried a crew of three- the officer pilot, the turret gunner, and the radio operator. The aircraft was an extremely sturdy platform which would take many hits without disabling it. My father has photographs of Avengers making it back to their carriers with their tails practically blown off.

My personal guess is that George Bush panicked when their aircraft was hit, bailing out without telling his crew. It's unlikely that both crew members were killed when the plane was initially hit (being in different sections of the aircraft).

Perhaps soldiers should not be admonished for panicking in the face of combat- except that George Bush was the U.S. Navy's youngest officer pilot having acquired his rank through his prominent family connections. The age of combat pilots could be a critical factor during combat. My father told me a story where his pilot (an "old" man of 25 years) saved the entire squadron from disappearing during a training exercise over the Pacific Ocean. Even though he was not leading the flight, when it became lost over the ocean, he turned the flight back towards land and their base.

Moral of the story: Should we as a nation choose a leader based on birth and family connections, or based on ability?

- Dan, in Louisiana

Mierzejewski, 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 Mierzejewski, 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."


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