Excerpt — November 11, 2016, 5:27 pm

The Grace of God

An excerpt from George McGovern’s diary.

1940s-WWII-GM-plane-climbing_edited-1 WEB

McGovern climbing into a training aircraft, 1943. Courtesy the Senator George McGovern Collection, Dakota Wesleyan University Archives, Mitchell, South Dakota

From My Life in the Service: The World War II Diary of George McGovernBefore he was a celebrated politician, Senator George McGovern served as a B-24 bomber pilot in World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for saving the lives of his crew. My Life in the Service features a facsimile of the diary McGovern kept from his first days of basic training to the end of the war. Hastily jotted in his exacting hand (a typed transcription is included), the pages convey the immediacy of McGovern’s wartime experiences. Purchase the diary here
Dec 20 spread

Click to enlarge.

Dec. 20, 1944. I worked up a good sweat again today. We had another rough one—again in 279, the same ship that landed on one wheel two days ago. Our target today was Brux, but I lost an engine short of the target. We had no sooner started for home than I last no. 3 engine and could not feather it. The first engine no. 2 came came back in partially after we came down from altitude but in the meantime no. 3 had caught fire. It continued to windmill until it froze up. I could hold altitude but couldn’t depend on no. 2 which was running rough. In addition to that we were low on fuel and the weather was bad. We had a 1500 foot ceiling and it was so hazy that the navigator could hardly help me at all. Sam was not with me and the navigator Lt. Vince apparently was unable to do much of anything. Ralph contacted “Big Fence” and they gave us a heading to the Isle of Viz—a little island near the eastern side of the Adriatic. We finally found the island and located the landing strip. It is a British fighter strip and too short for a heavy bomber to land on, but we made it O.K. by the grace of God. A C-47 which was taking off saw us coming in; so they waited for us to land and then brought us back to our base. We lost several planes and crews today in crash landings due to the shortage of fuel and bad weather. One of them is still unaccounted for.

Purchase McGovern’s diary here.

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No one would talk to me for this piece. Or rather, more than twenty women talked to me, sometimes for hours at a time, but only after I promised to leave out their names, and give them what I began to call deep anonymity. This was strange, because what they were saying did not always seem that extreme. Yet here in my living room, at coffee shops, in my inbox and on my voicemail, were otherwise outspoken female novelists, editors, writers, real estate agents, professors, and journalists of various ages so afraid of appearing politically insensitive that they wouldn’t put their names to their thoughts, and I couldn’t blame them. 

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"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

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