Aviator George H. Bush, flying in a squadron of Torpedo Bombers (Avengers) from the light carrier San Jacinto, flew into a blanket of anti-aircraft fire as they attacked a radar installation on ChiChi Jima on September 2, 1944. After bombing his target, he flamed down, crashing into the sea. He was the only survivor. He was rescued by a submarine, and one month later he was returned to his ship.
During Typhoon Cobra (December 18-20, 1944), young Lieutenant Gerald Ford (who replaced Nixon upon his impending impeachment) led a brigade of fire-control sailors into the hangar deck of the light carrier Monterey where partially gassed planes, slammed about by the treacherous seas, caught fire. President Ford’s actions helped saved the ship from complete disaster.
Young Lieutenant John F. Kennedy’s PT Boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer in the Solomons during the night of Aug. 1, 1943. The torpedo boat sank. Two crewmembers died, but 11 survived. Kennedy’s heroics, swimming for miles while belt-towing an injured crewman and their subsequent six day cat and mouse escape from Japanese patrols, is the stuff of legends.
His predecessor, President Dwight Eisenhower, well . . . we all know his story.
None of the Presidents who served after H W Bush served in the active-duty or combat military. Arizona Senator and presidential candidate John McCain, whose grandfather, Admiral John S. McCain Sr. was Task Force Commander during WWII, and whose father, Admiral John S. McCain Jr. served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, passed away yesterday. He, like his predecessors, was a naval aviator. In October 1967 his plane was shot down during a bombing mission over Hanoi. The seriously injured pilot was captured and remained a prisoner until 1973. He suffered from broken limbs, barbaric torture, illnesses, deprivations of all sorts, and attempts by the North Vietnamese to betray his country. He never did.
There was a time when the passing of a man of great tenacity and courage in battle, a hero by (just about) everyone’s definition, a man who devoted his life to serving his country, would have brought unequivocal praise, honor and respect by the President.