History Podcasts

George H.W. Bush’s Dangerous Role in WWII

George H.W. Bush’s Dangerous Role in WWII

With the wings of his plane on fire and smoke pouring into the cockpit, future President George H.W. Bush parachuted into the Pacific Ocean, where he floated for hours on a life raft, vomiting uncontrollably and bleeding profusely from his forehead.

Still, Bush could count himself among the lucky ones.

Rescued from the water by a U.S. submarine, he managed to avoid the grisly fate suffered by so many airmen during World War II, including his two crewmates, who both died in the attack. Soldiers who fought in World War II, the deadliest conflict in history, performed any number of risky jobs. Of these, few, if any, were as perilous as flying in an airplane.

“It’s a very dangerous environment even without the combat,” says Jeremy Kinney, World War II curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. He points out that, without the pressurized cabins of today’s aircraft, airmen had to wear oxygen masks and worry about staying warm.

U.S. Warplanes Were Dangerous to Fly

Richard Overy, author of numerous World War II books, including The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe, 1940-1945, adds that technical problems were “common on aircraft mass-produced and not always properly checked,” and that inclement weather and pilot error likewise caused plenty of accidents.

Thousands of U.S. warplanes never even made it to the front, crashing instead during training or in route to combat. Bush himself crash-landed during a practice bombing run in Virginia, emerging unscathed despite totaling his plane. Later on, Bush witnessed a fellow pilot panic and smash right into an aircraft carrier’s landing crew, showcasing how pilot stress and fear could turn deadly, even in a non-combat situation.

The fighting, of course, also took a harsh toll on airmen, who confronted anti-aircraft fire from below and fire from enemy planes in the sky, with only a razor-thin hull to protect them.

“You had to be constantly on guard,” Kinney says. “It’s very taxing on their mental stability.” Being shot at in an airplane could be so nerve-racking, in fact, that one British paratrooper spoke of how on D-Day he couldn’t wait to jump out, behind enemy lines, where “we knew we would be safer.”

U.S. Airmen Made Up Nearly One-Quarter of U.S. Deaths

Overall, about 100,000 U.S. fatalities. The material costs of maintaining an air force were likewise astronomical, with the United States losing almost 100,000 of its 300,000 planes produced during the conflict.

The U.S. Eighth Air Force, which bombed German-occupied Europe from 1942 onward, bore a particularly heavy burden. More than 26,000 of its men, fully one-third of its total aircrew, died in combat. “There was no big battle but just a slow attrition as they flew out night after night,” Overy says. “A few bomber pilots managed to survive perhaps 50 missions but that was extremely rare. Usually a pilot who survived was pretty burned out after 30.”

Yet as bad as it was for the United States, it was even worse for other countries. Britain’s Royal Air Force Bomber Command, for example, lost almost half its aircrew in World War II, whereas, on the Axis side, hundreds of thousands of German and Japanese airmen were killed. Overy explains that Axis air casualty rates were especially high toward the end of the conflict, when the Allies dominated the skies.

For all countries in the conflict, Overy says, about 25 percent of pilots would be killed or seriously injured each month in peak combat, and in some battles the loss rate reached as high as 40 percent.

George Bush was nearly one of these casualties. Enlisting in the Navy’s flight training program fresh out of high school, he then flew 58 combat missions in the Pacific, first seeing action in May 1944 at the head of a three-man Avenger torpedo bomber. “He was the leader,” Kinney says, “responsible for making the team operate efficiently.”

Bush and his crew first ran into trouble that June, when anti-aircraft fire forced them to make an emergency water landing. (A U.S. destroyer rescued them minutes after the crash.)

George Bush Bailed After Being Hit by Anti-Aircraft Fire

Then, on September 2, 1944, he was again hit by anti-aircraft fire during a bombing run on the Japanese island of Chichi Jima. “Suddenly there was a jolt,” Bush wrote later, “as if a massive fist had crunched into the belly of the plane. Smoke poured into the cockpit, and I could see flames rippling across the crease of the wing, edging toward the fuel tanks.”

Bush dropped his four 500-pound bombs on the target, a radio facility, and subsequently bailed out over the ocean, though not before bonking his head on the plane’s tail and ripping part of his parachute. His travails continued once in the waves, as jellyfish stings and swallowing too much seawater rendered him nauseous. Nonetheless, he managed to swim to a life raft and remain afloat until a U.S. submarine eventually rescued him.

During this time, U.S. fighter planes drove off some Japanese boats that pursued him, thus saving him from the gruesome torture suffered by other American captives on Chichi Jima. His two crewmates, however, weren’t so lucky. (One’s parachute apparently failed to open and the other never made it out of the plane.)

Historians agree that airmen like Bush—not to mention actors Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable, future U.S. senator and presidential candidate George McGovern, and New York Yankees infielder Jerry Coleman, plus hundreds of thousands of non-famous participants—played a vital role in winning the war.

“Despite the high loss rates, air power was critical,” Overy says, “particularly aircraft engaged in … operations [to destroy] the enemy's airpower or in tactical support of operations on the ground or the sea.”

To this day, airplanes remain a key part of how wars are waged, though as Kinney points out, the scale and scope (and danger) of World War II’s air battles has not since been matched.

Watch a preview of the two-night event Presidents At War, premiering Sunday, February 17 at 8/7c.

TBF/TBM Avenger

By Stephen Sherman, Apr. 2001. Updated January 21, 2012.

W hile the Douglas Devastator had been "state of the art" when it was introduced in 1935, by 1939, the US Navy determined that it needed a more potent torpedo bomber, one with greater range, larger payload, faster speed, and tougher resistance to battle damage. The requirements for the new aircraft included: a top speed of 300 MPH, a (fully loaded) range of 1,000 miles, an internal weapons bay, 2000 lbs. payload, and a ceiling of 30,000 feet.

The Grumman "Iron Works" almost inevitably would be the supplier. Leroy Grumman, an engineer by background, helped design the torpedo bomber that would meet the navy's specs. The prototype was designated XTBF-1: eXperimental, Torpedo Bomber, F = Grumman, 1st variant. Two aircraft were built, one of which crashed in the woods near Brentwood, Long Island. But the program continued at the rapid pace which was a hallmark of Grumman's production.

Built around the 1700 horsepower Wright R-2600-8 engine, a 14-cylinder double row radial, the new TBF featured:

  • folding wings - critical for carrier use. Grumman developed a unique wing-folding mechanism for the TBF and F6F, which tucked the wings flat against the fuselage, for the most compact storage possible. Allegedly, Leroy Grumman first brainstormed the idea with a soap-eraser and paper clips.
  • three seats - A pilot, a rear gunner, and a bombardier/belly gunner.
  • powered rear turret - As required by the Navy, the plane included a powered turret for the rear gunner, originally equipped with a single .30 caliber machine gun.
  • three .30 caliber machine guns - The turret gun noted above. A nose-mounted gun for the pilot, firing through the propeller. And another rear-firing .30 caliber was tucked into its belly. This weaponry was increased in later variants.
  • large internal bay - By mounting the wings mid-way up the fuselage, Grumman allowed a roomy bay, for one 2,000 lb. torpedo, or four 500 lb. bombs, or an extra fuel tank.
  • large wings - A Grumman trademark. Relatively large wings helped to make Grumman aircraft easier to handle, a vital characteristic for a plane flown by masses of pilots with varying skill levels from pitching & heaving carrier decks.
  • extreme ruggedness - Another Grumman feature. The ability to absorb battle damage and still fly was equally important, especially to the aircrews.

On the afternoon of December 7, 1941, Grumman held a ceremony to open its new Plant 2 in Bethpage and display the new torpedo bomber to the public. During the program, Grumman vice president Clint Towl was called to the phone. "The Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor. We're at war." No announcement was made and the festivities continued. When the crowd filed out of the plant, they locked the gates, swept the plant for saboteurs, and went to a war footing, which they stayed on for almost four years.

Over the next few months, Grumman struggled mightily to turn their hand-crafted prototype into a mass-produced airplane. By June, the company had delivered 145 TBF-1's to the Navy, a pace that would be dwarfed in the next three years.

First Combat - Midway

Lieutenant Fieberling's six TBFs reached the Japanese fleet at 7:10 AM, dropped to low altitude and bore on toward the carriers. Zeros swarmed around the vulnerable torpedo planes. Two TBFs were destroyed in the first attack, followed by three more. Realizing that he could not reach the carriers, Ensign Albert K. Earnest loosed his torpedo at a cruiser, then broke away with two Zeros after him. Earnest flew his shot-up TBF back to Midway, navigating "by guess and by God." Earnest's was the only TBF to return, with nothing but the trim tab for longitudinal control, with one wheel and the torpedo bay doors hanging open. Radioman 3rd Class Harrier H. Ferrier was injured and Seaman 1st Class Jay D. Manning, who was operating the .50 caliber machine gun turret, was killed during the attack.

Eastern Solomons - Aug. 24, 1942

  • VT-8 on "Sara," commanded by Cdr. Harold "Swede" Larsen
  • VT-3 on the "Big E," led by Lt. Cdr. Charles M. Jett

Santa Cruz - Oct. 26, 1942

The two surviving carriers in the Pacific, Enterprise and Hornet, carried 14 Avengers each. In late October, the two U.S. flattops met the Japanese effort to seize Guadalcanal. The opposing fleets' patrol planes spotted each other in the early morning and both launched air strikes across the intervening 200 miles. Enterprise and Hornet sent out three strikes, totalling 73 planes: 18 Avengers, 32 dive bombers, and 23 F4F fighters.

Commanding Torpedo Ten, VT-10, from Enterprise was Lt. Cdr. John A. Collett. He led his torpedo bombers westward, toward the Japanese ships, passing Zeros and Vals heading for the American ships. When the U.S. planes found their targets, the Japanese combat air patrol and anti-aircraft knocked most of them down. The SBD's damaged on carrier, but the TBF's were shot out of the sky. A Zero shot up Lt. Cdr. Collett's Avenger. He and his radioman, ARM1/c Thomas C. Nelson were seen parachuting. Nelson was captured and (I believe) survived as a POW. Collett was never seen again. (A personal note - My maternal ancestors include the Abbott family of Winterport, Maine. The Abbott family cemetary there includes a stone inscribed "Lt. Cdr. John A. Collett, Commander VT-10, Lost at the Battle of Santa Cruz, Oct. 26, 1942." Of course, he isn't buried there. I presume that his mother was an Abbott, possibly indicated by his middle initial "A." One of my many unfinished projects is to determine Collett's relationship to my Abbott relatives. - SS)

These early battles showed the type's strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps its biggest weakness was not actually a problem with the aircraft itself, but rather with the deficient torpedoes used by the US Navy in the first two years of the war. The damn things just didn't explode (at least not with any high degree of reliability). The Mark 13 torpedoes were fragile, and had to be dropped from a low height, at speeds below 130 MPH. They under-ran their indicated depth by 11 feet they failed to explode when they hit, and they sometimes blew up prematurely. Therefore the TBF's flew a lot of missions with ordinary 500 lb. bombs. The aircraft itself was sound and could be used in various roles: torpedo bomber, glide bomber, reconnaissance, mine-layer, and scout plane. With its good radio facilities, docile handling, long range, and extra seating, it made an ideal command aircraft for Air Group Commanders (CAGs).

Sink the Hiei - Guadalcanal

At 6AM, dive bombers from Henderson hit Hiei. An hour later, Moret's Marine Corps TBF's put a torpedo in the drifting battleship. Around 10AM, they came at her again, and scored with another "fish."

Shortly, the Enterprise Avengers struck. Its Commander Air Department, John Crommelin, had sent in 15 Grumman TBF's under Lieutenant Al "Scoofer" Coffin. They were to attack Hiei, then land at Henderson Field. When they had launched in the early morning, a worried Crommelin had no idea if Henderson Field was American-held after the vicious battle, and his planes would not be able to abort back to Enterprise. Tearfully, he sent his boys in their Grummans on a possible one-way mission. They reached Hiei at 11:20 AM. The sky was full of black smoke, tracer fire and buzzing planes. Hiei fired back with everything she had, even incendiary 14-inch shells, unfired in the previous night's surface battle. The Avenger pilots saw the big shells fountain in the sea in an even row several miles astern. They flew at full throttle just over Hiei's burned and scorched decks. Seconds later, three torpedoes hit and exploded. But Hiei remained afloat. The Enterprise Avengers flew on to Henderson Field and found a friendly reception from American soldiers.

Six more of Col. Moret's Avengers hit Hiei with two more torpedos. Throughout the day, dive bombers and F4F's harassed the battleship. By sundown, the battered hulk was doomed, and Admiral Abe gave the order to scuttle her. The TBF's had scored their first major victory of the war.

Typical Monthly
Feb. 1942 5 - 5
June, 1942 60 - 60
Nov. 1942 100 1 101
July, 1943 150 100 250
June, 1944 - 300 300
March, 1945 - 400 400
TOTAL 2,291 7,546 9,837

GM Enters the Production Battle - 1943

Grumman's plants were fully committed to the F6F Hellcat. As part of the national wartime production effort, General Motors (GM) made available to the war effort five of its factories - Tarrytown, Trenton, Linden, Bloomfield, and Baltimore, together organized into the "Eastern Aircraft Division" of the big auto maker. Grumman delivered two completed TBF's, with special removable "PK" screws instead of ordinary rivets. These planes helped the GM workers see how the Avengers were put together. Under the Navy's aircraft designation scheme the GM Avengers were identified as TBM. While GM's production started slowly in 1943, by the end of the year, it was out-producing Grumman, which phased out Avenger production completely by the end of 1943.

Rosie the Riveter

The Avenger is connected with the famous "Rosie the Riveter" character, symbol of American women who worked in wartime factories. Various accounts of the genesis of the "Rosie" figure have appeared. Norman Rockwell created the most familiar "Rosie" image for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell's image shows a muscular woman dressed in overalls, face mask and goggles on her head, eating a sandwich, her riveting tool in her lap, her feet resting on a copy of Mein Kampf. Two weeks after the cover illustration was published, stories appeared in the press extolling the achievement of Rose Hicker, a worker at GM's Eastern Aircraft Division in Tarrytown, who drove a record number of rivets into the wing of a TBM Avenger.


Starting in mid-1944, GM began building the TBM-3, with the more powerful (1900 hp) R-2600-20 engine and wing hard points for drop tanks or rockets. With over 4,600 TBM-3s built, they were the most numerous of the variants. However, even in February, 1945, most of the Avengers on the carriers in the Pacific were the Dash-1 versions. Only by V-J Day had the carrier TorpRons transitioned to the Dash-3.

Production of the Avenger stopped immediately after the end of hostilities.

O'Hare - Nov '43

The night of November 26-27, 1943 was the first combat test of the plan, following an earlier mission that hadn't contacted the Japs. The 'Black Panthers', as the night fighters were dubbed, included two sections of three planes. Both included two Hellcats and one Avenger. Butch led his section from his F6F, Warren Skon flew on his wing Lt. Cdr. Phillips piloted the TBF with radarman Hazen Rand and gunner Alvin Kernan crewing the plane. In the confusing night action, O'Hare went down, most likely the victim of a lucky shot from the Betty, but possibly due to friendly fire. Read more in my article about Ed O'Hare.

Alvin Kernan wrote one of the best WW2 memoirs I have read, Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket's World War II Odyssey. It's out-of print, but I intentionally left the link to Amazon. (Another coincidental personal note - I studied Shakespeare under Professor Alvin Kernan in the early 1970's, when I had never even heard of Butch O'Hare, and didn't know an Avenger from a Spitfire. - SS)

In late 1943 and early 1944, more of the new Essex-class carriers deployed to the Pacific, with Avengers in their VT squadrons. Avengers participated in the historic raid Feb. 16 raid on Truk.

The U-Boat War

Sinking of I-52

In an extraordinary engagement, Avengers from USS Bogue CVE-9, the top sub-killing CVE of the Atlantic, sank the Japanese transport submarine, I-52. In 1943 the Japanese and Germans worked out a plan to exchange critical materials via specialized cargo submarines: opium, rubber, quinine, tungsten, and molybdenum from the Japanese for German radar, bombsights, vacuum tubes, optical glass, ball bearings, etc.. In March, 1944, I-52 departed Kure, picked up cargo in Singapore and headed through the Indian Ocean, all monitored by U.S. intelligence. It rendezvoused with a German sub U-530 on June 23, in the mid-Atlantic, and picked up a German pilot who would guide I-52 into port at Lorient. There the exchange was planned to take place.

But Allied "Ultra" intercepts had pinpointed I-52's movements and even its cargo. Within hours of I-52's meeting with U-530, this information had been relayed to Bogue. The commander of its Composite Squadron 69 (VC-69), Lt. Cdr. Jesse Taylor, immediately took off in his TBF in pursuit of the Jap sub. As Taylor patrolled in the darkness, his radarman, Chief Ed Whitlock, picked up a blip. They went after it and dropped flares, lighting up the 350-foot long cargo sub. Taylor closed in, dropping two depth bombs. I-52 dived and the TBF dropped a sonobuoy into the water. The newly-developed sonobuoys picked up long-carrying underwater noises and transmitted these back to the carrier. Following the sonobuoy's signal, Taylor dropped a Mark 24 "Fido" acoustic torpedo. The sonobuoy transmitted the crunching sound of explosions back to Bogue. While Taylor thought he had sunk the sub, other Avengers soon picked up propeller beats. Bogue's CO, Captain A. B. Vosseller, ordered a second attack William "Flash" Gordon flew his TBF to the site and dropped another torpedo. The I-52 swiftly went to the bottom, with a huge hole in her hull. Next morning, U.S. destroyers found I-52's flotsam: a ton of raw rubber, bit of silk, and even human flesh.

For over 50 years, I-52 lay at the bottom of the Atlantic. In 1998, the National Geographic Society sponsored a deep-sea submersible mission which found the I-52's remains. The October, 1999 issue featured this dramatic story, but I could not find any web links to it.

For more info on the submarine war in the Atlantic, check out the superlative article on the Avenger's role in the fight against the U-boats at uboat.net, a site which at this writing, boasts of over 12,700(!) pages.

But the TBFs' influence far exceeded the destruction of 30 subs. By their presence and activity, many more convoys arrived safely, an undramatic, but vital, result.

Into the Night - June 20, 1944

After the U.S. Navy's Hellcats destroyed over 350 Japanese planes in the "Marianas Turkey Shoot," Admiral Marc Mitscher wanted to follow up the aerial victory and sink the Japanese carriers as well. All day, and into the afternoon, Task Force 58's search planes, probed westward for the fleeing, defenseless enemy ships. Eventually, at 3:40 PM, Avenger pilot Lt. R.S. Nelson, from Enterprise, found Ozawa's force 275 miles to the west. Mitscher ordered an immediate strike by 4:10 the planes were launched. Nonetheless, the risk to pilots was grave there just wasn't enough daylight left for them to reach their quarry, hit them, and return. Mitscher's gamble reflected the cold and brutal calculus of war - he hoped his air crew losses would cost his side less than the damage they could do to the other side's ships. A couple hours later, at the extreme end of their range, the TBFs, Hellcats, and dive bombers caught the Japanese fleet.

Avengers from CVL-24 Belleau Wood sank the light carrier Hiyo. Belleau Wood's Air Group 24 launched 12 planes, including a division of four Avengers piloted by Lt.(jg) George P. Brown in the lead, Lt. Warren Omark, Benjamin C. Tate, and W.D. Luton. All four Avengers were armed with torpedoes. When they spotted the Jap carrier, Brown ordered the planes to fan out and approach from different angles. They dove through intense anti-aircraft fire, which struck Brown's TBF. George Platz and Ellis Babcock, the two crewmen in Brown's plane, realized their plane was afire and unable to reach Brown on the intercom, they parachuted and witnessed the attack from the water.

The wounded Brown grimly held his Avenger on track. He, Omark, and Tate launched their improved torpedos at the carrier. They struck home and the two aircrewmen in the water saw Hiyo sink 30 minutes later.

Brown and his plane disappeared. Omark flew back and made a nighttime landing on Lexington. Tate and Luton also flew back, had to ditch, and were recovered safely. American search planes rescued Platz and Babcock the next day.

The TBF's sinking of Hiyo was the only serious damage done to Japanese fighting ships by the 227 planes of the "mission beyond darkness." The Avengers' experience was typical of the day: 54 planes successfully launched, 29 of these were lost, plus 8 more operational losses. From these 37 planes, about 111 men went into the water - 67 were rescued. But a lot of brave young aviators died that day. Mitscher's gamble was probably correct, it just didn't pay off as well as all had hoped.

George Bush

Undoubtedly, the most famous man to fly an Avenger was George H.W. Bush, later the 41st President of the United States. He joined the Navy in 1942, and became the youngest naval aviator ever in June, 1943. He flew Avengers with VT-51, from USS San Jacinto. On September 2, 1944 he was shot down over Chichi Jima. While Bush parachuted safely and was rescued, neither of his crewmen survived. Bush earned a DFC for delivering his bombload after his TBF had been hit.

Read more about George Bush in WWII at the Naval Historical Center web site.

October, 1944

Lt. Cdr. Edward Huxtable, CO of Gambier Bay's VC-10, directed the Avengers and Wildcats in their attacks on the heavy Japanese ships. When Admiral Kurita's 4 battleships and 8 cruisers appeared off Samar on the morning of Oct.25, Gambier Bay and the other CVE's of Task Force 3 were cruelly exposed. Huxtable's TBM only had 100 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition, but he and other pilots made dummy runs on the Japanese fleet. After sinking Gambier Bay and three destroyers, the Japanese concluded that they were facing Essex-class carriers and they steamed back through San Bernardino Strait.

The End - 1945

Grumman's torpedo bombers sank the Yamato, in its last desperate run for Okinawa on April 7, 1945.

At the 1997 ceremonies for the Enlisted Combat Aircrew Roll of Honor, Yorktown veteran, Charles G. Fries, Jr. ARM2/C, a TBM tail gunner, described the attack.

In April 1945, we went after the last remnants of the Japanese Fleet, which comprised the battleship Yamato, the cruiser Yahagi, and two screen destroyers. When we went to look for them it was overcast, and the TBF crews had to find them, which we did. When we came into range, the squadrons split into two sections. The admirals wanted very badly to bring down the battleship, and if necessary every airplane would hit it. It turned out, that was not necessary. The first TBM's got the wagon, and she was severely damaged, ready to sink.

So we went after the cruiser, whose armor plating was at a different depth. In consequence we had to change the depth setting on the torpedo so it wouldn't go under the cruiser, so it would hit Yahagi at the appropriate point and put a hole in her.

It was a little hairy because you couldn't see what you were doing. You could only get in there up to your armpit, so you were feeling your way. The wrench that turned the indicator changed the depth setting. This was right next to the arming wires that ran from the bulkhead to the torpedo's fuse. If you pulled the wrong wire, we were told the air stream coming through could actually arm the torpedo. If it were hit in any way it could have been a problem to us.

We changed the depth setting and went after the cruiser. Both big ships and the destroyers put up a lot of flak. After firing our torpedo, we were pleased to see the cruiser go down. Later another destroyer went down too. One pilot's torpedo hung up and he had to make two more runs. He got the torpedo off, so we sank three of the four Japanese ships. As far as we were concerned, the Japanese fleet was no more.

As young kids, we were so elated to see those ships go down. The wagon rolled over on her side and eventually went under. The cruiser slipped up into the air, bow first and then slid back down into the water like a toy. My first feeling of elation recalled the Pearl Harbor attack. We felt like we were getting even. However that was soon followed by a great feeling of sadness.

It was strange to see all the Japanese sailors in the water, and wondering to this day if there was any survivors. If there were I would truly like to talk to them and get their side of the story. At this point in our lives, in our middle seventies, we are more reflective. We realize that it's young kids who go to war. I don't know who starts them, but it is not a pleasant to consider all those fellows that didn't make it were somebody's son. They were only kids doing what they were told, the same as we were.

So in this point of one's life, there isn't any malice left.

Read more Aircrews' War Stories at this website.

Post War

After the war, Avengers continued flying in the U.S. Navy, primarily in anti-submarine, Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM), as missile platforms, and for training. Large numbers of Avengers found postwar roles with Canada, France, Japan and the Netherlands, some still serving in 1960. Some were converted to civilian use as fire-fighters.


Articles Featuring George H.W. Bush From History Net Magazines

In the old man George Bush, you can still find shadows of the boy who enlisted on his 18th birthday in 1942 in high hopes of becoming a Navy pilot. The thatch of unruly brown hair. The crooked, ingratiating smile. The clear blue eyes and the long, angular face. The disjointed sentences that don&rsquot always parse. The oddball sense of humor he became known for after he earned his wings and was floating in the Pacific on the carrier USS San Jacinto and flying torpedo bomber runs off its short deck. He reaches into his office desk in Houston and pulls out a copy of one of his favoritecartoons. It&rsquos a man ordering a meal in a fine restaurant at a table across from a giant fly: &ldquoI&rsquoll have the gazpacho, leeks vinaigrette with shrimp, marinated zucchini, orange mousse, a bottle of Cotes du Rhone Rouge &rsquo59. And bring some shit for my fly.&rdquo We laugh at the joke, but he laughs harder.

As his old crew mates on the San Jac might say, &ldquoSame old George.&rdquo

It was so long ago, those three years of war. In the 62 years since, he has been an oil entrepreneur, U.S. congressman, U.S. liaison in China, ambassador to the U.N., head of the CIA, vice president and president of the United States. He presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union. He won Desert Storm, scored among the highest approval rating of any president ever, then lost in his reelection bid. He told me only weeks after his 1992 defeat, &ldquoIt&rsquos just so embarrassing.&rdquo But that&rsquos only his public life. He lost a three-year-old daughter to leukemia, raised five kids, two of whom are, famously, the former governor of Florida and the current president of the United States. And, although it was never in doubt, he stayed forever married to his wartime love, Barbara, the Silver Fox.

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That&rsquos a lot of living in 82 years.

But those three years at war, well, as a piece of life experience, they still top it all. Without that war, America no doubt would have heard from George Bush, whose great ability and family wealth assured him great opportunities, but he would have been a far different George Bush.

&ldquoWas it a shock to go off to war from your background?&rdquo I asked him 20 years ago for a Washington Post Magazine article on his life.

&ldquoIt was the shock,&rdquo he answered.

The former president is just off hip replacement surgery at the Mayo Clinic, and this morning is the first time he has been in the office in two weeks. He has a walker by his desk and his leg propped up on an open drawer. He leans forward in his chair, reaches for his leg around the knee with both hands.

&ldquoCould you lift my leg a little?&rdquo he asks. &ldquoIt&rsquos kinda personal, I know, but it&rsquod help me out.&rdquo I lift and he adjusts. &ldquoThanks.&rdquo

I call him an old man because, chronologically, he is. But there&rsquos nothing &ldquoold&rdquo about George Bush. Despite his hip surgery, he went out to the finish line of a marathon race in Houston the other morning and shook hands with the runners. He globe-trotted with former President Bill Clinton to raise money for disaster relief. He&rsquos doing mental exercises to keep his mind and memory sharp. He took up e-mailing a while back and has started bolstering his famous penchant for personal letters with personal e-mails.

As they say, young is where you find it.

&ldquoThey were a huge effect on me,&rdquo he says of his war years. &ldquoI was a kid that came out of a very closed environment, relatively privileged in the sense of growing up. My dad could send us to good schools. He could take care of us if we got sick. Most of the guys that were signing up for World War II couldn&rsquot do that. So it was an eye-opener for one thing, in terms of just interaction of my privileged life with those from all walks of life.&rdquo

&ldquoShowing to myself that I could do it, compete, hold my own&hellipwas very, very important in terms of my own being.&rdquo

Like so many World War II vets, he came home and rarely talked about what he had seen and felt and learned about love, faith, family, fate, bravery, fear, death and grief. Yet even among his naturally reticent generation, he was particularly reticent to talk about himself and his experiences. It was all part of his family&rsquos brand of Eastern, Episcopalian, patrician, puritanical values. It seems too quaint for some to accept as anything but myth today, yet Bush&rsquos parents inculcated in their children an old-fashioned noblesse oblige that encouraged public service, empathy and personal modesty. His mother, Dorothy, the family enforcer on this score, demanded that her children never &ldquoblow on&rdquo about themselves. &ldquoGeorge, nobody likes a braggadocio,&rdquo she told him again and again, and George listened well.

It wasn&rsquot until he entered politics in the 1960s that he had no choice but to break his mother&rsquos rule and market his war story like a suit off the rack, as did every other politician who could claim the crucible of that war on his resumé&mdashDwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Robert Dole, to name a few.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, George Bush was the biggest man on campus at one of America&rsquos great male bastions of private high school privilege, Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., known to the initiated as &ldquoAndover.&rdquo Captain of the baseball and soccer teams, student council secretary, senior class president. He was a BMOC who, following his mother&rsquos teachings, was kind to everybody, no matter his social pedigree, the kind of kid who helped the fat guy in gym.

At Bush&rsquos graduation ceremony that spring, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, himself an Andover graduate, told the boys they should go to college and let the draft do its work. Young George, already accepted at Yale, would hear none of it. His father, Prescott, a partner in the investment firm Brown Brothers Harriman, asked if Stimson had changed his son&rsquos mind.

Years later, he said simply, &ldquoI wanted to serve&mdashduty, honor, country.&rdquo

Soon after, Prescott Bush put George, who would go on to become the Navy&rsquos youngest pilot, on a train out of New York&rsquos Pennsylvania Station. It was the only time George had seen his stoic father cry. After nearly a year of training, Bush landed on San Jacinto.

Then came September 2, 1944. As he and his two-man crew dove their Avenger bomber through anti-aircraft fire toward a Japanese radio tower on the volcanic island of Chichi Jima, 150 miles north of Iwo Jima, his plane was hit at 8,000 feet and caught fire. He finished his dive, dropped his four 500-pound bombs successfully on target and headed out to sea. He could have tried to make a water landing, something he had done once already when another Avenger he was flying lost power. That day, he and his crew got out of the plane and into the life raft before the plane sank. But this time, the burning Avenger could blow up before they got to the water. He ordered his radio operator and gunner, neither of whom he could see from the cockpit, to &ldquohit the silk,&rdquo an order heard on the radio by crewmen in other U.S. planes. No response. He remembers banking his plane steeply to the right to lessen the slipstream pressure on the rear door and help his crew mates exit. Then, at about 3,000 feet, Bush bailed out and hit his head on the plane&rsquos tail. He landed in the ocean and freed himself from his chute. Another Avenger dived to signal the location of his life raft, which he swam to and climbed in.

His head was bleeding and he was throwing up from having gulped seawater. He secured his revolver and started hand-paddling furiously away from Chichi Jima, where Japanese gunboats had already headed out to get him. Avengers and the Hellcat fighters that protected them strafed the boats but soon had to return to San Jacinto. Young George, who would later be awarded the Navy&rsquos Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions that day, didn&rsquot feel much like a hero. He feared correctly that his crew mates were dead. In that life raft, he began asking himself the question that still haunts him in his Houston office at age 82: &ldquoDid I do all I could to save them?&rdquo In the raft, he cried. It seemed like a miracle when more than two hours later the periscope of the submarine USS Finback appeared.

&ldquoWelcome aboard, sir,&rdquo a sailor said as Bush was hauled on deck while the sub&rsquos photographic officer recorded the scene on his 8mm camera.

Aboard Finback that night, Bush slept fitfully and had the first of many nightmares about his Chichi Jima mission and the fate of his crew mates, John &ldquoDel&rdquo Delaney, who had been his radio operator the whole time aboard San Jacinto, and William &ldquoTed&rdquo White, the son of a Bush family acquaintance and the ship&rsquos ordinance officer, who had repeatedly asked Bush to take him on a bombing run for the experience. That morning, White had won approval from Bush and his squadron leader to replace Bush&rsquos regular gunner, Leo Nadeau, on a single mission. Although Bush didn&rsquot know it just after the crash, one crewman on his plane, according to the squadron commander&rsquos action report, also had bailed out, but his parachute didn&rsquot open and he fell to his death. The bodies of Delaney and White were never found.

Remarkably, the letter Bush wrote to his parents the next day from Finback was saved by his mother: &ldquoYesterday was a day which will long stand in my memory….I will have to skip the details of the attack as they would not pass the censorship, but the fact remains that we got hit….There was no sign of Del or Ted anywhere around. I looked as I floated down and afterwards kept my eye open from the raft, but to no avail….I&rsquom afraid I was pretty much a sissy about it cause I sat in my raft and sobbed for awhile….I feel so terribly responsible for their fate, Oh so much right now. Perhaps as the days go by it will all change and I will be able to look upon it in a different light….Last night I rolled and tossed. I kept reliving the whole experience. My heart aches for the families of those two boys with me.&rdquo

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George lived aboard Finback for a month before being dropped off at Midway. Instead of taking his chance to rotate home, he hitched military rides back to San Jacinto and put in another eight bombing runs, including one he coolly completed even after a steady barrage of anti-aircraft fire tore a gaping hole in the wing of his Avenger. He rotated back to the states after 58 combat missions and 1,228 combat hours over not only Chichi Jima but also Saipan, Rota, Marcus Island, Guam, Manila Bay and Wake Island.

While awaiting orders to return to the Pacific to join in the invasion of Japan, he married Barbara and trained for return to combat. Then the Japanese surrendered, and his war was done. Nearly half the men in his squadron didn&rsquot come home.

&ldquoMy life was spared,&rdquo Bush once said, ever incredulous.

In 1966, when Bush was running for Congress in Texas, Finback&rsquos photographic officer saw Bush on TV and recognized him as having been the skinny kid they&rsquod rescued out of the sea. He sent Bush the film. Eventually the dramatic war story and his grainy, boyish visage wobbling on the deck of Finback would brag itself across the airwaves in campaign after campaign, undoubtedly to the chagrin of his dignified mother.

&ldquoMy problem,&rdquo he says with a wry smile, &ldquois that the longer you&rsquore away from World War II, the more convinced you become that you single-handedly won the war in the Pacific, and the danger, being around veterans, the memories are so selective and so heroic that you&rsquove got to be very careful talking to guys like me.&rdquo

He has said before that he never understood why he was given a medal because he was shot out of the sky. &ldquoWhen I got down on the submarine, I was just a sick, scared, young kid,&rdquo he says. The heroes were the guys shot down and killed or the guys who hit the beaches and were slaughtered, the guys who didn&rsquot come back to families and jobs&mdashand to political campaigns in which they could boast about what they did in the war.

The cosmic question George Bush eventually began asking himself had nothing to do with heroism or glory or braggadocio.

&ldquoWhy me?&rdquo he still asks six decades later. &ldquoWhy was I spared?&rdquo

Despite that question that still tortures him, George Bush is militantly unreflective. He has always bridled at the psychological inquiries of younger generations. Years ago he told me, &ldquoI&rsquom not going on the couch for anybody.&rdquo I always liked that about him, but he clearly has spent time pondering the meaning of his war years.

I ask: &ldquoYou felt, &lsquoWhy has God spared me?&rsquo&rdquo

&ldquoI think that&rsquos there, but I think that&rsquos overly dramatic,&rdquo he replies. &ldquoMaybe that&rsquos one of the points I was trying to make earlier on, about how history can be distorted by your subjective judgments. As of today, I feel that strongly. Whether I went around talking to the chaplain about it the day after I was picked up on the submarine, I don&rsquot know. I can&rsquot recall.&rdquo

Yet he does recall his night watch duties on the deck of Finback as an awakening to the grandeur of existence and his place in its web.

&ldquoYou&rsquod get on there at 2 or 4 in the morning to do a couple hours&rsquo watch, and the sky was just lit up,&rdquo he says, a tone of wonder still in his voice. &ldquoI remember the flying fish. You could see them off the florescent wake of the ship, and the majesty of nature. I do remember that very well. But whether it linked into the Creator, I don&rsquot know.&rdquo

In the public realm, George Bush&rsquos war years have been telescoped to the tight image of his diving Avenger being hit, his hours in the water, his rescue, and his feelings of grief and responsibility over the deaths of John Delaney and Ted White. Yet those experiences were only a piece of a much larger frame that forever changed his life.

&ldquoI wasn&rsquot naive enough not to know that going to private schools and all was elite,&rdquo he says. Even the Great Depression had little impact on Bush&rsquos boyhood. The rambling house in wealthy Greenwich, Conn. Maids, a cook, a chauffeur named Alec. Christmases at the South Carolina estate, summers at the Kennebunkport, Maine, estate. You would think all that privilege would have made the young George believe he was better than the rest of the rabble when he stepped onto that troop train in Penn Station. That&rsquos not how he remembers feeling.

Years ago he said, &ldquoI was thinking, &lsquoWill I be accepted?&rsquo&rdquo

Today he says, &ldquoIt was, in a sense, kind of scary.&rdquo

Was he going to be able to hold his own with toughs from the Bronx or farm kids from Alabama or cowboys from Montana? Could he make it in a world outside his insular bubble of pedigree and privilege?

I ask if he found himself wondering, &ldquoCan I compete when I&rsquom not protected?&rdquo

&ldquoThat&rsquos right,&rdquo he says. &ldquoBut I was trying to say, &lsquoI&rsquom as good as they are in terms of being able to compete and rub elbows with the real problems, get decent marks in squadron or gunnery or whatever it is.&rsquo I mean, I was driven to demonstrate I was as good a pilot as anybody else from whatever background.&rdquo

It turned out that George Bush did get along with the boys from all different backgrounds&mdasha boy who worked in a mill making pencils before the war, a boy whose father owned a gas station, a boy who never finished high school. Bush didn&rsquot talk much about his background, but word spread, if only because his oddly aristocratic name was just too tempting a target and became his nickname: &ldquoGeorgeHerbertWalkerBush,&rdquo always said in one breath. &ldquoHey, GeorgeHerbertWalkerBush, good morning.&rdquo

He gave nicknames back, made up song lyrics to gibe a buddy, played practical jokes. While aboard Finback, he became famous for his drop-dead imitation of a bellowing elephant, which earned him a second nickname, &ldquoEllie.&rdquo Officers were discouraged from mingling with crewmen, but George mingled. Against regulations, his gunner, Leo Nadeau, painted &ldquoBarbara&rdquo on the side of their plane, and GeorgeHerbertWalkerBush left it there. Men noticed that he was, you could say, different. He never told bawdy stories about his sweetheart. He didn&rsquot try to pick up women on nights in town. And quite out of tune with the bravado spirit of young men off at war, he didn&rsquot smoke or drink or cuss.

&ldquoHe was a lot of fun, a live wire,&rdquo fellow pilot Jack Guy said of Bush decades later. &ldquoI don&rsquot know anyone who didn&rsquot like him for any reason. I don&rsquot know how to say it any other way.&rdquo

Bush also turned out to be a good pilot, not a natural pilot, as his test records from his training days attest, and probably not the best pilot, but a good pilot. In training, he got average to above-average marks. With often older, huskier boys&mdashBush was 6-foot-2 but weighed only 160 pounds&mdashhe held his own at wrestling and in the grueling physical tests. But he also failed. He tried out to become a squad leader but didn&rsquot make it. &ldquoThose things make you try harder,&rdquo he says. At war, George Bush may not have been the BMOC he was at Andover, but he managed to hold his own.

&ldquoNobody was interested in your background or anything about whether you&rsquod gone to some privileged school or not,&rdquo he recalls, adding that the only question asked was, &ldquoCan you do your job?&rdquo

Yet there were other lessons learned. As an officer, Bush was sometimes assigned to censor the outgoing mail of enlisted men. He read letters in which men talked openly about their fears and worries, their loves and heartbreaks, about crop harvests or fishing or a hot spell back in the cities. For a while, Bush censored the mail of the ship&rsquos black stewards. He suddenly stops talking and squints back tears.

&ldquoGolly,&rdquo he says, &ldquoI get all choked up thinking about it&hellip&lsquocold storage boys,&rsquo they called them.&rdquo Then, with amazing candor, he says, &ldquoYou know, they were human beings, and I&rsquom not sure I really knew that or appreciated it or was sensitive to it until I had to do that little experience.&rdquo

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Years later, Bush would adopt as one of his favorite phrases the words of novelist Dan Jenkins&mdash&ldquolife its ownself.&rdquo Dur­ing his war years, for the first time, George Bush saw &ldquolife its ownself.&rdquo

On board San Jacinto one day, a plane crashed while landing on the carrier&rsquos deck, and a crew mate was neatly cut into pieces. A leg with a shoe still on its foot landed near Bush. &ldquoGod, it was horrible,&rdquo he once said. While he and others stood in shock, a tough chief petty officer growled, &ldquoGet this stuff cleaned off!&rdquo Bush never forgot that: No matter how bad the situation, someone must stay clear-headed, someone must lead.

One by one, his buddies flew off the deck of San Jac never to return: Dick Houle, Tom Waters, T.E. Hollowell and Jim Wykes, who was Bush&rsquos best friend. When Jim disappeared, Bush went to his bunk and secretly cried. He wrote letters of condolence. He flew bombing cover over Marines as they stormed the beach on Guam, and he came to believe that his work was nothing compared to their bravery. He learned that being heroic didn&rsquot mean a man was without fear. Being heroic meant a man went on despite his fear. In a letter home to his parents, a matured, perhaps even chastened, George Bush wrote, &ldquoThe glory of being a carrier pilot has certainly worn off.&rdquo

So many years ago&hellip George Bush has no doubt that his war years helped enable him to strike out from his cloistered world in the East for the rugged oil fields of West Texas after graduating from Yale in 1948. He had already bounced all over the country&mdashGrosse Ile, Mich. Lewiston, Maine Fort Lauderdale, Fl. Chincoteague, Va Corpus Christi, Texas. He&rsquod worked and played with men of every imaginable social stripe. He&rsquod mastered flying and fear. He&rsquod been shot at, shot up and shot down. He&rsquod proven that he could make it outside the protection of his privileged family, that he could hold his own among the whole array of humanity. His confidence was earned and deep.

What was roughneck Texas after that?

You think he and Barbara, herself a member of a cloistered Eastern family, would have been comfortable moving into a shotgun apartment on a dirt road in Odessa, Texas, with a hooker living next door, if they hadn&rsquot first lived in that hole-in-the-wall place in Maine with the Murphy bed in a neighborhood George&rsquos mother insisted was a red-light district? Or if they hadn&rsquot first lived in that basement in Virginia Beach and had that crazy red-haired landlady who wandered around in her nightgown all the time? You think they&rsquod have been game for living in a little wood-frame job in Midland, Texas, if they hadn&rsquot learned from George&rsquos war years to roll with the punches in a way that Greenwich just didn&rsquot teach? You think that if George hadn&rsquot met all those characters during the war, the guy who had made pencils in the mill or worked in his dad&rsquos gas station, if he hadn&rsquot read the letters of those &ldquocold storage boys,&rdquo that he would have been at ease that time he was out all night rebuilding the clutch in an oil drilling rig in Jal, N.M., and mixing it up with the grease-caked riggers at the derrick?

I ask if the war gave him that kind of confidence.

&ldquoI think it&rsquos true,&rdquo he says. &ldquoI say it made a man out of me.&rdquo

Yet, from the vantage of old age, the lesson George Bush most takes from his war years is that the values his parents taught him turned out to be true north: honesty, empathy, kindness, hard work, accomplishment, not blowing on about yourself, giving something back to people and society. These values, he believes, served him well at Andover, at war, and later &ldquowhen I became president.&rdquo Maybe you think it sounds corny or self-serving, maybe you question whether George Bush&rsquos life and accomplishments live up to these values. Question all you want. It is what George Bush believes.

In the 1988 presidential race, a crewman in another Avenger over Chichi Jima that long-ago day told reporters that Bush had been the only man to bail out of his plane and it had not been on fire, implying that Bush could have made a water landing, but had panicked and left his crew mates to die. The claims contradicted other eyewitness accounts, the squadron commander&rsquos action report and a later-discovered Japanese document from Chichi Jima reporting that a second man had bailed out of Bush&rsquos plane and his chute hadn&rsquot opened. The accusation, Bush has said, was painful, but that&rsquos rough-and-tumble politics. Today, no doubt offending his mother&rsquos proper sensibilities, he is less discreet.

&ldquoWell, that&rsquos bullshit,&rdquo he says.

George Bush still has nightmares occasionally about his plane being shot up, going down, and his crewmen dying. &ldquoEvery once in a while,&rdquo he says with a reflective tone, &ldquoI wake up in the middle of some horror. It&rsquos not a pleasant dream. It&rsquos not, &lsquoThere&rsquos the sun­set and everything&rsquos coming nicely.&rsquo&rdquo

&ldquoSo it is literally you reexperiencing it?&rdquo I ask.

&ldquoYeah, but not a lot. It doesn&rsquot happen a lot. Once in a while.&rdquo

&ldquoBut, sir,&rdquo I say, &ldquoit has been 60 years.&rdquo

With that, George Bush&rsquos reflective moment passes, and he says, &ldquoI&rsquom not good at dreams, interpreting them, even remembering them.&rdquo

I think of his dead crew mates and the question Bush still asks himself: &ldquoDid I do everything I could to save them?&rdquo After so many years, for George Bush, could the war still come down to a few moments over a godforsaken volcanic island when he lived and Del Delaney and Ted White died?

&ldquoI assume you believe in heaven?&rdquo I ask.

&ldquoHave you ever thought that you will be reunited with those two men?&rdquo

&ldquoHow do you think that conversation will go?&rdquo

&ldquoI felt a certain sense of guilt,&rdquo he says. Yet he believes that if he ever sees Del and Ted again, they already will know that the burning plane could have blown up at any second, that he gave them the order to &ldquohit the silk&rdquo and banked the plane to lessen the slipstream pressure for their exit, that they already will know that he did all he could have done to save their lives.

&ldquoWould you want to hear them say that?&rdquo I ask.

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After 62 years, after so remarkable a life, after all the evidence that he did everything he could, with the wisdom of age and the insight of experience, George Bush still wants to hear Del and Ted say he was not to blame.

&ldquoI think they&rsquod know that,&rdquo he says, &ldquoand that would be reassuring.&rdquo

This article was written by Walt Harrington and originally published in the May 2007 issue of World War II Magazine. For more great articles, subscribe to World War II magazine today!

Hitler's Ladder to Power

Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany January 30, 1933, and absolute dictator in March 1933, after two years of expensive and violent lobbying and electioneering. Two affiliates of the Bush-Harriman organization played great parts in this criminal undertaking: Thyssen's German Steel Trust and the Hamburg-Amerika Line and several of its executives. [13]

Let us look more closely at the Bush family's German partners.

Fritz Thyssen told Allied interrogators after the war about some of his financial support for the Nazi Party:

In 1930 or 1931 . I told [Hitler's deputy Rudolph] Hess . I would arrange a credit for him with a Dutch bank in Rotterdam, the Bank fueur Handel und Schiff [i.e. Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart (BHS), the Harriman-Bush affiliate]. I arranged the credit . he would pay it back in three years. I chose a Dutch bank because I did not want to be mixed up with German banks in my position, and because I thought it was better to do business with a Dutch bank, and I thought I would have the Nazis a little more in my hands.

The credit was about 250-300,000 [gold] marks--about the sum I had given before. The loan has been repaid in part to the Dutch bank, but I think some money is still owing on it. [14]

The overall total of Thyssen's political donations and loans to the Nazis was well over a million dollars, including funds he raised from others--in a period of terrible money shortage in Germany.

Friedrich Flick was the major co-owner of the German Steel Trust with Fritz Thyssen, Thyssen's long-time collaborator and occasional competitor. In preparation for the war crimes tribunal at Nuremberg, the U.S. government said that Flick was " one of leading financiers and industrialists who from 1932 contributed large sums to the Nazi Party . member of `Circle of Friends' of Himmler who contributed large sums to the SS". [15]

Flick, like Thyssen, financed the Nazis to maintain their private armies called Schutzstaffel (S.S. or Black Shirts) and Sturmabteilung (S.A., storm troops or Brown Shirts).

The Flick-Harriman partnership was directly supervised by Prescott Bush, President Bush's father, and by George Walker, President Bush's grandfather.

The Harriman-Walker Union Banking Corp. arrangements for the German Steel Trust had made them bankers for Flick and his vast operations in Germany by no later than 1926.

The Harriman Fifteen Corporation (George Walker, president, Prescott Bush and Averell Harriman, sole directors) held a substantial stake in the Silesian Holding Co. at the time of the merger with Brown Brothers, Jan. 1, 1931. This holding correlated to Averell Harriman's chairmanship of the Consolidated Silesian Steel Corporation, the American group owning one-third of a complex of steel-making, coal-mining and zinc-mining activities in Germany and Poland, in which Friedrich Flick owned two-thirds. [16]

The Nuremberg prosecutor characterized Flick as follows:

"Proprietor and head of a large group of industrial enterprises (coal and iron mines, steel producing and fabricating plants) . `Wehrwirtschaftsfuhrer', 1938 [title awarded to prominent industrialists for merit in armaments drive--`Military Economy Leader']. " [17]

For this buildup of the Hitler war machine with coal, steel and arms production, using slave laborers, the Nazi Flick was condemned to seven years in prison at the Nuremberg trials he served three years. With friends in New York and London, however, Flick lived into the 1970s and died a billionaire.

On March 19, 1934, Prescott Bush -- then director of the German Steel Trust's Union Banking Corporation -- initiated an alert to the absent Averell Harriman about a problem which had developed in the Flick partnership. [18] Bush sent Harriman a clipping from the New York Times of that day, which reported that the Polish government was fighting back against American and German stockholders who controlled " Poland's largest industrial unit, the Upper Silesian Coal and Steel Company. " The Times article continued:

"The company has long been accused of mismanagement, excessive borrowing, fictitious bookkeeping and gambling in securities. Warrants were issued in December for several directors accused of tax evasions. They were German citizens and they fled. They were replaced by Poles. Herr Flick, regarding this as an attempt to make the company's board entirely Polish, retaliated by restricting credits until the new Polish directors were unable to pay the workmen regularly. "

The Times noted that the company's mines and mills:

". employ 25,000 men and account for 45 percent of Poland's total steel output and 12 percent of her coal production. Two-thirds of the company's stock is owned by Friedrich Flick, a leading German steel industrialist, and the remainder is owned by interests in the United States. "

In view of the fact that a great deal of Polish output was being exported to Hitler Germany under depression conditions, the Polish government thought that Prescott Bush, Harriman and their Nazi partners should at least pay full taxes on their Polish holdings. The U.S. and Nazi owners responded with a lockout. The letter to Harriman in Washington reported a cable from their European representative: " Have undertaken new steps London Berlin . please establish friendly relations with Polish Ambassador [in Washington]. "

A 1935 Harriman Fifteen Corporation memo from George Walker announced an agreement had been made " in Berlin " to sell an 8,000 block of their shares in Consolidated Silesian Steel. [19] But the dispute with Poland did not deter the Bush family from continuing its partnership with Flick.

Nazi tanks and bombs "settled" this dispute in September, 1939 with the invasion of Poland, beginning World War II. The Nazi army had been equipped by Flick, Harriman, Walker and Bush, with materials essentially stolen from Poland.

There were probably few people at the time who could appreciate the irony, that when the Soviets also attacked and invaded Poland from the East, their vehicles were fueled by oil pumped from Baku wells revived by the Harriman/Walker/Bush enterprise.

Three years later, nearly a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government ordered the seizure of the Nazis' share in the Silesian-American Corporation under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Enemy nationals were said to own 49 percent of the common stock and 41.67 percent of the preferred stock of the company. The order characterized the company as a:

". business enterprise within the United States, owned by [a front company in] Zurich, Switzerland, and held for the benefit of Bergwerksgesellschaft George von Giesche's Erben, a German corporation. " [20]

Bert Walker was still the senior director of the company, which he had founded back in 1926 simultaneously with the creation of the German Steel Trust. Ray Morris, Prescott's partner from Union Banking Corp. and Brown Brothers Harriman, was also a director.

The investigative report prior to the government crackdown explained:

"NATURE OF BUSINESS: The subject corporation is an American holding company for German and Polish subsidiaries, which own large and valuable coal and zinc mines in Silesia, Poland and Germany. Since September 1939, these properties have been in the possession of and have been operated by the German government and have undoubtedly been of considerable assistance to that country in its war effort. " [21]

The report noted that the American stockholders hoped to regain control of the European properties after the war.

George H.W. Bush's Wartime Experience Shaped His Approach To Politics

President George H.W. Bush greets soldiers at Fort Stewart, Ga., after he addressed family members of the 24th Infantry Division stationed in Saudi Arabia and personnel at the facility in February 1991. Dennis Cook/AP hide caption

President George H.W. Bush greets soldiers at Fort Stewart, Ga., after he addressed family members of the 24th Infantry Division stationed in Saudi Arabia and personnel at the facility in February 1991.

George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st president of the United States, but in many ways, he was the last of his kind.

Bush, who died Friday at 94, was the last World War II veteran to serve in the Oval Office, and he presided over the end of the long Cold War with the Soviets. He was also the last person raised within the confines of the once politically dominant "Eastern Establishment" to attain the presidency.

"A real transition, one might say, came with the conclusion of Bush's term," says presidential historian Robert Dallek.


Former President George H.W. Bush Dies At 94

Bush's background and history made him temperamentally different from his successors. But to the extent that he was a transitional figure, his story is not all about old values being left behind.

Bush was an aggressive campaigner, willing to attack his opponents in highly personal terms. His presidential races helped set the template for the kind of politics that followed.

His one successful presidential run, in 1988, represented the first time, according to

Impelled by duty

His successors have had their share of degrees from Harvard and Yale, but Bush was thoroughly a product of the WASPy aristocracy of the Northeast — a graduate of Andover and Yale, the son of a Connecticut U.S. senator, the scion of two Wall Street banking dynasties.

Bush, pictured in the cockpit of his TBM Avenger during World War II, enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday and became one of its youngest pilots. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

Bush, pictured in the cockpit of his TBM Avenger during World War II, enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday and became one of its youngest pilots.

Bush was inspired by a speech at Phillips Academy Andover given by Henry L. Stimson, a two-time secretary of war and "kind of a god in those Northeastern circles," says Geoffrey Kabaservice, author of Rule and Ruin, a book about moderate Republicanism.

"Hearing Stimson talk about patriotism and American values was one of the things that impelled Bush to enlist," says Lewis Gould, a historian of the Republican Party. "He was impelled by a sense of duty and put himself in harm's way, and his life goes in that direction."


Barbara Bush Remembered In Her Own, Never-Minced, Words

Bush enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday, soon becoming one of its youngest pilots. He flew nearly five dozen missions. He was shot down on Sept. 2, 1944, over the island of Chichi Jima in the Pacific and floated on a raft for a couple of hours before being picked up by a submarine.

Bush always "became very, very emotional whenever he talked about the military," says Chriss Winston, his chief White House speechwriter.

After a 1989 explosion on the USS Iowa killed 47 crewmen, Bush delivered a speech in which the emotional high point was intended to be a line in which he talked about his own experience taking off in the morning and coming back to an empty deck.

But he couldn't deliver the line and skipped right over it in his prepared text, Winston recalls.

After his plane was shot down over the Pacific island of Chichi Jima on Sept. 2, 1944, Bush was rescued by the Navy submarine USS Finback. George Bush Presidential Library/Getty Images hide caption

"In speechwriting, we learned we had to tone down the actual remarks and not make them as emotional because he simply couldn't get through it," she says.

Last of the line

Bush was the last of an unbroken 40-year line of presidents who had served in uniform during World War II, starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower, the former supreme Allied commander.

"That's why members of Congress got along better in the old days," Kabaservice says. "A lot of them had fought in World War II and they looked at each other not as partisan enemies, but people who had been comrades in arms."

The World War II generation had a sense of serving the country together and also shared a belief in professionalism, says Jeremi Suri, a University of Texas historian.

"Bush was the last president who believed that people who had knowledge and experience should make decisions based on that and not on their ideological views," Suri says. "It was a businessman's approach to making decisions about leadership. You appoint and promote the person who's most qualified over the person you might agree with more."

His generation might have had suspicions about political rivals but accepted them as part of the landscape, Gould says. There was no shame in making deals with politicians from the other side of the aisle.

The Week's Best Stories From NPR Books

43 On 41: A President Traces The Life Of His Father

That partly explains why the Republican was willing to violate his "no new taxes" pledge with the budget agreement of 1990, which hurt him politically yet set the stage for a decade of increasingly sound federal budgets.

"Bush was viscerally connected to the notion that there were men of goodwill on both sides of the aisle," Gould says. " 'This is in the interest of the country, so despite my tax pledge, which I won the presidency in making, circumstances have changed and I'll take the political risk.' "

The importance of relationships

Throughout his political career, from his Texas campaigns for House and Senate in the 1960s through his presidential runs in the 1980s and 1990s, Bush was willing at times to be expedient and adopt more conservative stances on fiscal and social issues than he appeared to hold while governing.

His 1988 race against Democrat Michael Dukakis became notorious for an ugly ad showcasing rapist and murderer Willie Horton. After questioning the patriotism of Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992, Bush said, "You can call it mud wrestling, but I think it's fair to put it into focus."

He was willing to say what he thought was necessary as a candidate, but in office, Bush maintained a strict sense of patrician decorum.

Bush, who was vice president at the time, met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during a 1987 summit in the U.S. Jerome Delay/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

Bush, who was vice president at the time, met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during a 1987 summit in the U.S.

Jerome Delay/AFP/Getty Images

"He saw himself as a deal-maker, not as someone who had all the right answers," Suri says. "There was a humility about him that's been lost on both sides of the aisle."

The importance of building up relationships was an ethos Bush brought not only to domestic politics, but also to international affairs, which became his major focus as president. He had come to know many foreign leaders through his service as vice president, CIA director, ambassador to the United Nations and envoy to China.


With Jeb Bush's Campaign Exit, A Chapter In American Politics Closes

What Bush biographer Tom Wicker called his "matchless personal acquaintance" with world leaders helped him form a large coalition to repel Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait and also shaped his response to a series of revolutions in Europe that led to the end of the Cold War.

Bush quietly gave space to Mikhail Gorbachev, president of the Soviet Union, to allow that country to adjust to the decline in its fortunes and influence. Bush did not threaten, make grandiose pronouncements or gloat, Robert Gates wrote in his memoir From the Shadows. Gates was Bush's CIA director and later became secretary of defense under Bush's son and President Barack Obama.

"As the communist bloc was disintegrating, it was George Bush's skilled, yet quiet, statecraft that made a revolutionary time seem so much less dangerous than it actually was," Gates wrote.

This is how ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’ hunted his fellow Nazis for Israel

Imagine Adolf Hitler’s top Nazi commando – a Waffen SS officer who helped implement Germany’s “Final Solution” – walking among the trees and photos of Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

It so happens that the same SS officer, Otto Skorzeny, was there in 1962 and was recruited to help Israel’s famed intelligence agency take out his former compatriots.

Skorzeny was an accomplished SS officer. His daring raid to rescue ousted Italian dictator Benito Mussolini earned him the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross, the highest award Nazi Germany could bestow. After D-Day, he led other commandos into Allied lines wearing American uniforms to capture U.S. weapons and attack from the rear. The Allies dubbed him the “most dangerous man in Europe” for his daring raids and wild schemes.

Though he literally escaped a trial at Nuremberg after the war, the Allies still believed he had a hand in exterminating the Jewish population of Europe.

Skorzeny after rescuing ousted Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

In an exhaustively-researched March 2016 article, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz’ Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman talked to ex-Mossad agents who spoke to the paper on the condition of anonymity. They confirmed Skorzeny’s recruitment by the Jewish state’s intelligence agency, Mossad. How one of Adolph Hitler’s top Nazis became an agent of justice for the Jewish people is a story born more from self-preservation than redemption.

In the early 1960s, Mossad was attempting to prevent former Nazi rocket scientists from working on Egyptian defense projects. At the time, the two countries were mortal enemies and Egypt was still nursing its wounded pride from its defeat by Israel in 1948. The Israelis feared the technology from the program would be used to attack Israel. So they set out to stop foreign scientists from cooperating with the Arabs.

The Israelis used intimidation where possible. When that didn’t work, Mossad resorted to more extraordinary measures. Assassinations were common. But to kill these former Nazis, Israeli agents had to get close to them. They needed an inside man. That’s where Skorzeny came in.

Skorzeny’s Nazi Medals

When Mossad initially approached Skorzeny, he thought they were coming to kill him, figuring he was at the top of Israel’s assassination list. Israeli agents had just captured, tried, and hanged notorious Nazi fugitive Adolf Eichmann, violating Argentinian sovereignty to whisk the war criminal away for trial in Israel. Skorzeny agreed to help Mossad on the condition that legendary Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal remove Skorzeny from his list of war criminals – Skorzeny called the deal his “life insurance.”

He went to Israel accompanied by his Jewish handlers and met with top Mossad officials. This is where the Israelis walked him through Yad Vashem. No one trusted the Nazi, but his genuine interest in his “life insurance” meant Mossad could count on him. He immediately set to work compiling a list of German scientists, front companies, and addresses that were known to be assisting the Egyptians.

Egyptian Leader Gamal Abdel Nasser with a team of rocket scientists (1962).

Skorzeny intimidated or killed a number of former Nazi scientists working with Egypt. He even sent mail bombs to Egyptian factories and laboratories working on the rocket program. Neither Skorzeny nor Mossad ever admitted to working together. His biography mentions none of it. Only now will Mossad agents admit to Haaretz that the deal was struck.

The Nazi commando was never assassinated and died of cancer in 1975. At both of his funerals, one in Spain and the other in his native Austria, former Nazi soldiers and friends gave his remains and military medals the Nazi salute.

This mini A-10 Warthog can guard your yard

Posted On January 19, 2021 11:20:00

A remote control airplane hobbyist has modified a model A-10 Thunderbolt II to conduct Nerf strafing runs on T-72 cardboard tanks and uploaded the results to YouTube. The modified, remote control A-10 can fire 12 paper-tank-busting Nerf balls in under half a second. You know, just in case your yard is overrun with mini Soviet tanks.

If you’re really bored, you can make one out of legos, too.

The RC A-10 can also fire three darts for taking out hard targets. Though reportedly not made from depleted uranium, the darts have more heft and better ballistic properties than the Nerf rounds, but they’re still loaded into the primary tube. That means backyard commanders have to decide their weapons layouts before the mission. It’s three darts or 12 balls, not both.

Both primary weapon loads of the A-10 are on display in the full video:

The Air Force is continuing to look at potential replacements for the full-sized A-10. It’s original replacement, the F-35A, achieved initial operating capability on Aug. 2, but Congress has pressured the flying service to look into a new attack plane to support ground troops.

Despite its impressive performance against cardboard tanks and low cost, the RC A-10 has a number of drawbacks that will likely prevent its purchase by the Air Force.

First, the RC A-10 is manufactured by an untested contractor, YouTube user ajw61185. More importantly, it fires all of its rounds in a single burst, requiring it to return to its base to rearm after a single pass.

Critics of the RC A-10 point out that it was developed for a very different yard than exists today and claim the platform is simply outdated. Modern yards contain advanced sprinklers that the RC A-10 has no countermeasures with which to defend itself. The more stealthy RC F-35 might be able to avoid many of these sprinklers, but it has yet to reach the fleet due to frequent cost overruns and malfunctions.

Still, the RC A-10 is probably fine for home use and so could be used by defense-minded property owners to deter cross-border actions by stray dogs, squirrels, and other aggressors.


Former CIA Colleague On George H.W. Bush: 'History Will Remember Him Well'

William Webster served as CIA director under president George H.W. Bush. — a man who previously held that post. NPR's Michel Martin asks Webster why Bush is so revered for his time at the agency.

We are continuing our reflections on the long career of George H.W. Bush. He is fondly remembered at the CIA for the year he served as director there. In fact, the agency headquarters in Langley, Va., is named after him. The CIA put out a statement today noting that Mr. Bush joined the agency at a, quote, "tumultuous time, when morale was at an all-time low," unquote. It went on to say he restored its reputation. When Mr. Bush took over the CIA in 1976, it had been battered by allegations that it had abused its power under President Nixon and plotted to assassinate foreign leaders and overturn governments.

Our next guest also served as director of Central Intelligence - in fact, during the presidency of George H.W. Bush. He is William Webster, and I asked him to remind us of Mr. Bush's role.

WILLIAM WEBSTER: I don't want to be too particular because I'm not to be judging - and what was going wrong at the time. But the restoration came about as a matter of character, as far as I'm concerned. I like to summarize my experience with President Bush in this way - he was the most decent man in public life that was ever my privilege to know, totally decent.

MARTIN: I understand that you can't talk about all the specifics even now, but I am assuming that you must have briefed President Bush on intelligence matters. And I was wondering if you can share anything about his style.

WEBSTER: Well, yes. He was a normal human being with a brilliant educational experience, a fine reputation as a war hero - a young war hero in World War II, an appreciation for the roles and responsibilities that other men in government life had. And that made it a lot easier for him in dealing with them candidly and openly. And the kind of reputation that he had carried his words of advice and guidance a good deal further than might otherwise have been the case.

MARTIN: The agency statement that they put out today goes on to say that Mr. Bush is remembered as one of the CIA's most impactful and significant directors and that he protected the objectivity and independence of the agency. Can you tell us any more about what they're talking about?

WEBSTER: Well, let me just say, that's better said than I can tell you now (laughter) But it is absolutely true. And this was not someone trying to impress anybody. He was trying to get at the truth. He was trying to look for solutions that made sense. He was not looking for any avenues of retaliation or undercutting or character assassination. He was just himself. He was George Herbert Walker Bush, doing his job and enlisting the best in character, conduct that one could ask of anybody.

MARTIN: So finally, you are contemporaries. And I know this must be a hard - it's a hard pill to swallow in any case. But what would you like us to remember about him? And what are you personally going to remember about him?

WEBSTER: We played a lot of tennis. We got to know each other as friends. We worked on issues together. I'm three months older than he was, and I never let him forget it. It's a sad time. But I look back on it, and I say history will remember him well. But I just wish other men in public life would you try to emulate his decency, get at the facts, get after solutions, take advantage of the wisdom of others and to serve as an absolutely superb example of what a president ought to be.

MARTIN: That's William Webster, who served as director of the CIA from 1987 to 1991. Before that, he was director of the FBI. And he's also served as a former federal judge. Mr. Webster, thank you so much for speaking with us today.

WEBSTER: Privileged to be here.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR&rsquos programming is the audio record.

The Barreling Bushes

Dynasties in American politics are dangerous. We saw it with the Kennedys, we may well see it with the Clintons and we’re certainly seeing it with the Bushes. Between now and the November election, it’s crucial that Americans come to understand how four generations of the current president’s family have embroiled the United States in the Middle East through CIA connections, arms shipments, rogue banks, inherited war policies and personal financial links.

As early as 1964, George H.W. Bush, running for the U.S. Senate from Texas, was labeled by incumbent Democrat Ralph Yarborough as a hireling of the sheik of Kuwait, for whom Bush’s company drilled offshore oil wells. Over the four decades since then, the ever-reaching Bushes have emerged as the first U.S. political clan to thoroughly entangle themselves with Middle Eastern royal families and oil money. The family even has links to the Bin Ladens -- though not to family black sheep Osama bin Laden -- going back to the 1970s.

12:00 AM, Feb. 01, 2004 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday February 01, 2004 Home Edition Opinion Part M Page 2 Editorial Pages Desk 0 inches 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Bin Laden connection -- A Jan. 11 Opinion article by Kevin Phillips, “The Barreling Bushes,” stated that Kalid bin Mahfouz was a relative of Osama bin Laden. He is not.

How these unusual relationships helped bring about 9/11 and then distorted the U.S. response to Islamic terrorism requires thinking of the Bush family as a dynasty. The two Bush presidencies are inextricably linked by that dynasty.

The first family member lured by the Middle East’s petroleum wealth was George W. Bush’s great-grandfather, George H. Walker, a buccaneer who was president of Wall Street-based W.A. Harriman & Co. In the 1920s, Walker and his firm participated in rebuilding the Baku oil fields only a few hundred miles north of current-day Iraq. As senior director of Dresser Industries (now part of Halliburton), Walker’s son-in-law Prescott Bush (George W. Bush’s grandfather) became involved with the Middle East in the years after World War II. But it was George H.W. Bush, the current president’s father, who forged the dynasty’s strongest ties to the region.

George H.W. Bush was the first CIA director to come from the oil industry. He went on to became the first vice president -- and then the first president -- to have either an oil or CIA background. This helps to explain his persistent bent toward the Middle East, covert operations and rogue banks like the Abu Dhabi-based Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which came to be known by the nickname “Bank of Crooks and Criminals International.” In each of the government offices he held, he encouraged CIA involvement in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries, and he pursued policies that helped make the Middle East into the world’s primary destination for arms shipments.

Taking the CIA helm in January 1976, Bush cemented strong relations with the intelligence services of both Saudi Arabia and the shah of Iran. He worked closely with Kamal Adham, the head of Saudi intelligence, brother-in-law of King Faisal and an early BCCI insider. After leaving the CIA in January 1977, Bush became chairman of the executive committee of First International Bancshares and its British subsidiary, where, according to journalists Peter Truell and Larry Gurwin in their 1992 book “False Profits,” Bush “traveled on the bank’s behalf and sometimes marketed to international banks in London, including several Middle Eastern institutions.”

Once in the White House, first as vice president to Ronald Reagan and later as president, George H.W. Bush was linked to at least two Middle East-centered scandals. It’s never been entirely clear what Bush’s connection was to the Iran-Contra affair, in which clandestine arms shipments to Iran, some BCCI-financed, helped illegally fund the operations of the anti-Sandinista Contra rebels in Nicaragua. But in 1992, special prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh asserted that Bush, despite his protestations, had indeed been “in the loop” on multiple illegal acts.

Much clearer was Bush’s pivotal role, both as vice president and president, in “Iraqgate,” the hidden aid provided by the U.S. and its military to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in its high-stakes war with Iran during the 1980s. The U.S. is known to have provided both biological cultures that could have been used for weapons and nuclear know-how to the regime, as well as conventional weapons. As ABC-TV broadcaster Ted Koppel put it in a June 1992 “Nightline” program after the 1991 Persian Gulf War: “It is becoming increasingly clear that George [H.W.] Bush, operating largely behind the scenes through the 1980s, initiated and supported much of the financing, intelligence and military help that built Saddam’s Iraq into the aggressive power that the United States ultimately had to destroy.”

During these years, Bush’s four sons -- George W., Jeb, Neil and Marvin -- were following in the family footsteps, lining up business deals with Saudi, Kuwaiti and Bahraini moneymen and cozying up to BCCI. The Middle East was becoming a convenient family money spigot.

Eldest son George W. Bush made his first Middle East connection in the late 1970s with James Bath, a Texas businessmen who served as the North American representative for two rich Saudis (and Osama bin Laden relatives) -- billionaire Salem bin Laden and banker and BCCI insider Khalid bin Mahfouz. Bath put $50,000 into Bush’s 1979 Arbusto oil partnership, probably using Bin Laden-Bin Mahfouz funds.

In the late 1980s, after several failed oil ventures, the future 43rd president let the ailing oil business in which he was a major stockholder and chairman be bought out by another foreign-influenced operation, Harken Energy. The Wall Street Journal commented in 1991, “The mosaic of BCCI connections surrounding Harken Energy may prove nothing more than how ubiquitous the rogue bank’s ties were. But the number of BCCI-connected people who had dealings with Harken -- all since George W. Bush came on board -- likewise raises the question of whether they mask an effort to cozy up to a presidential son.”

Other hints of cronyism came in 1990 when inexperienced Harken got a major contract to drill in the Persian Gulf for the government of Bahrain. Time magazine reporters Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne, in their book “The Outlaw Bank,” concluded “that Mahfouz, or other BCCI players, must have had a hand in steering the oil-drilling contract to the president’s son.” The web entangling the Bush presidencies was already being spun.

Second son Jeb Bush, now the governor of Florida, spent most of his time in the early and mid-1980s hobnobbing with ex-Cuban intelligence officers, Nicaraguan Contras and others plugged into the lucrative orbit of Miami-area front groups for the CIA. But he too had some Middle East connections. Two of his business associates, Guillermo Hernandez-Cartaya and Camilo Padreda, both indicted for financial dealings, were longtime associates of Middle Eastern arms dealer, BCCI investor and Iran-Contra figure Adnan Khashoggi. Prosecutors dropped the case against the two, and a federal judge ordered Padreda’s name expunged from the record. But a few years later Padreda, a former Miami-Dade County GOP treasurer, was convicted of fraud over a federally insured housing development that Jeb Bush had helped to facilitate. Jeb Bush also socialized with Adbur Sakhia, the Miami BCCI branch chief and later its top U.S. official.

Neil Bush, most famous for the scandal surrounding the corrupt practices of Colorado’s Silverado Savings & Loan, where he served as a director during the 1980s, also picked plums from Persian Gulf orchards. In 1993, after his father left the White House, Neil went to Kuwait with his parents, brother Marvin and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. When his father left, Neil stayed to lobby for business contracts, and after returning home evolved a set of lucrative relationships with Syrian-American businessman Jamal Daniel. One of their ventures, Ignite!, an educational software company, also included representatives of at least three ruling Persian Gulf families.

The Bush family’s Middle Eastern commercial focus is further exemplified by Marvin, the youngest brother of the current president. From 1993 to 2000 he was a major shareholder, along with Mishal Youssef Saud al Sabah, a member of the Kuwaiti royal family, in the Kuwait-American Corp., which had holdings in several U.S. defense, aviation and industrial security companies.

George H.W. Bush’s own Persian Gulf relationships kept expanding. While serving in the Reagan White House during the 1980s, he was known in the Middle East as “the Saudi vice president,” and a New Yorker article last year described the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. as “almost a member of the [Bush] family.” Indeed, many saw the 1991 Gulf War to expel Iraq from Kuwait as an outgrowth of Bush’s close ties to the oil industry and to Persian Gulf royal families, who felt threatened by Saddam Hussein’s expansionism.

After losing his bid for a second term as president, Bush joined up in 1993 with the Washington-based Carlyle Group. Under the leadership of ex-officials like Baker and former Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci, Carlyle developed a specialty in buying defense companies and doubling or quadrupling their value. The ex-president not only became an investor in Carlyle, but a member of the company’s Asia Advisory Board and a rainmaker who drummed up investors. Twelve rich Saudi families, including the Bin Ladens, were among them. In 2002, the Washington Post reported, “Saudis close to Prince Sultan, the Saudi defense minister . were encouraged to put money into Carlyle as a favor to the elder Bush.” Bush retired from the company last October, and Baker, who lobbied U.S. allies last month to forgive Iraq’s debt, remains a Carlyle senior counselor.

If the 1991 war with Iraq and its aftermath cemented the Bush ties with oil elites and royalty in the Middle East, it angered Islamic true believers and radicals. By the late 1990s, many of the Islamic insurgents who had been mobilized by the CIA and others to chase the Soviets out of Afghanistan were becoming increasingly anti-American. They found a kinship with Osama bin Laden, the renegade of his billionaire Saudi family, who was outraged at the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia.

When the U.S. launched a second war against Iraq in 2003 but failed to find weapons of mass destruction that Hussein was purported to have, international polls, especially those by the Washington-based Pew Center, charted a massive growth in anti-Bush and anti-American sentiment in Muslim parts of the world -- an obvious boon to terrorist recruitment. Even before the war, some cynics had argued that Iraq was targeted to divert attention from the administration’s failure to catch Osama bin Laden and stop Al Qaeda terrorism.

Bolder critics hinted that George W. Bush had sought to shift attention away from how his family’s ties to the Bin Ladens and to rogue elements in the Middle East had crippled U.S. investigations in the months leading up to 9/11. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) complained that even when Congress released the mid-2003 intelligence reports on the origins of the 9/11 attack, the Bush administration heavily redacted a 28-page section dealing with the Saudis and other foreign governments, leading him to conclude, “There seems to be a systematic strategy of coddling and cover-up when it comes to the Saudis.”

There is no evidence to suggest that the events of Sept. 11 could have been prevented or discovered ahead of time had someone other than a Bush been president. But there is certainly enough to suggest that the Bush dynasty’s many decades of entanglement and money-hunting in the Middle East have created a major conflict of interest that deserves to be part of the 2004 political debate. No previous presidency has had anything remotely similar. Not one.

12:00 AM, Feb. 01, 2004: For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday February 01, 2004 Home Edition Opinion Part M Page 2 Editorial Pages Desk 0 inches 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Bin Laden connection -- A Jan. 11 Opinion article by Kevin Phillips, “The Barreling Bushes,” stated that Kalid bin Mahfouz was a relative of Osama bin Laden. He is not.

A world that has long embraced love, light and acceptance is now making room for something else: QAnon.

California is contending with what could be the most contagious coronavirus variant to date, prompting officials to warn that residents face significant risk if they are not vaccinated.

George H.W. Bush’s Persian Gulf War: Victory, With Tragedy

Most tributes on the passing of George H.W. Bush from across the American political spectrum have used some variation of the word “honorable” or “decent” to describe the nation’s 41st president. By all accounts, in his direct personal relationships, he was both. That he had physical courage was amply demonstrated in his youth as a Navy torpedo bomber pilot in World War II, and in his later years during his occasional parachute jumps on his birthday. My strongest memories of Bush are from the first post-Cold War crisis America faced—Saddam Hussein’s August 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Persian Gulf War. Bush’s actions during that fateful eight months have affected the lives of millions in the nearly three decades since, and mostly for the worse.

I had a unique vantage point to observe Bush’s response to the crisis, being at the time a CIA military analyst who worked what became known as Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The reports we generated at the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) on Iraqi military moves were among the stream of alarming intelligence sent to the White House between July 20 and Aug. 1, 1990. That was the period when Saddam Hussein ordered the key armored and mechanized infantry formations of his Republican Guard Forces Command (RGFC) to head for the border with Kuwait.

NPIC and the National Intelligence Officer for Warning at the time, Charles Allen, issued reports chronicling the RGFC buildup. Allen’s office warned the White House that Saddam might try to slice off the northern portion of Kuwait, whose oil fields the Iraqi leader coveted. Instead of listening to Allen and his analysts (or NPIC’s reporting), Bush chose to embrace the “It will all blow over” advice he was receiving from then-King Hussein of Jordan and then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. A former CIA-director-turned-president ignored advice from his own intelligence professionals. Saddam’s tanks rolled into Kuwait early on the morning of Aug. 2.

By the morning of Aug. 5, Saddam’s advance reconnaissance elements had actually briefly crossed the Kuwait-Saudi border. The tracks of the Russian-made BMD reconnaissance vehicles were clearly visible on the imagery I used to help write the high-priority report NPIC issued that morning. Saddam had forward deployed two RGFC divisions to within just a few miles of the Kuwait-Saudi border. If he ordered them across, there was no credible military force on the ground that could stop them.

This time, Bush listened to NPIC, Allen and others in the U.S. intelligence community. He dispatched Vice President Dick Cheney and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell to Saudi Arabia to brief the King on our ominous findings. Pledging that Saddam’s aggression against Kuwait “will not stand,” Bush gained clearance from the Saudi government to deploy American troops to the kingdom. My colleagues and I kept close watch on Saddam’s forces, looking for signs the RGFC was preparing to invade Saudi Arabia. But instead, the RGFC pulled back and dug in. Bush had stopped the Iraqi advance.

Iraq’s `19 th Province’

Over the next several months, as more U.S. and allied forces poured into the Persian Gulf region, Saddam dispatched dozens of additional divisions to Kuwait. None of us working the Iraqi problem felt sanctions would have the slightest impact on Saddam he’d already declared Kuwait to be Iraq’s “19th province.”

Bush’s diplomacy during the autumn was masterful that he and then-Secretary of State James Baker were able to assemble so many nations in support of ejecting Iraqi forces from Kuwait ranks as one of his greatest foreign policy achievements. The greatest may well have been convincing Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to keep Israel out of the war even after Iraqi missiles started falling on its territory.

The war and its legacy proved far more problematic.

In mid-February 1991, during the height of the coalition air campaign against Iraqi forces, Bush gave a speech at the Raytheon Patriot missile plant. He called on the Iraqi people to rise up against Saddam. Once Iraqi forces were ejected from Kuwait at the end of the month, Iraqi Kurds in the north of Iraq and Shiites in southern Iraq did as Bush asked—they openly revolted against the regime and attacked the decimated but still functional Iraqi military. The result was the predictable retribution and slaughter against both minorities by Saddam’s forces.

But instead of ordering air strikes to help the rebels, or sending American Special Forces to help, Bush let Kurds and Shiites be butchered. The northern no-fly zone that the U.S. set up with several allies to protect the Kurds wasn’t established until after the Kurdish uprising was crushed in the weeks after the war ended. And the no-fly zone in the south wasn’t put in place until August 1992 and did nothing to stop the subsequent Iraqi ground operations against the Shiite marsh Arabs.

Monitoring the Massacres

I had the grim duty of monitoring and reporting on the massacres from NPIC. I could see the destruction to Shiite villages I helped map out the Kurdish refugee encampments for subsequent food drops. In my life, I had rarely seen such a cynical and dishonorable act by an American president as the encouragement, then abandonment, of a people whose only desire was to be free of Saddam’s tyranny.

Another group of Desert Storm survivors was abandoned by Bush—sick veterans of that war.

By early 1992, reports surfaced of Desert Storm veterans suffering from a constellation of symptoms that were subsequently tagged in the press as “Gulf War Syndrome.” During the last year of his presidency, Bush took no action to direct the departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense to take seriously the veterans’ claims that they were exposed to toxic agents during the war.

Thousands were denied disability benefits and did not receive proper examinations or treatments for their ailments. It would be long after Bush left office that the federal government would, haltingly and grudgingly, begin to honor disability claims from Desert Storm veterans. Even then, federal officials continued to deny that a toxic stew of low-level chemical agents and pesticides, the mandatory use of untested nerve agent “pretreatment” pills, and other toxins might be at the root of their medical problems.

The final legacy of Bush’s diplomatic work during and after the war was to draw the United States ever closer to the brutal, corrupt regimes that reside on the Arabian Peninsula. The most vicious of all is the mammoth of the two Bush rescued with Operation Desert Storm, a fact driven home by Saudi Arabia’s barbaric, American-supported war in Yemen and its murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

On a basic human level, all of us who have watched our parents or grandparents leave this world can identify with the raw feelings the Bush family has at this moment. Our empathy should not blind us to the fact that George Herbert Walker Bush’s White House tenure and legacy is a cautionary tale about the long-term human costs of short-term, politically expedient presidential decision making, both in war and its aftermath.

Portions of this piece are adapted from the author’s book, Long Strange Journey: An Intelligence Memoir.

Watch the video: Η Ταϊβάν θυμάται τον Β παγκόσμιο πόλεμο (November 2021).