Happy to be Aboard

George wasn’t making any headway. After three exhausting hours of frantic paddling, he was sure of it now. The current was too strong. He was being pushed towards the island. His head was pounding from the gash that opened when it slammed against the tail of his plane. He couldn’t stop vomiting up the sea water he had swallowed and he cried when he saw the small boats pushing off from the northeastern shore. The image of that poor Australian officer kept flashing in his mind.

When the little black spot in the vast expanse ahead of him suddenly morphed into a periscope, George thought his fate was sealed. He stopped paddling and slumped over in his raft. It wasn’t until the life-lines began splashing in the waves around him that he heard the shouts – in English. Within minutes, he was welcomed aboard the USS Finback. “Happy to be aboard,” was his quiet response.

On September 2nd, 1944, Japan was reeling. They had awakened the “sleeping giant” and its resolve was fearsome. But they had no option but to keep fighting. The Emperor, a god, had decreed it. How do you refuse a god? Guam, Tinian, and Saipan had already fallen and American air power was working its way up the chain towards Tokyo. Chichijima was the new target. Twenty year old George was supposed to hit the radio towers. George did his job. Two thousand pounds of explosives slammed into the island, but during his dive, George’s plane was hit.

George lived to become the 41st president of his country. The other eight airmen that survived being shot down over “No Man’s Land” weren’t as fortunate. All eight were executed. Four of them were eaten.

“Why me?” George asked for the rest of his life, “Why did I survive?”

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