SEBRING – The South Central Florida Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) held a meeting at the Sea Service Museum on Dec. 5.

As part of the regular meeting of the Military Officers Association of America, the assembled members observed a minute of silent reflection on the passing of President George H.W. Bush. In addition to member restatements of this man’s accomplishments, chapter senior member former Navy Lieutenant Del Smith shared his experiences conducting dive bombing attacks in the Bonin Islands, not far from Chichi Jima where the young George H.W. Bush was shot down. Del related how difficult the anti-aircraft fire from the Japanese installations was to avoid and that at least eight or nine pilots had to parachute from damaged planes. Flying from the carrier USS Hornet, Del recalled that perhaps only Bush was safely recovered with all others subsequently captured and killed by the Japanese. Handling a model of the TBM Avenger bomber, similar to Bush’s plane, Del said it would have been very difficult for the other two crewmen to egress the plane when it was hit, due to its design. He related a later story that the Hornet’s bow flight deck was crushed in a typhoon and that the planes had to transfer to USS Wasp for their return to the United States at war’s end.

Del Smith has lived in Sebring for many years, continues to drive and play one or two rounds of golf each week. He is a very active member of MOAA and has donated many personal items to the Military Sea Services Museum from his time in the Navy.

The chapter also heard from member Gordon White, a former U.S. Navy doctor. Dr. White gave a fascinating presentation on license plates from all over the United States and the world. Dr. White is a world traveler, having visited every county in the United States and 188 countries worldwide.

MOAA is an independent, nonprofit organization of retired, active and former military officers, including the National Guard and Reserve, with some 355,000 members worldwide.

“It operates exclusively to the benefit of our nation, uniformed service personnel, their families and survivors. It is the nation’s largest veterans group of military officers and their families,” the group said.

There are some 420 chapters at the local level, representing the seven uniformed services, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, the Public Health Service and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Membership is open to any person who holds or has ever held a warrant or commission in any of the seven uniformed services. Surviving spouses of deceased members qualify for auxiliary membership.

For information on the South Central Florida chapter, call chapter president, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike Borders at 863-402-8292.

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