Combat Pilot

George H.W. Bush was changed forever by his time as a combat pilot in World War II.


Narrator: For the next month, George Bush joined the Finback's crew. Aboard he agonized about the fate of his gunner Ted White and radioman John Delaney. One went down with the plane. The other's chute never opened. "It still plagues me if I gave those guys enough time to get out," the former flyboy said with quiet emotion almost 60 years later. "I think about those guys all the time."

Timothy Naftali, biographer: He was an emotive, an emotional leader, much more emotional than people thought. He cried quite readily. One thing that made George Bush a less appealing candidate was that he refused to show his emotions. That's not what a man did -- a man of his generation and of his upbringing. And so the public saw a slightly awkward man who didn't seem quite ready to share his true self with them. When you got to know him, the human side, the emotional side was there. It came out.

Narrator: "I'll never forget the beauty of the Pacific," Bush would write about the watches he stood at night. He had time to think about "how much family meant to me." 


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  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH