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Sen. George McGovern —famous B-24 Liberator pilot — passes away

21 October 2012

Sen. George McGovern —famous B-24 Liberator pilot — passes away

George McGovern, lifetime public servant, passed away today at the age of 90.

Many know George McGovern due to his esteemed political career in both houses of the U.S. Congress. He was one of the increasingly rare breed of Congressmen who served in combat — as opposed to those who send others to serve knowing war only in an abstract or business sense.

[ statement deleted — thanks to David McLay for pointing out its error 🙂 ]

We know him also as a WW II pilot who flew 35 combat missions flying in a B-24 Liberator — most in the Dakota Queen which was named after his wife — successfully avoiding complete disaster more than a few times. Once landing his crippled B-24 (an engine out and another afire) on a fighter strip without further ado though many other Liberator crews crashed attempting the same landing in the island of Vis, Croatia. He and his crew also successfully brought their Liberator to a safe stop on another mission, with over 100 more holes than the start of the mission, using a non standard technique as can be read below.

Our thanks to Mr. Marty Davis for supplying the following excerpt from an article by Richard E. Meyer of the Los Angeles Times:

“McGovern enrolled at Dakota Wesleyan University and married classmate Eleanor Stegeberg on Oct. 21, 1943. But within months, he left to fly a B-24 in World War II. On his bunk, he read philosophy and history. The books broadened him, and he came home, he said, wanting to know more about “the nature and destiny of man, about the adequacy of our contemporary value system and the capacity of our institutions to nurture those values.”

He also returned a hero. On one of 35 missions against Nazi targets in Europe, he took hits that blew out most of the nose of the plane and wounded a gunner. Shrapnel cut the hydraulic brake and electrical lines. He ordered his crew to crank down the landing gear and tie parachutes to girders just inside the rear hatches. He landed and released the parachutes. Not a life was lost. McGovern was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.”

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian permalink
    21 October 2012 21:14

    Funny how so many Democrats who oppose war are war heroes and so many Republicans who are war mongers evaded military service (Bush jr. and Romney).

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      21 October 2012 23:32

      Yes, you’ve seen my point and thank you, but I think Congress in general has been tilting that way for some time, as well. To be fair to Republicans Bush Sr., Sen. McCain and Robert Dole all served well. Then there is the fallen hero Randy Cunningham to consider. I haven’t researched the matter well enough to single out Democrats but would be surprised if a few were not of great repute with regard to service in the Armed Forces either. This goes back to before the Vietnam Era, I think. As we get older we see the world in shades of grey, don’t we?

  2. David "Mac" McLay permalink
    22 October 2012 03:06

    (You’re such a diplomat, Joe! – But let’s not have any political statements posted on this fine site, sir, if you please…) Btw, I believe it was the late Senator Proxmire of Wisconsin who initiated the “Golden Fleece Award.” Best rgds,

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      22 October 2012 03:19

      You are right Mac, about both points 🙂

      Thanks, Joe

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