Modeling-ABC by Wilfried Eck


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The TBF/TBM Avengers of George H.W. Bush in WW II

- 3 x "Barbara" -

Annex to "Markings of the US Navy 1942-1944"

That in WW II the later US president named his torpedo bomber "Barbara" seems to be well known. - Not quite. He certainly flew more other planes than his Barbara and it was not his own either. Under what circumstances the missions took place is even less known. Here are the facts:

Drawings - Copyright - according to actual photos
Missions Bush was assigned to, additional remarks
His first Avenger

Avenger flight techniques.

"FT" shows that it is a torpedo bomber, stationed at the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale. Because a drawing signed by Bush in the Ft. Lauderdale Museum shows an Avenger with the number 42,  it's highly probable that he indeed flew a plane marked in this way. For Ens. Bush first station after having received his wings.

Ft. Lauderdale Avengers aircraft still in Blue Gray over Light Gray paint scheme.



Further flight techniques incl. carrier landings.

Belly landing on Nov. 01,1943 at NAS Chincoteaque, following a "landing gear malfunction" (Bush).

Letter "C" denotes "VC-51" (Composite Sqn. 51, TBF and SBD aircraft). After detachment of the Dauntless contingent the designation for the leftover torpedo bombers was changed  to "VT-51" on Nov. 08, 1943.


Shakedown cruise of Air Group 51 on CVL-30, "San Jacinto"

"Shakedown Cruise" was a fixed expression for making a squadron fit for combat. The 24 F6F-3 Hellcats and 8 TBM-1C Avengers of AG 51 also had to prove the required number of successful carrier landings.
The number 2 of VT-51 (radio call "Tare Two") had brackets for three F-56 cameras installed in the bomb bay for alternative reconnaissance missions, a K-20 was to be operated by the radio man in the lower crew compartment. It was therefore obvious that Ensign George H.W. Bush, already appointed "Squadron Photo Officer", could fly this aircraft more often than usual. In general, as Commander Melvin again emphasized orally, the Navy principle applied that aircraft were not assigned for personal use and personal decorations were prohibited.

In radio communication the No. 2 was called "Tare Two". But Bush baptized her "Barbara", the name of a girl who would become his wife on January 6, 1945. According to Navy rules, however, this was not visible externally.  

First Barbara
  1th combat tour in the Pacific, Wake Island, Marianas.

In April 1944, the light aircraft carrier "San Jacinto" reached the Pacific and on May 8 joined the fleet of 15 aircraft carriers (plus support ships) lying in Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The fleet's mission was "Operation Forager", capture of the Marianas (first Saipan in June 1944) and, to deceive Japan, bombing of Wake Island on May 23. Tare 2 in a dual role as bomber and reconnaissance aircraft.

The target of his first attack on June 12 was the radio station of the Aslito airbase on Saipan, but not with his "Barbara". She again had engine problems.

On June 19, 1944, - mass attack by Japanese planes to prevent the capture of Saipan - the fighters of the CVL-30 were also called upon, the deck had to be kept clear, "Tare 2" had to be catapulted from the deck at 11.57 hrs. On its way away from the carrier suddenly black smoke and falling oil pressure, return to the carrier no longer possible. The "Barbara" had to make an emergency water landing. But Bush and his two crew members could be saved by the destroyer DD-668 "Bronson".

other TBMs

No personal aircraft in the US Navy.

Because "Tare Two" was prone to engine problems, Bush inevitably had to fly other planes too (see BuAer numbers).

Even more so in June 1944, 6 out of 13 flights not in the Barbara (BuAer 16928, 16935, 25137, 16931, 25305, 48103).


Replacement Tare 2

Photo reconnaissance of the Palau Islands.

At the urging of the Marine Corps in preparation for the landing of troops, photographic coverage of terrain and Japanese positions on Peleliu.

The exact appearance of this replacement aircraft is unfortunately not photographically documented, but there is some evidence that no new number was assigned, but the previous one was kept.

It is unlikely that Bush again called this plane "Barbara".

It was still a TBF-1 (previous version of the improved TBM-1C) and had been in service with the VT-24 on CVL-24 "Belleau Wood". According to Bush an old clunker.

In August 1944 (date unknown) replaced by the new "Tare 3", again a TBM-1C.

Second Barbara

Silencing the Chichi Jima radio relay stations.

The new replacement aircraft came just in time for the planned switch-off of the central radio relay stations on Chi Chi Jima in the Bonin Islands at the end of August (why "Tare 3" was chosen is no longer known).
Probably because it was also equipped for photo missions and Bush - now Lieutenant (j.g.) - could assume that he would be able to fly it more often, he named it "Barbara" again.
The "Tare 3" did not live long, however. On Aug. 2, 1944, in approach to radio station #6 on the Asahi mountain the motor was hit. Although a significant plume of smoke could already be seen, Bush bombed nevertheless*, but due to loss of speed, he had to order "bail out" as soon as he reached open sea (crew members Delaney and White lost).
Although he was soon rescued by a waiting submarine, he had to stay on board the "Finback" until it arrived in Midway on September 24. Bush, however, who wanted to return to the VT-51 as soon as possible, had to take a rest leave in Hawaii by order.
* Distinguished Flying Cross for this action.
Third Barbara
  Manila Bay, Luzon.

Because of his involuntary rest leave and subsequent interim assignment to VT-100 Bush missed a participation in the Battle of Leyte Gulf and reached the "San Jacinto" only by a detour on November 2, 1944 in Ulithi Atoll.

After photo missions in the Manila Bay area, the last take-off with the number 2 (now "The Genuine Barbara"), which had been re-marked especially for Bush, took place on Nov. 13, 1944, 13:00 hours. A Japanese supply ship was shot on fire and photos were taken of Corregidor.

On Nov. 30, 1944, Air Group 51 ended its combat tour and was replaced by Air Group 45 until the end of the war.

A photo showing Bush in civilian clothes in a TBM-1C with "Barbara III" inscription, was probably taken later because of the ban on lettering during the period of operation and the unusual placement on the right side. Perhaps a press photo with the usual request for decoration.


Last flight from CVL-30 Intrepid

VT-45 on a parade flight, Japan, 09/02/1944.

Late variant of the Avenger (rocket stubs, lower crew station faired over, external landing hook and radar pod). Official letter "B" for CVL-30 instead of former informal "X" of AG-51, no side number.

CVL-30 in WW II:

CVL-30 San Jacinto with six F6F-3 Hellcat on test trip, painting Camouflage Measure 33, Design 7A

References: Robert B. Stinnett, "George Bush: HIS WORLD WAR II YEARS"; Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, ISBN 0-929521-49-1, Terzibaschitsch, Flugzeugträger der U.S. Navy, Bernard & Graefe Verlag; all photos US Navy

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