Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
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Posts tagged "World War II"

With millions of Americans fighting overseas during World War II, most newspapers across the United States printed daily lists of American soldiers who had died in battle.  After 12 years as President through the Great Depression and World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt died at his post on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia.  In one of the most fitting tributes to a Commander-in-Chief, the following day’s list of war casualties in many American newspapers included FDR’s name next to his soldiers.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
whats the name of the book by fdr's doctor
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

The book about FDR’s health isn’t by his doctor, but is a relatively recent book that I reviewed and have mentioned a few times: “FDR’s Deadly Secret” by Dr. Steven Lomazow and Eric Fettman. It’s a revealing look inside the health crises that took place during Roosevelt’s Administration and eventually killed him early in his fourth term.

Most astonishing is the possibility that FDR’s doctors and President Roosevelt himself covered up how seriously ill he was at times, particularly in 1944, in the midst of World War II, as he sought his unprecedented fourth term in the White House. Dr. Lomazow and Fettman make a convincing case that FDR had terminal brain cancer and abdominal cancer towards the end of his Presidency, knew about it, covered it up and ran for another term, and that his existing illnesses contributed to the cerebral hemorrhage which killed him on April 12, 1945.

I highly recommend “FDR’s Deadly Secret”. And for those who think it is crazy to believe that President Roosevelt would cover up or lie about his health, let’s not forget that FDR was somehow successful at hiding the fact that HE COULDN’T WALK from most Americans despite the fact that he was President longer than anyone in history ever was or ever will be. Keeping an illness hush-hush wasn’t a stretch for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

(By the way, I’m totally fine with FDR lying about his health and staying in office to try to finish the job. We were in the middle of the biggest, most dangerous war in the history of human existence. We needed leaders like FDR and Winston Churchill as bad as guns needed bullets. A dying FDR and drunk Churchill were worth more than any other two leaders at their very best.)

Asker Anonymous Asks:
So my professor told us that they never found hitlers body. That's not true right? They found him and his wife dead from killing themselves and burned their bodies and buried them out from of where hitler was hiding? Maybe in wrong. I thought they did find it.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

This is one of those things that a group of people are always going to find some way to dise or argue, but your professor is wrong and you are right.

After Hitler and Eva Braun killed themselves, they were taking outside of the bunker and their bodies were burned and buried in a crater left behind by artillery shells or bombs. Hitler was adamant that his aides burn his body because he had learned that his buddy Mussolini, who had been executed by firing squad alongside his mistress, had his corpse dumped in a town square where angry Italians spit on it and mutilated it before stringing his dead body up by his feet. Hitler didn’t want any disgruntled Germans who might still be alive to have the same opportunity.

The remains of Hitler and Braun were badly burned, so they weren’t immediately recognizable (unlike Goebbels, whose body was also burned, but still easily identified). When the Soviets cleared the bunker a couple of days later, they found the charred corpses of Hitler and Braun and extensive interrogations of Nazi leaders who had been in the bunker in the final days (now being held as Soviet prisoners) all confirmed how Hitler had died and where he was buried. The Soviets took possession of what was left of Hitler and Braun, and although there were rumors that Hitler had survived and escaped to South America or wherever, he was dead. The Soviets even suggested at times that Hitler escaped — Stalin flat-out told Truman that Hitler was still alive despite the fact that the Soviets actually had his charred corpse. Eventually, the Soviets cremated the remains for good and dispersed them in a way that ensured there wouldn’t be a final resting place that might become a rallying point for Hitler’s supporters.

In a kind of creepy epilogue, there’s now an apartment building on the site of where the Reich Chancelerry (Hitler’s bunker) was located in Berlin and the place where the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were burned and buried is actually a sandbox next to playground for children.

Asker bbkld Asks:
Have you read anything about Stalin's and Churchill's opinion of Truman after their meeting at Potsdam?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

There’s a great book by Michael Dobbs which focuses on the relationships between the Allied leaders in the last few months of World War II called Six Months in 1945: FDR, Stalin, Churchill, and Truman — From World War to Cold War that really goes in-depth about how they worked and felt about each other.

At Postdam, tensions were starting to rise with the Soviet Union because Truman was more suspicious about Communist intentions in post-war Europe than the ailing FDR had been at Yalta.  Churchill was in a rough spot at Potsdam because he had lost his election back in Great Britain and the new Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, replaced Winston halfway through the conference.

Despite their suspicions, Truman and Stalin liked each other because they were both straight shooters and salt-of-the-earth characters.  Churchill was wary of Truman at first — more out of his love and loyalty for the late FDR than anything else — but he quickly warmed up to him and later told Truman, “I misjudged you badly.  Since that time, you, more than any other man, have saved Western Civilization.”

But Potsdam was a stressful, tense gathering.  It was at the conference that President Truman learned that the atomic bomb had tested successfully and he nervously approached Stalin to notify him of the bomb and its power.  It was, obviously, a big secret, so Truman wasn’t sure how Stalin would react.  Churchill had been filled in on it and watched to see Stalin’s reaction when Truman filled him in about the destructive power of the bomb.  Stalin seemed nonplussed and Truman and Churchill decided amongst themselves afterward that Stalin must not have understood the specifics of the bomb as Truman explained it.

The truth, however, was that Stalin didn’t seem phased by the news because Soviet spies in the United States had already kept him informed about the Manhattan Project.  In fact, Stalin knew about the atomic bomb before Truman (who only learned of its existence after FDR died and he assumed the Presidency) found out about it!

I misjudged you badly. Since that time, you, more than any other man, have saved Western Civilization.

Winston Churchill, to Harry Truman, who Churchill admittedly underestimated and doubted when Truman succeeded to the Presidency upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt

He deserved a good time. He was married to Eleanor.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, oldest daughter of Theodore Roosevelt (and Eleanor Roosevelt’s first cousin), explaining why she set up dinner dates between Franklin D. Roosevelt and his mistress, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, at Alice’s home when Eleanor was out of town.

Eleanor first learned of the affair between FDR and Lucy, who Eleanor had originally hired to serve as her personal secretary, back in 1918 when FDR was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. At the time, she threatened to divorce Franklin unless he stopped seeing Lucy immediately. FDR agreed because he was still building his political career and a divorce on grounds of adultery would be a lethal blow to his ambitions.

FDR may have kept his promise to Eleanor for a short time, but the affair eventually continued. Alice Roosevelt Longworth wasn’t the only Roosevelt family member who helped facilitate meetings between FDR and Lucy — FDR and Eleanor’s daughter, Anna, also helped the two find time to spend together. Anna Roosevelt said that Lucy helped her father relax and loved him unconditionally, which was not something FDR found with Eleanor.

Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd was with FDR literally until the end of his life. When the President died suddenly in Warm Springs, Georgia, Lucy was in the room with him. His trip to Warm Springs was meant to be one of rest and relaxation, so a visit from Lucy had been arranged. After FDR died, Lucy quickly left Warm Springs in order to guard against any impropriety.

Lucy also wanted to be gone before Eleanor Roosevelt arrived in Warm Springs to escort her husband’s body back to Washington. When Eleanor arrived at the “Little White House” in Georgia, the newly-widowed First Lady learned, just hours after her husband died, that he not only continued the affair that she had threatened divorce over nearly two decades earlier, but that the woman she had forbidden Franklin from seeing was with him in his final hours, sharing his final laughs, and at his bedside as he took his final breaths.

Learning of Franklin’s treachery would have been difficult at any time because Eleanor believed that his 1918 pledge to cut all ties with Lucy Mercer had been given in earnest. She felt that FDR’s desire to maintain a strong family unit and accomplish his ambitious political goals was far more powerful than any weakness for womanizing or simple fling with a social secretary. The fact that Franklin was willing to risk everything by continuing his affair must have been sobering to Eleanor because it clearly meant that Lucy was far more to FDR than a “simple fling”. And, as devastating and humiliating as it must have been to follow up the news of FDR’s sudden death by learning the shocking news that the affair survived, could you imagine a more agonizing detail than the revelation that Eleanor’s only daughter happily helped facilitate meetings between FDR and Lucy?

Over the next few days, as she accompanied FDR’s casket on a special train from Georgia to Washington, stood tall through traditional state funeral ceremonies in the nation’s capital, and brought the longest-serving President in American history home for burial at his Hyde Park estate on New York’s Hudson River, Eleanor Roosevelt displayed a quiet elegance and stoic dignity that never once hinted at the pain or frustration she must have felt at being betrayed by a husband whose ambitions she always put first, even if they conflicted directly with Eleanor’s own political beliefs or ideological aims.

Knowing now what Eleanor Roosevelt learned in the wake of her husband’s death, her poise and selflessness is remarkable. No matter what she was feeling personally, she recognized (via political instincts that were often as keen as FDR’s) that the nation had lost the President who led them through the Great Depression and most of WWII. While FDR may have betrayed her, the American people loved their deceased President and she was their conduit to his memory. With Americans still dying in Europe and the Pacific, Eleanor understood she had a part to play during the mourning period. She was up to the challenge and exceptional in the role.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Know any good anti-racist stories about presidents before they became president?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I love the story of Felix Longoria and LBJ.  Felix Longoria was a Mexican-American from a small town in Texas who was killed on Luzon during World War II.  A couple of years after the war, Longoria’s family had his body transported from the Philippines for burial in his hometown in South Texas.  The owner of the funeral home in Longoria’s hometown refused to bury the soldier because “The Whites won’t like it.”

Longoria’s wife contacted the leader of a Texas group that was working to ensure that Mexican-American veterans received the benefits that they deserved once they returned home from the war.  That man sent letters and telegrams to military leaders, members of Congress, and Texas’s new Senator — Lyndon B. Johnson.

As soon as LBJ received the telegram and learned about Longoria, he immediately summoned his staff and said, “By God, we’ll bury him in Arlington.”  LBJ put his staff to work on the case and sent a telegram to the leader of the Texas group working on Mrs. Longoria’s behalf that makes me emotional every time I read it: 

I deeply regret to learn that the prejudice of some individuals extends even beyond this life.  I have no authority over civilian funeral homes, nor does the federal government.  However, I have today made arrangements to have Felix Longoria buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery here at Washington where the honored dead of our nation’s wars rest.  Or, if his family prefers to have his body interred nearer his home he can be reburied at Fort Sam Houston Military Cemetery at San Antonio.  There will be no cost.  If his widow desires to have him reburied in either cemetery, she should send me a collect telegram before his body is unloaded from an army transport at San Francisco, January 15.  This injustice and prejudice is deplorable.  I am happy to have a part in seeing that this Texas hero is laid to rest with the honor and dignity his service deserves.

Lyndon B. Johnson USS [United States Senator]

Instead of the small cemetery in Three Rivers, Texas, Felix Longoria was buried with full military honors in America’s most hallowed ground — Arlington National Cemetery.  Lyndon B. Johnson had used all of the power of his office to right the injustice perpetrated against an American hero by people in his own home state.  

Remarkably, when LBJ sent the telegram above, he had only been a United States Senator for eight days.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I read about FDR's relations with Hoover and Wilkie thanks to you, but what where his views on Landon and Dewey?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Alf Landon is either completely forgotten or used as a punchline because FDR destroyed him by an ungodly margin in the 1936 election, but Landon, who was Governor of Kansas, was a highly-respected leader by politicians on both sides of the aisle.  FDR liked him and even offered Landon a spot in his Cabinet later in his Presidency.  Landon liked FDR, too, supported him on numerous issues (including a lot of the New Deal) and really wasn’t that distant from Roosevelt ideologically.  Unfortunately for Landon, he faced FDR in 1936 when Roosevelt was really at the top of his game, as popular as he would be during his 12-year-long Presidency, and also as healthy as he would be during his Presidency.  

All of that turned FDR into a steamroller and poor Governor Landon just happened to be the opposition.  It must not have eaten at Landon too much because he lived until 1987.  That’s right — the second person to run against Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn’t pass away until 1987 when he was 100 years old.

The campaign between FDR and Thomas E. Dewey in 1944 was significantly different because it took place in the midst of World War II and because FDR was obviously dying.  In 1944, FDR didn’t quite have the energy that he used to have on the campaign trail.  Dewey, on the other hand, was only 42 years old and had all of the energy in the world.  Instead of hammering Roosevelt’s policies, Dewey took a ton of shots at FDR’s fitness for continuing as President when his health was failing and his physical appearance was deteriorating frighteningly.  Roosevelt didn’t know Dewey as well as he had known Hoover (a former friend), Landon (whom FDR respected and liked personally), or Willkie, who ended up being close to Roosevelt and serve as a special envoy to war-torn Europe.  FDR’s campaign focused on what Roosevelt had accomplished and how close the Allies were to bringing World War II to an end.  Roosevelt really didn’t run against Dewey in 1944, he ran (as much as FDR could run — get it? because he was crippled — too soon?) on his own record and on the always-effective argument that you don’t swap horses in the middle of the stream, particularly when that stream is the deadliest and most horrific war in the history of the world.

Incidentally, the best quote about Thomas E. Dewey during the 1944 campaign came from a Roosevelt, but not from Franklin.  FDR’s cousin and Theodore Roosevelt’s oldest daughter, the acid-tongued Alice Roosevelt Longworth — described Dewey as the little groom figurine on the top of a wedding cake because his mustache made him look like that was exactly where he belonged.

Of course, the worries that Governor Dewey expressed throughout the 1944 campaign about FDR’s fitness to remain in the White House and the President’s failing health were completely accurate.  Five months after Roosevelt defeated Dewey, FDR was dead.  Dewey was nominated once again by the GOP four years later, in 1948, against FDR’s successor, Harry S. Truman.  And as even casual readers of history know, some newspaper editors jumped the gun with the morning edition that was being published for the day after Election Day because Dewey did not defeat Truman.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Is it true that Truman had no idea about the atomic bomb until after he became president?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

It’s absolutely true.

Truman was urgently called to the White House on the evening of April 12, 1945 and when he arrived, Eleanor Roosevelt told him that FDR was dead.  A few minutes after 7:00 PM, Truman was sworn in as President in the Cabinet Room and had a brief meeting with Roosevelt’s Cabinet (which was now Truman’s Cabinet).  Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson lingered after the other Cabinet members left and, when he and the new President were alone, basically told Truman, “So…there’s something you should know…”

I’m paraphrasing, of course, but it really wasn’t much more than that at first.  Truman was already overwhelmed by being thrust so suddenly into the Presidency — many people don’t realize that Truman was only Vice President for 82 days.  Everything was a whirlwind in April 1945.  FDR died on April 12th.  The Allies were meeting in San Francisco to form the United Nations on April 25th.  Mussolini died on April 28th.  Hitler died on April 30th.  American, British, and Soviet forces were closing in on Berlin as the month came to an end.  And, through it all, Truman took the reins of government, attempting to fill a seat held by a President and Commander-in-Chief who had held the White House longer than anyone else in history ever had and ever would.  

Imagine, in the midst of all of that, being told for the very first time — and only because he unexpectedly became President — of a massive and devastating weapon that was so new and so unheard of that Truman wasn’t only informed about it, but he had to be educated about how it worked and what it might be able to do (if it worked, of course).  Secretary Stimson gave Truman a bare bones description on the night that Roosevelt died.  It wasn’t until he was able to get more in-depth briefings over the next few days with other FDR Administration insiders and scientists involved with the bomb’s development that Truman gained a real understanding about exactly what the bomb might be capable of.  Pretty crazy, right?  Welcome to the White House, Mr. President.

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The USS Finback, a 312-foot-long Gato-class submarine surfaced a little before noon on September 2, 1944 in the treacherous waters near Chichi Jima, the site of a Japanese military base on one of the Bonin Islands, approximately 150 miles north of Iwo Jima.  The Finback was assigned “lifeguard duty” and was performing search and rescue missions for American airmen who had been shot down in action and might have survived via bail-out or crash landing.

Earlier that morning, four TBM Avenger aircraft had launched from the USS San Jacinto targeting radio installations on Chichi Jima.  At around 8:30 AM, one of the Avengers was blasted by Japanese anti-aircraft shells as it made its bombing run over the island.  With the plane on fire and losing control, the pilot continued his run, dropping his four 500-pound bombs on the target he had been given that morning on the San Jacinto.  Turning back towards the sea, smoke and flames filled the cockpit, choking the crew of three.  Working hard to create distance between the island and the failing aircraft, the pilot ordered his crew to bail out by parachute, shouting “Hit the silk!” over the Avenger’s radio.

As the pilot exited the aircraft, his head smashed into the plane’s tail, slicing a thick gash above his eye, tearing panels from his chute, and sending him plummeting towards the sea at a higher rate of speed than he should have been.  Still, he splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and another American plane dropped a life raft near him.  He was alive.  He was alone.

On Chichi Jima, four miles to the southwest, Japanese authorities began to organize a search party to capture any downed American pilots who might have survived.  Boats were launched to find them.  The pilot, stung by a Portuguese man-o-war, vomiting from ingesting sea water, and dazed from the trauma of the attack and the bleeding head wound, still had the presence of mind to begin paddling away from Chichi Jima.  Allied forces never captured Chichi Jima during the war, and reports of atrocities ranging from Japanese soldiers summarily beheading Allied prisoners to cannibalism of POWs by Japanese troops led to the post-war execution of five of Chichi Jima’s leading officers, including the commander, Major Sueo Matoba.

The current was sweeping the Avenger’s pilot towards Chichi Jima and he desperately paddled against it and out into the open sea.  Other members of his aerial squadron opened fire to keep away the Japanese boats heading towards him while another American aircraft radioed the downed pilot’s position to the Finback, which steamed towards him.

When the submarine surfaced, it was unclear to the pilot whether he had been rescued or captured.  Then five American submariners appeared on the deck.  Grainy video footage, now nearly 70 years old, survives of the Finback's submariners fishing the gangly, 6'2” pilot from the sea after his three-hour-long ordeal battling injuries and the Pacific Ocean.  

Like so many of the soldiers and sailors risking and sacrificing their lives on distant continents and in remote seas; like the men who saved his life on that September 2, 1944, the pilot was very young — just 20 years old.

His name was George Herbert Walker Bush. 

•••

Today, George H.W. Bush celebrates his 89th birthday and is one of the longest-living Presidents in American history.  He was 17 years old and attending the elite Philips Academy boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts when Pearl Harbor was bombed.  As Bush and many of his fellow well-to-do classmates prepared to graduate in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson gave a commencement address urging the patrician prep school grads to go to college first rather than to enlist in the war.  Four days after graduating, Bush turned 18 years old and immediately enlisted in the United States Navy.

With the influence of his father, Bush could have found himself in any number of safe, stateside jobs in the service.  Instead, he became the Navy’s youngest fighter pilot.  Even before being shot down over Chichi Jima, Bush had experienced the rough landings of flight training and ravages of war.  During training, he totaled a plane during a crash landing.  In June 1944, he was forced to ditch his plane — fully-loaded with bombs — in the sea during a mission, escaped the plane just before it exploded, and had to be rescued by the USS Bronson.  By the war’s end, Bush had flown 58 combat missions during 1,228 hours of total flight time.  There were 14 pilots who originally formed Bush’s VT-51 torpedo bomber flight squadron; when he was discharged from the service in September 1945, Bush and just three other pilots from that squadron survived.

Yet, it wasn’t what he saw that haunted George H.W. Bush — indeed, what haunts him still today.  It was what he didn’t see as he parachuted out of the burning wreckage of his TBM Avenger on September 2, 1944.  Or who he didn’t see.

•••

As Bush prepared to bomb Chichi Jima that morning, he was joined by two crew members in his TBM Avenger, tailgunner Ted White and radioman John Delaney.  At 26, White was a few years older than Bush, but their fathers had been classmates at Yale, which created an obvious connection between the two young men aboard the San Jacinto.  White wasn’t a normal member of Bush’s crew but, that morning, requested that he be allowed to replace Bush’s regular tailgunner, Leo Nadeau, and received permission.

When their plane was hit, Bush did all he could to order his two crewmembers to bail out of the plane and assist them in doing so, but the black smoke and flames tearing through the aircraft made it impossible for the pilot to see if White and Delaney had indeed exited the plane.  Not only had Bush turned the badly-damaged plane out towards the sea, but he dipped the wings to make it easier for the crew members to pop open their door on the left side of the aircraft and bail out.  By doing this, Bush cost himself some precious time and made his own exit from the Avenger more difficult — perhaps the reason he slammed against the tail of the aircraft as he parachuted out.

Other American pilots in Bush’s squadron that morning said that they noticed two parachutes deploy from Bush’s Avenger.  As Bush plummeted towards the Pacific Ocean, he scanned the sky for the chutes of Delaney and White, but saw neither.  As he paddled with one hand in his life raft to get as far away from the coast of Chichi Jima as possible, Bush continued to search the sky and the sea for his crewmates.  But it was to no avail.  John Delaney and Ted White were never found.  If one of the two men did bail out of the plane with Bush and deploy his parachute, he was immediately lost and the same pilots that radioed Bush’s position to the Finback never located him.  The other man most likely went down with the crippled TBM Avenger.

Nearly 60 years later, when Bush’s son had also been elected President of the United States, Bush visited the Bonin Islands and spoke to CNN about his ordeal.  With all of the experiences of his life — all of the triumphs and tragedies — it was the loss of Ted White and John Delaney which continued to weigh heavily on George H.W. Bush.  “I wake up at night and think about it sometimes,” the former President told CNN, “Could I have done something differently?  I’m not haunted by anything other than the fact I feel a responsibility for the lives of the two people that were killed.  I wonder if I could have done something different?  I wonder who got out of the plane?  I wonder — wonder why the chute didn’t open for the other guy?  Why me?  Why am I blessed?  Why am I still alive?  That has plagued me.”

How much did it plague George H.W. Bush?  When the author and historian James Bradley interviewed the former President about his story for Bradley’s book Flyboys, Bush startled Bradley by asking the author if he had any new information about the fates of John Delaney and Ted White.  

•••

When the Finback surfaced and fished George Herbert Walker Bush out of the sea, the submariners treated him for his wounds, fed him, gave him new clothes to wear, and he became a part of the Finback crew — an honorary submariner — for the next month, as the submarine continued its mission, patrolling hot spots in the Pacific Theater just in case another downed pilot required rescue.

Everything was still raw when the future President sat down the next day at a typewriter on the Finback and pecked out a letter to his parents back home in Connecticut.  It is the testament of a 20-year-old man born with all of the advantages in the world, sharing his story with his parents and letting them know how the war had touched him…and how it could easily touch them:

Dear Mother and Dad,

This will be the first letter you have gotten from me in a good long while.  I wish I could tell you that as I write this I am feeling well and happy.  Physically I am O.K., but I am troubled inside and with good cause.  Here is the whole story at least as much of it as I am allowed to relate right now.

Yesterday was a day which will long stand in my memory.  I was on a bombing hop with Delaney as my radioman and Lt. (j.g.) Ted White as my gunner.  He did not usually fly, but I asked him if he would like to go with me and he wanted to.  We had the usual joking around in the ready room about having to bail out etc. — at that time it all seemed so friendly and innocent but now it seems awful and sinister.

I will have to skip all the details of the attack as they would not pass the censorship, but the fact remains that we got hit.  The cockpit filled with smoke and I told the boys in back to get their parachutes on.  They didn’t answer at all, but I looked around and couldn’t see Ted in the turret so I assumed he had gone below to get his chute fastened on.  I headed the plane out to sea and put on the throttle so as we could get away from the land as much as possible.  I am not too clear about the next parts.  I told them to bail out, and then I called up the skipper and told him I was bailing out.  My crewmen never acknowledged either transmission, and yet the radio gear was working — at least mine was and unless they had been hit back there theirs should have been, as we had talked not long before.  I heard the skipper say something but things were happening so fast that I don’t quite remember what it was.  I turned the plane up in an attitude so as to take pressure off the back hatch so the boys could get out.  After that I straightened up and started to get out myself.  At that time I felt certain that they had bailed out.  The cockpit was full of smoke and I was choking from it.  I glanced at the wings and noticed that they were on fire.  I still do not know where we got hit and never will.  I am now beginning to think that perhaps some of the fragments may have either killed the two in back, or possibly knocked out their communications.

Fortunately I had fastened all my straps before the dive and also I had left my hatch open, something I hadn’t been doing before.  Just the day before I had asked the skipper and he advised leaving it open in a dive.  The jump itself wasn’t too bad.  I stuck my head out first and the old wind really blew me the rest of the way out.  I do remember tugging at my radio cord which I had forgotten to unplug.  As I left the plane my head struck the tail.  I now have a cut head and bruised eye but it is far from serious.  After jumping, I must have pulled the ripcord too soon for when I was floating down, I looked up at the canopy and several of the panels were all ripped out.  Just as I got floating down, I saw the plane strike the water.  In the meantime, I noticed that there was a liferaft down in the water.  Not until later did I discover that it was mine that was supposed to be attached to my lifejacket.  I had forgotten to hook it on, and when I left the plane it had come loose and had fallen into the water.  Fortunately, the wind didn’t carry me too far away from the raft.  The entrance into the water was not too bad.  I had unloosened several of my chute straps so that when it came to getting out of the harness I wouldn’t have too many buckles to undo under the water.  I went fairly deep when I hit, but not deep enough to notice any pressure or anything.  I shook the harness and the wind carried the chute away on the water.  The wind was blowing towards shore, so I made every effort to head the other way.  The skipper saw me and he saw my raft, so he made a pass over it to point it out to me.  I had inflated my mae west [sailors called their inflatable yellow life vests “Mae Wests”] and then started swimming towards the raft.  Fortunately, the fall hadn’t injured the boat, so it inflated easily and I struggled into it.  I then realized that I had overexerted myself swimming, because suddenly I felt quite tired.  I was still afraid that the wind would take me in closer so I began paddling.  It was a hell of a job to keep the water out of the raft.  In fact I never did get it bailed out completely.  At first I was scared that perhaps a boat would put out from shore which was very close by, but I guess our planes made them think twice about that.  A few fighter planes stayed nearby the whole time until I was rescued and you can imagine how comfortable that was.  One of them came right over me and dropped me some medical supplies which were most welcome, since I had no idea how badly cut up I was.  It turned out to be slight, but did use the iodine anyway.  I had some dye marker attached to my life jacket and also there was some in the raft so I sprinkled a bit of that on the water so the planes could see me easily.  I took inventory of my supplies and discovered that I had no water.  The water had broken open when the raft fell from the plane I imagine.  I had a mirror and some other equipment, and also was wearing my own gun and knife.

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.  The fact that our planes didn’t seem to be searching anymore showed me pretty clearly that they had not gotten out.  I’m afraid I was pretty much of a sissy about it cause I sat in my raft and sobbed for awhile.  It bothers me so very much.  I did tell them and when I bailed out I felt that they must have gone, and yet now 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.

I floated around for a couple of hours during which time I was violently sick to my stomach, and then the planes started zooming me, pointing out my position to my rescuers.  You can imagine how happy I was when I saw this submarine hove into view.  They pulled me out of the raft and took me below where they fixed me up in grand style.  As I write this I am aboard the sub — don’t know how long I will be here, or when I will get back to the squadron.

As I said physically I am o.k.  The food aboard here is unequaled anywhere I have ever seen.  I am getting plenty of sleep and am even standing watches so that I will get the air occasionally.  My back ached as did my leg last nite, and also my seat was a bit sore from the chute straps, but the pharmacist mate rubbed me down and today I feel much better.  Last nite I rolled and tossed.  I kept reliving the whole experience.  My heart aches for the families of those two boys with me.  Delaney had always been a fine loyal crewman.  His devotion to duty was at all times highly commendable and his personality most pleasing.  I shall most certainly write to his family after I am sure they have been notified by the Bureau.

As for Ted White, I have spoken of him several times in my letters before.  He was the fellow from Yale, one class ahead of Stu Clement [Bush’s first cousin].  He comes from St. Paul Minn.  White Bear Lake to be exact.  Perhaps Dad, you know the family.  If so do not write them until you get the word from me or elsewhere that the family has been officially notified.  There is a possibility that they parachuted and I didn’t see them, but I am afraid it is quite remote as we received a message aboard here last nite saying that only one chute opened.  All in all it is terribly discouraging and frankly it bothers me a good deal.

As time goes by I shall add bits to this letter and will mail it at my earliest possible convenience.  I shall do the same by Bar, but shall not go into detail like this over my experience so please read her the parts of the letter which might interest her.  It’s a funny thing how much I thought about Bar during the whole experience.  What I wouldn’t give to be with her right now.  Just to see that lovely face and those beautiful eyes and to know she was by my side.  Right now I long to be with you so much.  To be with you both and to be with Bar is my main desire — at least it won’t be too long, the time is going by quite rapidly.

Please excuse all my misspellings — they are caused not from ignorance but from carelessness in operating this machine.

much much love to you all,
your ever devoted and loving son,
Pop  

•••

As he celebrates his 89th birthday, George Herbert Walker Bush has been many things to many people, and has done so much for so many more.

During the Vietnam War, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Fortunate Son” sang: "It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no Senator’s son/It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no."

Not too long after World War II, George H.W. Bush was a Senator’s son — his father Prescott was elected to the U.S. Senate from Connecticut.  Later, George Bush blazed his own trail.  Oilman.  U.S. Representative from Texas.  An unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate from Texas (encouraged by the Texas Democrat and President Lyndon B. Johnson that the difference between the House and the Senate was the difference between “chicken shit and chicken salad”).  U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.  Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  Chief U.S. Liasion in China.  CIA Director.  Vice President of the United States under Ronald Reagan.  President of the United States (“41”).  Father of a President (“43”) and Governor.

But before everything — George Herbert Walker Bush was a war hero.  And he was a war hero because of his love, honor, and duty to his country.

Just don’t ask George Bush if he was a war hero.

"It was just part of my duty.  People say ‘war hero’.  How come a guy who gets his airplane shot down is a hero and a guy who’s good enough that he doesn’t get shot down is not?  Ask [John F.] Kennedy about it, why are you a hero?  ‘They sank my boat.’  Why am I a hero?  They shot down my airplane."

Here is the trailer for Brotherhood, which you can also watch on our Kickstarter page.  Please share the Kickstarter page with your friends and family, consider making a contribution, and check out the incentives for those contributors who do offer support.  

This documentary is more than a film; it’s an appreciation and a way to preserve for history the stories of those veterans who served and sacrificed, from World War II to the War on Terror. 

Goodbye Daniel, Ihardlynouye!
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I was definitely bummed to hear that Senator Inouye passed away on Monday.  I had actually been reading quite a bit about Inouye recently, and his death came just a few days after I had mentioned him in a post after the Senate’s despicable rejection of the United Nations treaty on the rights of disabled people. 

The word “hero” is frequently over-used, but not in the case of Daniel Inouye.  The Senator was a true American hero, a legendary warrior in the most decorated American combat unit of World War II, and a man who selflessly dedicated his entire life to serving our country and the people of Hawaii.  I can’t imagine that too many years will pass before Hawaii replaces one of its two statues in the National Statuary Hall with a likeness of Daniel Inouye. 

I also found it to be fitting and beautiful that the last thing that Senator Inouye said before dying was “Aloha”.

Anonymous asked:  Any thoughts on Bob Dole’s recent Senate appearance to ask for the passing to the UN Disability Treaty?

I wish I could say that I was surprised that the Senate didn’t do the right thing despite the appearance and support of a nearly 90-year-old Bob Dole who not only dedicated his life to public service, but did so with significant disabilities because of the fact that he very nearly gave up his life fighting for this country in World War II.

I wish I could say that I was surprised, but I’m not.  Nothing surprises me anymore about the Senate or the House, particularly in this 112th Congress.  I’m hoping that enough was done in November to, for a lack of a better term, flush the waste out of the Capitol so that the 113th Congress can get some good things done for our country.

It just makes me angry now.  It makes me angry that these are our representatives.  It makes me angry that 38 United States Senators voted against ratifying a treaty that was basically an international version of our own American With Disabilities Act.  The United Nations modeled the treaty after the ADA in order to urge people around the world to take care of and no discriminate against people with disabilities.  And after frail, wheelchair bound Bob Dole made an appearance in support of the treaty’s ratification, he was wheeled out of the Senate chamber and 38 American Senators said no. 

Thirty-eight American Senators opposed that treaty while Arizona Senator John McCain, who spent nearly six years being tortured in a North Vietnamese prison and can’t even raise his arm into the air to be recognized by the presiding officer, sat in that chamber.  I can’t even imagine how Senator McCain can caucus with those Senators in the future and work together with them.  I can’t understand it.

38.  Thirty-eight Senators rejected that treaty while Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye was in the chamber.  Senator Inouye is 88 years old and disabled.  Do you know why Senator Inouye is disabled?  BECAUSE HE LEFT HIS ARM ON A HILLSIDE IN ITALY FIGHTING FOR HIS COUNTRY.  That was after he had already been shot in the stomach attacking a German bunker.  A German grenade blew his right arm off of his body as Inouye prepared to toss his own grenade.  Do you know what happened when Daniel Inouye’s arm was blown off of his body?  He reached down with the arm he had left, pulled the grenade that he was about to throw out of the closed hand of his severed right arm, and then he finished the job that he had started, tossed the grenade at the Germans, and kept shooting with the arm he had left until he passed out.  Thirty-eight of Senator Inouye’s colleagues rejected an international treaty protecting the rights of people like Inouye as he sat there.

It’s shameful.  After the vote, John Kerry (another American who served his country and was wounded in combat, by the way) said it was “one of the saddest days I’ve seen in almost 28 years in the Senate and it needs to be a wake-up call about a broken institution that’s letting down the American people.”  I couldn’t agree more with Senator Kerry except for one thing:  rejecting this treaty lets down the people of the world — 700 million of whom are disabled.

Thirty-eight United States Senators should be ashamed of themselves and their constituents should be disgusted by their representation.  Shame on you, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Boozman of Arkansas, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Dan Coats of Indiana, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Bob Corker of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Mike Lee of Utah (who took the lead in opposing the treaty’s ratification), Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jim Risch of Idaho, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Richard Shelby of Alabama, John Thune of South Dakota, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, David Vitter of Louisiana, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.  If I were running the DSCC, I would target all 38 of you in your next campaigns and lay your vote for the rejection of this treaty’s ratification on your doorstep every night so that you step in it every morning and drag it with you every time that you speak to a veterans organization or a group of people with disabilities or a senior citizen.  I’d add “go to hell”, but with the 112th Congress in charge, I’m not positive that we aren’t already there.