World War II veteran mourns loss of fellow pilot, George H.W. Bush

- Once a fighter pilot, always a fighter pilot. Bob McClintock is proof.

"I can still feel the pedals under my feet," he said. "When you land, you have to be careful."

During World War II, he piloted a P-51 fighter. "I was in command of it. I could make it do anything that I wanted."

Lt. McClintock, 100, is watching a fellow fighter pilot honored for serving his country in all kinds of ways.

"Old pilots never die," he said of former president George H.W. Bush. "They just fly into the unknown."

McClintock did many of his 86 combat missions in 1943, dropping bombs from 17,000 feet on German troops in Italy. That was a year before Bush's Navy plane was blown out of the sky near Tokyo. 

"It was ordained to be," he said of Bush. "Because when that happened, we didn't know he would become president of the United States. God in his infinite wisdom, that was part of the plan for his life."

The plan for McClintock included a 60-year marriage, a career as traveling salesman, and as a church music director. He even sang at Amalie Arena last month.

"That basic love of country is there," he said. "The patriotism is still there. That thrills me."

If averages held true, Bush would have been one of about 348 World War II veterans who died on Saturday. Only about 497,000 of the estimated 16 million veterans are left.

Within 10 years, nearly all will be gone.

"I am humbled," he added.

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