George Bush, Sr.
In the early morning of September 2, 1944, Lt. (jg) Bush took off from the aircraft carrier, San Jacinto to join a raid against the nearby island fortress of Chichi Jima, which lies 600 miles south of Japan on the edge of a vast underwater canyon known as the Bonin Trench.
During his bombing run against a Japanese radio installation, Bush's aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft artillery and set afire. He completed his attack against the target and then headed out to sea to avoid further damage to the Avenger, knowing he and his crew would eventually have to bail out.
After ordering his crew to jump from their stricken craft, Bush exited the cockpit. His parachute opened prematurely, and he suffered a gashed head as he hit the plane's tail. Despite being stunned, he managed to free himself of the chute as he neared the ocean surface and dropped smoothly into the sea. After hours of floating in his life raft, Bush was rescued by the submarine Finback, which had been patrolling nearby. “Barbara III” drifted downward where it would lie forgotten in the abyss of the Bonin Trench.
Bush spent over one month aboard the Finback in the world of the silent service. He served as lookout, endured attack by depth charges and acquired a new respect for undersea warfare. Eventually, the Finback completed its war patrol and returned to Pearl Harbor. Another month passed before Bush rejoined his squadron aboard the San Jacinto to resume flying combat missions.Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal later awarded Bush the Distinguished Flying Cross, citing his heroism, extraordinary achievement and courage during the Chichi Jima raid.
George Bush, Sr. was saved by a one-man life raft designed by F. F. Patten.
Following is an excerpt from the book titled "A Charge to Keep" by George H. W. Bush:
"I was well aware of my dad's service as a Navy fighter pilot in World War II. I had heard the stories and seen the pictures of his dramatic rescue after he was shot down over the Pacific Ocean. I remember opening a scrapbook that Mother kept, and seeing a small piece of a rubber raft glued into the book. It was part of the raft that had saved Dad's life, kept him afloat until he was rescued from the water."
Letter to Fred Patten from Jeb Bush