While off the Japanese island of Chichijima on this day in history on Sept. 2, 1944, then-future President George H.W. Bush was the only survivor after his aircraft was shot down by enemy fire, according to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana.
At the time, Lt. Junior Grade George Bush was a pilot with Torpedo Squadron Fifty-One (VT-51) aboard the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto (CVL-30), a light carrier that was deployed in the North Pacific, according to U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.
Bush’s squadron was conducting a bombing mission when it encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire, according to records from the U.S. Navy.
"The engine on Bush’s plane was set ablaze, yet Bush managed to release his bombs and head back toward the aircraft carrier San Jacinto before bailing out over the water," said History.com.
Bush parachuted safely into the water.
Once in the water, he unleashed his inflatable yellow lifeboat, crawled in and paddled quickly out to sea, recounted the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.
Two other crew members perished in the attack, said the same source.
As a 20-year-old naval aviator, Bush survived for hours in the ocean until he was rescued by an American submarine, according the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.
The lifeguard submarine USS Finback surfaced and sailors fished him out of the water, according to the New England Historical Society.
Bush’s words on being rescued were, "Happy to be aboard."
He then spent a month on the submarine, often standing the midnight-to-4 a.m. watch, said the same source.
President Bush later described the event as one of the most dramatic moments of his life.
He is noted as saying the event was an experience that gave him a "sobering understanding of war and peace," according to U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.
"There's no question that it broadened my horizons," Bush also said of the incident, the same source recounted.
Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in action, according to WhiteHouse.gov.
Coming from a family steeped in public service, he was born in Milton, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1924, and became a student leader at Phillips Academy in Andover. On his 18th birthday he enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces, stated WhiteHouse.gov.
The youngest pilot in the Navy when he received his wings, he flew 58 combat missions during World War II, the same source noted.
Bush focused his energies on completing his education and raising a family.
In January 1945 he married Barbara Pierce. They had six children: George, Robin (who died as a child), John (known as Jeb), Neil, Marvin and Dorothy.
George W. Bush, America's 43rd president, served from 2001-2009.
The senior President Bush came to Yale on the G.I. Bill, and graduated from Yale in 1948.
Bush was the 41st president of the United States from 1989-1993.
"President Bush was the first sitting vice president to ascend to the presidency since 1837, and he was also only the second American president to serve a full term without party control in either chamber of Congress," stated the National Constitution Center.
Before serving as vice president from 1981 to 1989 under Ronald Reagan, President Bush held a number of senior-level positions, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in China, and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
George H.W. Bush passed away on Nov. 30, 2018, at the age of 94.