The George Bush Wreck

Former US President George HW Bush has just died at the age of 94. He was the 41st US president and served between 1989 and 1993.

During WW2 he was a US Navy carrier pilot on the USS San Jacinto. This was at a time when being a naval aviator was incredibly dangerous. Many did not survive training. Flying off a carrier was dangerous and navigating back to a carrier after a mission offered many opportunities for fatal errors.

In 1943 Bush piloted one of four Grumman TBM Avengers that attacked the Japanese installations on Chichijima. He was shot down and spent four hours on a raft before being rescued by a US submarine. Several of those shot down during the attack were executed, and their livers eaten by their Japanese captors. He took part in another 58 combat missions when he returned to the San Jacinto in 1944. At least one of those must have been to Palau.

Some years ago I visited Palau on a diving expedition.  There are a lot of WW2 wrecks  of ships and planes off Palau. One of them is a 150 foot armed Japanese trawler that Bush sank on the 25th July 1944. It lies at a depth of 40ft in the  northern atoll of Ngeruangel. I did not dive it because it was too far away from the main diving areas. Palau has many more accesible non wreck dive sites, including the famous Blue Corners and Chandelier cave.

In 2002 an expedition visited the Bush wreck.  During the 1988 presidential election campaign in the USA some political figures claimed that the ship  was an unarmed fishing trawler and not a military vessel. The divers found boxes of ammunition including hundreds of standard rifle bullets and 40mm anti-aircraft  cannon shells. The remains of gun/canon mounts were also identified among the twisted metal. 

In 1944 the US was  conducting Operation Starvation to force Japan to capitulate. That meant all Japanese ships became targets. The trawler would have been a legitimate target for Bush, armed or not.

The wreck was first found by Dan Bailey. He has written books about and produced maps of  the wrecks of Palau and Truck. I have framed copies of both maps. The Truk map is still available online.

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