History is about so much more than memorizing facts. It is about the story. And, told in the right way, it is the greatest one ever written: Good and evil, triumph and tragedy, despicable acts of barbarism and courageous acts of heroism. Glenn’s latest book, Miracles and Massacres, is history as you’ve never heard it told. It’s incredible events that you never knew existed. And it’s stories so important and relevant to today that you won’t have to ask: Why didn’t they teach me this?
While this story was ultimately left on the cutting room floor, Glenn shared this incredible ‘lone survivor’ tale on radio this morning.
The bomber pilot was only 20 years old, but after all he’d seen by 1944, he felt like he was 80.
His targets on this mission were two radio installations in the mountains of a tiny island north of Iwo Jima. In those days there was no such thing as a guided missile or a smart bomb. You put the target in your iron sights, flew straight through all the flak and gunfire the enemy could throw at you and then, at the last critical second, you released your bombs on target.
The minute the bombing run began the enemy sent up a solid wall of anti-aircraft shells. With his eyes fixed on his target the pilot couldn’t see the other crews struggling to bail out as their planes were hit and spiraled down in flames.
His plane suddenly lurched and shuddered, fatally wounded, but still he held the course. As the cockpit filled with smoke the critical second came and he released his bombs toward a direct hit.
Only then did the pilot’s thoughts turn to survival for himself and his crew.
As the engine fire spread the pilot managed to fly several miles over open water before finally giving the order for his crew to abandon the plane. He clawed his way out of the cockpit and fell onto the wing, pulled the ripcord of his ‘chute and smashed into the tail as he was torn free of the plummeting craft. The next thing he knew he was in the churning water, dazed and pulling himself into his survival raft.
In the aftermath, all of the other airmen on the mission died at the hands of the enemy. Their treatment was so brutal that several of their captors were tried and hanged after the war was over. But the pilot survived.
He returned to active duty, and when all was said and done, he’d flown 58 combat missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation. When he returned home he married his sweetheart, and graduated college in only two-and-a-half years while captaining the Yale baseball team in the first-ever College World Series.
In later years he excelled in business, and then in politics, and to make a long story short – ultimately this lone survivor became the 41st President of the United States: George H. W. Bush.