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Lieutenant George McGovern
455th Bomber Group,
15th Army Air Force
George McGovern's biography was one of the most surprising to me. George McGovern ran for President in the 1972 Presidential race and against the Viet Nam War and very liberal. So, I was surprised to read about his conduct in WW2. There is nothing on the web about McGovern's military career, so I've decided to tell his story.
Lieutenant McGovern in center with co-pilot (left) and
navigator (right) who was killed on a mission flying with another crew.
George McGovern was a shy youngest. But he one lesson he learned early in life was to tackle tasks that seemed impossible to do. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, McGovern and his friends in South Dakota decided to enlist. They considered enlisting the Navy but because they heard that the Army would pay for their meal, they chose the Army. When it came time, they reported for flight training.
McGovern flew B-24's from N. Africa and later Cherignola, Italy, where he flew 35 missions as pilot of the Dakota Queen. These missions would carry him over Germany, Austria, Rumania and Yugoslavia. His fellow airmen rated him as top notch pilot. The ground crew noted that his B-24 usually returned with more fuel remaining in the tanks compared to the other aircraft.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for a mission to Vienna. Over the target, one engine was damaged and didn't feather properly. Losing altitude, they flew the return flight over Yugoslavia. They made it to a small British isle that had a small runway for Spitfire fighters. The chances of landing a lumbering B-24 on that island in one piece was small. After dumping all non-essential equipment overboard, McGovern put the aicraft down and both pilots stood on the brakes, stopping the bomber at the far end of the runway. The next B-24 tried to repeat McGovern's feat and smashed into the mountain at the end of the runway.
Crew of Dakota Queen
Only 9 crewmembers shown.
After the War
George McGovern was glad to give up flying and the horrors of combat. He entered a political career in South Dakota. In 1968, he was at Chicago where he was selected as Herbert Humphrey's running mate. Then in 1972, he was selected for the Presidential candidate. McGovern lost to Richard Nixon in one of the most lop-sided elections in US history. Several websites state that George McGovern and Jane Fonda were the two most well-known activists against the Viet Nam War. The Viet Cong would play taped interviews of McGovern and Fonda to the American prisoners of war to demoralize them.
Democratic Candidates at 1968 Chicago Convention
Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern.
Recommend the book "Wild Blue Yonder" by Stephen Ambrose. This book that relates
the experiences of men who flew in the 15th Air Force with special emphasis on George McGovern.
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