LETTER: George McGovern was a true hero of WWIIThankfully, the book “The Wild Blue,” by Stephen Ambrose, has a detailed account of McGovern’s WWII experience.
By: John Meinhold , Portsmouth, N.H.
To the Editor:
During World War II my late father, Chief Master Sgt. Robert Meinhold, served with George McGovern in the Fifteenth Air Force Command and flew in many of the same B-24 combat bombing missions that McGovern flew in 1944 and 1945. Like so many World War II veterans, McGovern spoke little of his heroics and medals from the war. He did not tout his war heroism during political campaigns. McGovern was a B-24 pilot who flew 35 combat air missions over Europe and received four Air Medals. During one mission, McGovern’s plane was hit by flak and had one engine out and another in flames. Unable to return to his base, McGovern flew the crippled plane to a small island in the Adriatic Sea. He landed the plane on a tiny runway, saving his crew, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Thankfully, the book “The Wild Blue,” by Stephen Ambrose, has a detailed account of McGovern’s WWII experience. Ambrose was able to interview McGovern over a two-week period. When the author asked McGovern if he could summarize his war experience, here is what he said: “Piloting a B-24 in combat ... took every ounce of physical energy I had, every bit of mental abilities I had, and literally every shred of spiritual resource that I had.”
The two-week long interview also allowed McGovern to reflect on his wife, Eleanor. McGovern said, “It’s made me realize how much I love that woman. I have known for years I was in love with her, but being asked to probe into my life during the war has really brought that home to me in a different way. Shared history is a big part of being in love.”
With the passing of George McGovern, I keep thinking of Ted Kennedy’s eulogy for his brother Robert when he simply said, “My brother ... was ... a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”