George H. W. Bush Drops in on Dean Spratlin

Thanks to the sharp eye of Cynthia H., we have added a couple more Spratlins to the family tree—cousins Herbert Dean Spratlin and his father Frank Martin Spratlin.

Dean Spratlin (1919-2001) was spotted in the 1984 New York Times article Bush War Record Noted on ‘A Day of Nostalgia’ recalling the 2 Sep 1944 bombing mission of 20-year-old Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade George H. W. Bush, the future 41st President of the United States.

During that mission, the Grumman Avenger piloted by Bush was hit by Japanese anti-aircraft fire while approaching Chichi Jima in the Bonin Islands, Pacific Ocean, for a bombing run on an enemy radio facility. Bush completed the run, but the aircraft was too badly damaged to make it back to the USS San Jacinto aircraft carrier. Bush was able to safely parachute out, but two other aircrewmen, Radioman Second Class John Delaney, and gunner Lieutenant Junior Grade William White were killed.

Bush parachuted into the ocean off Chichi Jima where he was picked up four hours later by the submarine USS Finback. There, Bush met the Executive Officer of the USS Finback, Dean Spratlin. The USS Finback was on its tenth patrol of World War II, assigned to lifeguard duty in the Bonin Islands. During that patrol, she rescued five downed Naval aviators.

Bush being rescued by the submarine USS Finback, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Bush spent thirty days aboard the USS Finback as it completed its patrol, and then returned to his unit on the USS San Jacinto. Bush’s 1999 book All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings contains this letter Bush wrote to Dean on 17 Nov 1944:

Bush’s mission and rescue are described in more detail in this Naval History and Heritage Command article Vice President Bush Calls World War II Experience “Sobering”.

Dean’s service on submarines during World War II included:

  • duty on the submarine USS S-28 (SS-133) in 1943. The USS S-28 was later lost at sea with all hands on 4 Jul 1944 during anti-submarine warfare training exercises off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii;
  • Executive Officer of the submarine USS Finback (SS-230) from 6 Mar 1944 to Sep 1944;
  • Captain of the submarine USS Plunger (SS-179) from 31 Oct 1944 to 1 Sep 1945.

Before the war, Dean attended the Georgia School of Technology, now the Georgia Institute of Technology, and received the M.E. degree in 1939. THWG!

After the war, Dean became a real estate developer in Atlanta, Georgia.

A little research found Dean’s father, Frank Martin Spratlin (1885-1961), and both were then tied to Frank’s father Dr. William Martin Spratlin (1854-1928), already in our family tree.

The Most Recent Common Ancestors are Pvt. James Spratling (1750-1812) and Winnefred Munday (1752-1834), 6th great-grandparents of MKS. That means …


LCDR Herbert Dean Spratlin (1919-2001) is 4th cousin 3x removed of MKS in the Spratlin branch.

And in the SKWW Family Tree and History newsletter, volume 7, we learned that …

President George H. W. Bush is 6th cousin 4x removed of MKS in the Knight branch.