"The Avenger aboard the USS Intrepid" - Daily Photo - 06/14/13
The best torpedo bomber of World War II, the Grumman TBF Avenger first saw action during the Battle of Midway in 1942. Auspiciously, the first manufacturing plant was opened on December 7, 1941. Among the pilots that flew this aircraft was George H.W. Bush and Paul Newman was trained as a rear gunner. This plane was part of the air groups that destroyed the Japanese battleships Musashi and Yamato, proved an excellent anti-submarine weapon and made up the post-war Flight 19 of Bermuda Triangle fame.
Lieutenant Junior Grade George Bush, USNR
After Bush was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade on 1 August, San Jacinto commenced operations against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands. On 2 September 1944, Bush piloted one of four aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese installations on Chi Chi Jima. For this mission his crew included Radioman Second Class John Delaney, and Lieutenant Junior Grade William White, USNR, who substituted for Bush's regular gunner. During their attack, four TBM Avengers from VT-51 encountered intense antiaircraft fire. While starting the attack, Bush's aircraft was hit and his engine caught on fire. He completed his attack and released the bombs over his target scoring several damaging hits. With his engine on fire, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft. However, the other man's chute did not open and he fell to his death. It was never determined which man bailed out with Bush. Both Delaney and White were killed in action. While Bush anxiously waited four hours in his inflated raft, several fighters circled protectively overhead until he was rescued by the lifeguard submarine, USS Finback. For this action, Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross. During the month he remained on Finback, Bush participated in the rescue of other pilots.